Once upon a time, she had been a wunderkind. An overachiever, a go-getter. She had graduated from high school a year ahead of time, and then joined the foreign office as a 20-year-old, and in another time, she would have been on track to become the youngest foreign minister in her country’s history, and probably, the youngest prime minister, and possibly, the first female prime minister.
But not in the Seventies, maybe not even in the Eighties, although after Thatcher in the UK, there were some rumblings – in the circles that were in the know – about her becoming a cabinet member, but by then, she was too far into her diplomatic life overseas, and loved it too much to put in the effort to make it happen. She had her supporters, of course, but not enough of them at the very top.
Also, she had always been one of those people who saw the whole world, not just one country, as her domain, and when she at the age of 24 got her first foreign posting – an undersecretary in Asia – she saw it as a stepping stone to … something.
He knew it right away, the second he got out of the taxi and saw the footprints in the snow. He had expected to see footprints in the snow, yes, because his wife was walking in front of him – while he carried their luggage.
He didn’t like seeing his wife’s footprints in the snow, either, but he had stopped raising the issue a long time ago. She just didn’t think it was important, not like he did. On the other hand, he didn’t think vacuuming was important. She did. For example.
During my university years, my student apartment in Helsinki was an old hotel room converted into a student apartment which gives you a good idea of what it was like but in short: it was tiny.
I didn’t need much, though, just my vinyls and an ever growing collection of CDs that provided me with the most of the soundtrack of my life. Also, I had Sky Channel and its music shows so there was always music playing in the background from the moment I got up and grabbed the remote to the moment when it fell on the floor from my hand.
And yet, when I think back to those days, I think of just two songs.
I don’t know what startled me more, what was being yelled at the office or who was yelling in the office, or whether it was the combination of what and who.
Thinking back, I think it may have been neither, because I couldn’t make out the words anyway and I didn’t recognize the voice so what shocked me must have been simply the sound. I didn’t know what it was, except that it was such a loud and piercing sound that not even Journey (playing in my headphones) could push it back, and I know I tried. I didn’t stop believin’ but I did remove my headphones to get a better idea what was going on.
Yes, this is the history of the world, told with the help of sixty-one 1980s pop songs.
That he was wearing those khaki shorts and that shirt that morning was not a coincidence. He had carefully chosen that outfit because it was Sunday, and Sunday was a market day in Bridport Harbour.
Market day was a good day for a fortune teller, especially in July, and especially in Bridport Harbour, a small community made famous by the TV series “Broadchurch”. Tourists were everywhere on the beach, on the cliffs, and at the market in the customs house looking for the places were fictional detectives Miller and Hardy have chased criminals. The show’s tagline – “A town wrapped in secrets” – worked wonders for a fortune teller as himself.
It was a beautiful night. The sky was still blue but the moon was out, and the streets were getting darker. There were groups of people walking up and down Portobello Road and we could here people laughing and joking, standing outside the pubs as we walked home.
We walked slowly, it was a nice summer stroll, and Son and Daughter were goofing around – Son running into every single phonebooth along the way and Daughter telling funny stories – while Wife and I walked side by side, enjoying every moment.
It’s funny what sticks to your mind from reading books. What we remember from a book may be just a throwaway line – if there ever are such things – the author may have thought was slightly amusing, or a description of a character who’s not key to the plot. (Then again, if you remember that, maybe she was).
Anyway, this is once again a way to make a short story long to say that I once read a book and the only thing that’s stuck with me through the decades is not its name (so I can’t tell you which one it was or anything else that seems important) but instead, I remember a character description. In the book there was someone who “liked to give nicknames to people”.
Nothing is a fast as a human brain, except a human brain a moment before an accident is about to happen. The number of different ideas that go through one’s mind in fractions of a second when, for example, one’s earphones seem to be on their way down the toilet.
Just like Son and Daughter, I, too, had a lot of books when I was a kid. When I moved out, the books got to stay on the shelves for a while for the first few summers I returned home, and then they were taken to storage, and then, with a few exceptions, they were gone.
Among the exceptions, there are a few hockey books – biographies of Tretiak, Kharlamov, and Gretzky – the collected fairytales of H.C. Andersen, The Story of Robin Hood by John Finnemore, and The Coral Island by Robert M. Ballantyne.