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The Bench

 The bench has been outside my building since I moved into my flat here 11 years ago. It's recently been painted. This year they seem to have chosen an ugly brown color, the color that you imagine prisons or other types of institutions to be painted in, where aesthetics are not a priority. It has a re-vamp at least once a year at Rosh Hashana and the colors seem to get uglier each year. My theory is that there is a big shed somewhere belonging to the Municipality where they store all the ugly colors that have been donated/bought at a bargain price. Red, that's what I'd like to paint it, or a nice navy blue – smart but practical.

It is just an ordinary bench. A place for people to sit and rest on their way home with their shopping and to give their aching arms some respite. It's a place for people to chat to each other while in transit to somewhere else. It is also used for putting used clothing on – a way of donating to someone else – sometimes just chucked in a plastic bag, sometimes draped artistically over the back of the bench – to showcase the more fashionable clothes.

Sometimes it is even used as a bed. Several times I've seen a half drunken male lying prone on the uncomfortable bench, an empty bottle of something very suspect lying on the ground next to him. I look at them with a mixture of pity and fear. This is a very sad state of affairs, but this is right outside my building... Luckily the pity part seems to outweigh the fear part so I don't notify the authorities. I just let them get on with their sad lives and pray that I won't be murdered in my bed one dark and stormy night.

It's also sometimes used for putting leftover food on. I just don't get that. Stale bread – old veggies. Maybe the street cats have a midnight feast and party on the bread and veggies when we are all asleep. Now there's a thought.

There are two elderly ladies in my building who used to sit there on a regular basis (BC that is – Before Corona) – it's a rare occurrence to see them these days…they have to be more careful and I feel very sad for them. I think it was their only social outing….and now the situation makes them wary of even enjoying each other's company. Sad.

But lately, the humble ugly colored bench has turned into something magical. It's turned into my living room, my coffee shop, my meeting room, my office! Because we are not allowed to fraternize with the natives, or even family, and because my building is situated on a busy road and conveniently located opposite the local clinic, I get visitors. Lots of visitors! Friends come to say hello and have a chat – of course we sit at either end of the bench like good citizens, with our masks on, which makes it a bit of a strain since I'm getting a bit hard of hearing…. but it's so worth it.

If anything needs to get delivered or passed on, I'm the chosen one and my bench is the chosen venue! The best part of all is that my two children come to visit me, on separate occasions of course, and we get quality time together, to talk, to have coffee (I bring it down in disposable cups) and to discuss the grandchildren and their busy lives. My son lives not too far away and comes to visit on his motorbike, occasionally bringing with one of the boys. My daughter lives about half an hour away and comes especially just to spend time with me on my bench. I can't explain how wonderful it makes me feel and I treasure the time we spend together. It's total together time – no interruptions, even better than my flat – well almost! When all this surreal nightmare is over, I may just invite people to my bench instead – as long as it's not raining!



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Saturday, 30 September 2023

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