Thursday, 25 March 2010

Mum and the Monk

I’ve never mentioned what else my Mum does.
Yes, she works in the shop but that’s only a tiny bit of it.
My Mum and her two friends actually founded and run an organisation called Silence in the City.
It’s a big deal.
They arrange for the ‘superstars’ of contemplative living to come to London to give talks on the value of silence in modern day life.
It goes deeper than that of course. These things often do.
Franciscans, Dominicans, Trappists, Revs, Dr's... some names have drawn in over four hundred listeners.
Half the post we get in the shop is addressed to Silence in the City.
You could almost say the shop is just a front for their operations.
People ring up and think the shop is their office.
They’re often women who speak very quietly and I want to tell them they’re taking the ‘Silence’ bit too far and would they speak up please.
The contemplatives that give these talks are not the types to preach hellfire to shoppers on Oxford Street or sell exclusive tickets to heaven.
These speakers are wise, humble, gentle and good-humoured.
They’re not interested in strengthening dangerous myths that cause separation between religions and cultures. Instead they shed light on our own repetitive thought patterns and separation within.
Too deep?
We had a monk stay with us last week who’d come all the way from Wisconsin.
He arrived at Kings Cross Station in full monk garb and Mum still took ages to spot him.
I thought he looked like a character from Monty Python in his long blue robe.
Once home, I made him a cup of tea.
“I’m going to give you a superior biscuit,” Mum said, and handed him a packet of almond turrón.
That’s not a biscuit! I thought in alarm.
Turrón is made of caramelised almonds and is so hard you could use it to build a fortress.
If our monk was disappointed, he didn’t show it.
He tried to break it with his teeth then with his hands.
It was still intact when he finished his tea.
“I’m going upstairs to soak it,” he said brightly.
He retired to the spare bedroom where Mum had left out a copy of Shop Girl Diaries which you’ll agree is essential monk reading material.
I know he read some because he talked to me about it later on.
For supper, he removed his blue tabard and was all in black.
“I like your undergarments,” Mum said, dishing up her famous brown rice.
“I haven’t had anyone say that to me for a while,” he said with a big smile, then added, “It’s called a tunic.”
I don’t think Mum realised she’d complimented him on his underwear until later.
Forget piety and preacher men with secret agendas.
Good humour is a lot better for the soul.

N.B. Illustration by my Mum, Jill Benet

Thursday, 11 March 2010

The Full Story (of how the Date became the Fiancé)

Thank you Date, with your one guest post you’ve managed to double my readership.
Oops, did I say Date?
I meant Fiancé.
Because it wasn’t a publicity stunt to get more readers.
Shop Girl and the Date are officially engaged!
“Holy Sh*t,” my brother said, when I told him.
I’m only just starting to believe it myself and that’s partly because I have proof.
The Fiancé once said he didn’t believe in engagement rings.
He obviously changed his mind.
In the restaurant, after reading his blog post out loud, I turned to him and there it was, sparkling from inside the ring box he’d opened upside down.
I’d sensed something extraordinary was going to happen that evening.
He’d been so jumpy when I’d met him as if he’d drunk ten cups of coffee.
Then there’d been that mysterious lump in his jacket pocket that I’d accidentally touched.
He’d disappeared into his bedroom, mumbling an excuse and when he’d reappeared the lump had gone.
In the restaurant he’d wanted everything to be perfect, had looked agitated when a load of children had piled onto a table nearby.
As our desert arrived, (ice cream which would melt in the ensuing excitement), he got out his computer to post his blog online.
He hadn’t banked on the internet connection being so terrible.
It started to look like it wasn’t going to work.
“You can put it on tomorrow,” I said.
“No!” he cried, “I have to put it on now!”
Maybe I knew then.
This was clearly no ordinary blog.
Before the computer battery ran out, the connection returned and he was able to put his blog online.
By paragraph three I was in tears.
I finished reading and turned to him, and he was holding up the box with a beautiful ring he’d chosen all by himself weeks earlier.
“Will you marry me?”
In my imagination I’ve always said a clear, resounding ‘Yes’.
In real life, I was a blurry-eyed, blubbering bundle of shock.
“You haven’t said yes!” he said. “You have to say yes!”
Of course yes! He was the Date! He was the hero in my book! Of course it was always going to be him!
The first person I told was the Greek waiter.
He shook the Fiancés hand then knocked on our table.
“Number 33,” he said.
I won’t forget that.
33 will always be a lucky table.
And I am a very lucky girl.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Guest Blogger 'The Date' - Big Adventure

So the ShopGirl bullied me into doing a blog.
Here it is, I am real.
And for all of you that are wondering, I’m not writing on my exercise time all the way from Guantanamo. Thank God.
But I can’t deny it hasn’t been stressful. Every time we talk about it we end up angry at the world and hanging up on each other with the excuse of having to do something. The good think is that normally leads to a cute message and a very comforting new call.
Emily loves to text. Every time I look at my inbox, there is something new from her. She tells me when she does something, also when she doesn’t. She tells me when she’s happy about it, also when she’s not. She loves to wonder about the world... and text me about it.
I’m not a massive texter and when we started going out I wasn’t use to getting these many messages and calls. I always thought girls that texted this much didn’t have much to do or were just intense. However, as time passed, I realized something; is not something you have to get used to, is something you need to understand. Now I understand, Emily wants to share even the little details with me. And the little details are what made me fall in love with her.
Like the endless hours she has spend stroking my hair whenever I’m stressed, or the funny dances she does in the kitchen whenever I make her coffee. Or the so many silly-sounding spanglish terms we both have make up that would be soooooo embarrassing if anyone actually understands.
But probably the best little detail (ok, not that little) is that I don’t have to wonder 'what if?’ because it already is. We are a team. And team silly is going on an adventure! As Emily predicted our plans go in circles. With no confirmed dates for my visa and film, it seems a bit silly to book a trip to Colombia just yet. We will go as soon as someone somewhere decides to give me a date. But today we are embarking on an even better adventure.
Nothing is been confirmed, I have no visa and no secure dates as to when, but all this has made me think a lot. I hate to be in the hands of situations and I like to make my own decisions. We are going for an early dinner date in a lovely restaurant. We will have a starter, a main and a dessert. Maybe even a glass of wine and some olives. Emily loves Olives. And so do I.
And when we finish eating and we are having un cortadito, pretending to be in a sunny terraza, I will get my laptop out and put this blog online. Yes, I’m going to be that obnoxious (100 points to anyone that can spell this word) and I’m going to get her to read it aloud there. Love in the Times of Internet!
And as she finishes and turns around I will ask her...

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Shop Girl in Circles

The Date still hasn’t had his UK visa approved.
He rang up to find out when he might be told.
“Don’t know,” the woman said.
Our plans go around in circles.
One minute we’re setting off, the next minute we’re staying put and waiting for the Home Office’s verdict.
It’s frustrating. I just want to know something definite.
“I’m going to make an executive decision,” he said today. “We’ll book tickets on Friday.”
Not cinema tickets, we’ve already booked those (for ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and don’t tell me the ending because I’ve never read it).
He meant plane tickets to America and on to Colombia.
Now I’ve blogged about it, we’ll have to go.
Or will we?
As I said, our plans go around in circles.
Meanwhile I’m keeping my head down and writing a lot.
I might have to stop soon though and get some extra days at the shop to pay for this ticket (cinema and plane).
The good news is the date will finally speak for himself on Friday because he’s promised to write a guest post.
Ha! I’ve blogged about it now so he’ll have to do it.
Or will he?