Blinking from out of the dark, from the depths of the single life – so much more fun in the summer – we gathered at a mutual friend’s Vernissage.  ‘It takes me time to adjust, to get into the rhythm of being with other people’ Tom said. ‘It’ll take me a good ten minutes’. ‘I know’ I replied, and then:  ‘Have you ever thought of joining a commune?’  ‘Do you mean a sect?’  ‘Well no, but don’t you think it would be nice to live with people as opposed to on one’s own?’ ‘Yes, I’d love to do that’ Luke replied, ‘A significant other. I always want a woman to come home to, but she’d have to do what I wanted when I wanted..’  ‘I’m not talking about a significant other, I’m talking about an alternative way to live – with a group of others, you know, like they do in Stockholm’ I said.  The men around me started talking living with lots of women and orgies, but it’s an uneasy subject and perhaps not one best suited to idle Private View chitter chatter.

Nevertheless, I persisted.  ‘But what about these sorts of groups you can join, where there’s a guru type and common beliefs – surely there’s nothing really wrong with that?’  Pinky responded: ‘Well, maybe, but it depends how many people are in it – if it’s more than 50 it’s a sect’. I cited a group I knew of and said that it seemed pretty harmless, but that I just wasn’t sure if I could believe in the things they believed in, and kow tow ostensibly to a sort of white haired, white clothed leader known as ‘Naminba’.  Pinky looked at me, astonished.  ‘Sparkles, he’s really Chris from Sheffield and he used to sell bicycles in Birmingham; you’re so gullible!’

We looked at the art on display and I was blown away by the sculptures my friend had created.  I’d seen pictures of them before, and a couple in the flesh, but never before witnessed them en masse and felt so proud of what she’d accomplished.  I complimented the other artist, he of the dot paintings, on his work.  Having not seen him for a while, I was reminded of the time a few years ago when we’d met and he’d been at a loss to understand why I was working in something I cared so little for.  I recounted this and told him what I did now.  ‘That’s good’ he said.  ‘Life really is too short.  You can pretty much work out how long you’ve got, barring unforeseen circumstances – so don’t waste it’.

I asked his wife about the beautiful light and minimal flat we were viewing the work in. ‘Is it yours?’  ‘Well, we wanted it to be, but we did it up and now we’ll probably sell it’.

Out in the garden, I asked Pinky for a cigarette.  ‘Hold on a minute’.  Off he went only to return a few moments later with a multi pack of 200.  A big notice on the outside read: ‘Smokers die young’.  I decided to ignore that and we continued talking about all sorts of things – including money.  ‘It’s cold, and people tend to get like that when they’re dealing with it – it’s made of metal for a start’, Pinky said.  ‘I mean, if it was soft and cuddly, it’d be made of cashmere;  cashmere money’  We cracked up laughing as I put my hand on Luke’s shoulder.  It felt nice. ‘Is that cashmere?’ Tom interjected.  I stroked it a bit more: ‘No I think it’s a merino – a very fine one’.  ‘Quite right’ said Luke.

The evening peaked, and the coolness that descends on a typical British summer’s night enveloped us.  I shivered and went inside to get my Mac.  I buttoned it up and belted it tightly.  A man beside me commented:  ‘We know each other, don’t we?’  ‘Yes, I think we’ve met a couple of times’ I replied, ‘I seem to recall you wearing a very nice military coat on both occasions’.  ‘Oh no, you’re wrong about that’ he said, ‘I don’t possess one of those.  But I think you’re probably referring to my 19th century hunting jacket’.  We smiled at each other as I said goodbye and turned to leave, taking a deep breath of the fresh night air as I closed the door behind me.


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