“Southgate: He Changed even the Weather”


Continued from “Right to Live Left to Die” and from the novel “Return to Cocoa Yard”

Gareth Southgate might be seen as the ressurrector. There were thousands of him everywhere in the sun that day. “Omnipotent”, a word Walker remembered Anna using when talking about her dad the bus driver, perhaps over dinner, maybe after fucking, he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. But yes he was everywhere, in every town, even dead ones he brought back to life.
After leaving Anna’s two-up-two-down the morning after, Walker had planned to move on. But something in the traveller had changed, again he wasn’t sure exactly when, or even why, but something made him decide instead of leaving for the next town to stay in this one, the one where Anna lived, the dead one with half-dead pigeons. The one where Anna lived and where he stayed. Was he hoping to see her again? Was he drawn in some way to the town’s peacefulness, resting as it was, waiting for someone or something to breathe life into it again? Or was it Anna? Sex notwithstanding it had been a pleasant evening, the first one in such a long time he’d spent with a woman, the first one in even longer that finished up in bed. So sex, after all, was not notwithstanding. Perhaps, he wondered, there’d been life breathed back into him. Like the town itself, like the thousands of men, women and children looking to the ressurrector, he was looking for someone or something too. It made no difference that he’d got two hundred quid on England beating Sweden, and a further three on them going all the way. It made no odds that he found himself remaining, joining the hordes to watch the game in the pub where they met. Yes, what was really happening was that he was hoping for another glimpse of Anna. That was what he finally decided.

After he left her two-up-two-down the morning after, Anna phoned in sick. It was something she’d never done in ten years with that company and she wanted to know why. She wasn’t sick at all, in fact she was alive, for the first time in ages, sex notwithstanding, she was feeling good. It had been a very pleasant evening, the conversation, the laughter, what Walker did for her in bed. So sex, after all, was not notwithstanding. It was outstanding. So feeling alive she phoned in sick, got showered and not entirely dressed and spent the day in bed, doing little, thinking a lot. Thinking of Walker and his exotic tales of travel, thinking did she make the right choice of meal that remained half-eaten? Did they drink her bottle of plonk too quickly before moving on to his more expensive Sauvignon? Was the loss of inhibition and self-conciousness about her body and its fucking eczema down to alcohol or the interesting stranger who’d crashed into her life? She’d never see him again of course, he’d made that clear in his vague way, he was moving on, he was a traveller and experientialist, life for him a fascinating action-packed or so it appeared string of this and that and whatevers. A traveller who sometimes doesn’t know the somewhere he’s going to but always knows it when he’s there. That’s what he said or something like that and what she tried to make sense of. And she was also thinking of what her dad had said about dying and what she was going to do about it. When to tell her mum? She’d gathered and printed research off the internet. Dignitas. Dying in dignity. The right to die. The arguments for and against. Whether one should have the right to leave or remain. The moral discussions, the principle dilemmas. What side would mum fall down on when she said that dad’s right to live or die was his? Would it be right to keep him alive when he wanted not to be left to die an undignified death? Was it selfish to let him choose or was it selfish of him to choose?
The morning after the morning after she didn’t phone in sick but carried into work this cocktail of questions, this potent mix of emotions. Colleagues saw that something had changed but didn’t know what and didn’t ask because it was private and they all knew she was prone to depression and mood swings. But Anna also knew something had changed. Walking home through the dead town she saw the bunting on the pubs, the flag of St George proudly waving back at anyone who looked, she felt the shift in atmosphere, the expectant patriotic even jingoist buzz that had been lost to the town over the past ten years. Dad had wanted to watch the game against Sweden in the pub with his friends Hen, Jigger and Daz, and wanted her and mum to join him. Not in the pub where she met the fascinating stranger, another one that’d been brought back to life, chosen for its multiple screens.  So that’s what she’d do, for dad. And then the morning after that she’d phone in sick again, arrange for dad to go to the day centre and sit her mum down. To tell her what dad had said. Show her the letter he’d handwritten and signed and dated with the precision of a bus timetable.  And tell her that she wanted to spend her dad’s redundancy on a trip to Switzerland. That was what she finally decided.



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