Birmingham, 30 September - 7 October
I am leaving my gym when I glance through the windows overlooking the pool. The aquarobics class is in session. There are perhaps eighteen older women. Chest-deep in the water, they wave their arms--plump, or crepey, or both-- in time to "Disco Inferno" by the Trammps. Morning light gilds them, their wet skin, their hair or their swimming hats, the deep creases around their mouths and noses, the flying droplets. Their faces say they are hard at work.
Then the young man teaching the class does a step-slide-turn in his blue plastic booties. He slaps his rump with a pool noodle. There is laughter. One lady near the window looks at her neighbour and waggles her eyebrows.
Here is Ralph, who always appears as if he wants to ask whether you've seen his missing bow tie. He should be wearing a bow tie. He belongs to my pal M, who took me out for dinner. M is good people.
I am hurrying along Stephenson Street when I pass a man. One of his arms is tucked under a t-shirt three sizes too large for him; in the hand of the other he grips a plastic carrier bag. His mouth is screwed up to one side as though he's chewing on his inner cheek in anxious or intense concentration.
I'm thrown because he's a friend I'd had coffee with an hour or so earlier (he recently broke his arm, which explains the t-shirt). But now, when I'm not expecting him, he looks like a stranger-- a stranger whose nerves are half-unraveled. He might have any manner of things under that shirt. An ailing pet rabbit. A two-litre bottle of white cider. A bulky, close-typed manifesto connecting Brexit to problems in his love life. But you wouldn't want to ask.
As I am entering the supermarket, a security guard and two policemen are escorting a girl in her late teens out of it. She laughs in a broken, half-sobbing way. Her artfully winged eyeliner has been smudged on one side. She makes and unmakes a fist with the hand of the arm that one of the policemen has a grip on. It is a small, soft hand, with rings on every finger. The restraining officer is a tall fellow with a jolly round face. "Remarkable acceleration," he is saying. I assume he is referring to the girl, who must have tried to run.
I stand up from my desk at the co-working space to refill my glass of water and am startled to see a man sitting on the steps which lead up to the premium conference rooms. He's leaning against the wall, dozing. He wears double denim, stained and weathered workboots, a good day or so of stubble. He doesn't look like he belongs here in this corporate office-share with its espresso machine, flatscreen TV monitors, and overall VIP-airport-lounge-vibe. When I step away from the desk he jolts awake and watches me, alarm in his brown eyes. I head to the fridge, and when I come back, he's turned his face to the wall to continue his catnap.
One of my great-grandmothers wrote these notes in nursing school in 1910. My aunt Ann, who's become the family archivist, sent me this along with excerpts from insane Catholic sex and relationship advice booklets from the '40s, all found among my grandmother's things. I am excited to get my hands on the sex advice from priests.
Things to Look for This Week
The Draconid Meteor Shower (tomorrow or Tuesday, cloud cover and light pollution permitting)
Peak colour for our leaves (I'm on school run duty and will be in the woods quite a bit)
Drawings by my daughter
Goings-on at the bowling alley
Current calligraphy project progress
Song Song Song
"I Turn My Camera On", Spoon