The Station Café -edited
On the way home from the shopping centre.
Crossing the terrace cleared for winter I enter through wide glass doors. I lower my hood like a gesture of submission. Inside the café’s three glass walls I choose a table with a view of waiting buses, their sunny yellow stripes dulled with mud splash. Distorted images of them reflect off a wet road as grey as the sky shedding rain on waiting passengers.
Today’s waitress, Els signals a question with horizontal palms about six inches apart. I nod. The table gets sprayed with water droplets as I remove my coat. She brings my large beer and its side-kick of peanuts in a small bowl. I pay my euros. Her name isn’t Els as far as I know, but she looks like someone.
The fat Hell’s Angel sits at his usual table wearing garish rings on every tattooed finger, his pudgy wrist sports a silver linked chain looking strong enough to lift a car engine. Outside his mustard painted Suzuki scooter leans against the terrace wall. I wonder if he ever owned a Harley.
New wave music, almost loud makes me sing quiet encouragement to Eileen. The flat-screen silently replays an Anderlecht game over a shelf loaded with bottles of Campari, Elixier D’Anvers and Hasselt Jenever. Three metre long posters hung on the high wall advertise Corsendonk trappist beer and Maes Pils. Remnants of nicotine missed during the no-smoking clean-up stain the embossed stainless steel ceiling. Tobacco addicts congregate in a cramped air-conditioned room next to the bar. Obliged to enter sans-drinks, they chat and play the fruit machines.
The café owner’s obese bulldog sits legs splayed and flat-arsed on the tiled floor hoping for tit-bits from customers he knows. He never turns his rheumy human-like eyes my way. Cesar Milan taught well it seems
Fresh off the Antwerp inter-city express, suitcase bearing travellers bustle in hoping a coffee break will last long enough for them to avoid a soaking on the way to the taxi-rank. Beer finished, I wave to Els. Another beer and peanuts arrive within a minute. I miss my bus for the same reason as my neighbouring drinkers. By the time another eighty-one arrives the clouds have taken pity and we disperse. I tell myself I’m just passing through, but reluctantly admit I’m becoming a regular.
My usual (boring) passive voice gripe but otherwise I like the theme because I can associate with your description. Yep, it doesn’t take long to get comfortable in a bar when the staff know what you like. A good snapshot. I particularly like this passage: I miss my bus for the same reason as my neighbouring drinkers. There was a bar in Dordrecht that I couldn’t pass on my way back to the contractor’s hotel without having a few beers.The flame-haired waitress was a magnet and we often swapped looks. If I’d been braver I’d have asked her for a… Read more »
Thanks Steve. I went over this about six times this morning teasing out anything I thought was passive. Obviously I missed a bit. I have spotted a couple of suspect sentences now. I’ll take another look tomorrow if I have time, but I need to go for a flu jab. There was no chance with ‘Els.’ In truth I preferred the other waitress they had. I think her name was Marina. She had bright blue eyes and dark hair. When I first saw her I thought she was Irish. A lot of Belgians have those blue Irish eyes. No chance… Read more »
I gave up my Harley when the children popped into being! But a good cafe or pub that I can’t resist.
Two puppies have also appeared during lockdown – could do with Cesar Millan’s whispering.
I don’t think this guy ever had one. I never had a Harley, the closest I got was a Honda 125. I’m a four wheel person.
I had no idea that passive voice is a big no no, can’t say I disagree, however, I avoid it as much as I can.
The photo seems very realistic is it you or someone you know?
It has a journal feeling but what I don’t like not here only but in general is the continuous references of products, makes it seem as if that’s what we spend our lives doing, we learn the names of products then we become regulars.
Hi Nicoletta. Yes it’s a bar in Sint-Niklaas Belgium. I don’t know the bloke. I don’t go there anymore I moved away several years ago. Passive voice has a place, but not necessarily in fiction story telling. I haven’t been over this again since Steve’s comment, it’s on my to do list. I always try to use active voice, but sometimes I let things slip. Also sometimes I don’t like a phase in active in an a piece and I might re-phrase to something I like regardless of it being a no-no. Not sure why you don’t like brand names,… Read more »
I explained, we learn the names of products then we become regulars. Mentioning too many brand names is like using too much passive voice. You lose many because culturally we will never be able to re-create the atmosphere without finding product names of our regions and maybe they can work together. I doubt it.
So it’s not only climate topography language but it’s also brand names separating regulars.
I don’t criticize you. It’s just an observation. Very general. But can’t you see how compartmenalized is the whole life experience this way sucking in even free thinking?
I know you weren’t criticising, but I can’t get it into my head how using brand names (old established ones in particular) is an infringement on our freedom of thought.
Not sure what you mean by becoming regulars? Are you saying we shouldn’t abbreviate the word vacuum cleaner in Hoover. Or road surface into Tarmac?
Maybe you mean a habit of repeating commonly used words one hears rather than becoming a regular?
so what a writer is supposed to do? not follow brand names but white rabbits instead to rise above the sentimentality of little familiar pockets of existing that are nothing but a repetitive and relatable loop of one’s choice. if you read Dickens how many times did you find brand names in his books?
if you need them if you cannot show what you mean without mentioning a product name then there is a problem. what are you trying to say? imagine your story being read by someone living in a village in Peru. that’s why in general again I dislike any references of this kind, Greek or foreign writers disappoint me when they start using them passage after passage.
With respect Nicoletta I think you are missing the point
It doesn’t matter to me if Peruvian or Uruguayans don’t know the brands so long as they get a feeling for the atmosphere
If I were to write a story about bar in Asunción I would use the names of local beer that most likely is unknown outside Paraguay. It wouldn’t matter so long as the story worked for someone reading it regardless of their nationality.
However if I ever write about my visit to Greece, just for you, I won’t mention the Ford escort I hired. 🙂
my father used to believe that ford cars are good because of a wide something they have when you turn the steering wheel sorry I don’t know how to call it and that Kia and asian cars in general (my inlaws car was a modern Kia my father’s second car was an old Ford Escort) sucked mainly because they have the exact opposite and a car is not safe when the road is curvy. since most roads in Greece are curvy you got the right car. plus anything that has absolutely nothing to do with greek public transport is the… Read more »
I have to say the car did incredibly well not falling apart on some of the side roads in the countryside we encountered. Fords definitely went up in my estimation that week. 🙂
(I think you mean tracking)
in greek it’s άξονας.
Crossing the terrace cleared for winter I enter through wide glass doors. I lower my hood like a gesture of submission. Inside the café’s three glass walls I choose a table with a view of waiting buses, their sunny yellow stripes dulled with mud splash. Distorted images of them reflect off a wet road as grey as the sky shedding rain on waiting passengers. Today’s waitress, Els, signals a question with horizontal palms about six inches apart. I nod. The table gets sprayed with water droplets as I remove my coat. She brings my order and its side-kick of peanuts… Read more »
I know you mean well, Nic. and I am very happy you like my work. I see what you mean without brand names, I’m not sure if I would do it that way, however if I did I would probably say advertising local beers and a shelf loaded with spirit and liquor bottles If I didn’t want to use Cesar, I would prefer to say the dog trainer taught well Sorry but I really can’t see an alternative to Harley. Perhaps a bigger machine, but as I labelled the guy a Hells Angel surely it must be Harley. And many… Read more »
thanks Guaj, I wanted to show you that there is absolutely nothing brand names add to a story and you can eliminate them without affecting it – good writing especially, they in fact weaken a well-written piece the writer is focused on his/her sentimentalism/memories which in the end more than often spoil the plot or distort the characters.
I am not going to add to the already lengthy commentary on passive voice or the suitability of using brand names, only to say that I enjoyed reading this very atmospheric piece and to suggest you replace the clunky “passive voice removed I hope” with a simple “edited”.
Good idea Luigi thanks