I saw those words 'minor magic' in passing in the Guardian newsletter that drops into my inbox once a week. It was from a review of a London restaurant, but the phrase 'minor magic' struck me as a bit of minor magic in itself really. And then I looked at my current desktop picture - above - which is a photo I took back in 2006 of French men (it's always men) playing pétanque or boules in a beautiful shaded part of Nîmes but the canal that runs through part of the town. And as I look at it now it is even more magical to me. Almost other worldly. I can almost hear the fountain splashing, and the traffic passing, sometimes tooting their horns - they do that a lot in France - and the men hunkered down over their game which is doubtless being earnestly discussed in intricate detail, by players and observers alike. They are totally absorbed - and look - they have even brought their own chairs to sit on.
I must have thought that it was somehow important, at the time, or I would not have taken the photograph, and with the passing of time, aging and COVID it becomes even more nostalgic. Will I ever see the like again? So very French - the absorption of the men in what is frankly a pretty boring game to me. I mean you just throw the big ball and try to hit the little ball. And I still don't know if pétanque and boules are the same game or just different names. But French men - of all ages - but mostly older - well they have the time - spend hours playing it. You see the occasional woman - but not really, and mostly in purely social settings. Goes like those above are serious stuff.
I love old photographs and that frozen moment. Who is the guy on the extreme right? Is he a participant or an observer? It is possible that it was a friend of ours with whom we were visiting France, but it doesn't quite look like him. For a moment I thought it might have been my younger son, but it couldn't have been as he was not with us on that holiday. And of course it brings back memories of that particular day in one of my favourite French cities, and of that holiday.
Simultaneously from the same Guardian newsletter there was a link to an article about how Melbourne is coping without coffee during COVID that included the following:
"When I worked in an office “Wanna get a coffee?” was code for a million amazing things: wanna hear a juicy story? Wanna complain about hangovers? Wanna slack off? As a freelancer “popping out for a coffee” involved the greatest kinds of procrastination – a treat, low-impact exercise, pleasant small talk. Remove all the context, conversation and company and a cup of coffee is just hot caffeine water" Wendy Syfret
Interestingly Melbourne was described as the coffee capital of the world but the minor magic of the barista cup of coffee has gone. Well the hundreds of small hole in the wall coffee shops anyway. Will Melbourne ever recover? Although, as I said the other day, you can still get take-away and people still do. One of the mini articles said that there were queues at their local for the daily fix. It seems Melburnians have rallied around their local baristas to keep them going. Well let's hope so anyway. And did you know there is even a Melbourne coffee called 'a magic'?:
"A magic is a double ristretto (a ristretto is made with less water than an espresso, so it’s smaller by volume and less bitter) with a splash of the same silky milk that goes in a flat white." Osman Faruqi
I have looked it up but can't really find a picture - but what I did find seemed to be saying that the milk is actually three quarters of the entire drink.
Magic, even minor magic might seem to hard to find in our current circumstances but minor magic has a habit of suddenly appearing out of nowhere. It's a dull, dull day but there's a miner chirping away out there in its cheeky indominitable way, the blossom on the weedy hawthorn outside my window is blooming brightly and I can share in that magic moment in Nîmes any time I choose to just look at my screen desktop.
And, of course, food is such a constant provider of minor magic moments - the taste of a pear caught at just the right moment, the first sip of an extraordinary wine, the first taste of something you have cooked that has turned out better than you thought it would, the appreciation of your partner for cooking him his favourite dish. And suddenly the sun bursts through the clouds and for the moment the world is lit up. Minor - no - major magic.