Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Three Pieces

Some things are timeless – the ebb and flow of the tide, the thunderous crash of wave upon rock. In a lost era the beach would have been deserted. Now it’s littered with bank holiday crowds – legions of basted torsos in the sun, lying sunnyside up on the sand. Dead to the world, endless rows of tanned corpses, waiting for their post-mortem. Picnic baskets full of sandy sandwiches, sausages, apples, even the occasional rhubarb crumble.
I need to escape the crowds to my special place, my mind palace. Call me callous, tell me I’m sad and lonely, too retro, too vintage. But I would swap your sunkissed dreams for the perfume of wet roses in the twilight every time – no excuses needed.

So many picnic hampers, so many surprises. I open the first lid and find a bible, lavender-scented, smelling of summer gardens. Wrapped in lace from an old crinoline dress; too large for even the most capacious of handbags.
A flower-pot lurks under the lid of the next – shall I plant peaches or lavender? In time we could let dewdrops sparkle, sweet and inviting.
I never knew I needed a lathe – but here one is, fruity and fetid, tucked in another hamper beside a dizzying and intense hammer, sweet and hedonistic like pear-drops in a paper bag. A rickshaw driver hurtles by, struggling with the sand and, with an unlikely smile, adds a beautiful brush. I’d rather have had peas and saffron and white wine, but will have to settle for cornflakes and coffee. (I’ve never been to Beattie’s café, but I’m told you have to have a tattoo to work there. Would they accept the smoky perfume of my coin, I wonder?)
I could claim my space on the sand with an incense-soaked bedspread or tapestry – colourfully comfortable. I shall lie down and expire – ready for my post-mortem.

Barely visible, glimpsed in a mirror, ‘Can you spin the cobweb into silk?’ she asked.
The oak tree bowed his head. ‘No, but I can make you a banqueting table. Will you pay me in diamonds?’
‘I will give you a companion,’ she said. ‘What predator would you like as a pet?’
‘My branches are already full of raptors, my roots house a den of foxes. I have no need of more.’
She swirled her white petticoat, caressing the pink ribbon trim with hands found deep underground.
‘I will give you this – it’s Edwardian and hand-embroidered. My uncle stole it from a market.’
‘How long was he in prison?’ enquired the oak.
‘I lied. I found it at the bottom of a bag: it’s smooth and reflective, made from plastic - it will last forever.’
The oak tree considered the proffered exchange.
‘It’s a fair trade. I will take your petticoat and carve you a table. We could eat together – an embroidered tablecloth on an oaken surface.’

The copyright of these three pieces belongs to Clare Elstow

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