They’re Watching You…

Tales Told by an Idiot

I’m having a hard time.

The exhibition was not up to scratch, and it was my idea. The from-space views of the planets started it well but gravity pulled it downhill from there.

I am telling Barbara this.

She’s on another planet herself. “I’m not an expert,” she says.

“The Natural History Museum is so much better.” I turn to look back at the Dynamic Earth structure that has dis­gorged us. It looks like a beetle impaled with matchsticks, or icicles, more likely, on this bleak February afternoon.

Barbara continues along the path away from the building, so I have to catch up. “And it’s free.”

“Apart from the train fare down to London –”

“Up,” I correct her. “It’s always up to London, even when it’s 400 miles south. Always up to the capital.”

“But this,” she says, “is a capital.”

“We’re not independent yet.”

To our right the futuristic towers of the Scottish Parliament wait.

We have reached the Jurassic Period on the path. An information post shows Scotland south of its present position and doubtless warmer than it feels in this bitter wind. It does not encourage lingering.

We move on.

I have an idea. “We could hook up on one of your research trips.”


“To London. We could go to the Natural History then.”

She knits those dark eyebrows and wrinkles that cute Bewitched nose. “Hmm.”

“It’d be no big deal. I need to see my brother down th— up there. Too.”

She does that hmm again. I look at her and something catches in my throat.

We get to the large globe that marks the end of the path.

I stop again and survey it. “What wouldn’t you give to see that view for real?”

“Oh, I don’t think so, Guy.” Barbara shudders, probably also for real. The wind is not getting any sweeter and threatens to thrash her already unruly hair into tangled knots. She pulls a carpet-patterned coat tight around her and snuggles into a lime green scarf, which I like: it is striking and sets off her dark hair.

“I have to go back now,” she says.

“Not even a wee walk in the park?” Hell’s teeth, how desperate am I?

Clouds are piling over Salisbury Crags and it can only be moments before they dump themselves over the city.

Barbara is also looking their way. She pulls back a sleeve to consult a silver watch snug against slender wrist. “I really have all this cataloguing.”

“Later in the week then? You will get your usual day off, won’t you? They surely can’t afford to pay you overtime. And we could at least do our usual lunch. Or there’s that exhibition at the Dean.”

“Ben Nicholson?”

“Oh, yes. That too. But I was thinking more of the science and Surrealism wingding.”

“I’d prefer the Nicholson.” Barbara pulls several errant strands of hair out of her mouth. “We’ll see. Probably next weekend.”

Right. It looks like even abstract art isn’t going to drag her out.

We hug, which means I get to bury my face into a crown of lush, dark hair and smell conditioner and Barbara’s usual scent of soap, which I prefer to perfume.

We part, she up the road, me back via the Parliament to an afternoon of watching football scores. The Arabs‘ disastrous season will probably pile on the frustration.

I pass the gates of Parliament’s car park, where I always check the surveillance cameras. I want to give them a song and dance but they’re never pointing at me.

A flashy sports jobbie pulls out. Flashy and yet somehow so last century. DMC on the front grille and repeated in large letters on the rear as the car powers away. Personalised registration plates are one matter but personalising a whole car… vanity or what? It turns out I’m wrong about that.

Continued in Tales Told by an Idiot