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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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.