Notes From a Fragile Island. 25

December 1st 2005


Up the stepladder in the stockroom looking for a new bottle of stain remover for H, who is hungover. She has left a tidemark of medium brown tint on her client’s forehead giving her a comedic Frankenstein’s monster look. In the 80s everyone used ash from the ashtray and a cotton wool bud to remove tint stains – but this is now frowned upon.

As I find the stain remover I notice some ancient graffiti on the very top of the door that reads P wants to fuck L ’84. This makes me laugh. L hasn’t worked here since the mid-nineties! Looking over and through the gap between the top of the open door and the frame I see P in the staffroom and I am just about to draw his attention to this artefact and make some dim humour, when I realise that he’s on the phone to his wife J – this is apparent as his voice is gruff and grumpy and he’s pacing up and down – so I decide against it.

I wonder if Howard Carter laughed at the scribblings he discovered in the (up until then) unopened tomb of the Pharoahs. The door would, of course, have been removed and displayed in The British Museum

December 1st 2017

Whitley Bay

The local shop keeper has grown a beard. He wears a black track suit finished with a beanie: a grey one with a swoosh decal. The hat is set just so, and the emblem resembles an eyebrow, giving him a surprised look. “I’m getting old,” he says. “Once, I wouldn’t think twice about wearing just a tee shirt in winter.” I shudder, saying, “Brr.” I like a jumper, a hat, a scarf. We moan about the weather a bit, but not with too much heart and soon we give this up and, while I’m standing at the chiller, deciding on a Pinot or a four pack, he says, “I hate the metro in winter.” I look over my shoulder at him sat on his stool behind the counter. “I hate it in summer,” I say. He considers this, says, “I hate it all year, but particularly in winter. It’s so Orwellian. Utter drudgery.” This is why I shop local. You don’t get this kind of repartée in Lidl.

December 1st 2021

Whitley Bay

Stood outside the tiny farm shop on Park View, where they employ a one-in-one-out door policy, I am tapped on the shoulder. It is James B and a woman in a shawl and mittens. “Hello, I thought it was you,” he says. How on earth he recognised me from behind, bundled as I am in a rain mac and wooly hat, I cannot figure and I am almost thrown for a reply, managing only, “The eggs here are delicious.”

J introduces the mittened woman as his wife, and she says, “Eggs is eggs.” But I disagree and begin on some detailing of the eggs at the counter, all covered with ‘authentic Hexham chickenshit’, adding, “I’d forgotten that yolks were orange.” Mrs. B looks at me askance and then peers into the shop. “Orange? Nap! Tha divint seem reet.” But James B’s curiosity is piqued and he says, “These eggs are from Hexham you reckon?”

“Uh huh. And the shit.”

James B laughs, but Mrs B screws up her face, saying, “Nap!”

12 thoughts on “Notes From a Fragile Island. 25

  1. Dear Nick,
    t’s wonderful how you make the connection between modern-day graffiti and the Egyptian pyramids. And that you shop local because of the high-spirited repartée that awaits you, as well as the orange yolks (not to forget the authentic chickenshit). 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Tanja. I read the other day about some Viking graffiti found way up on a rock wall; the runes translating to something like ‘you have to be very tall to read this’! – Almost the very same story.


      Liked by 1 person

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