I’d woken in an elegiac mood. A gust of cool air swept across my legs as the duvet fell. Autumn had us completely in its grip. There was still some sun, but it shone lower in the sky and radiated a warm essence rather than heat.
It was Thursday and this as always meant no day job and in its stead Breakfast Club. I was usually leaping out of bed but this week less so. I felt lightly apprehensive. I’d bumped into Lil in Budgens earlier in the week. She was with Marty McGuire. The lack of Mrs McAleen was ominous and I’d wondered whether the courtship was in full swing and the chaperon redundant.
‘Wayne, fancy seeing you here,’ Lil had said as she greeted me with a peck on the cheek.
‘Hi Lil, and ahem, Marty. I’m usually more of a Waitrose or Marks and Spencer shopper but I fancied some tinned cods’ roe, and neither of them stock it.’
‘Hey fella, first world problems eh,’ Marty had said. Lil had laughed much louder than was necessary.
‘Indeed,’ I’d said without cracking a smile.
‘Are you two an item now?’ I’d asked after a few seconds of uncomfortable silence.
‘Really Wayne, must we have this conversation surrounded by baked beans, mushy peas and tinned fish,’ Lil had said followed by a loud tut.
I longed for Nelly McAleen to be there, pronouncing her latest spin on Coca-Cola, but alas she was nowhere in sight. Instead I’d apologised, conversed a few unworthy, banal sentences, made my excuses to leave, and scurried home; and without my cods’ roe to boot. Lil hadn’t been in touch since. I was going to have to deal with the Marty situation in a more subtle way. I’d seen the expressions on Armando and Cyril’s faces last week. They were not fans of this geriatric philanderer either.
I emptied my mind of our exchange and busied myself with preparations for the day ahead. After dressing and dealing with a number of renegade hairs I was fit to open the front door and face the outside. A cold gust hit me and I was glad to be shrouded
I was soon seated pret for Breakfast Club. I arrived early and deliberately so; the group was growing and I refused to surrender my position irrespective of the age of the invaders. Armando joined me with slumped shoulders.
‘Where is everyone?’
‘I’m early Armando. I’m sure Lil will be here soon.’
‘No I mean customers. We’ve barely had a trickle this morning.’
‘Perhaps they’re staying in bed, mourning the loss of summer,’ I said with a forced smile.
Armando shrugged and stirred the pot he’d brought with him.
I admired my vintage red-flowered delicate cup set on its blue, swirl-patterned saucer. The stainless steel milk jug anxiously awaited the hot liquid delivery; knowing as ever it was in second place.
‘Seen your Brazilian boyfriend this week?’ I asked Armando.
‘Yes, once. No conversation of course,’ said Armando with a grin.
The door opened and I was spared Armando’s detailed bedchamber acrobatics.
Gisela, Nelly McAleen and Lil cackled into the café followed by a jigging Marty.
‘Morning, morning my boys,’ said Lil as she gave both Armando and me a kiss and took her usual seat. Gisela took the remaining vacant chair and Armando pulled up two extra for the Irish contingent.
‘I’m nipping to the little boys’ room,’ announced Marty.
‘No Cyril today?’ I asked.
‘No, he didn’t want to embarrass Marty,’ said Lil. There was conflict in her tone and I hoped she realised that Marty’s behaviour around Cyril was ridiculous and needed addressing.
‘That’s a shame. Cyril is so articulate and a great addition to our little group,’ I said with more than just a subtle swipe at Marty.
Mrs McAleen picked it up and shuffled uncomfortably in her seat before saying, ‘It’s a bit cold for the Coca-Cola today.’
This was my chance and I opened my mouth to ask her the relevance of constant reference to Coke when Gisela spoke foiling my opportunity.
‘Can we order please, I’m hungrig.’
‘Yes indeed, I’m ravenous too,’ said Lil.
Marty returned flicking his few remaining hairs over the top of his head.
‘You boys like music?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ said Armando.
‘You have to come and see the band,’ said Marty.
‘What band?’ I barely even dare ask.
‘My band, The Youthful Leprechauns.’
‘I see.’ I said.
‘You’d love it. I play the piano accordion, and two other fellas I used to work on the drains with sing and play the fiddle.’
‘It’s fantastic and a great evening out,’ said Lil.
‘Oooo thinking of the dancing makes me want a Coca-Cola,’ said Nelly.
‘Where do you play? At the Age Club?’ asked Armando.
‘Not on your Nelly, oh sorry sis,’ said Marty. The ladies crowed in unison. I pursed my lips and noticed that Armando wasn’t amused either.
‘We play at the Working Men’s club. I don’t want to play to a bunch of old codgers,’ said Marty. The ladies laughed again.
The average age of patrons of a working man’s club hardly represents youth, I thought but didn’t say.
‘You like my ring Wayne?’ asked Marty. He was determined to engage me in conversation.
‘Errr it’s unique,’ I said looking at the tasteless, gold-coloured and garish item on his right index finger.
‘I found it, can you believe it? The stone is missing right so, but I think it could be worth a few bob.’
‘Ooooo you could be rich Marty,’ said Lil as her eyes widened.
‘I’m already rich with you beauties on my arm,’ said Marty.
Further giggling ensued as the café door opened. I’d never been more pleased to see Mavis Bellamy. She was efficiently buttoned up in a mac with a blue silk headscarf covering her locks. She was carrying a large black patent handbag.
‘Morning all. I thought this was an exclusive meeting?’ said Mavis clutching the purse to her side.
‘It is,’ said Lil and grinned at Mavis like a cat who’d just finished a saucer full of cream.
‘Looks more like an extension of Marty McGuire’s harem,’ said Mavis.
‘What do you mean extension?’ said Lil. Gisela pursed her lips.
‘He seems to take quite an interest in all ladies,’ said Mavis. Marty suddenly looked elsewhere in thought.
‘I don’t see you at the table,’ said Lil.
‘Lilian, dear, I’m not here for a row, just a word with Armando. Don’t get your bloomers all twisted.’
Lil looked cross but didn’t speak.
Armando stood and steered Mavis to the counter to avoid further ruffling of feathers.
‘I’ll see you when I’m looking at ya,’ Marty called after Mavis. Lil’s cross look multiplied with pursed lips, and a tut with sufficient power to register the Richter scale.
This was definitely a victory to Mavis, and I was surprised I felt pleased. I usually defended Lil, right or wrong. I felt quite cheered up.
I poured another cup of Assam for everyone. This would stave off the autumnal depression from settling for now.