The Sandal in the Door


At the long table next to ours sat a group of a dozen or so  insurance salesmen, sober-suited youngsters who looked a little like these mild-mannered Mormons you see going around  in pairs, and a senior salesman, American-looking, going grey, lean, doing all the talking.
You know whyou’ve been so successful? ” he asked and without waiting for an answer “I’ll tell you why, ” he told them ( I gathered later they were the regional winners in  some national salesperson competition). “Because you’re like me. Yes, because you’re so like me. When I started in this business he leant back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head),  yes, way back when I started as a poor door-to-door salesman, a bit like Willy Loman,  what I earned was linked to what I sold yet when I walked into a house and saw a couple barely coping, with a couple of hungry kids, apologising for the mess the place was in, offering me a cup of tea, the last thing on my mind was my commission.”  He unclasped his hands and leant forward. ” You know what was on my mind? ” He waited until he had everyone’s attention before he told them what had been on his mind. “I’ll tell you what was on my mind. There’s a car crash, the husband is killed, it turns out he has no insurance and the next thing I see is that poor woman and her poor kids without a home, out on the streets, without help, without a future.”  He tapped his chest.  ” That’s what I felt. In my heart that’s what I felt. The need to save these people. It was a moral thing, not a money thing at all, purely a spiritual thing. How could I best help these people whom I hardly knew but somehow felt responsible for? ” He swirled the ice in his glass and gave it his serious consideration before looking up. ” I’ll tell you how. By making them take out insurance, that’s how. Yes, it was a spiritual thing. In fact ( he put his glass down on the table) in fact…. in fact if Jesus was to come back today, you know what he’d come back as?” He looked from one face to the other, waiting. ” I’ll tell you what he’d come back as.”  Once again he leant back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head before he told them. “An insurance salesman,” he told them. ” An insurance salesman.”

windows to the soul

There's no art
to find the mind's construction in the face....

Anna 1
sometimes what's outside 
appears to be inside
of course
like when someone smiles
(" And some that smile have in their hearts, 
I fear,
Millions of mischiefs..")
and doesn't mean it...
or nods
and puts a friendly arm around your shoulders
while fingering beneath their toga
the not so friendly dagger
(" Et tu, Brute!" )

people who live in glass houses
are seldom found
but people who live in blocked-up rooms
are all around.
embracrop xc


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Vermeer and Brandt

Edinburgh Festival time: a pavement artist recreating Vermeer outside the National Art Gallery in Princes Street, both the milkmaid and the artist fully concentrated on what they were doingwhich led me to have a closer look at Vermeer’s woman pouring milk….there’s such a natural grace and rightness in the way she is pictured- it all seems in the natural order of things

 which reminded me of a photo by Bill Brandt of a woman cleaning a doorstep, kneeling, twisting the cloth to squeeze out the dirty water into a basin the way women do – men for some reason would ‘rotate’ the cloth in the opposite direction – body slightly turned away, head tilted but not looking at what her hands are doing…..Probably a political photo attacking the exploitation of  workers  but also a striking photo in an artistic way……All this I remembered  from seeing the b & w photograph years and years ago. I thought there must be other photographers who captured the natural grace  of women going about household tasks as opposed to the strength of men at work – miners, farmers, labourers etc.

Found her – thanks to omniscient Google – just as I remembered her. And how similar is her ‘configuration’ to Vermeer’s milkmaid!  Except that the milkmaid is watching what she’s doing; the housemaid looks away as if her mind is on other things. And of course leaning forward as opposed to leaning back, kneeling down as opposed to standing up, slim as opposed to solid, warm colours as opposed to cold blacks and greys…..




there is no art
to find the mind’s construction in the face


She didn’t even say good-bye nor aurevoir nor hasta la vista nor kwa heri nor totsiens nor abar dekha hobe  nor zai geen nor auf wiedersehen nor adeus nor sayonara nor slan leat……none of these ………just  half  turned,  one hand half raised (only four fingers showing),  gave me a look that said nothing,  head slightly tilted back, no smile, no expression…………………then I was gone….I did look back, over my shoulder, once  (remembering  Lot’s wife)………….

but so was she.


things on their own

(especially old things)

look sad, dejected,

no longer fit for purpose

(to use the current buzz phrase)

well past their sell-by date    ……

not waiting impatiently to be used

but waiting submissively to be wheeled away

to their scrapyard in the sky

or just waiting

for the relentless rust of Time

to get on with

the job it does so well.

dogs,  on the other foot,

are patient waiters…

or most of them at any rate…

(this  collie for example,

with only ears alert)

although some

(like this arch-backed anorexic  Edinburgh whippet)

stand shivering,  quivering,

body, face, eyes

alert with  the awful  fear

that he-(or she)-who-must-be-obeyed

has gone away


never to return..

leaving them purposeless…


(A bit like us really)


 Hooded girl in black…waiting….stork-like….the misty Tay Bridge vaguely in the background……

   Woman in a red dress…….waiting  in a windy shop  doorway                        



on her mobile on a chilly rainy day….waiting with pursed lips

for……the rain?……time?…….me?……to pass…..

and the patient hooded girl in black……still….. stork-like

w  a  i  t  i  n  g    for   something   to    happen….

At least the bridge has come back; surely that’s something?

No it isn’t. And don’t call me Shirley.