Is Bridgewater a town or a place?

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This excellent question from a family in front of me. I am following them back to my shop. The father and three children move fast, the children hopping and pouncing and asking questions.

‘Is Bridgewater a town, or a place?’

The father explained. ‘It’s a town, like this one.’

‘I know that place, there’s a circus there.’

‘Well, maybe not.’

‘Wasn’t there a circus there?’

‘Don’t think so.’

‘But I remember it, that person did cartwheels and spins.’

‘Is Bridgewater not a town?’

‘Want me to do a cartwheel?’

The children are fast, disappearing through the sunlight, the father only just keeping up, and they were almost at the bakery.

‘Dad, when you’re at work, we sleep in your bed.’

I saw the father go still, look down at them, delighted.

And then they turned the corner, gone.

 

Artwork by Pascal Campion

 

Trying to get across the road

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There’s a man with two children outside the shop. They’ve come from the bakery and they looked through my window briefly but they don’t come in. They want to go across the road and eat their food. There is only one place to cross here and it’s right outside my window. The father has each child by the hand but the little girl wants to walk backwards. This is so she can keep watching the wooden cat in my window.

He calls out authoritatively, stay close.

They start across. The little boy is going to hop across.

The little girl has turned around and is walking low, knees bent, swinging her legs as though on hinges. They watch each other admiringly. Dad is carrying two paper bags in his mouth. The little boy drops his cap.

They get jerkily to the other side, still hopping and rotating and dragging dad steadily downward, and then they all straighten up and turn to look at the cap lying in the middle of the road. I can’t hear what they are saying but the dad is delivering a long speech, possibly about how not to cross the road. When it’s quiet, he walks out and picks up the cap. The little boy waves, pleased with his dad, then drops both paper bags onto the grass, and the buns bounce softly out and roll into the gutter and both children look down at them in amazement.

Hey, little fella

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There is a family meeting outside the shop but it is not a meeting. It is a farewell, gathered around a car because some of them are leaving. They have all packed the car, very slowly. They are slowly still packing, sometimes they take things out and put them in again. They have been at the bakery but that’s over now. They have been leaning and waiting against the windows here. There is a small child and one man picks him up and says, hey little fella, hey little fella, hey little fella.
And the child, the little fella, puts his very small arms around the man’s neck and holds on as though to something very important. And the man holds onto the child in the same way. And there is a woman there looking at the child. She says,
They have to go now.
The young couple are not ready. He is packing the bags slowly in again. Then he takes two of them out again.
Keep us in the loop.
Where are you meeting the others? Is it Williamstown?
Let us know what happens.
Yeah, mum.
Everyone moves together toward the car and the older man says, traffic jam, traffic jam.
Thanks for having us, mum, been great.
See you soon.
Ah well, good on you, you know.
Well, off they go. Strap that little fellow in properly.
He’s in, he’s all right.
They’ll do.
I know, I know.
It’s been great.
They are great. The lady said this in a sort of whisper, I couldn’t hear it properly, that’s what it looked like, it would have been something like that, a whisper because the rest of your voice has gone for a bit. She was holding on to the fence.
Then they joined hands and went across the road together, looking at the ground.

Sculpture by Wil van den Hoek

The Evening Meal

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It is time for dinner and the babies must take the high chairs and be contained. There is good food, spaghetti, and bread and cheese and jugs of cold water and noise and the evening heat dusting though the front windows and over the swing and ding of the evening meal.
Nobody listens much to anybody else. Everybody eats, everyone has had a hard day, worse than anybody else’s, that’s for sure.
Noah and Max, lords of cheese, glance about, sighting opportunity, examining small pieces of carrot, spilling anything possible, shout on urgent notes that end before they can think of the exact meaning, kick and become abruptly silent and then swing again at the escaping idea.

Sometimes they unexpectedly notice each other as though from a vast distance even though it is about five cm. Then they join hands, share evidence of their existence which consists tonight of mirth and carrot mostly and also spilled and other edible things. Then they can shriek with triumph, kingly because they still rule the experience, their thistly hair seems to stand on end in amazement.
Later, tidying up, I find a small plastic tractor and a lego block amongst the mess on the floor and I put them in the sink with the rest of the dishes.

Morgan sleeps and Noah reads

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Reading is a sport that can be pursued anywhere. Questing eyes need very little equipment to locate and roll out the print, the mind will hang on behind, and help itself over the top of sentences, words and things not understood. When we read, we are gone. But then we are here because that is where reading deposits us: here.

Noah reads and breathes in a single motion, staring at possibilities and unconcerned with how he views the page. His baby eyes can round up Hairy Maclary at full gallop, he can sample letters and phrases, kick at the dotty full stops, allow the hairy hair of Hairy Maclary to graze his eyes, so deep is the staring. At his back is his dad, sleeping off the night shift and providing solid backup for when an idea is too astounding to continue.

And Hairy Maclary is a banquet of consequence containing, as it does, danger and friendship; the big ships. Noah’s mind and feet continue to map outward and inward, enlarging and layering: he can never return to a time when he did not know about Hairy Maclary, Bottomley Potts and the knotty full stops.

Breathing the Coffee

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They were moving along the pavement this morning, past my shop, past me setting up the signs, the little boy was running lightly along the air and his father was following, balancing two cups of coffee and drinking from both, holding them at elbow height and leaning back, breathing the relief.

The little boy stopped to check the sky three times. Then he said: I’ll just go this much in front, I’ll just go along out of here and he measured his steps precisely, looking back at his father’s feet and keeping in front just a little way, then more, then more, breathing the happiness. Then he was miles in front and heading for a caravan parked down the road and the father following with his elbows out. Two ladies were passing the other way and looking on critically and one said to the child just watch yourself and then they were level with me, looking past me into my window and one said to her friend, don’t think we’ll get much in there. And then they were finished and passed by me too, breathing the discontent.

 

Honey, do you have it?

 

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A young couple came into the shop out of the cold today, he was cradling a tiny baby. She was carrying parcels and bags and she ran into things because she was looking so hard at the spines of the books. He carried the infant on his chest in a sling and he kept one hand on the side of the sling and the baby clutched one of his fingers, holding on tightly while it buzzed in sleep.

He searched the shelves as carefully as she did and he found book after book that looked promising and he said: honey do you have it?

Sometimes she said: yes, got that one…

Sometimes she said: oh I need that one…

Then he would rise up and take the book and place it gently on the counter and cradle the baby again and look down at the tiny hand coming out of the carrier and holding onto his own hand and he looked broadsided by the joy of so many events at once.

 

Hand sculpture by Bruce Nauman

Noah Reads

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Noah reads like a proper reading person, that is, he reads like himself.

He is a year old. When he examines the book, the front and back, the bottom and top, each page on a useful hinge, the last page an attractive gate, nobody knows (except for him) what he is thinking, believing or eating.

Noah reads at an alarming rate, this will continue until formal instruction begins and then he will slow down to a courteous pace; he is  already a thoughtful baby. He will travel thoughtfully through reading requirements. But alone, he will soar with closed eyes, apologetic of recommended titles, he will read the same book over and over, re read old books, re read easy books, insist on reading difficult books, put aside appropriate books and be kind but not enthusiastic about reader stars for progress, charting instead, his own country which will feature a starscape that only he can track.

Noah watches his own parents read. His house is growing a garden outside and a library inside. The library is without plan, format or sensible guidelines. The books are filed according to where they land. There are old books, new books, worn out books and well read books all in together, a mother country with no end page but requiring a heavy reference: it must be a book someone may want to read some day. Volumes that do not wear this badge are shelved anyway.
Noah travels this realm of gold somewhat carelessly, after all, it has always been there. Its gilt influence on his life may go unnoticed, or maybe not. Everybody reads differently.
Some people read for recovery, relaxation, distraction.
Some people read for accomplishment, achievement and knowledge.
Some people read to accumulate data, settle argument, prove frontiers.

This, then, for Noah, a beautiful infant in a great age, the digital age: that he might forgo analysis for listening. That he will pursue the tentative and the original. That he will take terrible risks and abandon the surface of things.
That he might reach air’s other side… ( Rainer Maria Rilke )

Noah reading

 

 

Noah and Max unpack the entire tent

2018-01-12 12.34.59.jpgNoah and Max have so much to do. There is an entire landscape of camping supplies to process and record.

They are each making new maps, superior charts that include sound, shape,  heat and hunger.

Babies are master cartographers. No corner that is valuable will be missed. Nothing that is useless today need be included. The maps of babies are not cluttered with regret or objectives.

Instead they are inked with the tiny details of small details such as the pull of muscle against saucepan, the tight clang of enamel bowls and the wind under canvas. They both want the broom. They record the hands of each other,  sticky on the broom handle.  They blink at light through mesh.

Abruptly there is a new sound,  it is footsteps on gravel and the pace and weight of this noise has been recorded before.  This information has a high yield. It is Pa, passing by with fishing rods and both infants become still,  noting the intrusion,  mouths remain open and then he is gone.  They taste the retreat, process the loss and Max allows a short scream of rage.  Noah maps Max’s scream of rage.

Then they press faces against the mesh windows again,  snuffle at sunlight and heat, sand and dry grass, three seagulls and the sea in the distance and somebody filling a bucket with water. A plastic cup is breezed off the table.  They stare at the cup rolling on the ground.

Suddenly there is no more information they can contain, the maps are full. They reject every new voice and ward off every new idea. They hurl strawberries to the ground and tie their distress to their parents with loud and elaborate knots. For the next few hours they can only be towed.

 

Red is the Last Colour You See

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A brother and sister are here in the shop and they are arguing over Dr Who; they are disputing the title. The brother, who is the youngest, says: It’s Dr Stupid Who!

But his sister wants this book, there is an object on the front colour, it is red and she presses one eye to the cover, enchanted with this ruby object. Their father tells them that red is the last colour you see and they both stand still. One of them asks: Do you mean when you die?

The father answers: No, I mean when you look at something. Red is the last colour you see. The children stand still again. They look around hard. They look at everything and test the colour red. But they are not sure.

The brother says: I can’t see anything if red is last or first and his father said: Ah! Well, don’t worry.

The boy says: What else is there that we might see or not?

They are all standing at the counter now with their books, including Dr Stupid Who. The father says: it is up to you, what you see or do not see. Then he says that he has lost his book, a copy of Dune by Frank Herbert and the children find it on the table in front of the biographies and they think this is very funny.