Not The End Of The World (Anglais) Broché – 2 avril 2015
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CHARLINE AND TRUDI GO SHOPPING
I want,' Charlene said to Trudi, 'to buy my mother a birthday present.'
'OK,' Trudi said.
'Something I can put in the post. Something that won't break.'
Trudi thought about some of the things you could put in the post that might break:
A crystal decanter.
A Crown Derby teapot.
A mirrored-glass globe in which nothing but the sky is reflected.
'How about a scarf?' she suggested. 'In velvet dévoré. I love that word. Dévoré.'
Charlene and Trudi were in a food hall as vast as a small city. It smelt of chocolate and ripe cheese and raw meaty bacon but most of the food was too expensive to buy and some of it didn't look real. They wandered along an avenue of honey.
'I could buy a jar of honey,' Trudi said.
'You could,' Charlene agreed.
There was plenty of honey to choose from. There was lavender honey and rosemary honey, acacia and orange blossom and mysterious manuka. Butter-yellow honey from Tuscan sunflowers and thick, anaemic honey from English clover. There were huge jars like ancient amphorae and neat spinster-sized pots. There were jars of cut-comb honey that looked like seeded amber. There was organic honey from lush South American rainforests and there was honey squeezed from parsimonious Scottish heather on windswept moorlands. Bees the world over had been bamboozled out of their bounty so that Trudi could have a choice, but she had already lost interest.
'You could buy her soap,' Trudi said. 'Soap wouldn't break. Expensive soap. Made from oatmeal and buttermilk or goat's milk and vanilla pods from . . . wherever vanilla pods come from.'
'Mauritius. Mainly,' Charlene said.
'If you say so. Soap for which ten thousand violet petals have been crushed and distilled to provide one drop of oil. Or soap scented with the zest of a hundred bittersweet oranges.'
'I'm hungry. I could buy an orange,' Charlene said.
'You could. Seville or Moroccan?'
'Moorish,' Charlene said dreamily. 'I would like to visit a Moorish palace. The Alhambra. That's an exotic word. That's the most exotic word I can think of, offhand. Alhambra.'
'Xanadu,' Trudi said. 'That's exotic. A pleasure dome. Imagine having your own pleasure dome. You could call it Pleasureland. Isn't there a Pleasureland in Scarborough?'
'Arbroath,' Charlene said gloomily.
'With shady walks through cool gardens,' Trudi said, 'where the air is perfumed with attar of roses.'
'And fountains and courtyards,' Charlene said. 'Fountains that run with nectar. And courtyards full of peacocks and nightingales and larks. And swans. And gold and silver fish swimming in the fountains. And huge blue and white marbled carp.'
They were walking down a street of teas. They were lost.
'Who would think there were so many different teas in the world?' Trudi mused. 'Chrysanthemum tea, White Peony, Jade Peak, Oriental Beauty Oolong, Green Gunpowder, Golden Needle, Hubei Silver Tip, Drum Mountain White Cloud, Dragon's Breath tea — do you think it tastes of dragon's breath? What do you think dragon's breath tastes like?'
'Foul, I expect,' Charlene said. 'And all day long,' she continued, 'in the pleasure dome-'
'Pleasureland,' Trudi corrected.
'Pleasureland. We would eat melon and figs and scented white peaches and Turkish Delight and candied rose petals.'
'And drink raspberry sherbet and tequila and Canadian ice wine,' Trudi enthused.
'I should go,' Charlene said. She had failed to recover her spirits since the mention of Arbroath. 'I've got an article to write.' Charlene was a journalist with a bridal magazine. 'Ten Things To Consider Before You Say "I Do".'
'Saying "I Don't"?' Trudi suggested.
'Abracadabra,' Charlene murmured to herself as she crossed against the traffic in the rain, 'that's an exotic word.' Somewhere in the distance a bomb exploded softly.
It had been raining for weeks. There were no taxis outside the radio station. Charlene was worried that she was developing a crush on the man who searched her handbag in the reception at the radio station.
'I know he's quite short,' she said to Trudi, 'but he's sort of manly.'
'I once went out with a short man,' Trudi said. 'I never realized just how short he was until after I'd left him.' There were no taxis at the rank. There were no taxis dropping anyone off at the radio station.
Trudi frowned. 'When did you last see a taxi?'
Charlene and Trudi ran from the radio station, ran from the rain, past the sandbags lining the streets, into the warm, dispassionate space of the nearest hotel and sat in the smoky lounge and ordered tea.
'I think he's ex-military or something.'
'The man who searches the bags at the radio station.'
A waitress brought them weak green tea. They sipped their tea daintily — an adverb dictated by the awkward handles of the cups.
'I've always wanted to go out with a man in a uniform,' Trudi said.
'A fireman,' Charlene suggested.
'Mm,' Trudi said thoughtfully.
'Or a policeman,' Charlene said.
'But not a constable.'
'No, not a constable,' Charlene agreed. 'An inspector.'
'An army captain,' Trudi said, 'or maybe a naval helicopter pilot.'
The weak green tea was bitter.
'This could be Dragon's Breath tea, for all we know,' Trudi said. 'Do you think it is? Dragon's breath?'
There was no air in the hotel. Two large, middle-aged women were eating scones with quiet determination. A well-known journalist was seducing a girl who was too young. Two very old men were speaking in low pleasant tones to each other about music and ancient wars.
'Thermopylae,' the men murmured. 'Aegospotami, Cumae. The "Dissonant Quartet".'
'I really want a cat,' Trudi said.
'You can't keep a cat in town,' Charlene said.
'You can't keep a cat down?'
'You can't keep a cat in town.'
'You need something small like a rodent,' Charlene said.
'A capybara's a rodent, it's not small.'
'A hamster,' Charlene said, 'a gerbil, a small white mouse.'
'I don't want a rodent. Of any size. I want a cat. Kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty. If you say something five times you always get it.'
'You made that up,' Charlene said.
'True,' Trudi admitted.
'I'd like something more unusual,' Charlene said. 'A kangaroo. A reindeer or an otter. A talking bird or a singing fish.'
'A singing fish?'
'A singing fish. A fish that sings and has a magic ring in its stomach. A huge carp that is caught in a fishpond — usually at a royal court somewhere — and cooked and served at the table and when you bite into the fish you find a magic ring. And the magic ring will lead you to the man who will love you. Or the small white mouse which is the disguise of the man who will love you.'
'That would be a rodent then.'
'Failing that,' Charlene continued, ignoring Trudi, 'I would like a cat as big as a man.'
'A cat as big as a man?' Trudi frowned, trying to picture a man-sized cat.
'Yes. Imagine if men had fur.'
'I think I'd rather not.'
The waitress asked them if they wanted more of the weak green tea.
'For myself,' the waitress said, uninvited, 'I prefer dogs.' Charlene and Trudi swooned with delight at the idea of dogs.
'Oh God,' Trudi said, overcome by all the breeds of dog in the world, 'a German Shepherd, a Golden Retriever, a Great Dane, a Borzoi — what a great word — a St Bernard, a Scottie, a Westie, a Yorkie. An Austrian Pinscher, a Belgian Griffon, a Kromfohrlanders. The Glen of Imaal Terrier, the Manchester, Norwich, English Toy, Staffordshire, Bedlington - all terriers also. The Kai, the Podengo Portugueso Medio, the Porcelaine and the Spanish Greyhound. The Bloodhound, the Lurcher, the Dunker, the Catahoula Leopard Dog, the Hungarian Vizsla, the Lancashire Heeler and the Giant German Spitz!'
'Or a mongrel called Buster or Spike,' Charlene said.
The waitress cleared away their tea things. 'Money, money, money, money, money,' she whispered to herself as she bumped open the door to the kitchen with her hip. The electricity failed and everyone was suddenly very quiet. No one had realized how dark the rain had made the afternoon.
Revue de presse
"I can think of few writers who can make the ordinary collide with the extraordinary to such beguiling effect...left me so fizzing with admiration" (Observer)
"An exceptionally funny, quirky and bold writer" (Independent on Sunday)
"Moving and funny, and crammed with incidental wisdom" (Sunday Times)
"Inventive and moving, these are truly tales for the new millennium" (Good Book Guide)
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