The perfect bench

It took some time to find the perfect bench.

I’m not hereby insinuating that the bench in question is pretty. Its design is not profound. You would not remark upon it for its comfort. It represents no special sense of history. There is no poetry inscribed upon it.

The metal armrests are dull-pink. The sort of pink you don’t immediately notice as being pink because it shares more with a mucky brown or murky grey than the plastic along the ‘girly’ side of a toy shop. These armrests are lumpy, peeling, and irrelevant to my point. My ideal bench does not require pretty armrests. It’s not chosen for a film shoot.

Comfort I admit is more of a deal for me. If I am going to sit on a bench I want to be comfortable. I have a tendency to stay sitting for a while when I find a spot I like. The numb bum is the curse of being an avid reader (or in today’s case writer). Some comfort is a necessity. Nobody walks into a park expecting the comfort of a plush sofa of course. Should you be looking for a bench I suspect your choice is dictated by the absence of things – broken glass, bird poo, a half-eaten sandwich. And yet, I have risen from benches that are not comfortable enough.

My bench, the perfect one, is passable in this regard. The angle of the back, and the gap to the seat, force me to either slide my bum forward and read, chin to chest, with a strain in my neck, or, as an alternative, to shift my entire body further back so that the excess squidge of my bum hangs off the back of the seat.

Not exactly the perfect situation, but all the benches here are identical in this respect. I suspect the same person went around them all stencilling on the city’s name in white with the flourish of a single yellow stripe in the centre.

You might suppose then that since the benches are all constructed the same that it is the view that has captured my imagination. I can count eleven bins from my seat. Plus a Project Abraham clothes bank. It’s in better condition than its waste companions but could not be classified as picturesque. Two bins hang off lamp-posts. The nine others are those huge, foot-pedal ones that you find clustered together in suburban, apartment-block Spain – getting in the way of every photograph you ever wanted to take.

On all sides I am looked down on by three and four storey apartment blocks. The trees fail to block out their beige bricks or hide the plastic grey of the air conditioning units. To the far right is a wasteland where stray cats wind through rubble and people take their dogs when they don’t want them to dirty the streets (necessitating the use of dog poo bags). The wasteland is convenient in this respect. Beyond the wasteland, in the faded distance are the mountains. There are better views of the mountains elsewhere, but their presence is a pleasant reminder that the wild is not so far from the city streets.

So I lied. My bench is not perfect.

This bench though has something that others in the area, all with similar views, don’t have.

In the short days of winter, when the warm sun hangs so low in the sky, this bench alone defies the long shadows and basks in the sun’s rays all afternoon.