News From Home 14, Part I
3/24/2004 (updated 3/24/2004)

There was a postcard in the mail today – one of those extra wide panoramic ones with a view of an African big game park – a little savannah in the background, and to the fore a watering hole in late afternoon. Elephants, gazelles, a wildebeest or two – and about one-third submerged in the mud at water’s edge, partly obscured by reeds, a rather attractive and familiar Japanese lantern. In a tree in the middle distance, apparently engaged in some bestial act with a baboon, was a white bearded, red in the face, garden gnome. Postmarked Nairobi, two weeks before. I wandered out onto the lawn at the rear of the Trellises, where I knew I would find Hashimoto fastidiously snipping. I showed him the postcard, hoping for some words of Zen-like wisdom. He chuckled to himself, shook his head, and prepared to go back to his pruning. I touched his sleeve, and he must have seen the imploring look in my eyes, for he paused in mid-stride; and then he spoke, after another second’s reflection –

“Foot you tofu never!”

I must have looked puzzled, so he tried again, a little slower –

“Motor show heaven!”

Still didn’t get it.

“Futon hot forever!”

This wasn’t really working, so he produced a pencil from behind his ear, and carefully wrote on the back of an empty seed packet –

Photoshop 7.0

I was shocked that someone who seemed so removed from the trappings of the 21st, and, God knows, even the 20th, centuries should have any knowledge of computer applications, but he explained that his grandson was a webmeister, and had bought the old man a cheapo computer to send and receive email. By the words Photoshop 7.0, I took it he meant the picture was a fake, that the garden ornament was digitally installed there on the veldt. I must say the job was convincing, all that one would expect from the latest upgrade to the industry leader. It also implied a skilled hand at the tiller, and on my mental checklist the field narrowed. It did not, however, explain exactly where the darned thing was.

All this interest recently in gay marriage puts me in mind of one of our own local institutions; the eponymous owners of Dave and Dave’s Restaurant, a mere stone’s throw from the Trellises. This fine eatery, based on a kind of rural Irish tradition as filtered through California Cuisine, has been a fixture here for over twenty years, and does a brisk trade. A couple of novelties exclusive, I think, to this establishment are - ten per cent discount for anyone called Dave, and if you’re Dave and it’s your Birthday, you eat for free! Needless to say, the place is always full of guys called Dave, with or without dates called Davina (who also qualify), and one of the amusing tricks the local kids get up to – the same kids who tie their sneakers together and throw them over telephone poles – is to put their heads around the front door and shout “Dave!” just to see the reaction. I think it courageous of Dave and Dave to call themselves Dave and Dave; I myself was once in a band with three Daves, and the only way around the confusion was to call them Peggy, Swarb and DM – so I salute our local epicureans for having the courage to tell it like it is, and confusion be damned. When I was a child, it must have been the peak of Davedom, a fine Old Testament name sounding strong, noble yet somehow in its colloquial form, accessible. Perhaps a whole generation of wartime mums was dreaming, during the conjugal act, of that loveable old smoothie David Niven, as later generations were enamoured of Jason King, or Kevin Keegan. Indeed, there was a time in the early Sixties when just about every Social Secretary at a college in Britain was called Dave; and about 30% of these stalwart fellows went on to work for agencies and record companies, compounding and disseminating confusion throughout the music industry. But I spoke of gay marriage; our restaurateurs caused something of a scandal a few years back, on what passes for the village green (central, and slightly green, but hemmed in on three sides by traffic, and it’s not really a village); they performed a rather tongue-in-cheek wedding ceremony, with a full array of guests, and a local actor dressed as an archbishop; Dave was handsome in a grey morning coat and top hat, the works; and Dave was resplendent in an ivory chiffon creation with satin trimming and eight foot train. Hundreds attended, great goodwill was generated, and the police finally came in and broke it up after complaints from local killjoys. But the sadness beneath all the fun was that the Daves would like to be legally joined, and after twenty years of steady love and devotion, how bad would that be? Speaking of Irish Cuisine, which now seems to be a reality – I was once in Belfast, playing with Fairport, and we were trying, in 1970, to get something to eat at midnight - well-nigh impossible in those days. Eventually we came upon a baked potato stall, definitely open, and selling spuds with a choice of fillings, you know, cheese, or chili, or ratatouille – one choice was a baked potato filled with fries…