Something written for the Edinburgh Peer Group event ‘Gift’ at Out Of The Blue Drill Hall in December 2011. The set up was for people to read, eat cheese, oatcakes, pickles, savour a little. This was the story for the reading.
You Will Enjoy This.
‘You are someone that people give things to. I know this because I’ve seen them. I’ve watched them leave their gifts on the steps of your brownstone stoop, touching the tokens gently as they lay them down. Dark quarter bottles of bourbon. Fountain pens filled with violet ink. Freshpaged notebooks, paintings of hooded eagles, vintage trilbies lined with silk. I’ve seen them touch your arm and present their tribute as they hand books, albums, photographs across a signing table, in a record store, at a bookshop, after a concert. I think you will enjoy this, they say.
And I wonder how they know. How they think they know, what it is that you will enjoy. And then I see the hope glimmer across the back of their skulls as you raise your eyes to theirs and say thank you, and I think perhaps I understand. The connection that is made, for one electric second, and the trace that is left in the air between you and them.
And these things that they give are the realisations of everything you have presented to the world, carefully, patiently, slyly over the years, in so many and so few words. So they do know, I think, what it is you will enjoy. You have told them.
I have collected so many things that I think that I could leave for you. Piles of vintage postcards of pin up girls, culled from antique shops. A desert photograph of the most perfect grapefruit moon you ever did see. Dog eared playing cards picked up from the backrooms of bars. An accordion key I found at that concert you were at too, standing at the other side of the room. A crow feather.
But it is bold to give a gift.
And in my shyness and my arrogance, I would like it to be perfect.
So every time that I feel I could make the pilgrimage across the street, my hand stops on the doorknob. And I turn away from the window with the view to your house, and I walk to the back of my tiny flat, to my matchbox kitchen, and I begin to chop vegetables.
Cucumber, carrot, cauliflower, courgette. A taut white onion. Cut slowly and precisely into near identical centimetre chunks. In the case of the cauliflower, this can take some time. Dusted with salt, cheap table salt, and left to macerate. Rinsed clean the next day. Cider vinegar heated gently with caster sugar, turmeric, mustard powder yellow as tear gas, nutmeg, ginger, chilli, cumin, coriander and a speckling of black onion seeds, scattered like ants.
You like pickle, I read that somewhere. The soursharp of it is to your taste.
And I think also that you would enjoy the naming of it, you slippery wordsmith, playful magus, teasing lover of trickster syllables.
So, perhaps one day, when I am feeling bold, I will leave a jar of piccalilli in front of your door. And hope, that for a moment, you will enjoy it.’
Edinburgh Peer Group: http://edinburghpeergroup.wordpress.com/