A Splurge: the poetry of small things, Britain and loss of innocence.
(written sometime in January 2017)
There’s poetry in the small things. Despite the train strikes and the general misery of winter London, something small yet wonderful has caught my eye on a daily basis. This morning on a packed bus into central I watched a man lean against the window and hold his book with one hand. I don’t know why I found it so beautiful. I kept wondering how he turned the pages but I kept getting distracted moments before he turned them so I guess I’ll never know. His hand held the hardback so steady, there was so much gentle control in his movements and he seemed so absorbed in the words even when the bus was heaving with people.
Another thing that made me smile, again a bus story, was watching two Japanese sisters in their private school uniform and felt hats play a game. They would pull a sad face at each other until one of them laughed. They did this all the way to Brixton and rather than find it annoying, I found it completely charming. I think there’s something poetic in sharing our sadness and how it often brings about an unexpected bout of laughter. Maybe that’s me reading too much into things, but like I said, there’s poetry in the small things.
There’s poetry in the foggy glow that creeps across my duvet and softly nudges me to say that they day has begun. There’s something poetic in shared frustration at the heavy traffic and chocker block buses. People smile at each other. Then there’s something more unusual. There’s the scooter caffe and sharing tables when it gets too busy. There’s poetry in meeting people so unlike you, a couple who have bought a house near the Imperial War Museum and are despairing over polly-filler.
There’s poetry in the making of the office caftiere. ‘Who wants coffee?’ Echoes across the shared workspace and then the wafts of Monmouth, ground into rough chocolatey soil fill the air with routine and order. Whatever happens, whatever we read on the news, whatever I hear on my daily women’s hour indulgence, there is always the click of the kettle and the gentle roar of water being poured over caffeine. We comfort each other in this small poetic act. We say, I’m thinking of you, I’m sharing with you. That’s party why I love coffee shops so much.
There’s poetry in the lights that make a home. As my eye line wanders over the windows of London, I see children sprawled on sofas, a man chopping vegetables, two women drinking wine, couples reading the newspaper, a Christmas tree hopefully twinkling in the new year cynicism. Bookshelves, pianos, brightly coloured coats hung on pegs, washing lined up along the balconies, neighbours returning home from a day’s work, greeting each other before entering home for dinner or a change of clothes or a hot shower.
There’s poetry in a shared experience: a standing ovation at the theatre, the way an audience can leave the space reeling and completely quiet. The acknowledgement that what you have just seen is so profound, words cannot do it justice.
There’s poetry in vape smoke. The beauty of a quitter trying to be more tasty, the billowy harmless clouds that circle the office and the streets with Pina colada and hazelnut aromas.
I have this thing for allotments: their order, that little hope of a city dweller to make something grow, to have a little plot of their own to nourish things. I love roof gardens and succulent collections. I love a family run florist, with the children swinging their legs on the table in the back as their Dad snips stems and their mother entices customers with orchids and rose baskets.
Even now I smell coffee. Even now there is poetry. Oh look at this winter light, how it sings across the trees and makes everything rosy and romantic. How I love England. How I love the way it grows and shrinks. How I want it to be a place of openness and tolerance and inner beauty. We have the capacity to be so much more than we are, if only we embraced what makes us ‘British’. What makes us British is our art and our NHS and our hot pot of cultures. This is why I love London so much because I recognise that it’s never been mine to rule. All we ask for is affordable rents and I know that sometimes that doesn’t seem possible. That’s what is tearing people apart: elitism not taking care of those around them. That’s what has stopped communities really working together, this idea that we should look out for ourselves first and foremost.
Our fear is so intangible. I’m ashamed that we’ve even attempted to compare it to that of the refugees. The only similar situation is the one I saw in Love last Monday.
I don’t really know what I’m saying anymore. I’m on the train back to Bracknell and I can feel the evening descending and can see children running around in the last dregs of daylight, trying to get one more game in before dinner is announced.
Is it possible to never lose your innocence? Is innocence what makes us holy? Or is it the choice to still be hopeful when innocence is lost? Is that true holiness? I don’t think I’ll ever know the answer.