If you’re ever in that city I can recommend a reassuringly French restaurant below the station. It was the one he’d thought of first having left the bookshop with a collection of short stories by Maeve Kelly.

An uncertain pause at a crossing to scan for traffic, led him to spot the art-deco whorls, carved stone curves and curls of a café across the way. Somewhere different.

He turned right and walked into the brisk clatter of the café brimming with people at lunch. He asked for a table for one and there was just one left. It was just after One.

‘Orange Horses’ has a striking cover, but is too big to slip into a jacket pocket, so he had to put it toward the corner of the small square table while he read the menu and settled himself to eat.

He’d been hoping for a busy café resounding in foreign voices; a buzz of anonymous alien background talk that would permit him to gather his thoughts and jot some notes in his journal undisturbed. Unluckily, the two women at the adjacent table were speaking English, quite clearly; Australian.

He struggled to concentrate. The writing in his journal shifted from contemplation to observation of and sour commentary on the conversation that disturbed him from the table not a breath away.

After the painful audial experience of his main course, (which nevertheless he ate mindfully), a moment’s peace of mind, gained while visiting the urinal, lasted until he returned to his table.

“We were wondering, are you here on business or for leisure?”


CLP 28/10/2021