Monday, 31 January 2011

Coming together

It was the fire that we noticed first; brightly blazing logs inside a hearth that looked like the drum of a washing machine. At that point we were shivering outside peering in through the window, the warmth visible but not reachable. We'd arrived far too early; eagerness and mistrust in rail services conspiring to make us arrive thirty minutes before the pub was due to open.

Too cold to stand for long, we walked around the neighbourhood that neither of us knew. We stared up at the glass and chrome fronted apartments, imagining the lives of those who lived within, enviously admiring the wide balconies facing out to the river, picturing champagne and canapes on a warm summer's evening. We sympathised with the residents of the less showy flats round the side, that looked out on the waste recycling centre, where the smaller glass-fronted balconies were lined with rush screens, as though their owners were too ashamed to be seen. We passed an oversized Chinese restaurant where the white-clothed tables were each surrounded by pale yellow satin-draped chairs - like frozen bridesmaids round a petrified bride.

On our way back to the pub we paused to gawp at the contents of the over-priced furniture store with its acres of white leather, and smoked glass. We laughed like country bumpkins at the strange ornaments, the dining chairs that looked more like upturned laundry baskets, the hideously clashing, but oh-so-carefully arranged cushions. And finally, when we'd wiled away enough time we made our way back to the pub.

It was still early, and we were the first to arrive, but gradually the place started to fill. We smiled indulgently at the two men who seemed so pleased to be meeting, their smiles as wide as the arms they threw around each other in their unembarrassed embrace. We invented stories about the tired-looking man, about the argument he'd had with his wife for staying out too late the night before and the revenge she was now exacting in making him overcome his hangover by taking his children out to lunch. We watched the old man with his white hair stained yellow by nicotine, as he wove backwards and forwards between the bar and the door, each pint followed by a cigarette. We winced with sympathy as the desperate-to-please young man opened the door for the girlfriend who responded with a look as cold as the air that accompanied her; and we were intrigued by the huge family who turned up trailing enormous suitcases behind them, who took ages finding the right place to sit and enough chairs for them all, then only stayed for one quick drink before trailing off again with their luggage.

All around us, people were coming together. I wondered if they'd noticed us, I hoped they weren't concerned when we looked up with anticipation each time the door swung open, or disappointed when we looked away again as another stranger walked in. I'd like to think they saw the moment when our friends arrived, when our faces lit with unabashed delight. I'd like to imagine that the stories they invented for us were of an afternoon spent eating and drinking, our words and laughter bubbling and tumbling over each other; I hope they saw the evening we'd spend, plotting and planning for new challenges and excitements, setting out on a new venture towards the happy ending I know we'll have.

22 comments:

Dani said...

You all are obviously such fantastic people watchers! Which I think is actually the opposite of creepy. We'd all be a lot more friendly if we took the time to notice that there are actually people with feelings and thoughts and lives moving all around us.

Thanks for reminding me.

BarkyMag said...

Such observant writing. I loved the way you arrived early in anticipation and how it didn't disappoint.

Young at Heart said...

Oh my..........now i wish i was going to the pub for lunch!!

Pat said...

I can feel the little bubbles of excitement underlying the observations, the delight in knowing that whatever is to come you'll face it together.
Don't you just hate that yellowed white hair. I remember an illustrious consultant who had it. Shudder making.

otherworldlyone said...

Wonderful writing - beautifully observed. I ran out of new ways to praise your writing quite some time ago, so I hope you don't mind if I repeat myself. This was excellent.

dys·func·tion said...

Beautiful imagery.

It's always a pleasure to read the same story retold by your group. It's quite enjoyable to hear(read) it from every perspective.

Thank you.

caterpillar said...

You guys make great observations...and that results in amazing posts as these...it draws a very pleasant picture...of a nice evening spent with friends.

light208 said...

Writing so good that you allow a whole group of people who weren't there to stand by your side and watch with you. I'm glad you all had such a good day - and such a wealth of writing has arisen from it.

Starlight said...

I enjoyed this piece very much. A wonderful description (as always), it felt like I was there with you.

Jane said...

Beautifully written - I loved "like frozen bridesmaids round a petrified bride."
I know just how it is to arrive early for an evening I've really been looking forward to. You captured the anticipation and excitement perfectly.

Happy Frog and I said...

I love your writing so much. The sense of anticipation and the beautifully observed details are wonderful.

Nicole said...

I'm with Jane, my favorite line is "frozen bridesmaids round a petrified bride."

Excellent.

Elizabeth said...

Dear Sharon,
So glad to have made contact in Blogworld!
Some writerly blogs you might enjoy are
weaverofgrass.blogspot.com
and beedrunken.blogspot.com
caitoconnor.blogspot.com

Yes, the world of blogging is a wonderfully creative one. I spend much too much time here when I should be doing REAL writing!
all best wishes from an ex-pat in New York

Hillary said...

This post makes one feel warm, as at home. It was a pleasure to read. A side note: as with the domesticated bohemian, I have visited your blog a few times. I want to tell you thanks for visitng mine. It means alot to someone who is struggling to make it work for them. Thanks again!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I came to read at the suggestion of Mr London Street. Your blog is lyrical and wonderful, full of lovely stories.

Shopgirl said...

I feel the happiness you shared with great friends on this lovely evening in such an interesting setting.

Sharon Longworth said...

Dani - I must admit, people watching is probably my favourite pastime, so I'm very glad you don't think it's too creepy! thank you for your comment.

BarkyMag - I like getting to places early and settling in, seeing what's going on all around. And you're absolutely right, there were no disappointments that day.

Young at Heart - Do it...!

Pat - glad I'm not the only one who dislikes the yellow hair thing - and the hair is always slightly too long as well!

Sharon Longworth said...

OWO - you can repeat yourself as many times as you like, you always say such lovely supportive things - thank you.

dys.func.tion - it's always a bit daunting knowing that others, who experienced the same thing, might read what I put, especially when they're such good writers. Luckily I know they're lovely people, so that's good.

Caterpillar - thank you. It was indeed a very lovely day.

light208 - thank you, that's very high praise and very much appreciated.

Sharon Longworth said...

Starlight - thank you so much - you are always so supportive and I'm glad you liked it.

Jane - thank you. The Chinese restaurant was very odd - huge and forbidding, and rather sad in a way.

Happy Frog - I'm really glad this worked for you, thank you for such a very kind comment.

Nicole - thank you. The way you've captured the line in your comment, makes me think I could turn it into a poem - I might have to have a go!

Sharon Longworth said...

Elizabeth - I loved the pictures on your blog! Thank you so much for returning the visit; and for leaving me some other great blogs to look at. I can get lost for hours and hours in this strange blogging world, but just now that seems like a very fine way to spend the time.

Hilary - thank you for visiting and for leaving a comment. I enjoyed my visit to your blog and will be back to read more.

Blissed out Grandma - hello and welcome! That Mr London Street is a very good chap...

Shopgirl - you're right they are fast turning into very good friends and we had a smashing time - aren't I lucky?

Mr London Street said...

Like everyone else, the bridesmaids line is my absolute favourite thing about this post, though there is so much to like about it.

I was absolutely thrilled to see you nominated for the Bloggies, it is extremely richly deserved and I hope it also brings you lots more readers. You are the best possible proof that (with the best will in the world) Elizabeth, who commented earlier, is quite wrong to draw a distinction between blogging and "real writing" as if the former can't be the latter.

Stocker said...

AHHHHH! I LOVE THE WAY YOU WRITE! Excitement over, this was tremendous. Keep it up, I loved the continued use of "we" - made the happy ending seem more factual than fiction.