january 7 The cafe

January 7

I sometimes wonder why I bother going into cafes. I have better coffee at home, the comfort of my stuff around me, use of radio and telly and I am allowed to move around freely there. In the cafe where I sit alone with a black americano reading the paper on Saturday mornings there are almost no advantages. The other customers mostly annoy me, or at best I am indifferent to them. I take no pleasure in hearing others’ conversations. Dogs get in the way or smell. Toddlers are an obstacle on my path and babies a noisy nuisance in their bulky vehicles. The waiters or waitresses have no privileged relationship with me. It may well be that what I inwardly prize is the superficiality. Surface as a quality is, of course, much undervalued.

Ideally, they would be huge wooden marionettes serving me, nothing too technological, but great lifesize dolls with painted features and just the slight differentiation in the genders, a fuller lip and longer lashes for the female. Though nothing to give rise to any lasciviousness on my part (this is too early in the morning and they are, after all, wooden marionettes, albeit lifesize). All the customers would be wooden marionettes too. Just one or two of them scattered around and none of them sitting in my favourite seat by the window. There would be a sound track playing, just in range, of some tinkling teaspoons and crockery and the hint of some birdsong behind. The soundtrack could be on a loop of such length that its familiarity would comfort rather than irritate. The crescent rolls and chocolate breads would also be made of wood. I suppose, to fit the mood, that my newspaper would also require a universal, archetypal set of contents. I would not like any breaking news to threaten my placidity. It would be in this place that I would ideally sit with my americano on Saturday morning.

Such a cafe would, I realise, be quite an enterprise to create, and not, I am aware, a workable business proposition.


January 3 montaigne

We are mostly in two minds when we are not in three. Five minutes later our three minds are forgotten and we have three different minds. We cross the room at speak to someone and we shift again, those other minds forgotten. This mutability is what we are.

“Je ne puis asseureur mon object. Il va trouble et chancelant, d’une yvresse naturelle… Je ne peins pas l’estre. Je peins le passage : non un passage d’un aage en autre ou, comme dict le peuple, de sept en sept ans, mais de jour en jours, de minute en minute. Il faut accomoder mon histoire a l’heure. Je pourray tantost changer, non de fortune seulement, mais d’intention. C’est un conterolle de divers et muables accidents et d’imaginations irresolues et quand il y eschet, contraires ; soit que je suis autre moymesme, soit que je saisisse les subjects pour autres circonstances et considerations.

(Montaigne. Du Repentir)

I cannot fix my object. It’s unclear and swaying with its own natural drunkenness… I don’t depict things as they are: nor even the shift from one age to another, or, a generational shift, as they call it nowadays, but from day to day or from minute to minute. I have to fit my history into time. I could at any time change not just through chance but also through intention. It’s a set of varied and changing accidents and unresolved imaginings, as often as not self-contradictory; either I am another, or else other circumstances and considerations shift my view on things.”

(Montaigne. On Repentance.)

Mutability is all. A person is not rubbish. He is legion. But that that does not help us when we want some certainty.