Paddington

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A little girl opened the door to my shop and wedged her face between the lock and the doorway and stared inside, pressing up and down on her toes. She said, ‘This is my dream. This is like Paddington.’
Her mum, coming up behind her said, ‘Come on, we’re going over the road.’ They crossed the road, hand in hand, the little girl still going up and down on her toes, and talking and gesturing backwards and forwards all the way. She had a knitted scarf tied around her waist and one purple sock and one white one.

How to play golf

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Find equipment. Divide and separate. Even though there is a good wide acre, every swing will shave a cousin’s ear, which neither will notice. Place hands up, hands down, hands anywhere, and aim delicately.

Ignore parental advice. The white ball is everything. Muscles, feet, dinner and yesterday, all blur.

Noah can imitate a professional stance quite well. They both like the grass. The ball, when hit successfully, makes a rich white click and causes them to stop still and swallow.

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Getting petrol

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Max and Noah are getting on with things. They have their own version of work. It is very intense. Today, the trees need petrol to keep going.

There is a pipe buried at the base of the tree. They place a piece of bark over its lovely mouth and stare at it.

‘Petrol.’

‘Petrol in there.’

They squat, and stare at the piece of bark and the pipe, more thoughtfully.

Suddenly they rise up and go for the hose, drag it, grunting, panting. It is too long; it’s heavy and it knots its stomach and argues with their small feet. But they yank and wrestle it into place, refusing to give up.

Then they place the nozzle into the pipe and it fits. It is not a tree. It is a train.

‘Watch out.’

‘No’

‘Watch.’

‘Ok.’

And the water cooperates, a beautiful cold flood that darkens the ground and makes them briefly examine their feet. They check the bower, check the nozzle, check the fuel, crouch and stare, absorbed in the small heaving fountain. Noah taps the tree on its spindly shin. He says, ‘Done.’

Max agrees, ‘Turn off.’ But they can’t. The work is too important. They can’t leave it, the tap is too far away.  They remain with the train, stroking its hot roaring flank, loyal and possessive…

 

 

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

 

Eating lunch with Noah

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Noah is two years old and he’s like an owl. He sits on his knees, on the chair next to me, leaning his shoulder on mine, chummy and confiding. Turns his head, looks at me sideways. Hoots and sighs and drops bread. Eats fast.

Says, what Nanny? What did you say?

He notices a red dragonfly painted inside the rim of his red bowl. I’d never noticed it before.

He laughs and taps the bowl to show me.  See?

He’s like a clock. Head ticks up and down as he counts the bananas.

Says, I’m cold. Looks around urgently and says he’s not cold.

He leans on elbows, notices everything, breathes through his mouth, blows and sighs, climbs up, climbs down, knocks on the window. He offers me half of his banana, endlessly thoughtful.

Says, I’m a monkey. Calls out, what’s that noise?

He’s like a tugboat. Because when they overbalance and slide from the chair, they take the tablecloth (and everything else) with them, tow everything down in alarm, bringing the entire harbour; plates, cups, spoons, forks, bread, tomatoes and bananas, all to the floor.

Says, sorry Nanny, and patiently picks everything up again.

 

 

Winter’s come back

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A couple visiting the shop, said to me, ‘Warm in here!’

I said, ‘It is, I have the heater on today.’ They hunched their shoulders and laughed loud enough to startle everyone nearby. One of them shouted, ‘Winter’s come back.’

They shrugged down into their coats to show they were warm. They went up and down on their toes, screwed up their eyes as though looking into the rain, and said, ‘Well, it takes all weathers!’

Then they took The Gardener’s Guide to Dahlias, and launched easily back out into the cold. Then I heard them say, ‘Now for lunch!’

So nice, outside

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The unexpected warmth, we aren’t used to it yet.

Everybody who comes into the shop stands briefly in the doorway and the day outside flares blue over their shoulders.

People with dogs, pulling and pulling, stopping, pulling, jerking forward again, a girl reading in the sun over the road, drinking a bottle of coke slowly, two old men running across the street, the arms pumping powerfully – but not the legs. The legs will not be hurried. They rock back and forth with imagined speed, and shake fists at the motorbikes that made them run in the first place.

Hot footpaths. People standing outside cars to eat instead of climbing grimly inside them. Cars parked with people asleep against the hot windows. Walking is slowed down, people glance at the sky, stand still to drink coffee. Laughing and talking at the kerb, not trying to cross the road immediately, happy to wait in the sun, finding extra things to talk about.

Two ladies rugged up sensibly outside the shop say, this won’t last.

Kids belting past yelling – I’m not even playing on Saturday, is Sam?

 

Pirates

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People came in off the train today.. Possibly all together but I wasn’t sure. There was a doorway snarl…. shut the door Ern, look at the weather…and an argument over roses…let them be, it’s too late to fiddle with them now

They came in and out, looking for the bakery, needing black coffee, strong, and The Readers Digest Book of Roses, holding the door open for other customers, looking for Bob and Ern who have gone off..

One lady talked and talked in the back room. Her husband, leaning on the counter with his eyes closed, suddenly realized he should have been in there, listening. He rose up magnificently, said, oh Jesus, and powered away from the counter, elbows out and a good balance.

There were more voices, calling, fluting, floating, as groups gathered, changed plans and agreed with each other with narrowed eyes…just do as she says…

A young family burst in, the child shouting, here we are, back for more pirates, I already read book one…so we came back, if we ate all our oranges we were allowed…

There are three couples all safely inside the shop. There is a disappointing lack of Roses, Grown the Natural Way. Ern has been found. Violet should go home. Chris has found a book of possibly good poetry.

We’ll come back when we have more time…. good place, good place. Though…

The child with the pirates is under the table, reading fiercely, unable to get up and leave, a divine three dollars spent, he is on book two, book three is breathing next to him.

His mum says to me in a tired way, not sure why he reads so much, his grandpop is the same.

The child pulls his eyes from the page, outraged.

Mum. Pop’s a pirate. He told me it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thea Stilton, I just love you so much…

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It is the school holidays again and outside the shop this morning there is a car laden with camping gear and with two small bikes attached to the back. There are children waiting there, one is lying across the back seat with his feet out of the car door, the parents are at the bakery.

They have been instructed to stay put. But the smaller sibling, a little girl, has her face pressed to the window of the shop and is saying Thea Stilton, Thea Stilton, Thea, Thea Thea, I just love you so much… in a sing song voice…until her brother tells her to leave it and get back into the car.

So she does, and she gently closes the door on his foot as she passes to the other side. He  twists around and looks at her in amazement, he might yell out but then suddenly the parents are back and there are sausage rolls and juice and buns and the father going back because he forgot the tomato sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House of Brie

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It is September and it is warming up. Passers-by are not so huddled and they do not walk by so fast. They stand in the sun and look through the shop window.

A couple came into the shop and bought Alice in Wonderland for their daughter and a Star Wars novel for their son.

They said: Well, this is great, this book being blue, also with summer coming and everything.

Outside there are young people leaning against the wall, the warm wall.

Robert visited and said he wouldn’t look around because he knows what will happen to him: he will be ambushed by some book on the Ancients and at the moment he just needs to pay his AGL bill, even though they don’t deserve to be paid. He also said that the Thames and Hudson Art and Imagination Series is the best thing he’s ever seen.

I am asked for dozens of obscure titles, the sun is warming up everybody’s old reading lists.

A little boy sent his grandmother to the shop to with a pirate book reading list. There were hand drawn illustrations on the list to make sure she got the right books. She said: he always makes me these lists.

I take longer going down the street because I want to stay in the sun, so does everybody else.

An older couple spend ages looking at a copy of Pinocchio.

I am asked if I think Harry Potter is a suitable series for a young person.

A man buys three very worn out cartoon books and tells me they are brilliant but his wife says they are stupid.

Down the street I see Alan, buying wine and beer. Alan is Swiss and has the fabulous Swiss accent. He is gloomy because he grows his own vegetables but his wife said they are all shit and just bought a lettuce from Woolies. He looked at the brie I had bought and said I must leave it out of the fridge for at least ten days before eating it, as is proper for brie.

I said: maybe.

He said: then you pack it into a good house of  bread, cuddle it up with roasted garlic, a square of butter over the top and bake it. It is the proper way.

I said I was going home to make it.