A few words on streets

 

road, street, sign

Late afternoon arrives on Saturday and I hurriedly bid farewell to my gracious hosts, who urge me to have just one more slice of cake before I leave. I have no more space, I tell them laughing, slipping my arms into the warmth of my coat while inching my way nearer to the portal of my escape. They finally concede with goodbye kisses and I fly out the front door, skip down the narrow concrete steps, eager for a brief walk before I catch a cab home.

It’s chilly and there’s corpulent stripes of pale pink on the horizon and two young women walk in front of me on their way to the store at the petrol station. The city is quietening down as it does towards evening before it has to perk up all over again with the youthful energy of the night-life crowd, I turn up my collar against the cold, pass by the young ladies and proceed to walk down the pavement. On cold days where I have the luxury of wearing my trench coat, I like to pretend I’m actually in New York where everyone is cold and fashionable and in a hurry to get somewhere.

As I walk I think about cities and streets and the clever invention of thoroughfares of all kinds. Alleys that interpose the metropolis like sinewy veins, well-lit pavements (especially those brightened by cheerful lollipop lights) that lead to a myriad of streets that will take you anywhere and everywhere all across town, streets that intersect with avenues and roads and lanes. There are streets in some cities that run parallel to rivers that break the city into prisms of populous society where they occupy shabby studio apartments and grand old houses, plush hotel rooms and cold hard park benches.

You know all you need to know about a neighbourhood the minute you step onto its streets. Their all over of course, but so different from one another, whether paved or cobbled or brand new. Some are as elegant and neat as the houses that lie alongside them, some contain cafes on the corner and health food stores and fancy restaurants. There are those that are quiet and lush with foliage and segue into quaint little roads and cul-de-sacs. Others are old and forgotten, less cared for, worn with cracks and potholes and hardened from the endless trampling of the people who go by. I love that you can turn into a street that’s totally unlike the one you’ve just come from and experience a whole new feeling, the perfect example of different worlds coexisting around the corner from one another, never in each other’s way but always there.

I entertain another transient daydream and think if I were actually in New York City I would end my walk by popping into a diner on a busy street, I would order a coffee and find a window seat to continue pushing around whatever thoughts I have in my mind, to ruminate and people watch until the sky gets dark, surrounded by people but still gloriously alone.

But I am not in New York City, so instead I take out my cell phone and request an Uber home.

 

On windy nights

 

I am always restless on windy nights. I never manage to sleep for too long before I am woken up again by what sounds like the whole world tumbling around outside. Cities are the worst when it’s windy, there’s always junk and litter being dragged through corridors or down some steps, flying into brick walls making such a racket. I don’t mind it so much in the day but at 3AM when the world is asleep and all is quiet it’s a terrible annoyance. The other night I tossed and turned as the wind moaned and howled its way passed my windows, rattling them like a crazed lover trying to get inside, disappearing down the passage and returning every few minutes to terrorize the windowpane again. I gave up all hope of sleep and lay in my bed in the darkness, staring at the shadows the swaying tree branches made on the curtain.

The wind always strikes me as the strangest of all the elements, it’s such a temperamental force and changes in an instant, sometimes starting out so genial, a playful breeze on a warm day skipping along the pavement or tickling your neck as it wafts by when all of a sudden it turns rascally and pushes you around, knocks over your papers and send them flying across the street, it starts shutting doors with fury and flipping umbrellas inside out, it sneaks inside from under the front door causing the curtains to shiver and the house to turn cold, and all this for fun!

But even at its most troublesome, there isn’t any other element that curls the ocean water into waves or transports seedlings in the air so flowers can bloom around us or navigates the swallows when they migrate every year. We can only rely on the tempestuous, unpredictable, moody wind.

It was windy again last night and while I lay listening to all the noises, I heard the solitary sound of a glass bottle quivering on stone, rolling down the street and I thought it was the most lonesome sound I’ve ever heard and I wondered how many people out there might feel that way, alone and lonely just drifting along their journey like the bottle in the wind.

Anton’s Choice

 

 

There was once a young man named Anton who was torn in equal measure by his desire for love and his desire for possessions. All his life he was given very little love by his family and so it was always the one thing he longed for most in the world and spent his time wandering from woman to woman seeking to find it, if only for a little while. In place of love he had grown up watching his relations trample over one another in their attempts to secure possessions, each wanting better and more grandiose items than the next and so without him knowing it, this desire crept stealthily into his heart until he began to believe that the more he acquired the more successful and worthy he was as a man.

 As the years went by and Anton grew older, he collected everything from trifles to expensive cars and even a boat. Until one day this man met a woman, who as time wore on, began to love him with the kind of love he’d been searching for all his life, the love he had forgotten about while chasing after his treasures. The woman, called Alice, grew very close to Anton and learnt of his unhappy childhood and she came to know the good and the bad, the kind and the wicked that lived inside him and none of it bothered her, in fact she loved him even more.

 Anton could not believe he had found at last the thing he craved most and wanted to marry Alice and spend his life with her. Alas, the course of love never does run smoothly and as it happens another woman entered his life. This new woman, Greta, was not as attractive or as sweet as Alice, and by all accounts did not love Anton with the intensity of the other but she was incredibly rich and had in her possession more money than Anton could ever dream of making in his lifetime. For weeks he struggled over his love for both these women and his want of what they both had to offer him. Finally his greed got the better of him and he settled on marrying Greta, so he could reach the height of his success, surrounded by wealth. Indeed his family were very charmed and the marriage was a huge and luxurious affair, 700 guests attended the ceremony, the bride’s gown alone was made of French Chantilly lace and pearl satin sewn together with platinum thread, they had cheese, caviar and specially crafted chocolates flown in from far and wide. And the families, they got along as merrily as the couple themselves, outdoing each other with tales of their own richness, competing in superiority but in the most jovial way with big bright smiles and hardened, envious eyes.

 At this point you might be wondering what happened to Alice? She broke off all ties with Anton when she heard of his decision from her neighbour and not from the man himself. Every class has at least one thing in common and that is among them a coward. And because that was exactly what she thought of him she didn’t allow herself to dwell to long over the loss and within a year was happily married to another.

 But Anton did not share her good luck. He thought that once they were wed Greta’s wealth would be his too but she was not so generous and kept every penny of her fortune securely in her name and ownership. From her dear husband she expected the world and as a lady who had only the most expensive tastes her husband had no choice but to supply her with all the comforts she had grown to enjoy all her life and very soon Anton found himself in debt as his expenditure was leagues out of his income.

 One day, over dinner at the home of her father, there occurred a conversation that went like this:

‘’I’ve been thinking,’’ began Greta, ‘’that we really ought to buy a house of our own.’’

‘’Very good idea darling,’’ said her father, ‘’perhaps somewhere nearer to me? I think I saw a house for sale not two streets away on Kipling Avenue. We could go have a look later.’’ Because whatever Greta wanted, Greta got, without any concern for Anton’s opinion. He felt more and more since their marriage that he was only there for decoration.

 ‘’Oh! That’s exactly the house I want! I saw it on the way over here and that’s what got me thinking.’’ Greta replied.

 Her father smiled, ‘’ Then that’s the house you will get. The Smiths lived there for twenty years, never had a problem. It was built by Germans you know, a very sound house.’’

 It was here that Anton spoke up. ‘’ Darling,’’ he called her darling but never meant it, ‘’maybe we should talk about this, hm? Think it over a little. I don’t know yet what the house will cost.’’

 Greta waved him away like she did at mosquitoes, ‘’ Oh who cares? You’re still rich aren’t you? You can buy me a house can’t you?’’  And two sets of eyes stared at him waiting for a reply.

 ‘’Of course I am rich dear, but we have been making a lot of expensive purchases lately, and all the holidays we’ve taken…’’ He hoped that would be enough for them to realise what he was trying to say but rather than understanding his wife dismissed him.

 ‘’Oh who needs you!’’ She shouted and turning away said, ‘’You will buy me the house then, won’t you Father?’’ To which he answered yes and so Greta got the house she wanted while he lost his wife’s respect.

 Such was the way things went for Anton, he was regularly dismissed in front of all her rich friends and family, his comments counted for nothing and sometimes she even went away on holiday without him.

 Anton began to think more and more about Alice and regretted his decision to marry Greta, life among all this wealth was not as nice as he thought it would be. He searched for Alice and eventually found her in a shop in town, just a week before she was to marry, but she looked so radiantly happy he changed his mind at the last second and left without her having seen him.

 On the day of their first anniversary a creditor stopped by their home and informed Greta of the huge debt due by Anton, who was avoiding him and disgusted with being married to a poor man she kicked him out of her beautiful new house that very night. And so the creditor took all that was left of his possessions, Greta had spent all of his money and Alice left with all her love.

 Anton was never seen or heard from again.

 

All creative content on this blog by Fadila Henry is licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

 

 

The why

 

Why do we have to have the same ideas of success? Why do we all need to follow the same steps to achieve goals? Why do we all need to run the rat race? Why do we all need to chase titles given to us by other humans? Why are those who don’t want them frowned upon? Why are those who seek calmness deemed unambitious? Why do we all have to marry in our twenties? Why do we have to have kids just because we got married? Why do we need hundreds of goals or else we’re directionless? Why do we have to justify our lives to anyone? Why do we need to feel ashamed of our bad choices? Why is the only measure of success being rich? Why can’t love be easy? Why is it so hard to meet someone when people are everywhere? Why is everyone obsessed with fitness? Why do people base connections on meaningless things? Why don’t we open up more? Why are we all in a hurry? Why do we put time limits and age limits on things? Why can’t our bodies look better? Why can’t our faces look different? Why can’t I stop eating today? Why do we want what we want? Is it because it’s what the world told us to want to want or is it what we want all on our own? Why don’t people know the true meaning of ambition?  Why is everything moving so fast? Why is everything moving so slow? 

Why is life all about wondering why?

READ.BUY.MAKE – #07/16

 

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TO READ

Two pieces written by moi: Urgency is cheap  and Finding clarity on a coastal hike

10 words for emotions 

I hope to never empty out my bookshelves, but thought Alana Massey had an interesting perspective

I love Anne T Donahue’s pieces, especially when she nails it like with this one – saying no to friends with money

Feeling lonely? Here is some excellent advice

Some really great writing going on at Extra Crispy this month especially liked these three:

Respect the muffin!

Breakfasts with men I’ve known 

Soup is the breakfast of kings

Here’s some tips on taking yourself out to dinner and put an end to the fear of being out alone

To date a reader

Personally I’ve always disliked the idea of calling myself or people a brand. But I thought this was refreshing I don’t want a huge personal brand 

Going runnin’? Get a better sports bra, your boobies will thank you.

 

TO BUY

POTPLANT
My happy little pot of Calandiva

I recently became a mum to a healthy, cheery pot plant and it’s made me realise two things – 1. I am now a person who tends to pot plants and it feels SO adult-y for some reason and 2. Pot plants are lovely to have around. Lovely because they’re little bursts of colour, little pops of a living things that make spaces look and feel better to be in, Nature being good for us and all that. If you love flowers but your budget doesn’t allow you to dole out money every week for a new bunch (they are quite costly) I highly recommend a brightly coloured pot plant, it’s cheaper and will last longer. And you will love it to bits. Here’s a link to decorating ideas with pot plants for some inspiration.

 

TO MAKE

affogato
jamieoliver.com

The humble affogato, a classic Italian dessert. I didn’t follow a recipe when I started making mine, because it’s so simple, it’s basically ice cream (traditionally vanilla) drowned in coffee or espresso. I personally didn’t enjoy it with espresso or really strong coffee, I suggest just making a regular (tea cup size) cup of black coffee and then pouring it into a large glass that’s filled with a few scoops of ice cream. It melts into a delicious coffee flavoured ice cream drink that is heaven.  Here’s a link to a video if you’d like to make it fancier, enjoy!

An unwanted visitor

 

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It is midnight when there is a knock at the door. I am about to turn off my lamp and get into bed but slip on my spectacles instead and feeling both alarmed and curious, I go to answer. He greets me with a silvery smile, he is wearing a white tuxedo and carrying a frayed black satchel.

You, I say flatly, my feelings congealing into annoyance. His visits mean nothing but disruption.

I was passing through, he says, thought I’d stop by and say hello.

Oh, hello. Now if you don’t mind… I attempt to close the door but he skips over the threshold, artfully quick as always and proceeds to make himself comfortable in my home. He never cares if it is late or even if the lights are out. He will slither in regardless, he will linger, walk into each room and gaze upon my things while asking for refreshments. Insomnia is tiresome, a menace. A pest in formal attire! This time he walks directly to my bedroom and puts his bag down on my writing table. He picks up my cup of warm tea and takes a sip while I watch him, wary of his every move. He sits on my cherry leather armchair and puts his feet up on my table. He lights a cigarette.

It’s terribly late, I say, pointing to the large clock on the wall.

Is it? He replies, blowing out ropes of grey air. It feels like the night is just beginning for some.

Well it was just ending for me. I have work tomorrow, you know.

A sliver of panic has crept in my voice which he senses immediately and suddenly jumps out the chair and paces the carpeted floor.

Then it’s a good thing I arrived when I did. He says his smokey eyes glowing. So lets get right down to it.
To what? I ask
To thinking, he says.
But I don’t want to think.
Well I am not surprised, you never do think about anything interesting and I would know, he says stopping mid-pace to look at me, I visit you more than any other.
And that’s precisely why I can’t, I am too tired from your bothersome visits!
He continues to pace, unperturbed.

Do you ever wonder, he spins around to face me, whether the stars are hot or cold? Or both, cold at first getting warmer toward morning or vice versa. Anything is possible I suppose, but I like to think of them as diamond drops of ice and I imagine my arms were long enough to reach up and pluck them from the sky whenever I wished, to add to a drink, and let them melt in the liquid and then drink them away. Could there be anything more splendid than to taste a star?
As a matter of fact, I believe resting is quite splendid…

He coughs, interrupting me.

I was at a dinner party this evening, he says.
Ah, that would account for your outfit, but why a tuxedo?
It’s all I have for these things.
Things?
Occasions. He has resumed his seat on the chair. I sit across him on my bed.
So you go to dinner parties? He nods. They hire me.
Who does?
The hosts. Guests falling asleep over dinner is quiet unsightly and you wouldn’t believe how often it occurs.
I would. I say. And that’s why I avoid them, as a rule.

Drowsiness begins to tug at my eyelids, I yawn, blurring the room briefly.
He takes out another cigarette which I know means more talking and thinking to come. I climb into bed and lay supinely, my eyes slowly losing the tug of war with sleep.

Have you ever thought about creating a colour?
Never, we have all the colours we need.
We can never have too many. If I were to invent one, I’d call it prairie. Such a pleasant word, isn’t it?
I don’t reply this time, I am falling further and further into the glorious void of sleep.

He continues to ramble about colours, then shapes then he is back to stars, I hear the names Pavo and Musca somewhere far away. I dozed off for what felt like forever, falling and falling until I was at the cusp of plunging into the deepest, richest, most satisfying sleep of my life and just then at that beautiful, luscious moment, I am jarred awake by a loud snap at my ear and he is standing next to me, his worn bag in his hand.

I’d better be going. He says, his smile has weakened, his silver eyes paling.
Goodbye. I reply.

I turn over and hurry to get back to the sleep that is waiting for me.
Oh I wouldn’t get too comfortable if I were you, you’ll have to be up in half an hour.

My eyes fly open in horror just in time to see him walk out the front door, whistling.

All creative content on this blog by Fadila Henry is licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Marion.

 

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The overwhelming need to see Marion came on quite unexpectedly this evening. It was after another bleak end to the string of meaningless relationships I was so fond of getting entangled in, when a wistful longing began to permeate through me for the familiar elliptical shape of her face and wide, whimsical smile. She had been the only one to ever discover the real me by uncovering the murky layers of myself that I had spent a lifetime carefully burying away and exposed the ghosts I allowed to live freely on the land of my past. There were times, plenty of times, when she repulsed me by the tactless way she shoved the cold mirror of reality before me, forcing me with her sharp, cutting words to admit the truths I had spent years running away from.

And yet somehow this evening she was the only one I wanted to be with, the only one who would suffice. I realized now with meaningful clarity that she had been the only security I had ever really known.

But my darling Marion had moved on a long time ago. Her mind had become heavy with the countless troubling secrets I kept that she no longer wanted to be burdened with and I could not blame her. I was enmeshed in a tattered gauze of insecurities born in the violet years of my childhood and the many grudges I held against my estranged, uncaring parents, that I seemed to carry with me wherever I went never having figured out how to dissolve of them never having cared enough to try.

‘’You know, you’re exactly like your father.’’ Those words that I hated would syphon out her red mouth with ease and disdain during the lengthy fights that began to take over our evenings.

‘’I am nothing like my father.’’ My flimsy denial which prompted the frequent disappearances I started imposing on her, gravely aware that it was driving her to some dark portal of mania but this petulant manipulation was the only way I could make sure to keep hold of her, to control her. I knew about her fear of abandonment and I used her weakness, selfishly, to my full advantage. One day upon returning from one of my strategic sabbaticals, I was greeted with an abrupt note in her disheveled handwriting informing me that our affair was over and not to bother looking for her.  But I did. For two weeks I traipsed by her apartment during the day and lingered in the alley at night, sometimes I would sit across the street on the wooden bench shaded by the sleepy branches of a weeping tree, hoping to catch some glimpse of her returning home or letting a friend in but she never appeared. Eventually I was told by her neighbour, who had probably grown sick of seeing me idle by every day staring up at her apartment, that she had gone away to Zurich to stay with a cousin I had never heard of. Effectively beaten, I put all thought of her out my mind and forced myself to move on.

But there was something about the amorously dark sky on this night that compelled me to find her again and so I left my apartment unsure, completely unsure but stupidly hopeful that she had returned to her old address. The beginning of a thunderstorm behind me and the somnolent amber street ahead, my legs automated passed the spicy fragrant smoke of the Indian takeaway and the flashing neon green pharmacy. I felt like I was on some type of disorganized high and fished out a cigarette from my trouser pocket to burningly accompany me all the way to Chez Marion.

As if a cliché, I leaned against the cobalt lamppost under the dim teardrop light and stared up at her second floor windows which were yellow with life and as I mused on my next move a tall handsome man appeared behind one of the windows carrying a pudgy golden baby whom I knew at once belonged to Marion – it had absorbed all her beautiful golden looks. In the three years since I received that crisp goodbye note, clumsily limping from one derelict affair to the next, she had been kindling a cosy little family, quietly and arrogantly just four streets away from me.

As I stood there brewing in my own rapacious jealousy, she goldenly appeared as if to confirm everything and gently kissed the baby on its bald head. She moved to close the curtain and when her dark eyes reached mine, the fiery look of contempt that blazed across her face instantly set fire to my tumbleweed of feelings in a brilliant arsenic haze and throwing away the crumpled corpse of my cigarette I walked off into the darkness, my longing for her now more hopeless than ever.

 

All creative content on this blog by Fadila Henry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

 

The sea

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I stood at the sea shore, the snow white waves tumbling and unfurling at my feet, the sky was red the sun was burning and my skin prickled from the heat and the glare. Ever since I was young, the beach was the place I visited to find myself again, it was where I heard my voice the loudest. Now, whenever life’s grip on me grows tighter and I feel trapped behind the barbed fencing of adulthood and responsibility, I return to the sea more frequently than before. I run toward the spacious salty ocean, and plunge my feet in the wet, gooey sand until it melts into the beige coolness.

The ocean has always been the palliative salve for my soul. I could stare for hours at the indefatigable curling of the waves, big and small, heaving and breathing their way to greet me at the shore.

Some days they are large, scary and austere. The blue fading into grey from its shroud of white froth, billowing like a cape. The force of these waves often knocks me down then pulls me into the sea with it as it recedes. The liquid and foam is far more powerful than me and I feel the terrifying feeling of a momentary loss of control. The sea has gripped me in an unwanted embrace and I cannot escape.

On friendlier days, the smaller waves dance and shimmer their way toward me, harbingers of the low tide they circle and cajole me into their dazzling deep blue depths where the sun shines torrents of yellow on their lilting vastness. The sea has gripped me in a cheerful hug and I don’t ever want to escape.

And then it happens as it always does and slowly, every troubling thought and fear wafts out of me through every pore. They twirl up into the air like ghostly curlicues of smoke and I see the many penumbras of my worries drift up to the sky, quivering in the breeze, when a lone pale bird grabs hold of its gossamer thread and carries it even farther away until they have all disappeared behind the clouds and I am left standing on the quiet shore, just me and the water and the feeling of serenity.

All creative content on this blog by Fadila Henry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

READ.BUY.MAKE – #06/16

 

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TO READ

”Be young and beautiful by listening to little, young you.” A lovely piece on turning 30.  Bookmark and read it every day.

As a lettuce foe I totally agree with number six in the best cooking advice

When being polite could harm you. I think every single woman can relate to this one. It’s the kind of decision/fear men never have to stress over.

Why do people settle in their twenties?

Another beautiful, honest essay on the perpetual solitude of the writer

No sound, no fury. A marriage without fighting

Stop comparing your creative life and ask yourself these three questions instead

For the coffee addicts like myself, this is a really interesting read. Adrenal fatigue caused by the effects of excessive stimulants.

Friends grow apart an inevitable part of getting older.

A much talked about essay on the unhealthy truth behind wellness and clean eating

Living alone is a luxury

Perceive a more beautiful, kinder world for yourself. Perception is everything

Breaking up with a therapist is tricky 

Continue reading “READ.BUY.MAKE – #06/16”

The sky. A vignette.

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The sky is an ever-changing spectacle of brilliance and colour. While the inhabitants of the world beneath are engrossed in whatever mundane daily activity they partake of, typing away at computers or ordering another coffee in a café somewhere, oblivious to the dramatic and imperceptible changes taking place in the vast and wide sky but secure in the knowledge that the lofty ceiling of the world is there, always and always there. The sky has many moods, take for instance the exaggerated clouds the colour of noxious smoke, bulbous with rain, floating above me right now, looming ominously and angrily, warning of a thunderstorm about to come my way. Or what about the cloudless sky of yesterday? Such a cheerful sky! Youthful in its clarity, free of the all the whispery white whiskers, not a single strand to be seen for miles. What a calming sky that was, tranquil, the sky that made me want to lay outside atop a blanket and stare into its azure abyss for hours while the honeyed sun warms my skin with a smile.

The iridescent canopy of the world such untouchable endlessness.

 The sunset sky is perhaps the most popular sky for its many masterful strokes of beauty usually on full display at the brink of twilight. Suffused with the blushing clouds of pink or muted apricot or a daring vein of violet. I’ve seen the sun on occasion burn so brightly during a sunset illuminating the entire sky above me in pure gold, a radiant burning farewell! Continue reading “The sky. A vignette.”