Those Faded Brown Places
By Simon Barget
Bye bye Kyushu hello Honshu,
I spent last week in that faded brown place,
and as soon as I saw the eponymous sign;
terracotta pink lilac
letters offset a touch too much…
Joy – Open heartspace:
H O T E L F U K I A G E S O U
below which the Kanji
stood out in some old style flourish
evoking the shogunate or Chinese silk merchants
having infiltrated from Manchuria.
The building: brown grey beige cream who knows
and the letters a murky green,
meaning that the two colours were undifferentiated
so you couldn’t make out a difference.
(Each new building is a bombardment of the senses.)
Time capsule, cocoon:
an urge to bury and be submerged:
wood-panelling, lacquered, fading orange,
rosewood, and the lobby’s seating enclosure
with its aquamarine velvet-backed Louis XIV chairs
set up two by two around low glass rectangular tables.
Front desk reached: hail (ambush) safe arrival of washed-up traveller
with greeting borne of the
which lapsed into the histrionic:
apoplexy of gestures, leporine twitches
punctilious headnods and facial distortions,
eyes agog and body brought to muscular tautness
and everything balletic and standing to attention
and the huh-huh-huh’s and hmm-hmm’s,
and the prim in-beckoning to the triplicate check-in book
which reminded of the old stockbroker execution sheets.
(The key fob was an outsized emerald Perspex lozenge.)
One colleague ran to the lift to pre-secure my entry,
where buttons squished instead of
exuding feather-sensitivity, entailing
all the grit and finger shmutz winkled in
down the sides of the button
and in between the crack of the button
and the hole in which the button was recessed.
But I had forgotten to ask how much for the top floor Onsen
so I had to press doors open….
some consternation at my return.
He wrote down ¥150 while I waited for another zero
or a giggle
150¥ = £1.
The bedroom had a metal door constructed of
two aluminium panels like beaten metal sheets
with nothing in between,
flimsy, and a push-button knob to lock.
The frowsy carpet,
browns again and oranges
laminate, a smell of something to outdo all the
stacked up smells of new or old impacted smoke
and push-handle hoovers overheating
summer sun against the dust
cracked wooden surfaces
overwashed threadbare undersheets
carpet fibres safeguarding dust
and compaction of all this over 41 years
which smell is not the smells themselves but a suppression thereof
using an astringent like carbolic acid.
As a homage to the expected 14’’ television,
the LCD replacement was blocky and inert.
And a lamp with an orange Perspex base, unplugged,
with its clunky plastic cord
tied round itself, stood just above the
built-in radio panel with the brushed metal circular knobs,
and a quilt,
a St. Ives guest house floral quilt.
My final word is about breakfast.
The effusive raisin-skinned pinafored septuagenarian ushered me in
but when I saw it, such a paltry assembly of small bowls of things
hardly even discernible for their lack of abundance: two chunks of pineapple
and a grapefruit wedge, three sashimi, and on the other table,
carton-fed juices with those tiny glasses, and bare corn flakes and jug of milk
and shrunken stunted croissants, this was not the splendour of the buffet I was used to!
but then, she came out with something, and I couldn’t understand why or
what it was she was giving to me, then
I saw that it was a tray with the real breakfast on it
(that’s why I still had no chopsticks)
and here was the rice pickles miso
sweetened omelette, slice of smoked fish;
I sat up a little straighter in my old-fashioned chair
and tucked in.