Thursday, January 04, 2007

Barcelona Calling

Arch & Leap have a strange routine. They drink and listen to music when they get home from work after a long commute and consequently tend to eat late, very late. Leap controls the menu – she is a vegan, or as Maude’s father once introduced her, ‘a very severe vegetarian’. Archie relishes Leap’s cuisine at home, but lapses occasionally when out and about. Maude witnessed him eating a pork pie on a passing bus last week. The large pie obscured his face momentarily, but as he lowered the meat feast to draw breath, his cover was blown.

‘I love what Leap cooks,’ insists Arch – ‘it’s really healthy’.

We visited Arch & Leap’s cottage last night. Maude has tired of being offered nothing more in the way of hospitality than some Bombay mix, so she called in advance and told them that she would bring some food. When we arrived she handed a large pan of curry to an unusually excited Archie. His knees almost buckled under the weight, but he giggled and managed to rush through to the kitchen without spilling it. His progress wasn’t helped by various obstacles. Arch & Leap have an unorthodox approach to storage. They ‘organise’ their possessions by creating a miniature Manhattan skyline of piles of books and compact disks on the floor of their lounge, so that they are constantly reminded of what they own. One wrong move and a pile is demolished – sometimes creating a domino effect which knocks down neighbouring piles of stuff. When this occurs Arch shows remarkable agility for man of his girth and rushes to minimise the damage.

‘They’re all in order, you know!’ He exclaims. ‘That took me ages to alphabeticalise.’

In a clearing in the forest of piles there is enough space for the sofa, and the hearth. Archie lies on one side of the hearth and Leap assumes a lotus position on the other. For the festive season Leap creates a nut-cracking workshop space on her side – consisting of a tree stump and a toffee hammer.

‘Have you thought any more about shelving?’ Maude asked after we had finished our curry.

‘We’re fine,’ insisted Leap, as she smiled and whacked a walnut.

‘This way we know where everything is when we need it,' added Arch, as he glanced at his watch.

I could see that Maude was eager to point out that they were unlikely to need most of the things littering the floor in the very near future, but she resisted the urge.

‘Anyway,’ continued Leap, ’it provides a smashing little playground….’ Leap smiled in Archie’s direction at this point.

Isn’t Archie a little long in the tooth for a ‘playground’?’

Leap shook with laughter. She mis-hit a walnut which flew across the room and bounced off Archie’s forehead.

‘Not for Arch, Silly! For Fingerbob.’


‘Yes, I keep catching Fingerbob in my mouse-catcher and releasing him out in the fields, but he keeps finding his way back to us!’

Maude looked unimpressed. ‘You have a mouse?’

‘Yes, but he is no trouble really. He is really quite entertaining. Last week he took some cinnamon sticks all the way from the kitchen cupboard to the corner of the living room.’

Maude’s eye followed Leap’s finger as it indicated a corner of the room completely obscured by the piles.

‘Quite the little adventurer.’

This created a natural pause in the conversation and Arch took the opportunity to wind his way through the area of the room devoted to his ‘alphabeticalisedcd collection to reach the bathroom. The phone rang. Maude was comfortable on the sofa. Leap was stoking the fire and gestured to me to answer the call. I eventually traced the phone behind a teetering pile of fading Sunday supplements. As I was about to lift the receiver, Archie came back into the room at speed. He had left the bathroom early after hearing the phone. His excited manner and his watch-checking all made sense now – he had been expecting a call. Archie was wearing a cardigan which was far too long for him and had the look of a frock-coat. As he bounded across the room his woollen train caught the top of one of his piles of party compilation cassettes.

As he excitedly shouted ‘That’ll be Sandy!’ and kept motoring towards to me, I watched the edifice of cassettes collapse and destabilise a neighbouring pile of Betamax videos, which in turn unsettled an orangebox of Leap’s recipe scrapbooks. Archie was undeterred by the chaos developing around him and continued on his expedition to reach the phone. His face was remarkably gleeful. He looked lustful and carefree – like a man half his age and twice his height running along a beach towards the outstretched arms of the love of his life.

(Sandy has been in Barcelona for over a year and Archie sorely misses playing a bit part in the imaginary film that Sandy casts around him.)

I could see Archie’s small hand forming to grasp the handset as his arm began to outstretch, but this movement took his attention away from holding up his trousers (as I mentioned, he left the bathroom early). Small change and a heavy tobacco tin soon had Archie’s trousers plummeting to knee level. The poor man then lost his footing and became a human torpedo – crashing through the carefully arranged music section of the pilescape and causing severe ‘de-alphabeticalisation’.

As I lifted the phone to suggest that Sandy called later, Leap unfolded her legs and went to Archie’s aid. As she abandoned her post, Fingerbob saw his chance to make off with the last walnut of the evening. Maude was already buttoning her coat.