Jim crosses the street to the Little Larder every day to drink a short macchiato and read the paper. Sometimes his walk is barely a shuffle and one day I watched him cross back, stopping every couple of feet to clutch his head shot with neuralgia. Jim is the father of friends of mine and washed back into Brisbane five years ago knowing he needed care.
Jim tracked the changes to the Little Larder from his fourth floor window across the road. He told me that when the old shop there closed all sorts of stories went round. Mainly that it was going to be a cafe. Who would use a cafe in this area, he wondered? Gradually the builders came in and they started to turn it into what he thought looked like an interesting place. The show windows, the polished concrete. And then the refrigerated cabinet came in. Then the timber boxes appeared. Dozens of them. Eventually he saw they were seats and then, blow me down, they put them up on the wall and the boxes became the display cabinets for the delicatessen goods.
Jim strikes me as urbane. He is the one drinking the short macchiato while I am on a weak latte. “I don’t make coffee at home,” he said. “I have a morning coffee. Sometimes I have two. It depends on how well the coffee is made. They are pretty good at making it here but sometimes you get a sour or gritty one. I insist my cup is heated with hot water.”
Jim’s world closed in a couple of years ago. He was pretty independent – shopping and cooking and going down to the Chinese Club in the Valley for Saturday lunch. Then he had a couple of stays in hospital and the Council cancelled the little local bus which took him down to the shops and to the Valley. The demise of the dirty old shop across the road and the opening of the Little Larder was a godsend.
His daughter Liddy often left money there and Kylie and Nick run a tab for him. They look out for Jim and were worried when he suddenly disappeared a couple of months ago. Liddy told them he was in hospital where he was having more tests than usual. He has a lot wrong with him and though he is old he is still sharp. All I notice is a determination to get all of the facts of a story he is telling right and in shipshape order. He will not let them slip off into a little hole in his brain and pulls them back before they find that void.
Jim has stopped policing the papers for Nick and Kylie. They have a stack for sale each morning and Jim would make sure that the yuppies who took them to read with their breakfast paid for them. Then Kylie told him not to worry about it, because they didn’t pay for the ones not sold anyway.
Wesley James Clark, father of Stephen, Liddy and Kaye. 1923 – 2014.