Another day in the tropical jungle of Mount Vernon, Westchester, NY and I find myself trapped by a faulty door knob. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. And if that isn’t strange enough, before my impromptu incarceration, I had searched three grocery stores for a bottle of wine and come up empty handed. What is going on?
My question was answered by a very nice man in a wine shop in Pelham. Apparently, the grocery stores can not sell alcohol over 8% Vol.
Fortunately, that conversation happened last night, while I was buying an over sized bottle of Cab. Before the door knob got stuck. Turns out it is as light and fruity as the man in the shop said it would be. Oh, go on, it is afternoon and I am trapped, I’ll just break out the chocolate with that glass of wine. I’m bad 😉
There is a building in Edinburgh where a basilisk prowls the halls, where spectres lurk and doctoral students shirk. Sorry, this Friday Flashback is not about the worlds largest reclining buddha or a mighty pyramid but something more precious and ephemeral; The Club. A place, a time and a group of people. The place was Edinburgh University, the time 2007-2012 and the people were The Club and shall remain nameless to preserve their anonymity and protect them against potential prosecution or worse, academic disgrace.
Our club was room 6.12 and perilously close to the lair of the basilisk. The basilisk was fearsome and could smell dead rats in the kitchen at 50 feet and yet trixy, luring the best of us into her chambers with no more than a beckoning finger or worse – chocolate. Most club members were retained in 6.12 but there were other members scattered along the hall of the 6th floor. The sixth floor… a level of genius, some say madness, of struggle against ones inner demons, where titans clashed, sherry sloshed, battles waged and writing was done. Or at least thought about. No, agonized over. Horribly and tortuously. One club member would write a sentence and then take all day to meticulously pick it apart word for word. Another examined prayer and song expressed through the roaring of lions and the trumpeting of elephants. Yet another would pick through people’s garbage and statistically, objectively, record it. And me? I wrote about a mole, from the moles perspective naturally. The only thing I picked at was a bag of bacon crispies.
We shared many things in the club; our hopes, dark secrets, theories of about society, sugar donuts, and Baileys on a Friday afternoon. We zealously debated topics from religion to recycling, banking to self harm, civil society to sex, museums to adoption, and space… No, not the final frontier, but THE space, the space between the hands.
You see our concern was of a haunting. Not the physical haunting of a place, but a haunting of the imagination. Under the influence of another club member, I purchased a book, a book about a ghost, a book I shall not name because the book itself is complete and utter nonsense, and despite this, or perhaps because of it, the ideas triggered by the book took form. At first it was confusion over the nonsensical nature of it, which lapsed into jovial recitation of its most preposterous sentences which grew, twisting and writhing like pipe smoke, into references to which only club members were privy. We made sense out of nonsense. Fashioned form from smoke and mirrors, manifesting a ‘thing’ from the ether. A secret language imbued with meaning, and ‘the thing’ into a bond, as real as rope.
Ok, Ok it wasn’t all sober intellectual conversation, there was also conversation over spirits. Gin to be exact. Bombay Sapphire to be utterly precise. Well usually, although we could be persuaded to imbibe a little Hendrix on occasion. We patronised various haunts
with Blind Poets and Under the Stairs and on occasion, sitting on a street corner outside No 56, and even an Old Bell.
Sadly, the writing is finished. The lions no longer roar, the rubbish has been collected and the Mole is dead. A breath in another universe blew on a
fuzzy dandelion and like the seeds we have scattered to the far corners of the globe, some of us further than others. The Club as a time and a place has diminished, a mere spectre haunting the halls of memory. But ‘the thing’ remains, as real as rope.
And the basilisk? Rest assured, the basilisk still prowls the halls as trixy and treacherous as ever. And long may it continue…
Flossy, our cat, has had an ear infection requiring yours truly to clean her ears and administer ear drops. Flossy is far from placid. It could be said she is a feline with some serious attitude. The kind that bites first, asks questions later. Fearing for my life and wanting to keep the skin on my hands and face, I did a little research to see if I could find out how best to get the ear drops in without losing a limb. I read an article on the internet advising a treat both before and after the drops so that the cat would associate getting the ear drops with getting a treat, sort of Pavlov’s dog, only Chicken Road cat. And you know what? It worked. For her. Yes, that’s right, now she demands tuna morning and night whether she needs ear drops or not. We have conditioned her not to tolerate the ear drops, but to expect tuna twice per day. This morning I walked into the living room and was greeted by a delighted cat, chirping happily and licking her chops at me as if to say “hey you! Tuna woman! Get me my Tuna!” Oh yeah, somebody is being conditioned – and I think it’s me!
Biffo is another artist in residence here on Chicken Road, and every now and again, Biffo has ‘Words of Wisdom’. Usually dispensed with all the drama of the Oracle of Delphi, but instead of a dusty cave filled with psychotropic fumes, Biffo’s Words come from a comfy arm chair, wearing a reindeer onsie (with hood and antlers) and red flannel dressing gown.
Past Words of Wisdom that have punctuated normal civilized conversation like a volcanic eruption include:
And the enigmatic-
“When the cupboards are bare, shit tastes like nectar…”
Truer words were never spoken. Today, Biffo’s ‘Words of Wisdom’ concerned the demon drink. As it was Happy Tuesday on Chicken Road, we were communally imbibing the product of the vine while waiting for the Chicken and purple potatoes to slow roast – our own little bacchanalia, when Biffo suddenly sat up, cross legged like a naughty imp on a mushroom, thrust her wine glass into the air and declared:
“Red red wine… slides down the throat like a serpent and bites like an asp…”
Yes, this is true, “if you drink too much of it…” Biffo mutters while spluttering cheap Spanish red “and I like too much of it…” she continues.
Yup, she does. After all, she is an artist. Of sorts… I like a mojito myself. If it was good enough of Hemingway it’s good enough for me. Which makes me think of my herb farm, the one in my head. I love growing and using herbs and I dream of having a herb garden to potter in. Lavender, sage, rosemary, and mint. If I want a good Mojito, I need to grow some mint. Time to get into the garden…
Well, almost. It was remarkably mild this morning, positively balmy for February. The sun was shining (another rarity at any time of year) and the sky was blue, again, odd, I know. I decided to sit on the front step and drink my coffee in my fluffy slippers and flannel, leopard print pj’s, classy chick that I am. I’m sure the neighbours got a laugh .
The open door let in that inexplicable smell of fresh, and not at all freezing, air which drew the attention of Flossy the wonder cat and she came out to join me, with some trepidation as she is essentially an indoor cat. She wandered out of sight around the corner and at that precise moment, another cat appeared as if by magic, doing figure 8’s around my ankles and purring. I tried to reason with the beast and tell it that if it valued its life it should run, now, fast. The foolish creature obviously had a death wish as it ignored my pleas to save its life.
You see, Flossy does not like other cats. AT. ALL. Then, the purring stopped and the friendly-stupid cat made that crazy woooooahhhh wooooahhhhhh! noise that fighting and/or amorous cats make. Flossy had returned and found an imposter between her and her own doorstep. Worse still, her trusted servant (me) appeared to be fraternising with this enemy! Her retribution was swift and merciless…
I’ve been thinking about my past… No, it’s not deep and sordid, but it is interesting. I’ll have to sort though all those old photos of my travels currently in a shoe box under my bed and show you some. Highlights? Taj Mahal, Sphinx, Mayan Pyramids, Egyptian Pyramids, worlds longest reclining Buddha and to many castles to count. But I do like a good castle, especially a ruin that I can clamber around.
One of my favourites is the Priory in Tynemouth, the chapel of which dates back to the Thirteenth Century and the site itself is thought to have been occupied since Roman times. It has a moat which I was convinced used to be filled with crocodiles, a gatehouse and Keep with portcullis (for all that boiling oil) a well (for wishes) and a graveyard in the middle.
These days the only way in is through the box office and a hefty fee, but it didn’t always used to be that way. The Priory perches on the edge of cliff, overlooking the River Tyne and the North Sea. Bits of it have fallen into the sea over the years which is why they way I used to sneak into the back with my friends is now gone.
The sure footed among us could clamber up the cliff face and get into one of the old ruined windows. They’ve either been enclosed to prevent cliff side assaults by nimble kids or fallen into the sea altogether. Shame, there’s something quite magical about sneaking into an old ruin….
Why? Because in about 20 minutes, I’m going to get dressed – for almost sub zero temperatures and the threat of a blizzard – and cross several soggy and possibly icy British fields to get to the grocery store for nuts, wine and cat food. How can this possibly be happy? Well, for starters, I haven’t left the house in days and feel like I’m developing carbuncles on my backside. Secondly, it’s a celebration. ‘The child’ left this morning and won’t be back till Sunday, along with all the other pesky relatives, and my mother’s bible study will be over for the week by the time I get back (I hope). The cat is exhausted and cranky from avoiding the grasping sticky fingers of ‘the child’. So about 5pm on a Tuesday, the residents of the retreat here on Chicken Road collapse, exhausted and indulge in our favourite tipple. For me, it will be a glass of wine and a bag of mixed nuts. Happy Tuesday!