Tuesday, 14 January 2014
A hiatus for me, as I have to sit in three different waiting rooms on three consecutive days.
But always plenty to do, luckily.
I can do my daily drawing, now in its third year of endeavour,
I can eaves-drop, shamelessly.
Today's waiting room is the dentists'. An elderly couple, who are probably younger than I am, notice me drawing the aquarium and begin a furtive conversation:
She: Why do you think they have fish-tanks in the dentists'?
(pause for thought)
He: I expect it's to do with healthy eating.
She: What are you on about....healthy eating?
(pause for more thought)
He: Well, you know. Better to eat fish than meat, isn't it?
She: Oh, I see.
She: I wonder why they don't have them in the doctors' then.
He: No one's going to tell me what to eat.
I think briefly of the complications of catching and preparing a plate full of neon tetras. Then I think of whitebait, and how much I like it with brown bread and salty butter. I try to compare the cost of a plate of fried neon tetras compared with a plate of whitebait.
Well, it passes the time even if unsatisfactorily.
I finish my drawing and decide to look at a magazine. The magazines at the dentists' are new and glossy, those in the hospitals are dog-eared and out of date. I decide that the magazine quality is an indicator of private practice (the dentist) as opposed to National Health Service.
I choose a magazine devoted to up-market country-style living. There are subtle mono-chrome adverts for hand-built kitchens zooming off into the middle distance over hand-crafted marble floors. There are sludge-grey bespoke conservatories ready to be attached to Georgian mansions; some of them can be designed to contain swimming pools. There are cashmere throws and amusing sculptures made from willow twigs, bedrooms with white painted floors and great rosewood wardrobes groaning with brocades and velvets.
There is little connection with the sort of country living more familiar to me, which involves a lot of mud and the smell of diesel and damp Barbour jackets dripping over the Aga. Waxed cotton and wet wool steaming, as opposed to those chunky candles fragranced with cinnamon. Magazine kitchen tables have glossy pyramids of polished fruits and a tumbling arrangement of out-of-season flowers, as opposed to peelings waiting to be taken to the compost when the rain stops, plus last weekend's newspapers and all that unsolicited mail for thermal vests and cheaper insurance waiting to be recycled..
Other magazines available have less appeal, golf, motor-sport, financial matters.
So I return to the fish. They seem busy, darting around their little world. I wonder about their attention span, their memory. Perhaps life seems constantly new and fresh, full of surprise, possibly full of delight, or possibly full of threat and anxiety.
It's hard to tell with fish. They don't give much away.
Angel fish might be easier to catch and cook. They would fit neatly on toast.
Ah well, tomorrow the tattered day-old newspapers, the posters asking me if I am obese, the many offers of help to stop smoking, the dehydrated potted palms and the endless conversations about the iniquity of parking charges, that's if you can find a parking place to start with.
Always plenty to do.
A surprise this morning, a very smart hospital waiting room with a very smart aquarium - big black and white fish cruising dreamily between dark volcanic rocks.
Apologies NHS, you too have been reading the right magazines (and only £2 for a parking space. I could have stayed for four hours, watching the fish for that price).