Photos: Jacqueline Smith
Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence at Somerset House,Strand,London
Prompt – Orhan Pamuk’s museum is such a lush experience, it barely requires any extra prompting, but in an attempt to bring the experience from Istanbul to London, we each wrote the names of objects and then pulled a couple from a hat. The challenge was then to incorporate them into our Museum-infused writing….
A TIME OF CONFIDENCES
My grandmother’s apartment lay vacant on Rue d’Alesia and, anticipating that this would be the perfect place to bring Sophie we stepped down, just after 4pm, onto the platform at Gare St. Lazarre with the scent of Paris; that pungent, smoky smell of Gauloises, hugging me like an old, familiar friend.
Outside the station, leaning against the cream Citroen, our driver Etienne was awaiting our arrival. Seeing us approach he straightened up and inclined his head gently and knowingly towards Sophie before shaking my hand.
“It has been a long time Monsieur’’, he said and as I searched enquiringly into his eyes, he leaned forward towards me, adding quietly and confidentially, “and as you requested I have told no-one of your arrival”.
Etienne loaded the bags into the boot of the car whilst I settled Sophie onto the back seat and slipped in beside her. She slid her hand in mine, squeezed tightly and whispered urgently into my ear,
“My whole life depends on you now”.
Within half an hour we had arrived at the apartment. Sophie entered the bedroom to take off her coat and freshen up and I wandered through to the kitchen where Etienne had prepared a hamper filled with French cheeses and hams. I was opening the fridge to take out the champagne when I heard the sound of a small high pitched scream coming from within the bathroom. I felt a wave of panic ripple through me and I ran into the corridor to find Sophie standing by the bathroom door holding up a glass of water in which lay a set of pink and white false teeth. She regarded me quizzically and then, for the first time in a long time, we both burst out laughing.
I remembered and told Sophie the story my mother divulged to me, a long time ago, how grandmother had made her swear that when the time came and she was carted off to hospital that she would be allowed to spend her final days in dignity; that the nurses would be forbidden to remove her dentures and that she would go to her grave smiling prettily with her teeth glued in securely and that no-one would know her gaping secret. Clearly, this had not happened!
Sophie opened her case and took out the three clocks we had packed in between the clothes and with the solemn air of an ordered ritual she silently placed each clock in the different rooms, checking that the time on them was accurate. We said nothing. There was nothing to be said. We both understood its importance. Time would be neither forgotten nor silenced.
That evening we sat on the balcony with our picnic beside us, sipping from crystal glasses and gazing out at the lights of Paris. This balcony had now become our Jardin du Luxembourg, our picnics on the Seine and our walks through the Bois de Boulogne. This apartment was now our whole world, our entire existence until the second that we received the message that Sophie was free to become visible once again.
At midnight I took one match out of its box and she placed it on the shelf. One day had now passed. Then we both lay down on my grandmother’s bed, our heads resting on the pillow, my left arm around her shoulder and in my right hand I held an old sepia photograph up to the light. Both of us lay there gazing at the people in the picture and then slowly I turned towards her and said,
A bit like the actor in ‘Breaking Bad’
Hello Violet line’s not too good, I’m approaching London, joining the mid-day throng at a snail’s pace along ‘The Strand’.It’s that time of year again ‘Our Anniversary’ Violet do you remember? Yes you do!
I’m the one with the beard going grey now looking a bit like the actor in ‘Breaking Bad’.
Remember the Expresso bar where we’d get a thimble of coffee & a mountain of froth?
A bit rubbish compared with today’s luxurious cappuccinos.
You were wearing Indian bangles, flip flops & a floppy hat; a long multi-coloured skirt worn with a wide black elasticated belt – you always carried a huge straw shoulder-bag which held,you said, “all your worldly goods”.
We ate a Ploughman’s at The Warmer Castle; two slices from a fresh white loaf; a pat of butter; a chunk of Cheddar;two pickled onions & a half of scrumpy with bits floating in it. We had a fag after as you could smoke any where then & a packet of ‘Woodbines’ from the slot machine only cost nine pence!
Remember CND & Aldermaston,
sleeping in tents or a school hall if you were lucky. A first taste of open-air festivals with live music, sharing food & partners;trudging through mud & smokin’ wacky baccy!
Hey it’s International Women’s Day – I remember you reading Steinham, Greer & De Beauvoire but you still ain’t got those ‘Equal Rights’ ‘ave you love?
Catch you later at the college reunion.
Cheers love, Fred
Thank you for your beautiful card it was lovely to hear your voice ‘course I’d not forgotten!
I hope the kids are ok all grown up now.
I am devastated following the recent death of my son. My heart
is broken for life.
Didn’t get back to Trinidad this year.My hair is still the same colour but I’ve a few more
laughter lines and now a bus pass which is wonderful!
Hope we’ll meet again next year.
Phyllis Lane 17.3.16
(Claire, look I used the bus pass!)
Hassan: I’m sitting in the courtyard of Somerset House, waiting for Nadine to arrive. Six weeks ago we were in Istanbul, in the house at Nişantaşi. I bought her a set of red and white Turkish tea glasses in the Spice Bazaar, and some dried figs and mulberries. But what she really wanted was a designer handbag. Ciğdam told me about a workshop nearby that made fakes of the highest order. We walked up a narrow passage to a secret workshop. She bought a Louis Vuitton. Rather predictable, I thought, but she insisted that every detail was correct – all it lacked was the certificate of origin.
Now we’re back I stay in her flat. But recently, I’ve become very suspicious of this “Oliver” she mentions. He works in her office. Last night while she was in the bath, I took her phone out of the Vuitton bag. She hasn’t added a security code, so maybe that’s good?
But why would she send 25 messages to this “Oliver” in one day – including a thank you for Ottolenghi recipe for stuffed aubergines with cumin and lamb? My mother could have given her a better one.
Also, I don’t like that he thought it ok to compliment Nadine on a dress I bought her.
Looking hot in that dress LOL!!
I panicked slightly when she called me from the bathroom.
“Are you OK darling? You’re very quiet. Come in and talk to me if you like. You can scrub my back.”
She would be soaking that sexy body in a scented pool wild fig bath oil, her blond hair tied up over her head.
“I’m fine, take your time my heart.” I shouted. I needed to continue my investigation.
Nadine: I’m meeting Hassan and I’m late. I broke a heel on one of my shoes and had to hobble out to buy something. Converse doesn’t cut it for me. H is getting a bit weird with me. I don’t really understand what’s going on. He seems suspicious. But why?
Hassan Fortunately Nadine spent ages in the bath yesterday. And she’s late now. No response to my text. I hope she’s not with that “Oliver.”
I didn’t find anything about sex on her phone. Not in texts anyway. I decided to look in her i-phone notes, I see her using those. There were so many. This is going to take me a long time.
29/02 HK77NT Could that be a code?
20/02 3 dreams She wrote them down – but nothing about me, or about him.
18/02 Eric Raisina Hmm. A man’s name. But I Googled him, he is only a fashion designer.
16/02 In other words. 2 Books on BBC Culture website.
I hope these were not books for Oliver.
14/02 Card for Remick. Who is he?
12/02 DorisandDicky.com – some website. I will check to make sure they are not making sex toys.
10/02 Peppercorns, peppermint tea oranges chocolate and soup.
No problems, I think only shopping.
9/02 Erickson Beamon box duck from freezer WTF???
7/02 Bio freeze dry shampoo bacon for sandwiches white bread.
Who was she making bacon sandwiches for? I wish she didn’t eat bacon.
3/02 “Secret wallets” What was she hiding?
1/02 Room 12. When did we ever stay in hotel room 12? This made me worried.
I pat my pockets in which I keep my lucky charms. All present.
1) A crumpled movie ticket for our first film date, Brooklyn. (Woman’s film, I thought.)
2) A discarded red lipstick that kissed her sexy mouth.
3) A selfie picture of her and me on Dolmabahçe Pier.
I will look at her phone again tomorrow when she is preparing dinner.
She’s coming through the revolving door now, carrying the bag. Why is she wearing Converse? She knows I don’t like these shoes.
Astrid Sutton Sharkey