She'd never thought of salt as art. She'd never thought about salt at all, to be fair, other than dropping some in with the pasta, or shaking it over chips. But there was something in the making of it – the crystals sharp against her fingertips, the sparkle on her tongue. She'd never thought of salt as a way of getting somewhere – from her three bed semi by the community centre to here: glass and lights, flowers and music, right in the middle of town, and all of them – the salt-makers – with a place at the table.
The walls are lined with drawings of the queen – happy, sad, stern, preoccupied, cross. Everyone who sits at the lunch-tables remembers last weekend’s procession – 700 people in the pouring rain, the horse-drawn carriage, all those flags, and the hall decked out in red and blue and white. Down a short corridor, the office space is tiny, cramped with desks and chairs, sink and cupboards, shelves and boxes. And these women, with their quick smiles and steady commitment; their passion for this place and everything it could be; their willingness to look closer and be surprised.
We don't want shock and awe – we want something we know, but haven't yet seen. We don't want high-falutin – we'd rather something closer to the same ground we stand on each day. Don't tell us what you think we need to hear – give us something that will reach out and touch our electric hearts.
There was no space – not round their way, no artist studios to speak of. And she liked to work big – the kind of thing you had to stand back from to really see. She negotiated the box room at the top of the stairs – where their youngest used to sleep – but if she stretched out both arms she could touch the opposite walls. She taught herself to work small, because at least that was working. She found ways of joining all those small things together. Wire. Glue. Tape. Thread. She called it jigsawing, put a brave face on it.
I want to meet face to face. I know the difference it makes to arrive with a smile and a handshake – yes to tea, milk and two sugars, thank you; a face and a body instead of a voice squashed thin by the phone. Except I have no car, and time is an issue – the buses like fickle angels refusing to appear. So much landscape between here and there. Is it worth it?
When she was ten, her teacher brought a record player into class. Listen to this, he said, this is real music – this is the BBC Philharmonic. She couldn't tell you what the music was called, but she remembers feeling as though her heart had flooded. Other people might have bought their own records, gone to concerts; she knows that, but somehow she could never work out what to buy or where to go.