Observatory, fondly called Obz, is a student area of The City Beneath the Mountain filled with beautiful old houses, mainly digs and a main drag called Lower Main Road. A street filled with restaurants, pool bars and hidey-hole shops, it has an air of vague degradation, yet some youthfulness. The youthfulness probably comes from the plethora (of?) tattooed, earringed artsy looking, well, youths. Versions of me, twenty years ago. I spent a lot of time there then and don’t so much anymore, but G and I went there last night.
She’d had a rough day, emotionally, having been to the funeral of a much-loved friend. I could almost see her nerve endings fizzing with emotion, and it was catching, I felt it too. As we drove down into Obz a sad, grey mist was flying in from the sea, going up our nostrils, chilling our skin, a meteorological version of how G was feeling.
There’s nothing like the death of somebody close to you to shake you up and throw the fact that life is so fleeting straight into your face, knocking the breath clean out of you. I’d read the lovely Miranda’s account of her friend’s death in the morning, a beautiful, heartbreaking post that made me cry and cry.
So we went to the place where we played as youths and had two glasses of wine at Hello Sailor. A sweet little place that has moved into the centre of Lower Main Road. The owner/maitre’D was so yummy, clean and fresh looking I almost wanted to lick him. I didn’t, though, I know better. He was the perfect type of attentive – there, but not in your face.
It’s in one of those old shops with beautiful wooden windows and doors and is most tastefully and simply decorated with many sailor-inspired pics and a wonderful wooden-framed old mirror that’s so old it’s got that mouldy look. I loved it. I felt like I was in a wonderful old companionable house. It was full – an eclectic mix of businessy-looking people and oh-so-cool youths. The two pavement tables, on either side of the door, had a man at each, drinking coffee, one reading the newspaper, the other engrossed in his book.
G and I philosophised about life, chatted about the world and drank icy white wine. The two glasses of wine, despite my watering them down, as I do (I know, I know, I’m a Philistine) went straight to my head. I’m such a bloody lightweight these days. I tried to soak it up with their special – Shepherd’s Pie and salad, which was actually a kind of stew with mashed potato on top. Not what I expected, but delicious none-the-less.
And then we went home, passing the youths only just starting to go out. I watched as a girl in the flat above the tattoo parlour primped and preened in front of a (non-mouldy) mirror, adjusting her top repeatedly to get it perfect and wondered about humanity. I wanted to tell her she was perfect, just as she was.
Death, breathing heavily, just around the corner, an inevitable, frustratingly unannoucing visitor, makes me want to pull everyone closer, hug them tighter, tell them they’re beautiful, just so.
World Penguin Day
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