Friday, April 10, 2009

at Harold's grave

The sun was out when we woke up and we had this hired Volkswagen Eos and so we dropped the top and headed out of Islington, out of London.

At the Tesco near Tottenham we loaded up on cheese and yogurt and bread to tear apart, and a white chocolate Easter cow, and kept going. Dylan on the mp3 player. Laughing and eating. "Look out kid Don't matter what you did Walk on your tip toes Don't try "No Doz" Better stay away from those That carry around a fire hose Keep a clean nose Watch the plain clothes You don't need a weather man To know which way the wind blows."

In Essex we found ourselves in Waltham Abbey. King Harold started building this church in 1060. Wasn't king yet, of course. Short reign for the last Saxon to rule, though the current royal family is quite German. Redux. rebirth. By the time we find a spot in the tiny carpark it is raining. This is England.

We go inside. Holding hands. There is intimacy within these ancient walls. There is the warmth of human touch which fights off the chill of a thousand years. On the wall of the guild chapelis a 12th Century Doom Painting. We stare. I think, sitting here in this empty space, that we could snog like teenagers in the back of a theatre, but it seems inappropriate.

Outside we stand by Harold's grave, between the base of the pillars of a part of the church lost long ago to Henry VIII's semi-Protestantism. It has turned cold and the rain stings, but histories hold me here for a moment. The first coronation in Westminster Abbey on the Ephiphany, 1066. Stamford Bridge and Hastings. Effort and loss. My father was Harold. Effort and loss. The sky is a thick and twisting grey.

Across the churchyard there is a pub. We share the world's best chips, massive and sizzling hot, and a pot of tea. We are warmed.

copyright 2009 by Ira Socol

Monday, April 06, 2009

toward Cockfosters


Charlie lived on Gillespie Road just past Plimsoll Road, so I walked from Trafalger Square where she and I had gone separate ways, leaning heavily on my cane, and made my way, indirectly, in the direction of the tube stop at Leicester Square.

Portuguese university students struggled to film the traffic. A frustrated man chased late leavers from the portico of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and loudly clanged the gates shut and locked them with chains. A gaggle of Irish women, Newry if my accent-tracker was working, rushed past gushing about Judi Dench in the play they had just seen. Outside the Coliseum two French twenty-somethings appeared on the verge of orgasm even if they remained mostly clothed.

Near New Row I paused, exhausted, pain spreading from my leg through my body, and I stumbled toward the door of The Angel and Crown, while reaching with my free hand for the small box of meds in my pocket. A barman held the door for me. "Need a pint?" "And perhaps food." "Can you make it upstairs?" "Slowly." We went through to the back and up the narrow stair. I sat between two groups of French students, the pint in front of me, the West End Saturday night playing out beyond the window I turned toward. It began to rain.

She appeared in the doorway with wet hair. "That was just dumb," she announced to the room. "Buy me dinner?" I nodded toward the chair next to me. She sat down. "You know I'd rather sleep on Charlie's couch with you than in Alex's guest suite alone." "I'd love that." "You just piss me off sometimes." "Sometimes?" "Sometimes."

Later, I limped down the stairs toward the Piccadilly Line. She guarded my back from the flow of people. The train toward Cockfosters was crowded as expected. Two young men gave us their seats. I closed my eyes. Her head fell on my shoulder. "You can make the walk from the station?" she asked. "Oh yeah," I told her.

copyright 2009 by Ira David Socol