house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Secret Garden

I have a new office.

I found it in a tourist brochure - it's a small public garden, in the centre of Edinburgh. And, because I am researching the city (things to see, things to do); and because I have to write a poem - a ghazal no less - for a character in a story; and because it's sunny and I have no inspiration and no coffee in the house: I go scouting in the Old Town.

I find the garden. I sit down with my notebook to apply myself to the verse of an imaginary man I don't know very well because I've just invented him.

In the meantime, it turns out lots of people have read the same brochure. The little garden is positively teeming. Some visitors are quiet and walk around as if there wasn't a pebble path under their feet, but a frozen lake very late in spring.

Others are loud and the loud things they say are not wise at all, or lyrical, or even necessary. They appear to be in love with their own voice. As a result they can't hear the secret garden. I can't hear my poet's ghazal. I wince, along with any passing ghost of the Old Town, and the advance midge brigade.

Nine French teenagers gallop in. They scream. They sit on the cobbles, as if terribly exhausted. They hang from the branches of trees. The tree nearest to my bench provides optimal branch height and thickness:  boys with muscular legs - in the way sausages can be defined as muscular - try to impress the girls with their acrobatics. Mostly, these acrobatics consist of hanging from a branch while talking nonsense very loudly.

In their turn, the girls try to impress by how cool they can remain and, when forced to speak, how long they can roll their arrrs while sending the resulting rattle exclusively through their nostrils.

I am there long enough to formulate a rule: Scottish visitors are the quietest. In contrast, the English and Europeans so loud that you'd think they are sending vocal distress calls home. By this rule, Americans should be the loudest. But no: they surprise by being the quietest of the lot. A couple of them are sitting on a nearby bench, talking in whispers and sign language. Either they know they have no chance to reach Texas on the strength of their larynx alone; or they're hiding their American-ness on account of Donald Trump.

There is a mediaeval fair in the Borders today, but I can't go. I think about it for a while. In mediaeval terms, this garden could be the cloisters of a very strict monastery, judging by the neat geometry and scrupulous care. They would have locked wives in here, to weave and chant away their hours.

At this point, the ghazal appears out of nowhere. It charges from head to hand to notebook. paying no attention to me along the way. I have a suspicion it is using me.  I wish they all did.


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