German Invasion

I hadn’t heard from Lil or Armando this week and I’d hoped that was a good sign. Work had been extremely busy again and I wouldn’t have been able to accommodate too many distractions.

It was 8.30am and the water-heating noises from my new Teasmade stirred me from my slumber and I waited for the whoosh as the boiled liquid transferred into the teapot and activated the dry tea leaves to fulfil their function and start brewing. Sunlight was penetrating my curtains and I was pleased to see that the weather forecast was for once spot on; blue skies and a bright yellow glow were all present and correct.

It wasn’t long before I was opening the familiar door to the café. Lil was already comfortably seated and pouring from a plain brown teapot. Armando was dealing with some customers who were settling their bill. There were a few other patrons; a couple of work and mothers’ meetings, and a couple of solos. There was a scruffy, floppy-haired man tapping into his laptop and an older efficiently dressed lady reading a magazine.

After our usual greetings we settled into catching up. I wasn’t sure if Armando was joining us as he was still preoccupied with his other customers. He needed to employ diligent effort to ensure they would return again. Crouch End is full of cafes and the competition is fierce.

‘I hope you’ve had a less traumatic week Lil,’ I enquired.

‘Oh yes, thank goodness. I can’t remember the last time my week was punctuated with Countdown and the community centre. You wouldn’t believe it but Mavis said she was impressed with my tenacity in dealing with that criminal. She even cited me as a good example when making one of her speeches at Age Club.’

‘I’m pleased Lil, and irrespective of her other actions, that was a nice and generous act.

Was Bill there?’

‘Yeah he was. He wanted to arrange to meet for tea. He still didn’t mention the previous week and missing our date which was strange,’ said Lil.

‘Perhaps he’s trying to put all that behind him too. After all he didn’t do anything wrong now did he,’ I said.

Armando appeared and was shadowed by a waitress to take our order. Kedgeree wasn’t on the menu fortunately which assisted me in being able to make an easy choice. I ordered porridge with blueberries and Lil her usual full English.

‘We are a short of staff today, so I have to be in a kitchen,’ said Armando apologetically and disappeared to assist in preparing our breakfasts. It was a shame that he couldn’t stay with us, especially as everything was returning to normal and he could have enjoyed an old style, Breakfast Club gathering.

‘I don’t know Boulevardier. I let my guard down and it resulted in so much harm. I know Bill wasn’t responsible but I’m not sure that’s what I want anymore. Life is more sedate, routine and safe on my own,’ said Lil.

Her response was genuine with plenty of forethought. Lil had a tendency to react defensively but this seemed sincere. She had seemed happy when courting Bill but perhaps it was to be a brief affair. I’d never been to a seniors’ wedding and would have welcomed the experience, particularly with Lil as the bride. It looked as if I would have to wait and place this potential new experience to the rear of my dream box.

‘See how everything goes. You don’t need to make a decision one way or another.’ I re-sang my last phrase having inadvertently quoted lyrics.

‘Thank god you’re a writer. You wouldn’t have a future as a bloody singer, and what’s with all that warbling?’ said Lil followed by one of her glass-breaking cackles.

The solo lady diner looked up from her magazine and glared at us over her spectacles. I’m glad Lil didn’t spot it as it was nice to be having a drama-free Breakfast Club.

‘I’m a good singer thank you Lil. My voice wasn’t –  errr ahem – warmed up.’

Lil continued to laugh.

‘You silly sod – got any new holidays booked? It must be about two weeks since you were last away,’ said Lil. She had certainly rediscovered the energy to ridicule me. It felt nice.

‘A wedding in Ireland, a long weekend in Portugal with a group of friends and I’m planning a trip with another friend Samina to Germany,’ I answered.

‘Ooooo is there trouble in Paradise then, I didn’t hear Michael’s name’ said Lil, still screeching with increasing volume.

‘Ha, not at all. We’re going to the wedding and a few days travelling together. Portugal is to a friend’s villa.

And Samina, who is half-German, and I have been talking about a trip to Deutschland together for some time. We want to ride the train from London to Koln for a couple of nights and then onto Berlin for a couple more. We want to read and write all the way,’ I said.

‘That sounds vunderfull,’ said a new voice.

Lil stopped chortling and looked round. I looked round.

The older lady with the magazine was smiling at me.

‘Thank you,’ I said, ‘we’ve often spoken of travelling to Germany together. I haven’t been since 1986 when I was on a school exchange trip to Bonn,’

Lil pursed her lips.

‘I haven’t been back since 1960, since I moved here in fact,’ said the lady.

‘You’re German are you?’ said Lil in a manner which was a cross between polite, aloof and accusation.

‘Yes, I moved here to marry in 1960 and haven’t been back. Germany was not the best place to be then. I moved into Crouch End two weeks ago,’ said the lady.

I spoke before Lil had the chance.

‘Welcome, I’m Wayne and this is Lil.’

‘Hallo, my name is Gisela, Gisela Green,’ she answered.

Lil smiled fleetingly and then said ‘what’s she eating?’

‘Kuchen, and it’s delicious even if decadent for Frühstück,’ said Gisela.

‘What’d she say?’ said Lil looking at me.

‘Cake for breakfast – sorry I slip often into GEnglish,’ said Gisela.

‘A mix of English and German,’ I said before Lil had the chance to query again.

‘There is a great support club for the eld-, ahem, your generation here,’ I said, ‘perhaps Lil could introduce you?’

‘I’m sure Mrs Green doesn’t want my interfering and is quite capable of attending her own clubs,’ said Lil.

I was laughing hard inside. I had Lil on the ropes and was making her welcome a new member of our community. It’s not that Lil’s not friendly. She’s just guarded.

‘Nonsense, what do you say Mrs Green?’ I asked.

‘That sounds wunderbar, if it’s not too much trouble,’ said Mrs Green, ‘and please call me Gisela.’

‘Let’s get your number then,’ I said.

Lill’s non-verbal commentary was racing through my head as she smiled through gritted teeth. This was a great start to Thursday and I’d helped Lil make a new friend to boot.

 

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Time to Identify

I couldn’t wait to see Lil today. I needed to get an update. She’d called on Monday evening to let me know that she had heard from the police.

‘What do you mean Lil, they think they’ve found him?’

‘The bugger who conned his way into my home. He was caught on CCTV going into another block and someone called the police,’ Lil answered. She sounded more like her old self.

‘What happens next?’ I asked.

‘Well he hasn’t admitted to all his crimes, but if I’m able to pick him out at an identity parade then he’ll get prosecuted for mine too.’

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‘And how do you feel about that?’ I asked.

‘Sick. I don’t want to see his horrid violence-filled face again, but what choice do I have? I want him to pay for what he did to me as well as to others. From what the police said I think there are a number of identity parades. There are cases in Muswell Hill too,’ said Lil.

The line went silent for a few seconds.

‘Are you sure you’re OK Lil?’

‘A bit shaken and I feel sick but… I need to ask you a favour. Is there any chance you can come with me tomorrow?’

What was I going to say? I had to drive to Cardiff first thing Tuesday morning for work meetings and wouldn’t be back until late Wednesday evening. I didn’t want to let Lil down.

‘I wish I could Lil but I have to go to Cardiff tomorrow and won’t be back until Wednesday evening. Shall I see if Armando can go with you?’

There was more silence on the line which hung heavy with disappointment – on both sides.

‘I understand. And I am quite capable of asking him myself,’ said Lil.

‘Please don’t go on your own – even if you have to ask Mavis – just please don’t go on your own,’ I said. I had to remember that Lil was responsible for herself but I did feel guilty at not being able to support her. She wasn’t someone who found it easy to ask for help at the best of times.

‘Wayne, I have a number of options and I can assure you I won’t need any help from her.’

I told her I would be thinking of her, wished her luck, and confirmed that we would catch up on Thursday. I did call Armando from the car Tuesday morning to see if he’d spoken to Lil, which he had and was able to go with her. This eased my conscious a little.

I was tired.

It had been a long couple of days in Cardiff but I put on a jolly and encouraging attitude as I set off for the café and to my hopefully reviving Breakfast Club.

Lil and Armando were already at the table. I kissed them both on the cheek and sat down.

‘She was a brilliant,’ said Armando with pride bursting from his voice. He reached across and took Lil’s hand.

Lil looked tired.

The cups were dry and empty so I knew they’d not been there long. I poured the freshly brewed tea into the three waiting cups.

‘Are you OK Lil?’ I asked.

‘I am glad it’s over Wayne. It was him – the bastard… seeing his face there glaring at me through the wall was horrific… it took me straight back to the moments when I saw him in my bedroom… it’s weird, you see identity parades on the TV and I often wondered if they actually worked – they bloody do.’

Lil paused and picked up her cup. She did look frail or was that just my guilt at not being able to support her this week?

‘Apparently not all the old people turned up for the parades but enough to guarantee a longer sentence. Thieves should still have their bloody hands chopped off. That might make them stop and think before they cause so much pain.’

‘Well done for going Lil. It can’t have been easy.’ I wasn’t sure I agreed with such severe punishments but now was not the time to debate.

‘Armando was a rock. We came back to the café afterwards for tea with rhubarb crumble and custard – delicious.’

A few sips of tea was all it took, and Lil was starting to show signs of recovery.

‘It was my pleasure, and today I have freshly cooked kedgeree for all for breakfast. Time to move forward,’ said Armando.

Fantastic – I hadn’t had kedgeree for some time. I tried not to outwardly lick my lips. This wasn’t the time for obvious displays of greed.

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‘Indeed Armando it is time to move forward. Any new dates arranged? You were trying your hardest in the police station yesterday, and don’t think I didn’t notice you gawping at every officer and detective who walked passed us. It kept my mind off the matter at hand,’ said Lil.

‘Not yet but I did start talking to a new guy online yesterday,’ said Armando.

‘Excellent. No time to waste,’ said Lil.

Reading between the lines I suspected that Armando had filled Lil in on his love life or lack thereof. I nodded my agreement to Armando.

The kedgeree arrived. The smell of smoked fish filled my lungs. The mixed white and yellow dish before me made my mouth water. This wasn’t going to be a diet day. I’d start tomorrow morning. I picked up my fork and shovelled a portion onto it. The taste was exquisite.

‘Thanks Armando, this is delightful,’ I said.

‘So Lil, dare I ask whether you’ve seen Bill?’ I added.

‘No. I was supposed to meet him for a friendly tea yesterday but I wasn’t up to going out. When I called him to cancel he acted as if we weren’t due to meet in the first place. I’d been through enough and didn’t have time for his nonsense.’

Armando and I nodded our agreement, our mouths too full of kedgeree to issue forth a wordy response.

I might have to go for a double length run this afternoon, I thought, as I was likely to accept any offer for second helpings.

 

Ode to a Grecian Beach

It had been two weeks since Breakfast Club as I’d been in Santorini with Michael.

Santorini, Santorini, Santorini – I wished I was right back there but after a few days at work it was fast becoming a distant memory.

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I was looking forward to seeing Lil and Armando today and I hoped there had been no drama while I’d been away and that Lil was continuing to regain her confidence after the horror of her home invasion.

The weather had been mixed in Santorini, with the last days better than the first few, and I had a little colour. I wanted to show this off but not at the expense of being cold. At least my face, which was also the brownest part, would be visible – it not being balaclava season.

It was great to see a bloom of purple-rinsed curls before me as I opened the café door.

‘Now there’s a sight for sore eyes,’ I said as I greeted Lil with a kiss on her cheek.

‘I thought you’d been on holiday Boulevardier? Where’s the tan?’ Lil asked and let out an ear bursting cackle.

Armando joined the party with a lovely big pot of tea, and it felt as if everything was returning to normal. I had been very British and packed some teabags into my luggage – Assam of course. Let’s keep that to ourselves as I wouldn’t want to risk losing my Boulevardier title. After all, nowhere in the world understands our affiliation with a good cup of tea.

There was no sign of Bill but I wasn’t going to ask any questions, yet.

‘Good trip?’ asked Armando.

‘It was lovely thank you. Santorini is a special place. I’d go back tomorrow,’

‘Yeah and I might come with you,’ said Lil.

‘I’m not sure you’d get that up and down the myriad of steps,’ I said pointing at Lil’s sidekick – her polka-dotted shopping trolley.

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‘Why’ve they got so many steps then?’ asked Lil.

‘A lot of the town and villages are built right into the cliff face. Our hotel, which was beautiful by the way, had about 60 steep steps between our room and the pool,’ I said.

‘That is no good for oldies and people with disabilities,’ said Lil firmly.

‘Neither is Everest but it doesn’t stop people climbing it,’ said Armando.

We looked at Armando and laughed. And before we could continue our banter breakfasts arrived; plates steaming with promise.

‘Goodie,’ said Lil, ‘I’m so hungry this morning.’ She tore open the top of her egg with the fork prongs and adeptly folded back the film to stop the exposed runny yolk from spilling over her plate.

‘What was good with the hotel?’ asked Armando.

‘Oh Armando it was glorious. Each room seemed to have its own level. We were at the top and had a terrace looking out to the sea and across to the most northern peninsula of Santorini. The way the various living quarters wound down the cliff made it feel like quite the labyrinth.

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At the heart, or in other words about halfway down, was the reception area with a comfortable dining section. Further down was the pool and pool bar with sun loungers. It made me think of the multi-levelled apartments on Barbary Lane – ’

‘What’s Barbary Lane?’ asked Lil as she dabbed the sides of her mouth with her napkin.

‘It’s the complex around which life revolves in Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin,’ I answered. Armando nodded as if in acknowledgment of a new fact. Surely he had heard of Barbary Lane.

‘Who is Armi- whoever you said?’ asked Lil.

‘He’s a writer. Look don’t worry now, just imagine lots of separate rooms on different levels oozing mystery, but with terracotta steps rather than white wooden ones,’ I said.

Lil picked up her cutlery again and moved a piece of bacon next to a sliced mushroom which was my signal to continue.

‘We met such an assortment of guests too, it was great. Dave and Cindy were on the level below ours and on a month long vacation from Western Canada. They’d flown in to Frankfurt two weeks previous and didn’t seem to have any fixed plan other than their return date. We never saw them without a glass of wine in their hands; Dave red and Cindy white.

After they left another set of Canadians arrived who were a young couple on their second honeymoon as the first, six months previous, was cut short. They had a six week trip planned to minute detail. They proudly told us ‘’we’ve booked in two hours by the pool this afternoon’’. That is not what I call a holiday, however, I smiled rather than question it.

Peter and Jane arrived midway through our stay. They were a middle aged couple; he was retired and she was a Headteacher. Peter was one of the “been there, seen it, done it” types. We were informed that they usually holidayed in the same destinations as Robert De Niro and Adele apparently. He also said that they live next door to Ann Robinson. Jane looked embarrassed as Peter name-dropped.

I thought Michael might keel over when Peter asked him to guess how much the insurance cost for his sports car.

And I haven’t even got to all the lovely locals.’

‘Ha, sounds like a bunch of bores and nuts to me,’ said Lil as she allowed another of her hoots to tickle our ears.

‘Lil you would have loved it. On the first night when we went to dinner in the most gorgeous local restaurant Michael ordered Kalimera rather than calamari!’ I said.

Armando sniggered and Lil cast him a look. ‘What are you talking about now Boulevardier? Sometimes I do wonder if you speak English at all,’ said Lil.

‘Calamari is fried squid in batter and Kalimera means ‘Good Morning’,’ I said. ‘So Michael ordered good mornings.’

‘I think you’d better get another pot Armando, as I think his tan will fade faster than these little Greek anecdotes… At least we won’t have to look at the holiday photos,’ Lil cackled and I noticed that the waitress and a couple of unknown patrons also smirked.

I don’t think I was going on too much or into too much detail but I guess you had to be there to enjoy my stories and see the romance of Santorini in my every word.

At least Lil seemed back to her old self. I wanted to know if she’d seen Bill or had been going out much but decided status quo was healthier for today.

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Relight the Fire

I’d bumped into Bill outside the dentist near my home during the week. It was presented as a coincidence, on his part, but I wasn’t convinced.

‘I’ve still not heard from her. She won’t return my calls. Do you think it’s all over?’ Bill rattled off his questions in quick succession without giving me chance to answer. This reminded me of my mum. She was also adept at that skill.

‘This has hit her hard Bill and I don’t know what’s in the future for you but we have to get her up, out and fighting again. I’d rather see her screaming at Mavis than this.’

‘Mavis has been trying to coordinate different members of our group to call on Lil to try and get a response. She suspects it’s time Lil went into a home. Mavis thinks she’s past it.’

‘Does she indeed,’ I said.

This was typical Mavis-esque behaviour. However this behaviour gave birth to the semblance of an idea. The strategy was highrisk but if anything was going to spark Lil’s fire it would involve Mavis. Lil had to be jumpstarted. Love, support and concern hadn’t worked. I think Lil’s fending for herself too often in life left her unable to rely on and accept the support of others. She blamed this event on her guard being down, and partly due to letting others into her life.

‘Perhaps we should meet up on Thursday Bill? Do you think Mavis would be up to brainstorming ideas?’

‘Yes of course she would,’ answered Bill sounding a bit more enthusiastic.

‘Good then why not come to Breakfast Club on Thursday. How does 10.30 sound?’

‘I thought you met at 10?’

‘Errrr, we do but it’ll give Armando and me a chance to catch up first.’ I spoke firmly and decisively and hoped for no more challenges.

‘OK – great in fact. I hope we can get my princess back to her good ole self. I’ve been so worried; I’ve not been eating… But you know what I’m going to get cake now and a proper dinner to build up my strength,’ said Bill.

I smiled and glanced down and noticed the buttons on Bill’s waistcoat as ready to explode as ever. I’m not sure his concern had dulled his appetite as much as alleged.

I went to the cafe and grabbed a quick word with Armando. The cafe was busy and we couldn’t catch up properly. I managed to ascertain that he didn’t want more trouble in his establishment. He was also looking forward to a date Thursday evening and wanted karma in all quarters.

I called Lil and as usual had to leave several messages, the last of which mentioned an impromptu visit.

‘Wayne I’ll get back to you when I’m up to it. You’re too pushy,’ said Lil as soon as I answered her return call.

‘OK, I wasn’t sure if you were worse –’

‘What did you want so urgently anyway. Sorry if I sound cross. I’m finding life very difficult at the moment,’ interrupted Lil.

‘I hope you’ll be attending Breakfast Club this week.’

‘I’ll have to see.’ The strength was gone from her voice.

‘I’m off to Santorini on Saturday and was hoping to see you before I leave, and even more importantly Armando has a date Thursday evening and I’m sure you’d want to wish him well.’ I nearly added ‘your honour’ as I felt I was pleading a case in court.

‘I’m sure Armando is capable of getting ready for a date without my interference,’ she said.

‘Come on Lil, give me a break,’ I said. I was running out of persuasive arguments and I wanted to see her in public again, at least once before I went away.

‘How will I get there?’ Lil’s voice was incredibly meek. Her will wanted her to attend but fear was disabling her.

‘I’ll come and get you en route, say about 9.45?’ I said hopefully.

‘All right. Don’t be early or late as I’m not answering the door at any time other than 9.45,’ Lil affirmed.

‘Then perhaps we should sync watches.’ I started to snigger as I finished my sentence.

‘Don’t be facetious Wayne.’ And with that the conversation was over.

Thursday morning soon arrived and Lil let me into her flat without incident. It was precisely 9.45 BST.

Lil was wearing a nice light dress with a floral pattern. I hadn’t seen this before but then again I’d only known her since the winter. Her hair was white and there was no sign of a recent funky-coloured rinse.

‘Is the trolley coming?’ I asked.

‘Why would I need that? I’m coming straight home,’ Lil responded.

We shuffled along and admired the beautiful blooms in the Crouch End gardens. It seemed that the front garden fleur du jour was Forsythia. We were surrounded by delicate yellow flowers.

The cafe was quiet and sedate and we shuffled to our usual table. There was a small vase bursting with daffodils.

‘For you Lil,’ said Armando as he greeted Lil with a tender kiss on the cheek.

We sat automatically and Armando stirred the pot.

‘I might just go straight home again boys,’ said Lil.

Armando put his hand across the table on top of Lil’s and looked right into her eyes and implored her to stay. Lil yielded and seemed to settle.

Everything was gentle and I wondered whether this was all Lil needed and not the shock therapy I had planned.

We chatted generally covering the weather, the spring flowers, and adjusting to our spring wardrobes. Lil ordered a Full English on the proviso that Armando wouldn’t be offended if she couldn’t clean her plate.

Full English Breakfast (4)

Time was ticking by and I knew that immanently the door would open and Mavis and Bill would enter. What had I done? I wondered whether I should just up and leave. I reasoned that I shouldn’t leave Armando in the lurch.

Lil was eating slowly and had only lightly scraped butter onto her toast rather than the usual decadent lashings.

‘Have you been to your age group?’ I asked Lil.

‘No,’ she answered and looked forward. Her eyes widened and I knew from the sound of the door that my ill-formed plan was about to kick in.

‘Princess,’ Bill exclaimed with ecstasy as he surged forward forgetting to hold the door for Mavis.

‘Hello Bill,’ said Lil ‘moved on have we?’ She was looking behind Bill. Her voice was still quieter than it should have been and wore a defeated tone.

‘Morning Lillian,’ said Mavis before Bill had an opportunity to respond to Lil’s question, ‘how are you feeling dear?’

‘Not great Mavis to be honest. Thanks for the card,’ responded Lil.

Armando jumped up to allow Bill and Mavis to sit. The table seated four and another chair could have been added but he was making his escape in advance of any untoward behaviour. ‘Coward’ I uttered under my breath.

‘I’ll bring a fresh pot of tea,’ Armando said to give a smooth fluidity and reason for his sudden movement. He may have also heard my comment.

Lil placed her cutlery on her plate and looked across at Bill. She looked as if she would start sobbing.

‘You look so pretty,’ said Bill meeting Lil’s eyes.

Mavis shuffled in her seat and patted down her cardigan. Her body language suggested her resolve to help Lil was waning.

‘Do I? I don’t feel it. And I’m getting tired. I don’t think I can cope with too much company today.’ Lil looked away from Bill, and at me with longing. Her eyes yearned to be back at home, safely behind a locked door.

Goodness, I didn’t know whether to press on or assist her freedom plan.

‘I’m so happy to see you. Let’s just sit here for a while and rest,’ added Bill.

Mavis put her glasses case on the table in a rather heavy handed way. I wasn’t sure whether this was accidental, or a growing annoyance at Bill’s puppydog behaviour.

‘Well at least you’re out. You mustn’t let those ne’er-do-wells win,’ said Mavis.

‘Precisely,’ said Bill ‘and I’m not letting you go into a home.’

‘Why would you say that?’ ask Lil. Her sorrow had turned to bewilderment.

‘Mavis was concerned –’

‘I’ve seen so many fall victim of crime and end up in homes and was worried,’ interrupted Mavis.

‘Oh I see,’ said Lil accepting Mavis’ explanation.

‘No, you said she should go into The Arbours in Highgate last week Mavis. Remember at age club? Dotty and Hilda were there,’ added Bill helpfully.

‘Did you indeed,’ said Lil. The truculence in her tone was increasing. Was that fire I saw in her eyes?

‘I may have suggested it.’ Mavis picked up the milk jug and moved it to the side of the table. She put it down heavily. This time I knew it wasn’t accidental. ‘You have had a few funny incidents lately Lillian and perhaps you’re not capable of looking after yourself, and others, anymore.’

Lil looked at Mavis and had tear droplets starting to form in the corner of her eyes. I might have to intervene. Had the fight really evaporated entirely from Lil after a few lines of banter with Mavis?

Mavis continued ‘And poor Bill it’s not fair on him.’

‘I’m fine – ‘ Bill started to respond and was interrupted by Lil.

‘You are a beast Bellamy.’ Lil picked up her fork and pointed it at Mavis.

‘I’ve had a dreadful time and maybe you meant to help or maybe you didn’t, but to try and manipulate Bill is disgusting,’ said Lil. There was definitely fervour in her eyes now.

‘Here we go again,’ said Mavis, you’re a liability Lillian –’

‘Hang on Mavis.’ It was Bill interrupting this time ‘you told me that we’d have to replace Lil on the committee and you’ve offered to cook me dinner three times this week. You said something about the grass being greener and every cloud. I had no idea you meant Lil!’

‘You said what? Evil –’ Lil started to say.

‘I’m not having another public row Lillian,’ said Mavis firmly. Armando looked relieved from his station behind the counter. ‘All I do is try to help and it’s not my fault if people don’t know what’s best for them.’

Lil slammed down her fork and went to speak but Mavis held up her hand and continued ‘I’m leaving now, and you Bill need to learn to keep private conversations confidential.’

Mavis picked up her glasses’ case and pushed it into her handbag and was up and off before anyone could get another word in.

Lil picked up her cutlery and started tucking into the half-eaten breakfast which must have been cold.

‘Everything seems to be going to pot. I take a couple of weeks to get over a traumatic experience and anarchy sets in,’ said Lil. She sliced her sausage as if a woodsman chain-sawing a tree trunk.

Bill smiled, ‘that’s my girl,’

‘I’m not your girl especially as it seems you have been cavorting and two-timing me with her.’ Lil was starting to sound more Lil-like and was tucking into her cold breakfast as if it was the first meal she’d tasted in weeks.

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‘Wayne we’ll catch up on your Greece trip when you’re back. What is that round your neck?’ asked Lil as a mushroom plunged into the depths of her mouth.

‘It’s my spring scarf,’ I answered.

There was a semi-cackle followed by ‘spring scarf! I wouldn’t take it to Greece. I’m not sure they’d understand your London ways.’ Lil looked towards the counter and called to Armando ‘So where are you going on this date tonight? I hope it’s somewhere appropriate.’ Armando looked at Lil warmly and nodded.

Lil put down her cutlery. She hadn’t managed to clear the plate but there was definitely an improvement.

‘Wayne, could you walk me home please?’ Lil asked. She was looking tired.

‘I’ll do it,’ said Bill enthusiastically.

‘Not today thank you Bill, I’m with Wayne. I’ll consider calling you at the weekend.’

As we walked home we didn’t exchange a word. Lil gripped my arm tightly and kissed me tenderly as we parted. She suspected my part in this chance cafe showdown but would never be able to openly thank me for involving Mavis.