Walk up to Waitrose. On a whim, I pop into the British Heart Foundation shop at the junction - they have some really nice hardbacks there (that's where I picked up the still unfinished De Lillo - there's a great post. The best book you've never finished.....) Browsing through the - miraculously - orderly paperbacks, I go through the favourites alphabetical ritual....Amis, Barnes, Coe, De Lillo [long jump] Joyce, Larkin, O. Henry (well, you never know....)....what's this? Pelecanos?? Hard Revolution. Hardback. First Edition. £2.50 stamped twice on the price tag by an over-enthusiastic BHF volunteer. Excellent. I only have a fiver and a tenner on me, so in order to expedite an efficient transaction that maximises the contribution of the tax-deductable volunteer's (wo)manpower, I really need to spend a little more in order not to waste the angel-with-invisible-wings' time counting out loose change that could be going into the pay packet of some mouse-butchering researcher who will(presumably) ultimately conclude (as I have) that a sudden, fatal heart attack-induced demise is perhaps the best we can hope for when it comes to the old meeting-the-maker stakes.
Somehow, when scanning the (also alphabetised) ranks of hardbacks, I'd missed the spine that reads Martin Amis - Time's Arrow. Also a first edition - identical, in fact, to the pristine library copy I read all those years ago....£2.00..."I've only rung in the £2.50 once...." quips the kindly, teutonic matriarch with extensive colouration on her arms, like a spasmodically applied fek tan. We laugh, and I leave the BFH filled with a tremendous sense of the boundless benificence of life, the universe and everything.
Leaving Waitrose, having realised that in visiting the BHF shop I've neglected to procure sufficient funds for the day's food shop (necessitating the return to the shelves of a six pack of vine tomatoes and a carton of cup mushrooms - Christ, how *hatefully* middle class that sounds...) I bump into poor Lily. Lily & Tom were respectively Landlady and Landlord of The Gun, my father's beloved old boozer, for about twenty years. Tom passed on two or three weeks ago (cancer - a mercifully swift final downturn after having lived with it kept in check for a decade or so...) and what with the move and everything, neither of us had been able to get in touch with Lily and at least send the sort of statutory sympathy card that was abundant from Tom, Lily - and pretty much all of their sometime cliental over the years - when Dad died. I get a sudden and powerful sense of what an incredibly selfish tosser I am, but I resist the initial urge to flee the situation and instead find that my maternally inherited being-quite-good-with-people-when-I-want-to-be skills are kicking in and, following on from my I'm-lost-at-sea-please-rescue-me strength wave, I am soon hugging her, pecking her on the cheek and sincerely expressing my sympathy. Poor Tom. I bumped into him not long before he went and he said, with a gazing-like-a-caught-fish, oh-so-brave honesty that made (and makes) me shudder, "it's in the bones. Won't be long now."
Poor Lily. She looks as if someone has taken a straw to her and sucked the best part out of her, leaving a skin with hardly anything worth containing. How *do* we carry on?
But somehow we do.
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