Posted on October 4, 2013 by Patricia Ann McNair10.4.2013 Journal Prompt Photo by Tony Bock; Source: spitalfieldslife.com October 4, 2013: Come Friday… Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
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Come Friday we meet in The Golden Heart. We’ve always met there. Me and Elsie and Tommy and Lou. There’s a table there that’s ours. It’s got our names on, carved into the wooden legs. And the barman there knows to serve pints of best bitter to us men and bottles of sweet stout for the women. And he nods to us like he knows us and asks how it’s going without really listening to what we say in reply, and that always starts us off.
It’s not going as good as it used to. Not for any of us. Age does not come itself, I always say. There’s all manner of aches and pains, and Tommy’s got a cough like a barking dog, and Lou gets paler every week, and thinner. We joke that she’s fading away to nothing. But none of us laughs at the joke these days. As for Elsie, she’d rattle if you shook her with all the pills she’s taking; and me, I sleep more than I’m awake and the hospital says I’m a walking miracle and the cigarettes will be the death of me if I don’t stop.
But with the barman’s ‘how’s it going’, we try at first to be cheerful. We laugh and we say it’s going well enough and we offer up something good from our week. I found a tenner in the street on Wednesday and so I buy the first round of drinks. I’m always finding money these days. It’s because I walk with my head down, looking at my feet, making sure they don’t trip. And there’s money to be found that way. Small copper and small silver mostly, but then in the week a tenner.
Elsie takes my arm then and she says how a tenner once bought you a night at the Savoy and as much wine as you could drink and food served on best china with silver knives and silver forks. Elsie went to the Savoy once, way back it was. With a gentleman client and he’d brought her a dress he wanted her to wear and some jewellery that was his dead wife’s, and afterwards they took a room there and it was like sleeping in the clouds, Elsie said. The gentleman never so much as touched her, neither, and she was paid a pretty penny for that one night and then she never saw him again.
And that’s a story we’ve heard before, and the details do not change, so it might be true. But with that story we all of us look backwards. Maybe that’s an age thing. And we mourn the loss of everything. The years mostly, and how we could drink one another under the table once, and how Lou would do me and Tommy for free when times was hard, and how Tommy’d cook us all up a feast from what he scrounged from the market at the end of a day, and what Fridays were once in The Golden Heart.
It’s all different now, everything hereabouts is new and strange. They’ve pulled everything down and thrown up structures that blot out the sky, and our memories are dissolving so we are none of us sure of what was once here or there, and we argue over the location of shops we frequented and houses we lived in all those years ago. And everything now is blinding glass and so many people that you can hardly move on the streets sometimes.
Even The Golden Heart isn’t the same. Everything’s polished so clean you could eat your dinner off it, even the floor of the toilets and a machine in there that blows your hands dry, and the smell of the place is different. And there’s music screaming from the jukebox by ten, only we don’t call it music and it hurts our ears so much we are usually gone by then – though if it wasn’t the music, it’d be something else, because I’m sleeping most nights before ten, and Elsie’s got her pills to take and Lou’s head is spinning from all that she’s drunk, which is only three bottles of stout, and Tommy is coughing like a rough dog again.