“And passing into my purer mind, with tranquil restoration, feelings too of unremembered pleasure…” The patron was reciting Wordsworth, a poet I detest, but ironically am still capable of identifying from a single line.

“How can he be remembering something unremembered?” a drawling boy asks. “Isn’t that an oxymoron?” The boy looks far too tired for somebody of his age.

I touch the metal shell of my kettle to see how hot it is against the tip of my finger. It is hot enough to burn me slightly, so I pour the hot water out into the coffee pot and deliver it to the table. I display my best rosy-cheeked smile to the patrons as I put it down. I then take the breakfast orders, scrawling them down on my worn black notepad:

Sausage x2

Bacon x1

Vegi x1

Full English – pud x1

The kitchen is clean and dirty at the same time. There are no dirty plates and counters are pristine, but age old grease stains line the wall besides the oven. There is a single small window at the top corner of the room, open. Fresh but cold air feeds through only slightly dampening the lingering aroma of cooked breakfasts: beans, fried meat and eggs. When the Café ‘just off of the island’ was new, the kitchen would get into a state far worse than this. That was before the coffee chains swarmed into the area, and before everybody had a home Tassimo machine.

The toaster pings. I butter the bread with speed and precision, before sliding each piece of toast into a metal rack. I carry it into the room where the customers are sitting. The room where there aren’t any grease stains on the wall, and where the entire front of the shop is tiled with glass panes, where the tables are clean, where the walls are decorated with brand new prints of old photographs.

1948: A horse surrounded by trees munches happily at a patch of grass.

Supposedly, according to my mother, my Great Grandmother had served tea at a stool in that park all her life. “Must be in the genes”, Mother always tells me.

“Redeveloping the greenbelt! About ten thousand more homes in the area! There’ll be no bloody countryside left!” moans Clarence, a local whose been coming to this spot since it was a blacksmiths about seventy years ago. In his hands he holds a copy of the local newspaper. He pokes at an old picture of rolling hills.

“The usual, Clarence?” I ask.

“Yes please love!” he shakily hands me an assortment of loose change. He is short by about a pound, but I don’t tell him that.

I have to get Clarence another chair from the back, but by the time I’ve made his pot of tea, Dr Jones and his students have disappeared anyway.

“Broken glass all over the pavement on the way here; bloody kids I bet. Somebody might hurt themselves”

Clarence drinks his tea, reads his newspaper, and eats his tea cake, all the while he indulges me with occasional sporadic rants about anything from “the bloody kids coming out of school causing trouble” to “the outrageous price of milk in that new corner shop on the estate”. When his tea pot is empty, he stands up and leaves with a joyful “ta-ra”, the same “ta-ra” that he has echoed around this room every Tuesday and Thursday morning for the past twelve years. For the four years before that it had been his late wife Mary who said “ta-ra” whilst Clarence only nodded and smiled. Back then I was still sending poetry to publishers, keeping contact with school friends, spending most of my wages on nights out up town.

The sun recedes from the sky behind a large grey cloud. I look through the glass panels of the shop front over at the island. Cars pile up behind the pelican crossing. The tree in the centre of the island looks different today. Almost all of the leaves have browned and most of them have dropped to the floor.




Drop drop

Drop drop drop


Soon enough it’s chucking it down, and with the likeliness of more customers low, I decide to go for a walk, abandoning the chairs scattered in disorder around the room.

A flash of blue in the corner of my eye, and a foreboding rumble. I leave the shop. Rain batters my coat.

I take the same route I’ve taken my entire life, but this is not the same walk. This walk begins with a door slamming and the impact of a shock of heavy rain against my skin. This walk has an angry Mercedes owner blasting his horn at me as I cross in front of him at the zebra crossing. This walk has a lighter that won’t light, and another packet of cigarettes half-smoked in the rubbish bin outside the post office that I used to steal sweets from after school. This walk has rain seeping through my shoes as I step through a large and growing puddle. It has broken glass scattered over the pavement, and the flash of a first kiss in my mind as I pass the alley that goes onto the bridge behind the school.

When I reach the pub, I look back down the street. From up here I can see for miles; clusters of houses that stretch on and on outline blots of green. Grass, trees and shrubbery. Without my glasses on, the trees in the distance seem to blur together as if they have been drawn into the landscape with the broad strokes of a paintbrush.

On the walk back to the café I don’t take note of anything at all. Absently I move forwards towards my destination, one foot then the other, one foot then the other, one foot then the other, one foot then the other. It’s as if I’m on autopilot. Yet, still, I can’t help but focus on the great crane in the distance ahead of me, looming above the houses. Yellow and metallic.





The first step has the most weight. My leg swings over the edge of the bed, bringing the rest of my reluctant body along with it. Hardly a body at this moment, more of a corpse, which is fitting as the next few steps I take are somewhat zombie like, as a consequence of my minds inability to properly communicate with my body. My arms droop from my slumped shoulders, and my legs move with the stiffness of stilts. If not for the intolerable pressure mounting in my bladder, felt somewhere behind my crotch, I would not have made the effort to remove my body from its nest.

Relief is the first sensation I experience beyond numbness as I let the pressure release from my bladder. I flush, and I observe the swirling whirlpool in the toilet bowl. It takes effort to keep my eyes open against the force of heavy eyelids, and I struggle to comprehend how this same body has in the past managed to push itself up the sides of hills and mountains.

With some force, I turn the cold tap, and allow the running water to wash over my hands and through my fingers. Then I allow my head to drop below the tap, and take a long sip. I quickly spit it back out, as I shudder. My body shivers as if it were vodka or gin I’d tried to drink, rather than water. The bathroom light flickers. Not bright enough to strain my eyes. I dare not open the curtains; I dare not expose myself to the light from outside. This room is my space. If it were not for the needs of my body, I would have stayed half-alive in my nest. I would have allowed my head to remain buried in the pillow, and remained within the snake-like constriction of my sheets. Now that I have left the bed it will transform. The pillow will be stone, the sheets a vale, I cannot return to it.

I pull at last night’s muddied clothing. My trousers drop from my body. From the corner of my eye I see myself in the bathroom mirror. In my zombie-like state I struggle to identify with the body in the mirror. I observe the creature. Thinly pointed limbs. I run my fingers over its tightly stretched skin. I relish its dryness. Crooked knees. The awkward flab of meat drooping between its legs. The uncanny absence of prominent breasts at its chest, without which its pointed nipples are rendered valueless.

The shower-head bursts into life with relentless energy. The shock of a cold torrent thudding against my body causes me to gasp violently, like a swimmer taking a breath as she pushes her head up from under the water. As the shower warms, I feel heat course through my entire body. Disparate images flood my imagination, rivers and canals, damns bursting open as the sun rises over the horizon. The water runs for five minutes, and then stops as suddenly as it started. It leaves nothing but a casual drip drop from the tip of the shower-head. I step out and my body is shaking, but I feel rejuvenated. I take another sip of water from the cold tap and it runs smoothly down my throat.

As I brush mint toothpaste against my sore gums, I unintentionally catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. For the split second that I fail to recognise myself, I see the creature, and the smile lingering somewhere behind its eyes.

I step out of the bathroom, and thoughtlessly flick open the curtains so that I can peer at the street below. Commuters, children, cars. A man in a hoody pushes his way out of the tacky vape shop across the street. Two old ladies are stood bickering outside of the church next door to that. A woman with a coffee in one hand sticks her middle finger up at a Mercedes driver with the other. It seems he cut her off as she tried to cross the street. On the pavement below me, I can see a girl in school uniform staring at her phone as she walks. I trace her movements until she escapes my field of view, then I let the curtain fall and resign myself to getting dressed for work.

A Still Picture

In a flash of blue light everything is still. My father is stood in front of me, a single tear clinging to the corner of his eye. My sister is in her cot, clinging to the bars, and peering over the edge with a questioning look on her face. The fire has become a still sculpture, with radiant curves and bends making up its body.

I try to move, but find it difficult to do so. Moving through the air is like trying to sieve my way through deep water. I push against my father’s outstretched hand. It feels the same as always, but it is static, immovable. My free fingers intertwine around his, and then I let go.

I push my way through the empty air, past my father and sister, and over to the open front door. Outside in the open air movement becomes more difficult. Slowly making my way down the cobbled road, I have to stay aware of floating leaves and insects that might disrupt my movement.

When I am stood still everything is incredibly silent, the quietest silence I have ever heard. But when I am moving my ears are filled with the oddest drones, high and low, quiet and loud.

I keep moving, with no thought to my destination. The world in front of me is like a painting, I am an observer. There are children with permanent smiles, mud crawling up to their knees, holding them to the ground. A cat is poised in mid-air, stretched out towards a butterfly that it can never catch. A woman stands with a watering can over a bed of flowers. The stream of water creates a bridge that connects her to her tulips.

The world starts to move again. The bridge of water connecting the woman and the flowerbed breaks, wetting the soil beneath it. The cat’s teeth close around the butterfly. Mud splashes to the ground, a leaf floats freely past my ear.

Inside, the fire loses its solid shape, and resumes its lucid dance. I watch the tear dribble down my father’s cheek. And then I speak.

          It’s okay

I say.

It’s all going to be okay.