Saturday, April 12, 2014

The man in the cape

Recently, while waiting for an appointment, I found a small coffee shop and ordered a tea. It was one of those tiny non chain places where the owner sits around chatting with the customers. In a corner sat a man reading a newspaper while tut tutting, who for reasons that would soon become clear, reminded me of the man in the cape in Seinfeld (a guest appearance by Larry David). 

We were the only two people in there apart from the owner, and soon I was part of their conversation which involved Cape Man sharing his cynical misanthropic views on pretty much everything. He didn't like America or Americans because of what he felt was an extremely intrusive and against his rights airport immigration procedure and said the country was filled with gun carrying lunatics. Now I am no fan of the OTT airport immigration procedures myself and I also don't like the idea of people walking around with guns, but I still very much love America, or at least the parts of it that I visit and the friends that I have there. Europe and the French were similarly not spared his scathing cynicism. When I asked him what he did for a living he told me a bit of this and a bit of that, and it sometimes involved selling rugs (carpets not wigs), but was very sketchy about the details. Then he started on about "those fools trying to make contact with life from outer space. Why'd they want to do a thing like that? If there is anything out there the first thing they are going to do is come and take our water."

And for the first time in our conversation I thought: My god, he's right! They totally would take our water. And I started imagining UFO's with giant vacuums in the sky sucking up all the water from our dams and lakes. Which is a reminder of why it's not a good idea to hang out with cynical paranoid people - you start becoming one yourself.

Yesterday I went to the store and bought my daughter a pair of size 6-7 trousers, and the weird thing is they fit. Perhaps not so surprising or weird as she is six and a bit years old, but they seemed so long in the store. It's a reminder of how tall she has become. It's the same thing I have each time I purchase shoes for my children; the shop assistant takes the measurement of their cute little sock clad feet, and then comes back with a few boxes of shoes, and takes what resembles a small boat out of the box and I immediately say: 'Oh no, that looks far too big'. And then it fits. And I think, when did their feet get so big? And then inwardly I kind of freak out because they are growing up so fast and I should be spending even more time with them enjoying all of those cuddles and listening to everything they say before they get to an age when they don't want to talk to me or cuddle me any more. And then in the middle of all those little kids shoes, I kind of have a small panic attack/existential crises. I think I am going to stick to buying shoes on the internet in future - far less stressful.

We recently got a new kitten. We first met him when he was four weeks old and still with his mother, only at that point we, like the owner, assumed he was a she. We had a name picked out and waited the remaining four weeks for our girl cat to be ready. The day we picked 'her' up we took her to the vet who upon closer examination informed me that our girl cat was actually a boy and he had fleas. Within days we had him defleed and despite the initial gender shock, he has become a much loved somewhat crazed member of our family.

It should also be said/cautioned that getting a kitten is a bit like getting an instant toddler without going through the baby stage. They need a lot of affection and policing. Last night we were watching LA Law and we heard this mewling. It sounded like the cats on one of those pet apps my daughter likes to play on my iPad. The ones which have frequent interruptive images of the device being handed to the parent so the parent can purchase even more items for £2.99 - important stuff like makeup or sunglasses for your virtual pet. Given my daughter was supposed to be asleep I went into my study (where the kitten sleeps for now) to investigate. I found him with his neck twisted in a carrier bag handle. He was in extreme distress ergo the weird sound he was making, and like something out of an angst ridden moment in ER we quickly cut him out of it. Rather than licking us with gratitude and having a life affirming moment, he shook himself off and carried on in his normal maniacal manner as though he hadn't just died. Like a human toddler, you think a space is safe and kittens manage to create a near death opportunity.

Yesterday while I was painting, he thought it a good idea to repeatedly walk through my paint palette covering his fur in white, red and blue acrylic, likewise attempting to drink my painting water even though I imagine it tasted horrible. He also chews on the wires attached to my computer, and attempts to remove the peg on the bench leg that holds the glass top of my desk up. Evidently cause and effect thinking and any kind of regard for his personal safety is not in place and will come later. At least I hope so. 

He is also fearless of our resident matriarchal 5-year-old cat. The other evening, for no apparent reason, he decided it was a good idea to launch himself on her back in a sort of Cirque du Soleil move. She got the fright of her life, and belted up to the top of the house to her sanctuary that is our spare/box room. After two weeks there has still not been any kind of happy family moment between them and when she sees him she becomes very still, crouches low, and hisses. He seems to read this as an invitation to run at her, which of course knocks her confidence as she is trying to establish herself as the scary dominant adult and he's not intimidated in the least.

But now I am going to stop talking about my cats, because I could talk about them until the cows come home. It reminds me of when people have a baby and THAT IS ALL THEY TALK ABOUT. And you are sitting there trying desperately to get a word in edgeways to relate your recent traumatic breakup or sofa choice dilemma and the new parent will not entertain the thought that something other than how often their baby poops is important and worth discussing. I was guilty of this myself and am genuinely sorry to all the people I subjected this to.

Last week I attended a makeup session for a sculpture class I missed. Unlike the generic sculpture class I do, I knew this was a life modelling class but was still unprepared for what I was about to see when I walked through the door. The model, a statuesque older man with a long white wispy beard, was sitting buck naked on a chair with his legs wide open, holding a sort of mountain man walking stick in a very proud, Romanesque sort of pose. His legs were opened in my direction so as I came in I looked directly at his crotch. I should have been more non plussed given I am an art student these days, but unsuspectingly happening upon a stranger's scrotum first thing in the morning can be unsettling. I don't think blushed is the right word, but I know my face did something uncontrollably weird and then I sort of awkwardly contorted myself to have a conversation with my sculpture teacher while trying not to look at something that was so evidently in my eye-line. It was one of those moments where by trying to act naturally you come across totally unnaturally. 

I spent the class working on my piece (which was not of the naked man) with what felt like very hot ears. He was a professional life model, and judging by the work the class had done over the last five weeks of him, a very good one at that. 

Later that day I told my mother about my experience and she said, matter of factly: "Well you know, this is the art world, and nudity is quite normal." My mother isn't surprised or shocked by much, which is one of those brilliant things about getting older I suppose. She read my last blog post about her internet dating travails and told me at lunch that I had failed to mention something else which she would tell me after I had eaten. 
Me (after lunch): So what was that internet dating story you wanted to tell me?
My mother: Ah yes, you know that guy I went out for a coffee with? Well he pulled out a hanky from his pocket to blow his nose.
Me: A hanky? (Making a sort of grossed out face) Er, yes?
My mother (making a grossed out face): Yes I know. And I said to him: Hankies? Why not use tissues? They are far more hygienic and you don't have to wash them. And he said quite casually: Oh, no it's fine, I boil them on the stove.

Me: Oh, my god, I would have thrown up
My mother: Yup, that's why I didn't tell you at lunch

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