1 The constraints: 1) No more than
one hour. 2) No more than 20 lines.
The result ? Genius or Not.

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20 December 2010

By Anthony Banks | 2010 December 20

For my entry today I feel compelled to copy out a paragraph from The Heat of the Day, Elizabeth Bowen:                

"The reality of the fancy [that the sofa upon which Roderick and his mother Stella are sitting is not in fact a sofa but a boat on a river] was better than the unreality of the room. In a boat you were happy to be suspended in nothing but light, air, water, opposite another face. On a sofa you could be surrounded by what was lacking. Though this particular sofa backed on a wall and stood on a carpet, it was without environment; it might have been some derelict piece of furniture exposed on a pavement after an air raid or washed up by a flood on some unknown shore. His return to his mother cried out for something better – as a meeting, this had to struggle for nature, the nature it should have had; no benevolence came to it from surrounding things. It is the music of the familiar that is awaited, on such an occasion, with most hope; love dreads being isolated, being left to speak in a void – at the beginning it would often rather listen than speak. Even lovers can feel this – how many passions have not been daunted by the hotel room? – and between son and mother the absence of every inanimate thing they had had in common set up an undue strain. Perhaps his fidgeting with the cushions was an attempt to acclimatize at least those. Stella and Roderick both, in their different ways, felt this evening to be beyond the powers of living they now had. They could have wished to live it as it could have been lived."                

Just as I finish copying this out a six-strong group of Japanese tourists enter the café and take a table. The group consists of three couples, two in their late thirties or early forties, one elderly. Eavesdropping on their impenetrable language, I try to ascertain their relations to each other. Parents with their children and their children's spouses, perhaps? There is something is the dynamic, something in the proximity between certain of the group members, that suggests this. The younger couples seem in good humour but the elderly couple seem lost, bemused by the whole experience – the brusque, incomprehensible waiter, the prospect of foreign food. (Living in Paris, I am constantly struck by how many tourists, on what one might suppose to be the 'trip of a lifetime', seem utterly miserable). The elderly couple are clearly sensing 'no benevolence from surrounding things' and rather like Stella and Roderick's, this family gathering had a somber, homesick air about it.

Elizabeth Bowen, Cafes, People-watching, Tourists, Copying

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