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A story for my father

May 5, 2013

It was one of those evening when there is a distinct lull in the air. Calmness fell over the street and the diminishing sunlight made St Giles Street look like a photograph from a guide book. Baz sat looking out of the window of his cafe sipping a small tumbler of white wine. It had been the first day of his new life. Finally after fifty- four years of longing, he had opened a restaurant. It was called the ‘St Giles’ Cafe’. The cafe was a small room with 8 tables, blue and white walls, dark brown chairs and tables, and long mirrors running along each side of the room. Baz had spent most of his working life running an advertising company in London; it had been successful, but never what he really wanted to do. This small room was his dream and this day marked the beginning of something new.

 

As he sat, slowly sipping his wine, his eyes darted around the room, checking what was awry. Some of the tables needed new placemats, menus and the floor by the door needed polishing but other than that it was near to perfect. He had decorated the cafe himself, with the help of Justin (who was actually a gardener, but good with a paintbrush). They had spent two weeks working flat out to make it feel like a room that anyone could walk in to and feel at home. Every part of this small cafe felt like the jigsaw puzzles of his life gradually fitting in to place. The small kitchen at the back had been cleaned within an inch of his life, and the white cups, saucers, and ramekin dishes sparkled on the shelves. Frank Cooper marmalade pots were arranged in artistic pyramids to suggest that hot buttered toast was only moments away.

 

This room was a long way from the sadness this man had once experienced. A relatively loveless childhood, turbulent student years, and then a marriage to a beautiful woman who had ended up in a nursing home before their four children had reached the age of adulthood. It hadn’t been pretty or idyllic, but it wasn’t all grim, there had been moments of joy throughout this life of complication. As he surveyed the room he began to see various parts of his past come together. The duck egg blue colour of the walls reminded him of holidays in Cornwall with his eldest two daughters. It was the colour of a Cornish sky when they had gone to beach together to make sandcastles covered in shells. They would often wake early and run to the beach and make elaborate castles with moats that ran all the way to the shore: all the time the Cornish sky becoming bluer and bluer as it prepared for a glorious summers day. The dark brown polished wood of the cafe floor spoke of his youthful days in London, drinking, laughing and dancing in swanky wine bars with close friends.

To the left of him, fixed to the wall was a small brown cabinet. Possibly mahogany, he wasn’t sure, but it matched the dark floor perfectly. This cabinet had been on the wall in the dining room of the home his four children had been brought up in. Baz had chosen it at an auction, bid for it, and won it at a ridiculously low price. The cabinet had small glass doors that opened up to reveal two simple shelves that had once been the home to his collection of willow pattern china. But now, the little cabinet, sat on the wall, subtlety suggesting a past life of dining rooms and Sunday lunches that he had lovingly prepared for his extended family. The little window table to his right, was still to be cleared from that afternoons last rush of customers, so, two small blue teapots (almost the same blue as the walls) remained on the table. He had discovered these teapots on a recent trip to Rome with his girlfriend. They had been wondering the streets on a lazy afternoon and had stumbled across a small shop selling overpriced but delightful kitchen ware. The teapots accompanied them back to England and now sat like two old friends on the table by the window. Baz’s girlfriend had also lovingly made curtains for the cafe which tied the blues, whites and browns of the room seamlessly together. She had sat late into the night, in their new home, quietly creating them and now they hung in the cafe as if they were meant to be.

 

So, this room, it its own little way, signified so much. When he had opened for the first time at 9am that morning Baz had felt sick with nerves. The menu was full of delicious morsels but he had been worried that no one would come and he would sit in this little room alone. How wrong he was. By 11am on that sunny Sunday morning, the room was full of all sorts of people enjoying an English breakfast, Blueberry pancakes, kedgeree, and hot buttered toast with lots of marmalade. These people were chatting, laughing and listening to the light piano music that he had laboriously chosen. So, now as Baz sat, sipping his wine and smoking a congratulatory cigarette and looking around his cafe, he saw how magical this day had been. He had created a place where anyone could come and eat and be happy for a brief moment. Baz looked to the far table in the corner where his four children and girlfriend had sat and eaten their breakfast with relish, each of them, in their own ways, happier than perhaps they had ever been. Baz laughed to himself, he knew these moments were fleeting, and that you could never know what the future may hold. But for that moment, as he sat in the window of his cafe, the dusk filling the window with a warm kind light, he felt that everything just might be going his way. And he was happy too.

A post by Jess

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