On Becoming Bear

Monday 3rd October, 2016

I went to Noordermarkt to try on fur jackets ahead of winter. An old man was there with his wife. He was saying tragic funny things to entertain the posse of women folk around him, including me. He said that his wife had to put up with him putting his willy out all the time and that one needed a magnifying glass to see it. Now all of 79 years old, wrinkled, frail, not as he once was. And his wife’s face was hard to read, it wasn’t long-suffering, nor aggrieved, rather her expression was wry, if a little bit stoic. Nothing could sway her. She refused to indulge him, but nor did she shun him. His well-rehearsed act, which she’s no doubt heard many times before. As I rode home down the Prinsengracht in my new full-length secondhand fur coat I suddenly caught sight of a bear riding a bike in a shop window! And I thought – ‘Keep passing the open windows’ (John Irving, Hotel New Hampshire).