‘Armando I think you’re going to have to get a bigger table,’ Lil shouted towards the kitchen wall.
‘Morning Lil,’ I said and smiled at the gentleman sitting next to her. It wasn’t Marty McGuire, which was a relief, however, I hoped she hadn’t moved on to another potential beau. Was this trail of suitors a rebound reflex after Bill?
‘Ah Wayne, you’re here at last,’ said Lil. I looked at my watch which confirmed it was 9.55am. I was early for Breakfast Club.
‘This is Cyril, my neighbour,’ she clarified.
‘How do you do?’ said Cyril and stood as he offered me his hand to shake. He was shorter than me, bald and wearing horn-rimmed spectacles. He was wearing a white shirt with a powder-blue cardigan and grey herringbone trousers. He was not a new suitor.
‘Welcome to Breakfast Club Cyril. Lil’s mentioned you before,’ I said and smiled.
Cyril sat again, ‘Oh dear, has she? I dread to think what she’s been saying.’
‘That you’re one of my favourite neighbours,’ said Lil in a firm tone while giving me one of her looks. ‘Where’s the tea Armando?’ she directed at the kitchen wall.
‘Coming,’ came a flustered reply.
Lil shuffled in her seat and fiddled with the sleeve of her sweater. Armando appeared from the kitchen armed with our morning elixir.
‘Assam OK with you Cyril?’ asked Armando.
‘I prefer Earl Grey if it’s not too much trouble,’ said Cyril. Lil snorted as if she were about to release a burst of laughter but managed to contain herself. No doubt Earl Grey symbolised clarification for her. Armando signalled at a passing waitress who had heard and registered the request. A good waiter or waitress is able to listen to their customers and filter out their needs from the general hubbub of conversation, and anticipate their requirements.
‘Why are we going to need a bigger table?’ I asked.
‘Well Gisela won’t be here today, but with her, Cyril, Marty and Nelly, and the pair of you this ain’t suitable,’ said Lil.
‘I didn’t realise we’d extended membership,’ I said and winked at Cyril to confirm I wasn’t being rude to him.
‘I’d like my usual,’ Lil said to Judith who had arrived with Cyril’s pot of Earl Grey.
‘I’ll have a vegetarian breakfast with a sausage on the side please,’ I said.
‘Poached egg on toast please,’ said Cyril.
‘Espresso for me,’ said Armando.
‘Not eating Armando?’ I asked.
‘Not hungry,’ he responded.
‘Don’t be silly Wayne. This is a public space and not an exclusive club.’
I pondered what Lil’s response would be if I started bringing my friends.
She continued, ‘I’ve wanted Cyril to meet you two for some time, and after he cooked such a delicious lunch yesterday I thought the timing was perfect.’ Lil patted Cyril affectionately on the arm. She continued, ‘I only had a slice of Madeira cake for supper as I was still full.’
Cyril flushed and busied himself with pouring his tea. I’m not a fan of Earl Grey – it’s too weak. And Cyril’s pasty cup did nothing to enthuse me.
‘What did you cook?’ asked Armando.
‘Sole Veronique followed by Summer fruit pudding. It was a bit of a squash in my small flat but I think we jollied along, didn’t we Lil?’
‘Oh yes, and it was indeed quite a squeeze although Marty didn’t seem to mind that.’
Cyril flushed darker.
‘Sounds delicious. Who were the guests?’ I asked. I didn’t know what Veronique did to the sole but the name has a tasty flow.
‘Gisela, Marty, Nelly and that bloody Bellamy woman,’ said Lil.
‘I don’t think your cock a snook at Mavis helped,’ said Cyril.
‘Ha – she was asking for it trying to be all la-dee-da.’
‘Sometimes I think quiet disdain achieves the same outcome,’ said Cyril.
Breakfasts arrived. I was grateful for a swift arrival as I was particularly hungry. I doused salt and pepper across my platter and furnished my fork with tomato and a button mushroom. Armando didn’t look right with only a small shot of coffee in front of him. I took a subtle sideways glance and noticed how red his eyes were.
‘Burning the candle at both ends Armando?’ I asked.
He nodded and looked deep into his coffee cup.
‘Marty left before pudding,’ said Lil.
Cyril stood up, ‘excuse me please,’ and moved quickly towards the bathroom.
‘Oh dear, I shouldn’t have mentioned that,’ said Lil as Cyril disappeared.
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘Marty was being his usual jovial self yesterday and had us all in fits of laughter. He should have been a comedian you know, but at one point when Cyril was in the kitchen he joked that he thought Cyril fancied him,’ said Lil.
‘Is there anyone that man thinks doesn’t fancy him?’ I said and shook my head.
‘Hush Wayne,’ said Lil, ‘anyway Cyril came through the door a few seconds later and looked rather red in the face. We weren’t sure if it was the heat of the kitchen or that he’d heard, and that’s why I thought I’d better invite him today. If he did hear I didn’t want him to think we were all talking about him behind his back. So none of your silly games today Boulevardier, you hear.’
‘Marty probably made it worse by leaving,’ I said.
‘Yes, I told him off about that. Apparently it wasn’t only in jest either. He’s caught Cyril staring at him on a number of occasions.’
I rolled my eyes. Cyril re-joined us looking refreshed.
‘Apologies dear Breakfasters,’ said Cyril, ‘the waterworks get weaker with age.’
I hoped he meant his bladder and hadn’t been upset in the bathroom.
‘I understand you lived in Brighton previously Cyril. Is that where your family originated?’ I asked.
‘No I moved there almost twenty years ago after my mother died. I looked after her in her autumn years. We were in the Cotswolds.’
‘Oooo I’ve seen the photos, it looks bloody posh,’ said Lil.
‘That was Mummy’s cottage, which returned to the estate on her death. My older brother inherited the main house and grounds. Although he said I could have stayed in the cottage, I preferred to move somewhere with more people.’
‘Yes of course. What made you leave the seaside?’ asked Armando.
‘I wanted a few years in our great capital before I was too old to enjoy it, and completed a flat swap. I love Crouch End,’ said Cyril.
‘A toast to that,’ I said and raised my tea cup. The others followed suit.
‘Hello,’ said a voice I recognised.
‘Michael, meet Lil, Armando and Cyril,’ I said proudly. Michael had mentioned that he might call in on his way to the gym.
‘Michael,’ said Lil and got up to shake his hand, ‘it’s a pleasure. Not sure how you put up with old fussy pants over here.’ Lil cackled.
‘Yes I know,’ said Michael, ‘he can be quite like a beast at times.’
Lil laughed louder and was joined by Armando and Cyril.
‘Anyway, I thought I’d nip in and meet you all,’ said Michael and swiftly departed.
‘Seems like he’s got the measure of you Wayne, and what a nice handsome fellow,’ said Lil.
‘You think,’ I said and laughed myself.
The door swung open again. At this rate Armando would be better served by one of the revolving variety.
‘Morning sweetness,’ said a voice from the door.
I didn’t need to look around to know it was Marty.
‘Marty! I told you not before 11.30,’ said Lil.
I pursed my lips and glanced over to see that Armando and Cyril were not enamoured to see our new visitor either.
Marty looked a little uncomfortable.
‘I’m going to Budgens for some fruit. An apple a day keeps the doctor away but what does a pear do at night,’ performed Marty.
Lil demonstrated her appreciation with more crowing and said, ‘you bloody saucy rascal, now be gone with you.’
‘Laters,’ said Marty trying to sound hip.
‘Another Earl Grey Cyril? That one looks cold,’ I said.
‘Thank you – that would be delicious,’ said Cyril.