Valuable Systems

The blog of Cantlin Ashrowan

Cucumbers and Just Smoked Cigarettes

254 words from 08 April 2012

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The aromas of cucumbers and just smoked cigarettes followed them in. I looked three times at the man. His features were small, intricate and symmetrical, like an ex-presenter of children’s television, stubbly, well touched by age. The cucumbers must have come from her perfume, spread wide as she rustled and arched this way and that in lively discourse with the maitre d’. Seated, she spoke quietly in a soft American accent, and I imagined they must have come from L.A., where every man and woman is beautiful and brittle and disloyal, or at any rate California somewhere. I rolled the taste of stale tobacco around my mouth, ordered another coffee.

Much later I was made frozen in the kitchen, cutting a bagel in two, mid-slice, by a wave of ennui. Distressed, I let fall the sesame ring, and knife, and for a long moment looked at my hands. A pigeon landed on a roof top outside the window, a blackbird dove hurtling through the garden, a tiny blue tit flittered about a leafy hedge. There seemed no possible course of action, no viable strategy, no approach to movement forward.

At length, I grew hungry, and resumed preparation of the bagel. I set about it with the cream cheese in a lather, theatrically letting fall pepper grinds and slices of spring onion from an impractical height, so that they rolled and bounced unchecked. In this, I thought then, wiping away Boursin from the cusps of my furiously masticating maw, there was a very great truth.

Valuable Systems is the blog of me, Cantlin Ashrowan, a product leader based in London. You can email me at, or follow me on Twitter here.