I was standing on the bridge, looking at the khaki swirls in the river below. I’d just left the fish market with a bag containing some clams, some mussels, some squid, a crab and a nice fillet of natural undyed smoked haddock. I was intending to have some seafood and pasta for tea, with the crab for breakfast tomorrow and the haddock to be frozen to eat at a future date. Four geese swept overhead, the leader honking in time with the collective wing beats of the small flock.
It all seemed like this was the way that things were intended to be, but if things had been any different, they would still have held the reins of inevitability in their hands and I would have been none the wiser about destiny’s plans for the day. Because everything would still have been how it was meant to be. I had left Fretful Mathew behind me in the High Street although he was heading in the same direction as me although he was only going as far as the railway station. He had to discuss his overfeeding problem with the vet.
“Why do you see a vet about your eating habits, Mathew?” I had asked in a brief moment of lucidity earlier in the day. He had then given me a detailed explanation of how he had trundled along the ill-lit rural road which leads past the village where he lives, just outside of town in the lowlands twixt the river and the water meadows. He had spent two late evenings filling wheelbarrow loads of fallen branches and twigs which littered the verges as victims of the winter storms what we’ve been having here lately, it being winter and all that. He did this because the council didn’t send a man in a van out immediately the boughs had fallen to clear them up, even though the wood wasn’t actually blocking anyone’s way or presenting a hazard to anybody or indeed anything, animated or otherwise. Mathew simply likes things to be tidy, to be done and to be out of the way. He had stacked the resulting piles of timber on a spare patch of ground in his gardens. Notice that s. He has gardens.
“It’s my cat. She’s a sweet thing, but I sometimes overfeed her. She doesn’t like me to go to bed too early, so I tend to sit up with her through the night, and we watch gaming shows on the television. I think she has cystitis as well.” I had thought it best not to ask him how he had come to that diagnosis, as the answer would most likely leave me rather upset. So that’s why when I saw him in the High Street later , at the time I’m telling you about now, I crossed to the other side of the road, like the anti-Good Samaritan, and quickly made my way past him, hopefully un-noticed.
So there I was gazing down into the chalk and clay soiled waters below me, when Curious Bob and Sticks and Billy Two Pies came strolling across the bridge, in harmony, all dressed in neatly pressed jeans of the bluest, unfaded blue, and quilted body warmers over plaid lumberjack shirts.
I was about to insult them when Sticks spoke.
“Alright son? Don’t jump. Ha ha ha.” His ancient face cracked as he attempted a smile.
“Billy. Bob. Sticks.” I addressed them in turn. “And Sticks. I’m fucking alright. I’m not your fucking son. And I’m not going to fucking jump. And I’m not fucking laughing. Where are you three off to? Drinks at the Railwaymens’ Club followed by some sweaty geriatric man-love?”
Billy Two Pies bearing down on you in a state of engorgement, pastry crumbs splattering the wall above your head. It’s the stuff of nightmares. I pointed out the state of the tide and left. Quickly. Making sure I didn’t call in at the Railwaymens’ Club on the way home for a drink. It’s full of tattooed muscly builders’ labourers and a few desperate pensioners on a Friday evening.
Then tonight when I got home, I opened the clams and mussels in a pan of boiling red wine (Chateauneuf du Pape 2007 if you musty know), sliced and fried the squid, quickly braised them in a sofrito of peeled and deseeded tomatoes and garlic in extra virgin oil, then tossed the lot together with some parsley from the garden and a pan of freshly cooked linguine. I ate it with a couple of slices of ciabatta. Dreaming I was somewhere in the general direction of south by south east.