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.