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  • ?

    Yeah but, what's been happening since I've been gone?

  • Long gone

    I haven't posted for 234 days and yet readers continue to visit my blog. Okay, not in great numbers. That's understandable. I would have given up on me long ago.

    Will I return to regular blogging? I don't know. If I have something worth saying, maybe I will. But in the meantime, for those who have, thanks for calling.

  • Skin

    One cold, wet, winter’s evening in Southampton, I found myself walking home from an evening in town with schoolmate Bob Silsbury. The wind whipped around the near deserted lamp lit streets, our footsteps ringing on the hard shining pavement. We pulled up our collars and sunk our hands deep into coat pockets, seeking comfort from the icy blast. Our route to the ferry, that would carry us across the river and the welcoming warmth of our homes, took us past a run-down parade of shops close to the docks, the majority already empty and boarded, awaiting demolition. Just one light burned, that of The Bridge Café, a dingy dive that I’d never given a second look, never mind having ever crossed over its crumbling threshold. Before I could offer an objection, Bob said, ‘Let’s get a coffee?’ and pushed open the door.

    I followed him into the murky interior. Illuminated by a single bare bulb, a quick glance around confirmed it; the place was a dump. A man was seated at a table to the rear. The overhead light cast deep shadows in the cavernous contours of his face. He didn’t look up as we went in, but continued to read a newspaper, the soggy cigarette in his mouth dropping ash onto the turning pages. Apart from him, the place was deserted. As Bob and I shuffled from foot to foot, beating some feeling back into our frozen toes, the patron wearily pushed back his chair and stood up, absently flicking a bony hand down the front of his soiled apron.

    ‘What’ll be gents?’ he said through broken teeth, taking up a position behind the counter. ‘Two coffees please’ said Bob, seating himself at a table in the window. I reluctantly followed and sat opposite. There was something in Bob’s easy familiarity to indicate that this wasn’t his first visit. As we talked over the merits of the film we’d just seen I kept one eye on our host, part curiosity, part horror, as he set about making the coffees.

    Mercifully removing the cigarette and stubbing it into an overflowing ashtray, he took two cups from the drainer. Retrieving a spoon from the same place, he used it to measure out two mounds of instant coffee from a tin that he’d lifted down from a shelf above. He then took a cloudy half-empty pint bottle that was standing, unrefrigerated, on the side and poured some milk into a battered saucepan. This he placed on an ancient gas stove, the kind my Gran had; cream enamel, small, domestic, with ceramic knobs and claw feet - except hers was free of grease. Not the kind of equipment I expected to see in a café. But this was no café I’d ever expected to see.

    With a great whoompf the burner ignited at the end of a match and the milk came to the boil. The steaming liquid was taken from the stove, tipped into the waiting cups and stirred. When it was set down on our table, the once white crockery contained a sickly, pale brown infusion, the surface of which showed signs of a skin already beginning to form. I hated skin on hot milky drinks. Still do. I took my spoon and lifted it into the chipped saucer. Then I piled a heap of sugar into the cup and stirred vigorously. I spent the following fifteen minutes taking minute sips from one side of the cup while simultaneously blowing the constantly reforming skin to the other. At last, Bob finished his coffee, licked his lips and I was free to leave: myself, at least, never to return.

    The year had been 1962. The Bridge Café has long since been reduced to rubble. Bob probably has grandchildren, as do I. But the memory of that night, like a bad smell, lingers on, not quite erased by the years that have passed between. Never more so than when I scan the choice of hot beverages on offer at any of the global coffee outlets that now populate our high streets, railway stations, airports and shopping malls. As I stand in the queue gazing at the board above the counter, trying to choose before I need to order, I’m often paralysed with indecision. Cappuccino, Cappuccino with double shot, with sprinkles, without, Café Latte, Skinny Latte, Café Mocha, Café Americano, Caramel Muchiato, Espresso, Double Espresso, Small, Medium, Large, to drink in, or to go? So much choice, so many decisions. Long ago, when Bob said ‘Let’s get a coffee’, and the greasy man asked ‘What’ll it be?’ who would have thought that something as simple as going for a coffee would have come to this? I’ll say this for today’s choices though. No skin on the top.

  • Gimmie shelter

    Gimmie Shelter

  • Punks

    Punks
    Copyright David Dragon 2011

    Frank Sinatra and Sid Vicious never met. Why would they?
    Separated by two generations and a cultural chasm, Frank’s career, as
    perhaps the finest interpreter of the great American songbook,
    spanned more than five decades. He died in Los Angeles in 1998. As
    the ex-bassist of the Sex Pistols, Sid never made twenty-two. He
    died of a heroin overdose in New York City in February 1979, but not before
    a link with Frank had finally been made. Earlier that year Sid had
    recorded a version of My Way. Paradoxically, a fitting epitaph for them both.

  • The country doctor rambles

    The country doctor rambles
    Copyright David Dragon 2011

    I took the bottle in both hands, the ice-cold condensation squeezing between my fingers. I blew at a fly from the corner of my mouth as it tried to settle on the sweat around my eyes. The ceiling fan whirring above my head did nothing but stir up the hot air. I pushed back the chair, steel legs scraping across chipped linoleum. Gathering three empty bottles from the table I placed them on the bar next to the tattered bills I’d left earlier as payment. I stepped outside, squinting into the hard light of the sun, the screen door slapping shut behind me.

    The Doc sat at a table under the shade of the porch roof, leaning back in his seat and nursing a glass of lemonade and a cigar in his right hand. He regarded the stranger like a judge at the county courthouse preparing to pass sentence. And like a guilty man in the dock, the stranger stood motionless, arms at his side, silently shifting his weight from foot to foot. The only other movement came from a dog making its way across the sun-baked yard beyond. It slowly turned its head, eyes like black holes staring in challenge as I looked on.

    Across the flats came the sound of a train, pulling a mile of freight toward the crossing five miles distant on the edge of town. The Doc cleared his throat to speak.

  • Testing, testing

    It's been so long. Is there anybody still out there?

  • Hah!

    Not much in the way of blogging of late. Yes, I know. Through my gross neglect I’ve probably lost most of the small but perfectly formed band that were won’t to keep up with me. Can’t say that I blame them. But other things have been keeping me from the keyboard. There’s the grandchildren: another recent arrival. The painting: yet another exhibition to which I’ve committed. By now I should have learned to just say it. ‘No’. The online book service that has got me hopelessly hooked: the quality is just so damn good. Exhibitions I simply must see. Not to mention the odd film. And some of them really are. Getting the studio ready for an open fortnight in June. Now only days away. Assembling the new mower. Cutting the grass with it. Taking the old one to the tip. Voting. Reading about the consequences of voting. Worrying about the consequences of voting. Keeping fit. Recovering from keeping fit. Reading emails. Replying to emails. Writing emails. Sending emails. Filing emails. Trashing emails. Answering automated phone calls. Answering non-automated phone calls. Writing notes for the parcel delivery man. Filling in ‘I called but you were out forms’ for the parcel delivery man. Ordering more stuff for the parcel delivery man to deliver. Driving around. Walking about. Sitting. Sleeping. Eating. Drinking. Recovering from drinking. Looking for my glasses. My wallet. The car keys. The front door keys. The back door key. The key to the side gate. Loading paper into the printer. Putting out the bins. It’s now up to four. Bringing in the four bins. Clearing up the mess the bin men leave behind. Watering next door’s indoor plants while they're away. Sorting their mail. Junking their junk mail. Junking my junk mail. Not to mention the work I haven’t done for all the exhibition space that I need to fill.

    So come on. Blogging? Hah!

  • Pay Up Pompey

    Avram Grant and the Fratton Faithful make much of Pompey’s spirit and how it can’t be broken. Sadly not so for the many local businesses that are owed money by the bankrupt football club. I guess loyalty is all one way for ‘the pride of the south coast’.

  • Booked up

    The final outcome of my recent ‘Hero’ exhibition of paintings was 6 sold. I was very happy with this in these penny-pinching times. The rest of the year is looking pretty busy, with a joint show in a week’s time with two works shown, participation in an open studios event in June and another joint exhibition in October.

    I’ve just completed and ordered my first book of photographs from an on-line company. It runs to over 150 pages and features pictures taken on my trip to Arizona and New Mexico last September/October. The company recommended ordering one for starters, to make sure that all is to customer satisfaction. If I’m happy with the result, I’ll probably order a few more copies. I’ve already started book number 2, featuring a series of cartoons my Dad did on his life in the Army in WW2. The originals are in the Imperial War Museum in their archives, so a book will be a great way of having a record of them at home.

    This September, volcanic ash permitting, another US trip is planned. This time a journey through and down the Rockies, starting out in Seattle and ending up in Phoenix. This could be book number 3. Can’t wait

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