Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Tiny Fragments of Beauty

On my next writing day I am thinking of the Mark Twain quote, “Write until somebody pays you,” and muse over the ‘How Fast Can You Get To The Library’ equation:

Walk to the bus stop minus the walk to the station, plus the train journey time, less the train delay... There is no equation for this one.

Harlow appears to be designed for cars and conspires against the pedestrian trekking from the Stort Navigation to the town centre. It takes me on a route more meandering than the navigation as I circumnavigate tarmac roundabouts and have to avoid A roads that don’t have pavements.
I enter Harlow Town Centre through the pedestrianised ‘Bird Cage Walk’ and the name makes me think of the book title ‘I know why the caged bird sings’. A market trader setting up his stall, is playing The Lightening Seeds on the radio, ‘pure and simple every time’. It is a beautiful uplifting sound among the early morning concrete and sunshine. In the newsagents window amid the adverts for a caravan, a rabbit hutch and a ladies bike for sale, I see a poem on display. I have seen this poet display his work in other newsagent windows in Harlow and I think that these courageous poems are like weeds struggling through concrete paving slabs, or a caged bird singing. My friend The Mellow Mum came round for coffee recently and defended Harlow to me. She said that there are other parts of the town centre that are not so bad, they even have flower beds. I feel that I have been unkind to Harlow. Tiny fragments of beauty are sometimes revealed in the most unlikely places.

Don’t be harsh on Harlow, chides my inner monologue. If I’m honest, it reminds me of my beloved hometown Plymouth, which was bombed in the war and rose from the ashes like a 1950’s concrete architectural phoenix.

Outside the library there is a poster advertising ‘Free Play for Children Under 6! All we ask is that you buy a soft drink.’ We went to a theatre show for pre-schoolers in Islington once, and we really enjoyed it. I’m so pleasantly surprised that someone would or could put on a children’s play for free. Then I read the other poster below it – they mean ‘soft-play’, a junior gym; one of those places that looks like a wild toddler zoo. I am foolishly mistaken about the possibility of complimentary cultural events for children!

Harlow Library is the noisiest library ever. Matey on the next computer desk is listening to the football commentary. An Essex bint is chatting to the drum and bass DJ sat next to her, star-struck by his international career. A polish labourer is on the phone to his boss. I think to myself, if there ain’t no rules in this library, then what the hell, I’m gonna eat my packed lunch in here!

Of course, I’m not writing or blogging all day. As well as a mother and a writer I am an administrator. At the top of my current ‘to do’ list is to research tax credits, in case the next contract from the mythical Multiversity doesn’t materialise. Can we afford to be writers? Can we afford the childminder when I return to my part time job as a medical secretary? When should I re-start my hypnotherapy business? Shall I type into the tax credits calculator, ‘self employed’ expected income, ‘nil’?

Another thing in Harlow’s favour is that the people at the bus stop on the way home are friendly.
“Nice talking to you,” said the overweight peroxide blond, and we only talked about bus times. I come from a distant land called London, and it is sadly not in our culture to chat and be friendly. The last bus to Roydon gets me back to the village by 4.30pm. This leaves me to spend the last half hour of my ‘working’ day in The White Hart. It is a cosy country pub with low ceiling beams and horse brasses above the fire place. Local men drink pints at the bar. I drink coke or coffee and tappety tap on the lap top until five.
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