– So, do you think there will be peace in the Middle East?
– What was that?
– I said, do you think there will be peace in the Middle East?
– What sort of question is that?
– A serious one.
It was a Spring morning, the warmth of the season just getting into swing, where any question you like could be asked, with a smile. Big questions can more easily be asked in early Spring.
– You want an answer from me?
– No.
– So it’s a rhetorical question?
– Definitely not a rhetorical question. I’m interested.
– But you don’t require an answer?
– It’s something I’ve been pondering, that’s all. I was interested to know whether you have a view on it. It’s in the news all the time.
Breakfast was delivered, heavy on the beans for one and heavy on the bread for the other.
– You’re not having any bread with those?
– Empty calories.
– You haven’t given me an answer to my Middle East question, asked as the first mouth gleefully received the first mouthful, fighting with the question for air.
– I wouldn’t be the first. The second slurp taken by the second mouth, cogitating momentarily for all the question was deemed to be worth.
– It’s worth asking.
– That’s your contribution to the morning’s political discourse? You come up with a ridiculous question like that?
– It’s not so ridiculous to the Israelis and the Palestinians.
– I’m sure it isn’t. I suppose you’ve come to a conclusion have you?
– No.
– Is that a no, you haven’t come to any conclusions or a no you don’t think there will be peace in the Middle East?
– No, I don’t think there will be peace in the Middle East.
– Have you told them?
– Who do I tell?
– Got a feeling they already know.
– Then why do they keep having summits and signing treaties and so on and forth?
– You’re asking the wrong guy.
– You’re the one who raised the issue in the first place. You haven’t given that some thought as well?
– I’m not a sociologist.
– They’re playing each other that’s what I think.
– They wouldn’t be the first.
– So, even if you’re right, it’s just your opinion and whilst everyone is entitled to their opinion, you’re not exactly going to listen to you or me tell them they are wasting their time. Neither of us is Tony Blair.
– No one listens to Tony Blair.
– Tony thinks they do and that’s what’s important.
– Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, people like Tony, who retire from public life, bursary in hand, steps up to an even bigger stage, collects his fee, only for even more people to not listen to him.
– While you and I struggle on, fixing things for people, helping them get on with their lives, while Tony swans about wading in his and everyone else’s grand Sisyphean delusion.
– Very postmodern. No result but everyone thinks progress is being made. The Middle East theory has more legs. More coffee?
– Why have you been so scarce lately? You didn’t show up at Spiro’s birthday party. You’ve turned me down twice in the past three weeks. He laughed, as if to alleviate, take the edge off his remark. Smiled.
– Yep, I’ve been keeping to myself.
– You missed out on some good food and some mighty fine wine.
– Does it matter? Do I have to be as pretentious about wine as you obviously are.
– I’m not.
– Right, so someone who brings a wine pourer to a pizza restaurant isn’t a pretentious prat?
– Well, that’s a question someone like you has no reason to ask.
– It’s a rhetorical question. Which means I was making a statement, the intent of which I thought you’d pick up.
  Taking in the outdoors-ness of the cafe, the cooling zephyr, the warming otherness of the morning, saying nothing, listening to others nearby discussing recent purchases, dalliances, sporting formations.
– I have a right to ask any question I like aren’t I, haven’t you read Plato? The dialogues?
– Somehow we’ve moved from the Middle East, to tony Blair to Plato.
– I wouldn’t compare Tony to Plato.
– Tony would.
– Has he read Plato do you think?
– He only reads his own press releases.
– What exactly is the purpose of these breakfasts?
– Take a look around, people everywhere, sitting down eating breakfast in this cafe, other cafes, ask them. Why ask me?
– Because you’re here.
– So we can have conversations like this?
– I think you’re onto something.
– Okay, what else is happening then?
– Contemplation.
– Anything in particular?
– Retirement.
– From what?
– Everything.
– Why should what we call modern civilisation revolve around doing, rather than just being.
– How very postmodern of you.
– Its not post anything, its common sense and an attempt at minimising all the stress that goes with being in this modern civilisation.
– What’s the alternative?
– You should be asking that question of yourself, instead of trying to live up to parental ambitions, peer scrutiny, personal failed ambitions, living down past mistakes, that sort of thing. Appeasing the moral right but then feeling like imitating Faust all the way down to the junction of extreme prejudice and unavoidable humiliation. He paused. – To answer your question, I’m thinking of disappearing for a while.
– And going where?
– Don’t know. Probably not Israel.
– It’s a beautiful country.
– I’m not interested in beauty, I’m interested in disappearing. Have you been?
– No I haven’t.
– Then how do you know it’s beautiful?
– How do we recognise beauty in anything?
Throwing back his head, laughed. – So you’re going to disappear for a while to somewhere disappearable.
– I’m going to make amends.