Performing in Public

My week was shaping into one of the best so far. Firstly I was still on a high from Tuesday night’s reading at Polari Literary Salon which is held at the Royal Festival Hall. I was astounded that I had been given this amazing privilege and opportunity so early in my writing career. And secondly I had taken a few days off from my day job to immerse myself in my writing dreams.  I couldn’t wait to tell Lil and Armando all about the performance, and wondered whether I should have invited them. However, as I was reading aloud from my blog I’m not sure I could have trusted Lil to keep quiet.

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I woke early, even earlier than I do on a usual work day and I didn’t feel like diving deep into the duvet and prolonging my slumber. The teasmade would be redundant today as I was up and opening the French doors and sitting in the warm early morning air with a glass of orange juice. I switched on the wireless – Radio 2. I wasn’t the biggest Chris Evans fan as I found him too enthusiastic for the sedate early morning, but I didn’t mind today; his zest for life was infectious. My Ever Changing Moods by The Style Council was playing which was one of my favourite tracks from 1984. However my mood would not be changing. Even a Lil-induced drama could not melt my joy. I dressed and enjoyed the short walk to the café. I passed several pedestrians I didn’t know and wished them a good day. It was karmic having a cloudless disposition. My definitive mantra of the day was, in with anger and out with love.

I opened the café door and announced a good morning greeting across all inhabited tables. A couple of patrons smiled, while others suddenly needed to stare deeply into their cups.

‘Get over here you silly sod,’ called Lil.

‘Morning Lil,’ I said and greeted her with a kiss. I blew a kiss to Armando who was stuck behind his counter with a customer ordering drinks on the run.

‘Have you had a funny turn? Why on earth are you singing Good Morning to everyone? This isn’t a Doris Day film. Bloody Nincompoop.’ Lil glanced at several other seated customers and shock her head in mock disbelief.

‘Lil, I’m having the best week after the first public reading of my work was well received on Tuesday, at the Royal Festival Hall, no less –’

‘Is that the one run by that other author woman?’

Armando joined us clutching a full pot of brewing Assam.

‘She attends yes, but it’s run by Paul Burston –’

‘Who’s he? –’

‘What are you talking about?’ asked Armando. Not even this sequence of interruptions would suppress my spirit.

‘My debut performance at Polari Literary Salon, and Paul is a journalist, author, DJ and founder of the event Lil. You’d like him.’

 

Lil harrumphed and folded her arms.

‘VG was there. She, as you know, helped me to prepare and gave me some great advice to employ on the day of the performance. She suggested that I only practice once on recital day and only take one glass of wine in advance, to settle my nerve.’

Lil didn’t unfold her arms.

‘I’d like a Full English please,’ she announced to a passing waitress.

‘And Greek yoghurt and granola for me please,’ I added.

‘Blueberry muffin,’ nodded Armando.

‘Never heard of this Paul character. What did you read?’ asked Lil.

‘I read a segment from a short story I’m working on and a blog piece about our Breakfast Club. How exciting is that?’ I almost giggled with excitement. It was great to be sharing this news with members of the actual coterie.

Lil put her cup down rather heavily on its saucer – it chinked back and forth – folded her arms and pursed her lips before releasing an enormous tut.

Armando didn’t react.

‘Right, which piece did you read?’ asked Lil with a cross edge to her tone.

‘Cyril Vicious’ ( https://berkeley34.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/cyril-vicious/ ) I said, ‘the audience seemed to enjoy it.’

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‘Was he there?’

‘Who?’

‘Cyril.’

‘No, at least I don’t think so. Remember I haven’t met him. Why would he attend?’

‘Isn’t it a gay and lesbian event?’ asked Lil.

‘Yes.’

‘Need I say any more,’ said Lil with a touch of professor about her.

‘I wasn’t sure you knew that for certain Lil. You surmised previously, from his choice of television programme, which by my reckoning isn’t a reliable divining stick.’

‘You wait until you meet him. You’ll know alright. Anyway thanks for the invite,’ said Lil.

Breakfasts arrived which at least caused Lil to unfold her arms. I stirred the honey in my yoghurt to allow for thinking time. My response would require a certain delicacy.

‘You would of course have been welcome Lil. I didn’t realise you would be up to going to South London at night and I thought you might be busy with Marty.’

‘What about Armando?’

‘I knew he had an evening event here at the café.’

‘What do you mean, busy with Marty’. Lil tutted and continued, ‘I’m not sure I’d have gone anyway to be honest,’ she said as she squirted pulp from a juicy tomato across her plate. Silence fell for a few minutes as hunger overcame conversation.

Lil was the first to speak again, and while pushing a button mushroom around her plate said, ‘I read your blog Wayne and I’m not sure you represent me properly. I’m sure I don’t remember having half the conversations you ascribe to me, especially the ones with Mavis. I’m not sure she should even make an appearance in the blog ’

‘It’s my interpretation of our meetings Lil, and they are pretty spot on, in my humble opinion.’

‘I’m not sure I want everyone knowing my business. It’s one thing having a blog where a few people might happen upon it, but to be reading it – out loud – at the Southbank. What on earth would we do if it got, you know, popular?’ Lil was, I think, trying to goad me but I was too calm and busting with positivity to get drawn in that easily.

‘Popular?’ I asked in a playful tone, ‘what do you mean?’

‘Well I don’t want any Tom, Dick or even Harry turning up here wanting to meet me. We’d have to start wearing disguises or change location,’ said Lil.

‘What! Change location. How could I?’ asked Armando. He’d suddenly woken up at the thought of losing some business. ‘Although I’d welcome the additional customers…’ Armando drifted off into a world with potential punters queuing outside to get a chance to see Lil at a Breakfast Club. I could see pound signs flashing in his eyes.

‘Don’t be silly, the pair of you; we’re not going to change location and I think it’s far too early to be worrying about anything of the sort,’ I said starting to get a little cross with the pair of them.

‘Ha – got ya,’ said Lil, ‘now don’t bloody flounce in here like that again.’

‘I think that calls for a fresh pot,’ projected Armando to the kitchens.

I smiled. I was determined to keep my good mood.

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Irish Eyes are Smiling

I became aware of my surroundings as the synapses in my brain started to fire. The sun wasn’t pouring through the curtains which was an unwelcome change from the previous few weeks. The sunshine yellow of my dandelion retro duvet cover would have to do. I hoped it wasn’t raining as after Breakfast Club I needed to get my hair cut.

I was always grateful to wake naturally as I do find being jolted awake by the alarm clock rather barbarous.

When I rose and had a cup of tea in my hands, I braved the sitting room to see swirling grey clouds, threatening a summer storm, from the sanctuary of the closed French doors.

It was still warm however, and I wore my new flower-patterned jersey shorts and an older black t shirt. I wanted to wear a David Bowie T shirt and channel my Thin White Duke, in spite of my ever-increasing waist line. However, despite all the modern technological wonders we still have some way to go to cease trimmed hair sticking to the inside of clothing and creating itchy garments – even after washing. An older ‘haircut’ T shirt is still the least incommodious option.

‘After you,’ I said to Lil as we simultaneously arrived at the café door.

‘Why thank you kind sir,’ answered Lil with a familiar cackle. She was wearing a lemon-coloured sun dress and white sandals. I observed the lack of trolley or walking stick but decided against commenting.

Armando joined us at our table.

‘Is it too warm for a cooked breakfast this morning Lil?’ asked Armando.

‘Never – it’s my weekly treat,’ said Lil.

‘I’d like the Greek yoghurt with honey and fruit please,’ I said.

‘Bloody typical Boulevardier. You do get above your station sometimes – what a hoity-toity breakfast,’ said Lil. Armando sniggered.

‘I’m surprised you don’t want a sausage on the side,’ added Lil which caused her and Armando to exchange loud laughs. I tried to maintain a straight demeanour but failed. She was funny after all.

A large family-sized 1970s teapot arrived. I lifted the lid and as expected the brewing process was in progress.

‘Everything all right with you and your new fella?’ asked Lil looking squarely at Armando.

‘Yes, it’s good. Language barrier is a problem though. His English is limited to a few words and we have to use a translator constantly. He knows some Italian but no Spanish.’

‘The language of love needs no translation,’ said Lil. It was my turn to add stereo to her loud crowing.

Armando lifted the lid and started to stir the pot. I have often wondered at the pre-occupation with teapots as a concealer for discomposure.

I do, if you hadn’t previously realised, have a tea addiction – Assam in particular. I felt a familiar rush as Armando streamed the golden elixir into my expectant and chipped cup.

‘Speaking of love Lil, who was that Mr McGuire? He was very attentive last week’ I said.

‘Who?’ said Lil. She as ever knew precisely who and what I meant.

‘The man at your feet in the park,’ I continued.

‘Delicious – just what I needed,’ said Lil as our morning meals arrived. Lil clutched her cutlery and prepared to gormandize a rasher of back bacon.

I stirred the honey, fruit and nuts into my yoghurt and was momentarily transported back to Santorini when my taste buds had savoured the exquisite combination.

‘When’s your next date?’ Lil asked Armando with quite the mouthful. The food was disappearing swiftly from her plate  .

‘Hopefully Saturday evening,’ said Armando, ‘we need to confirm the detail.’

‘Mmmmmm,’ said Lil as she shovelled another fork load of egg and sausage into her mouth.

‘Hello there,’ said a random voice from the café door. Armando and Lil smiled and I looked round to see Marty McGuire and Nelly McAleen heading in our direction.

After pleasantries Mrs McAleen took the seat next to me and Marty pulled up another from a free table.

‘It’s a great day for the Coca-Cola,’ said Mrs McAleen. It was strange, she’d said the same to me at the picnic. I wondered whether she had been a marketeer for Coke, although the sweet smell from her breath didn’t represent the same brand. It smelt like some kind of beer but it couldn’t be, it was only 10.20am.

I decided that the next time she said it I was going to ask her why but for today said ‘Yes, indeed,’ as I loaded a combination of honey, yoghurt and blueberry onto my spoon and added ‘Shall we get a fresh pot of tea?’

‘We’re fine thanks,’ said Marty, ‘in fact we’ll need to get going shortly if we’re going to make it to Muswell before the lunch rush. You nearly ready treasure?’

He was directing this at Lil. I was about to intervene and hint that we were in the middle of breakfast when Lil spoke.

‘Yes – just let me go powder my nose,’ she said as she dabbed her napkin at the corners of her mouth. There was food left on her plate. This had not happened before – especially as she was shovelling only seconds earlier.

‘Lil, you haven’t finished your breakfast?’ I said. I actually wanted to reprimand her if she thought she was leaving Breakfast Club early. I’d certainly been told off for missing sessions in the past.’

‘I’m full thank you Wayne. Please don’t fuss. Mr McGuire and Nelly have kindly invited me to accompany them to the summer sales, and I’ve had my eye on several new pieces.’

‘I thought Nelly wanted a Coke.’ I said rather facetiously.

Lil stood and glared at me. ‘Don’t be petulant please.’ She switched the scowl to content and turned to our Irish pair and said, ‘now if you two would give me a minute.’

Armando scurried to the kitchen. He was such a coward.

Marty McGuire looked at me and said, ‘I can tell that you’re square by the clothes that you wear, so why not get with it, and pay me a visit.’

Well really. ‘I’m fine the way I am, thank you,’ I said.

‘It used to be the advertisement for our local tailor in Cork. Good eh,’ said Marty.

It seemed as if we had the elderly advertising duo of Crouch End. I smiled politely.

‘What a picture – stop right there – I want to capture this moment,’ said Marty looking at Lil. He framed his fingers and looked between them.

Lil giggled – and yes, I mean giggled. I wanted to send out an SOS to Bill. I wasn’t taking to this Irish charmer at all. I picked up my cup and drank through pursed lips.

Mrs McAleen was quiet but at least she’d stopped talking about Coca-Cola.

‘See you next week Armando,’ Lil called towards the kitchen. Armando appeared at his counter and waved. Lil kissed me on my cheek and whispered that I should behave, and with that they were gone. I could see outside that Marty had linked arms with Lil and his sister as they paraded off to the W7 bus stop.

I was cross.

Armando sat – now the coast was clear.

‘You think that Lil has a new boyfriend?’ he asked.

‘I sincerely hope not,’ I answered and folded my arms.

‘It’s not easy being on your own and being lonely,’ said Armando.

I softened and put my arms on the table. I had Michael and I’d forgotten that it can be desolate on your own. I wasn’t sure that Marty was right for Lil or this Brazilian right for Armando but as long as they were contented or at least positive.

‘It’s difficult to keep friends with an anti-social job,’ said Armando.

Armando was surrounded by people all day but of course they are mostly customers rather than friends. It made me think of the lyrics in Super Trouper ‘facing 20,000 of my friends, how could anyone feel so lonely?’

Perhaps I was being a little judgemental and decided to extend the hand of friendship again.

‘You’re right Armando, I hadn’t thought of it like that. Are you busy later? Shall we meet for a drink and supper? Michael has a late meeting anyway.’

‘Fantastic. Can we go out of Crouch End though? I need a change of scene.’

Steady on Armando, I thought, but again redressed myself. ‘Yes, let’s go to Hampstead.’

Despite Lil’s previous gossip about Armando’s crush I didn’t share her concerns. I had Michael and he knew it, and he had his Brazilian.

And before that I had to get my haircut. Always a tricky time in fear of them slicing too much from the length of my quiff. I re-filled my cup to temper my nerves.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday dear Lil

The phone had been ringing off the hook all week. It felt as if we were getting ready for the Queen’s birthday. Fortunately most of the calls to me had been updates from Armando as he had taken responsibility for the picnic; the elder members of our community were constantly checking in with him to make sure plans were just so. I was responsible for chaperoning the guest of honour, and supplying a couple of bottles of wine.

It was roasting hot and Armando had arranged for some large parasols to provide sun screen. I was in awe at his ability to constantly resource perfect items. Chairs, picnic blankets, wine and cake were all checked on his itinerary. He was a good and capable soul. And more importantly, there was no sign of Lil’s suggestion of a crush. I was pleased to not to have to deal with the fallout of an unrequited infatuation.

It would have to be shorts and T shirt even if it was HRH Lil’s birthday, and our senior generation didn’t understand the modern way of ‘dressing down’. I would still be Boulevardier-esque in a pair of gold chino shorts and an All Saints T.

The party was scheduled for 2.30pm in Priory Park to allow Armando to overcome the lunch rush at the café. A couple of his staff had agreed to help transport all the necessaries and set the stage. Gisela had also volunteered to help. In fact she was heading to the park early to ensure that a blanket was down near to the shade of the trees.

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My plan was to collect Lil at 2.15 and promenade her to the park. It wasn’t a surprise party, however, as it had been arranged so that her arrival as belle of the picnic was staged with celebrations in full flow. Gisela had been in charge of invitations under close supervision from the birthday girl.

Lil opened her door and looked a picture, although her rouged cheeks were more pronounced than necessary. I held my tongue and decided not to suggest a tissue to peel back some of the additional layers. She was wearing a lovely white afternoon dress emblazoned with blue flowers. Around her neck was a single set of pearls, imitation I assumed, and on her feet flat leather sandals, albeit with a sparkly strap. Her hair colour matched the flowers on the dress. Were these rinses as damaging as henna? If I dyed my hair as much as Lil, I’m sure it would fall out. Perhaps that’s why they’re called rinses. She had a beautiful gold dress ring on her right hand with a large blue coloured stone in an ornate setting. I was surprised not to see a tiara or even worse a crown.  She had a blue patented handbag with a gold coloured strap over her shoulder. The shopping trolley and stick were nowhere to be seen. She offered me her arm.

‘Happy Birthday Lil,’ I said and kissed her on both cheeks.

‘Ooooo very continental Boulevardier and thank you.’

‘And thank you for the card and flowers,’ she continued.

Lil picked up that damn fan, although I have to confess it was a hot day and would be suitable for its natural usage.

We strolled gently and slowly along Middle Lane to the park entrance.

We spotted the crowd, fifteen strong who started to cheer as they saw us approach. Lil grasped my arm tighter and started to wear her public smile and wave her fan. The view in front of us was wonderful. Armando had outdone himself. There was an afternoon sandwich buffet spread across a wooden makeshift table, with a beautifully iced cake at the centre. Some of the more agile partygoers were seated on checked blankets and others on foldable deck chairs. I passed my bag containing wine to one of Armando’s helpers.

‘About time more booze arrived,’ said one unknown older gent as the bottles clinked together.

I released Lil’s arm as Gisela moved forward to hug her. I spotted Mavis on one of the distant rugs and hoped there wouldn’t be trouble today. I nodded my greeting from afar and moved towards Armando to offer assistance.

‘Great job,’ I said as I grabbed his arm.

‘I am so happy but we’ve run out of wine already. I only brought two bottles and they have evaporated. I’ve sent Julian to get a few more, although I don’t know what we will do if they all get drunk,’ said Armando.

I laughed and surveyed the view. It was lovely; chattering and laughing from a group of our spirited less-young community members. Lil was now holding court seated in the centre with Gisela on one side and what looked like Mrs McAleen on the other. I recognised her from her trademark Dame Edna specs. Lil’s fan was waving back and forth and on occasion pointing at someone in the crowd. At Lil’s feet was a man I didn’t recognise. He had Lil in a trance as he was speaking to her in an animated fashion, and then offered her a bunch of Tesco flowers. Lil smiled broadly, accepted and then passed the flowers to Gisela who disappeared to try and stem any wilting. What was she up to now I thought? It was her birthday so I guess she could do what she wanted. The man picked up a glass containing what looked like Guinness as Lil said something to Mrs McAleen and turned her attentions back to him.

Mavis was close by and seemed to have read my thoughts.

‘Good afternoon Wayne. I see our mutual friend is making the most of her celebrations.’

I turned the corners of my mouth up and acknowledged Mavis and moved on. I had my suspicions too but I wasn’t engaging with Mavis about them and hoped she’d taken the hint and return to her rug.

‘Who’s that with Lil?’ I asked Armando.

‘That? He is the brother of Mrs McAleen – Marty. They come into the café sometimes. He is, how you say, wide man.’

I stifled a laugh at Armando’s turn of phrase, ‘wide boy.’

‘Yes, although he is a man. Anyway he is always telling long tales of life in Ireland, and the number of pretty women he’s dated both there and in England,’ added Armando.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I can see he is popular with the ladies, I’d best go over and say hello.’

‘OK, and please get Lil ready for the cake,’ said Armando.

As I walked over, I could hear Dame Vera Lynn from the portable speakers singing The White Cliffs of Dover.

‘Hello Gisela, Mrs McAleen. Are you having a nice birthday Lil?’ I asked.

‘Oooo yes thank you Wayne, and this wine is mighty fine. I might even prefer it to Assam,’ said Lil and released a park-penetrating cackle.

‘If you were the only boy in the world and I was the only girl,’ sang Lil. She had the lyrics mixed up. The wine must have taken effect.

‘Wayne, ah, so you’re Wayne,’ said the man on the floor. ‘It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I’m Marty, Marty McGuire.’ He stood up and offered his hand which I accepted.

‘Yes hello Marty. How do you fit in with this motley crew?’ I asked retaining a formal tone to my voice.

‘Nelly McAleen is my sister, and I wouldn’t miss the birthday of a beauty queen,’ Marty said and winked at Lil.

Gisela tutted.

Marty wasn’t perturbed.

‘I’ve, errrr, entertained quite a few in my time.’

‘I see,’ I said. I wished that Mavis was here right now to make some comment and detract attentions. I wasn’t sure that Lil needed an Irish OAP playboy in her life – this wasn’t ‘The Playboy of the Western World’ after all.

Mrs McAleen stood up, ‘It’s nice to meet you here Wayne. I’ve never met a real writer before.’ Mrs McAleen extended the hand of friendship.

‘I’m not really what you’d call a fully-fledged writer –’

‘OOoo isn’t it a great day for the Coca-Cola?’ she added. I had no idea where the conversation was going.  It felt like she’d just said the first idea that popped into her head although I detected alcohol on her breath. I wasn’t sure Coke entered the equation.

Momentum switched as Vera started to sing We’ll Meet Again. Everyone stopped what they were doing and started to sway and sing along. It took all the members of the party back 70 years or so, and into the deepest recesses of their memories. It was a surreal moment which blended nostalgia and melancholy – loved ones and youth lost.

‘…keep smiling though just like you always do,’ they all harmonised as the song came to a close.

‘It’s time to cut the cake,’ announced Armando.

Lil stood up with Marty’s assistance and moved towards Armando’s glorious white and blue iced fruitcake.

Being part of this group was overwhelming – I adored it. I loved Lil and wouldn’t have missed her celebrations for the world.

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‘Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Lil, happy birthday to you.’

Lil squealed with enjoyment as another cork popped in the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

Masterclass

I’d missed Breakfast Club last week as I had booked a masterclass with VG Lee. I had the first public reading of my work at Polari Literary Salon approaching. I wanted, and needed, to immerse in Val’s advice and expertise.

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There had been one snag, and manoeuvring around it was not going to be pain-free. I’d forgotten to validate my non-attendance with Lil and had to call her to excuse myself, and as it transpired, beg forgiveness.

‘What do you mean, you forgot to mention it?’ asked a belligerent, which I interpreted as disappointed, Lil.

‘I got my weeks mixed up Lil,’ I added as much humility as I could muster.

‘I don’t understand why you need to go to hers on a Thursday. It’s very inconvenient. I’m an incredibly busy woman myself, but manage to make time for Breakfast Club.’

The line went quiet for a few moments. I was lost for words to assist in smoothing these choppy waters.

Lil was in no humour to wait for my response and continued, ‘I guess we’ll have to get along without you, but could you please make sure this doesn’t happen again Wayne.’

Having the last word, which wasn’t out of the ordinary, seemed to restore Lil’s inner peace and harmony.

I’d sent a text to Armando who’d asked no questions and replied in a civilised way. We usually shared a couple of texts every week, but I have to confess I hadn’t been as proactive in starting conversations since Lil’s crush theory. I’m sure she was mistaken, but equally I didn’t want to deliver false hope.

The café door was propped open as we were in the middle of a heat wave. The two small tables outside were occupied by patrons looking as if they wished it were cooler. I’m not going to moan about the heat, as I love it, however, we are not equipped to deal with it in the UK – there is no escape. I’m not suggesting for one moment that we should invest in environmentally unfriendly air-conditioning units at home for the few unbearably hot days and nights we have each year. It’s similar to those who bemoan the country grinding to a halt in the snow and make comparisons with Canada (who spend most of the winter feet-deep in the white stuff). We have a few days of extreme weather each season and should grin and bear with our upper lips stiff and intact.

Lil was at our table with Gisela – Armando was nowhere to be seen. I walked across the café, which was mostly empty. I greeted them both with a gentle kiss on the cheek.

‘Armando.’ Lil shouted at the kitchen wall, ‘he’s turned up this week. Breakfast Club is in session.’

‘I’m sorry I missed last week. How have you been? And nice to see Gisela too,’ I said.

‘Guten Morgan,’ said Gisela in a firm tone. I couldn’t work out if this was irritation or a formal Germanic timbre.

‘Yes, fine thank you Wayne. The world does continue to spin in your absence,’ said Lil and roared with laughter. Gisela tittered too. Armando arrived with a beautiful 1950s large family teapot decorated with a dandelion design and four cups on a simple wooden tray.

Judith followed Armando to take our order. Lil’s appetite hadn’t been suppressed by her irritation as she ordered a full English, Gisela pain au chocolat and I followed suit. Armando settled for a blueberry muffin.

‘Gone all continental have we Boulevardier?’ said Lil.

‘I ordered the same as Gisela,’ I said.

‘I thought it might be because you’re spending all that extra time closer to France – in Hastings,’ said Lil. Gisela and Armando sniggered. Lil was on fire and I hoped that we were bantering and joking. I decided to play along.

‘Val sends her regards Lil,’ I said.

‘Who?’ said Lil. She knew exactly who I meant.

‘Val, VG Lee,’ I answered and smiled directly at her.

‘Does she indeed. How very jolly of her…’ Lil compressed her lips in disapproval. I wasn’t done with her yet.

‘How are you getting on with her novel, you know, the one she signed for you.’

‘I’ve only read a couple of chapters and it’s annoyingly good,’ said Lil and cackled appropriately.

‘Is this conversation only for two people?’ asked Gisela.

‘Usually,’ said Armando.

I waved my white flag symbolically and lifted the enormous yet delicate teapot and filled the expectant cups with refreshing and pacifying fluid.

‘I guess I should be well-mannered and ask if you had a productive day with her?’ said Lil.

‘It was great thanks. Hard work as always but I’ve shortlisted the pieces I’m going to read at Polari Literary Salon at the Southbank next month.’

‘It’s not all mini-Battenbergs then?’ asked Lil with a little more banter in her tone.

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‘No, we did however have a cake break, and the best part of a couple of bottles of wine with dinner,’ I said and started to laugh. Armando started to laugh too but we were both stopped mid-titter.

‘Are you telling me that you went to Hastings to “work” and ended up getting drunk?  What a pair of bloody lushes,’ said Lil. I suspected friendly conversation had expired, which was confirmed when an enormous and earthquake-creating tut followed. Gisela’s tut echoed.

‘I’m disappointed Wayne. I wrote a couple of children’s books and you don’t ask me for advice,’ added Lil. Gisela and Armando were silent.

Breakfasts arrived which provided a welcome break in the conversation.

‘Come on Lil, that was in the 50s and Val is my friend too.’ Goodness Lil was ridiculously possessive sometimes and she’d sulked so much, and to the point of making me cross. I picked up my croissant and deliberately tore a corner dramatically and thrust it in my mouth and only then looked across the table.

Lil hadn’t picked up her knife and fork and looked a little watery around the eyes. I didn’t know why I’d let her rile me and mirrored in response. I assume it’s because I care and don’t like to upset her. However, I had to remember that she was an elderly lady who’d recently gone through some traumatic events.

‘Don’t let it get cold Lil. You’ll need your strength for next week’s celebrations,’ I said and reached over and put my hand across hers.

‘You remembered,’ Lil said and picked up her cutlery and started urgently slicing through a chunky pink rasher.

‘Yes, and don’t forget it’s a birthday picnic in the park,’ said Armando, ‘Gisela has promised some authentic kuchen.’

Gisela nodded and MMmm’ed through the chocolate centre of her pastry.

‘Is Filippe coming Armando?’ asked Lil.

‘Who’s Filippe?’ I asked.

‘Armando has a new fella Wayne. You shouldn’t miss Breakfast Club and you might not be out of date,’ sparred Lil.

She had a point.

‘No he can’t make it, he’s a-working,’ said Armando.

‘What does he do?’ I asked casually trying to subtlety bring myself up to speed.

‘He’s a window cleaner,’ answered Armando.

I nodded my support that Armando was moving on from Jason.

Gisela’s remaining piece of pastry was causing her some difficulty and ‘scheisse’ was declared as the chocolate shot out from the side of her mouth and into Lil’s cup.

This was to be a long Breakfast Club.