Harry sat himself down in his favourite armchair, stowed his cup of coffee and small pile of biscuits on the side table and switched on the TV via the remote control. As the screen flickered into what appeared to be a mass of colours, his vision processed the information, translating it into a documentary all about Damien Hirst’s dotty spot paintings. The translated version did little to impress his cultural side. It still looked like something a child would do with a magic marker.
Harry sighed, and munched through his first biscuit. A Jammy Dodger, that definitely had more taste than Hirst.
The thought of being able to produce such a work (the painting, not the biscuit) made Harry smile, and not for the first time recently. His visual acuity was excellent, even as his middle years seemed to pass at an ever increasing pace. That had always been the case: his view of life, the world, and the wonderful people in it had always been good. The processing of the things that surrounded him had been an activity his brain had apparently enjoyed since as far back as he could remember. Never any problems on that front.
Words. Now that was another thing altogether. Perhaps he had suffered some unfortunate glitch in his development in the womb, but he had always had problems with words. It seemed to matter little whether it was to do with individual words, or phrases that grew into complex and sophisticated sentences, they just seemed to cause him grief. Even when he had problems in other areas of his life, he could always trace them back to being a product of word mishaps.
His earliest recollection was from the onset of basic history as a subject in his first year at school. Learning about England and its valiant attempts to remain free of invasion led to perhaps inevitable challenges. For almost four weeks after studying the Battle of Hastings and 1066, Harry luxuriated in his ability to impress his family, friends and other relatives with the fact that he knew that King Harold was slain with an arrow shot by a large-nosed French chap called “William the Conk”. Somewhat confused and crestfallen at the frankly pitying response he received, he went back and carefully re-read the text books.
Harry started in on a Custard Cream, and his thoughts drifted forward towards the present day.
He had been invited to a foreign restaurant by his soon to be wife when they had first met. He had expected the main course to arrive as a cuisine classic, with a robust and heavy white wine sauce. When it was placed before him, he sighed, and asked to see the menu again. No, indeed it did not say “Chicken, Thicker Marsala”
Time for another biscuit. The Malted Milk put up little resistance, and was washed to its noble death with a final swig of the remaining coffee.
How cruel life can be. There had been many occasions on which his words had changed his demeanour, fortune and even long term plans, but the one that sprang to mind now was perhaps one of the worst. Having negotiated the initial “franco-indian” meal with his intended, they had gone on to produce a wonderfully rational and settled family. Their youngest daughter had shown a flair for languages, and this worried Harry to such an extent that he spent several weeks casually interrogating the milkman on the doorstep as he delivered the daily pinta. (It turned out thankfully he had never been anywhere further than Crewe on a daytrip.) Imagine the delight he and his wife felt when their girl had become engaged to a barrister whilst teaching in Milan. However, the first meeting of the future in-laws did not go as scripted, when fiancé Mario explained that he had indeed worked as a barrista serving drinks in some of the best coffee shops in northern Italy. Never mind, the young lovers were poor, but happy.
Harry smiled and chuckled to himself. Words are great. How could anyone live without them? Would he ever get the hang of them?
He looked to where the biscuits lay, and decided it was time to pour himself a Bourbon.
Ray Bradnock lives just outside Birmingham, and enjoys wondering what to write, and pretending to try and write it. As a day job, he loves helping people save time and money at home and in business.