I am in a cafe; ensconced with affluent hippies, established and crumpled lifestyle retirees, and the waif-like relaxed. There are layers of well-worn wool and faded sunshine colours. Hair is scruffy. Shoes are flat and comfortable. Everyone is drinking variations on elderflower. A soft murmuring of community, positive and generous to each other. Friendly and inclusive.
There are lentils and goats’ cheese on the menu. And soy drinks cleanse down kale filled sandwiches in soda bread.
The beautiful women are make-up free and wise. A single toddler, peaceful.
Plaited rag mats and honest, bold finger paintings adorn the walls. The cafe’s cookbook on sale at eye’s corner.
My peppermint tea has gone through me but I cant see a toilet. I’m prone and clumsy in my walking boots, Michelin-man jacket and cheap black canvas backpack (I borrowed it indefinitely from my Dad 4 years ago, last time I visited them in Australia).
I breathe in all the grace and poise I can inhale from the vanishing vapours of my tea… and rise to look for the loo. In opposition to intent I have elephantitis and foot it clumsily, tripping on the edge of an old hand-painted floor tile. Gawd. Reverie around me is broken and banged around a bit. Supping patrons are jostled. Now where are the toilets?
Of course the bathroom is outside, across the courtyard. Of course I’ve had to lollop my way through the tables and landed hippies, knocking chairs and catching empathic, kind, smiles.
In the toilet I convene in the bright yellow room with long-legged spiders and the smell of patchouli. And low grade recycled paper. And a moment of stillness and tranquility from the murmurings of the Cafe and the bustle of the market town’s uneven cobbled street. I smile. A spotted, aged mirror reflects my inner calm and lightness. I bound out in the direction of the Plains. Ugly bag and giant walking boots. Lovely damp English air and misty droplets hit my face. Long, sturdy, life-affirming strides.