For the Love of Darwin

Saturday night, the busiest time of the week, and the kitchen at Pizzeria Perfecto is buckling under the strain.

Mel is rapidly mixing up another batch of dough. She’s not been there long and still isn’t used to the ways – or language – of head chef Steve.

Steve bursts in to the kitchen. True to form, he’s yelling over his shoulder at one of the waiters.

“I’m telling you, one more unreadable order and you are out! Hitchens, Dawkins and Nietzsche! Is it too much to ask for staff who can write?”

Mel, flinching, replies, “They’re probably feeling a bit rushed.”

“We’re all evolution rushed!” fumes Steve. “Doesn’t mean you let standards slip. Now, what was I after? Anchovies.”

Mel starts kneading the dough while Steve hunts in the fridge for anchovies.

“For the love of Jean-Paul Sartre!” cries Steve. “Where are the humanist anchovies?”

Mel, wincing again, says, “We must have run out.”

“Sweet survival of the fittest! Do I have to do everything around here?” he explodes. “We’ll have to make do with tuna.”

Steve opens a cupboard.

“By the origin of the species! There’s no Darwinian tuna!”

Mel’s patience finally snaps. She pushes the dough to one side and spins round to face Steve.

“Could you just stop it!” she cries in frustration.

Steve is stunned.

“What?” he says.

Mel pauses, but knows she can’t stop now.

“What you’re saying.”

“About the tuna?”

“No!” she says. “Your – language. I’m a committed atheist and it’s very hard for me to hear you throwing these words around.”

Steve sniggers.

Mel shoots him a look.

He coughs and says, “But evolution is just a theory.”

“It’s the most compelling explanation for life I’ve heard,” she replies.

He shakes his head.

“So you really believe in all that stuff, like natural selection and everything?”

Mel takes a breath. This is her opportunity and she doesn’t want to mess it up.

“Yes,” she says. “I’m part of this group, actually. We meet up once a week, and someone prepares a short talk, and we might have some music. And we usually take a moment to personally reflect on ‘What would Darwin do?’ And there’s the annual trip to the Natural History Museum, to look at fossils and dinosaur bones. You should come along.”

Steve doesn’t know what to say.

“Yeah, thanks,” he mumbles.

He looks at his feet, then at the wall, and finally back at Mel.

“Look, I’m sorry if I offended you, and I’ll try to watch my words in future.”

She smiles.

“I appreciate that.”

Mel returns to kneading. Steve checks the temperature in the oven and moves the pizzas around on the shelves. Mel picks up a knife and begins scoring the dough.

“Arsene Wenger!” she screeches.

Steve almost drops a pizza.

“I’ve gone and Claudio Ranieri cut my Aston Villa finger!” says Mel, sucking the blood from the wound.

“Wash your mouth out!” barks Steve.

“Oh, for Gareth Bale’s sake!” she moans, as she runs her finger under the tap.

Steve is apoplectic.

“I won’t have language like that in my kitchen!”

Mel looks at him, mystified.

“It’s only football!” she says.

Steve slams his hand down on the bench. He can’t believe what he’s just heard and he won’t stand for it.

“Do not take the name of the beautiful game in vain!”

 

A version of a script performed at Stitchin’ Fiction at the Boogaloo in Highgate, London, and by RPA at mac, Birmingham.

Driving Lesson

Yesterday I saw a guy drive the wrong way down a one-way street! The cheek of it. And the fact that he parked his car, got out and went into the temple across the road made it all the more hypocritical. He could’ve collided with an oncoming vehicle, flattened an unsuspecting pedestrian. It’s a good thing he didn’t catch my eye, because I’d have given him a right icy glare.

Actually, it is a good thing he didn’t catch my eye because, a few seconds later, something else did. Roadworks. Right across the entrance to the road leading to the temple. Ah. To get to the temple from the other side of the roadworks, there was no choice but to drive round the block and turn into the road from the other end. You simply couldn’t get there any other way.

My driver friend may have technically driven the wrong way down the road. But that’s nothing compared to the wrong way I chose, speeding down the road with my judgemental conclusions before colliding with the bigger picture . . .

iceberg heart

iceberg heart
won’t melt fast enough

cracks appear
fissures form

corners sheer off
chunks fall off
lumps detach and float away . . .

and the hardest thing is
it happens again and again and again and again
and, by God,
it hurts.

poor iceberg

the only consolation is

there may be something locked inside the ice
that’s worth setting free.

the best i can do

if the best i can do is

lump together the leftovers
cobble together the cast-offs
fudge together the fragments

is it worth it?

yes

because

leftovers can lead to a delicious dinner
cast-offs can create a pleasing patchwork
fragments can form a marvellous mosaic

 

Que sera, sera

When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother what will I be . . .

Nine of us sit in the small square music room of the newly-built and nicely-furnished residential home.

. . . Will I be famous? Will I be rich . . .

I bash out a well-known song on the old upright piano, persevering through the discordant notes, broken keys and stuck pedals.

. . . Here’s what she said to me . . .

The residents, who in speech struggle to string together a sensible sentence, sing along as I play.

. . . Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be . . .

They know these words and they know this tune, even if they don’t know they’ve met me half a dozen times before, even if they don’t know when or what their next meal is.

. . . The future’s not ours to see . . .

Neither the past nor the present, let alone the future, are theirs to see anymore. But, despite my fully functioning faculties, the future’s not mine to see either. None of us – whether residents, staff or visitors – know what will be. So altogether now, let’s sing it like we mean it –

. . . Que sera, sera . . .

Glints of a kingdom #3

We buy the ingredients and our friend comes round to make dinner for us. When Michelle’s cooking, we get to play sous chef in our own kitchen – chopping onions as required, digging out the right size of casserole dish, running to the corner shop for last minute gravy powder.

Once we’re all sat down around the dinner table, someone says grace, and we eagerly tuck in to Michelle’s freshly-cooked shepherd’s pie, or spaghetti bolognese, or sausage casserole.

Here we all are – whether we’ve worked all day or never had a paid job in our lives, whether we got degrees at university or didn’t quite finish school, whether we own our own place or probably never will – here we all are, linked up and levelled out by simply sharing Michelle’s meal.

Oh Lord, I have been in a bad mood today -

For I Am Very Busy. Because I Have Things To Do.
Important Things. Essential Things. Necessary Things.

And yet, 
            sat here,
                        right now,

I can hardly think of a single thing I have to do.

Other than
               be present
                              and be available
                                                     to You.