National Theatre II

I find myself constantly close to Mindfulness. Perhaps it is my latest religious experience. Or it could be embracing my “disabled” status: I have nothing to prove, and may venture into the world. With hours to kill, I wandered off along the South Bank.

I could not remember who World Vision were, but looked around their display, two huts. In one, there was no ventilation for the cooking fire, and they said a child had died of smoke inhalation; in the other, there was a chimney, and much more light because the roof was now translucent corrugated plastic. They wanted £22 a month for child sponsorship, but took in good part that I could not pay but wanted to see what they had to say.

Waves break on a small patch of sand, and I stand by the railings to hear them.

Then I went to the Oxo Wharf, to look round little shops selling beautiful pottery, art work, jewellery and colourful velvet clothing. Then I wandered slowly back, and hung around the book-shop where people sat in chairs, reading. Then to eat.

The walnuts in the pasta have my full attention.

Are those two mother and daughter? The complexion could be the same age, but the hair style not, the “younger” making an attempt at fashion, the “elder” none. One looked out, and said “the trees are so beautiful at this time of year”. I looked out, and said, “I overheard. Yes, they are”. They were. They were worth looking at. We said nothing else to each other, but they gave me a brilliant smile and “goodbye” on leaving.

Then the Dorfman Theatre, formerly Cottesloe. A big man walks over, supported on a stick, slowly but surely. He asked if he could sit at my table, and I said I liked to talk to strangers. He assented. He is a retired television director. The BBC was very good to him. His companion, who will join him shortly, is an actress specialising in voice work: she does some audio description here. What do I do? “I am a recluse- [beat]- a very sociable recluse.”

-You say that with such simplicity.

He introduces me to V., who interrogates me. Why the book on mindfulness? Because that is where I am. She leafs through it. She has this picture on the wall of her flat in Paris.

-The original?
-If only.

She tells me how to pronounce the artist’s name. With her questions, I feel challenged.

-I had an experience on Monday of being suffused with Love; an intense sense of my own rightness and beauty as I am.
-You’ve never had that before?
-Intellectual acceptance, but never heart-felt.

The play is wonderful, and after I see them again. What did you think of it? His comment makes me see it as a whole, in a new light. We kiss cheeks.

I rush to St Pancras, and join a woman who has just been on the set of Midsomer Murders. She plays a chef, and describes a scene making a huge gout of flame with brandy. They kept telling her to make it bigger, and she is surprised her eyebrows survive. Her other job is as a freelance cook, principally to country house shooting parties. The houses tend to have huge Agas, and guests prop themselves in her kitchen, gently steaming. Once, the hostess rushed in, panicky- “We’ve got a Vegan!” A Vegan on a shoot? She made a quick risotto. So the train passed very pleasantly.

Next day, alone at home after voting, I mourn the loss of it. Bloody Willy Loman.

Gustave Caillebotte, the floor planers

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