Locked in the Loo

For five wonderful days I’d been basking in the Algarvian sun on a late summer break with some of my closest friends. The heavenly mix of sun, sangria, and laughter still lingered in all my senses. My marginally darkened tan would be on show at Breakfast Club this morning. The venue had changed to provide Lil with home comforts as she was feeling under the weather. Armando had text to confirm so earlier after a call from Cyril.

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I met Armando at the café door at 10am. We were due at Lil’s fifteen minutes later. Armando held a wicker basket which delivered a promising aroma.

‘Nice tan man,’ Armando said.

‘Thanks,’ I replied. I didn’t mention the layer of bronzer I’d added to my visage to heighten the impact.

‘How’s your week been?’

‘OK I guess. Café has been busy and I’ve been on a couple of dates,’ said Armando.

‘With the Brazilian?’

‘Yes, although I’m not sure how much further we can go. I can’t talk to him about anything of importance – matters of the heart are difficult on my phone translator app.’

I touched Armando on the arm as an outward demonstration of support.

‘So what did Cyril say? Is she OK?’

‘He said she’s got a splitting headache and feels sick, and doesn’t think she can leave the house today.’

‘Let’s hope it’s nothing serious.’

‘Indeed,’ said Armando as I pressed the door buzzer.

‘Good morning,’ came an Oscar Wilde-esque voice.

‘Morning Cyril, it’s Armando and Wayne.’

A vibration from the door informed us that our entry had been granted.

A lacklustre and pale Cyril opened the door, ‘she’s in the sitting room.’

‘You not feeling good either eh?’ asked Armando.

‘I’m rather delicate too. We overdid it at the funeral yesterday.’

Armando disappeared behind the kitchen door and I moved towards HRH Lil. She was propped up in her armchair with her slippered feet on a pouffe. Her housecoat hung limp protecting her modesty. A wet flannel was folded across her forehead.

‘Do sit,’ she said weakly.

‘Armando’s just preparing breakfast Lil. Are you sure you can manage it. What happened? Cyril said you overdid it yesterday,’

Lil opened one eye and glared at Cyril before saying, ‘I must try and eat something. I was sick when I got home yesterday and have a throbbing head. I think I’ve a bug or something.’

‘Perhaps it’s not wise to eat a rich breakfast in that case. Shall I just get you some dry toast?’ I asked.

‘No, no. I must try and it might make me feel better. I’ve taken some painkillers and they work better with food.’ Her motionless arms rested on the sides of her chair. She had a hot water bottle over her stomach.

‘Do you think you have the same bug?’ I asked Cyril.

‘Definitely,’ Cyril said with a smile on his face.

Armando appeared with a tray holding a pot and cups and placed it carefully on the coffee table. I set about the stirring process to hasten the brewing.

‘Lil, here is plate on tray. Can you sit up please,’ said Armando.

‘Thank you. I’ll try,’ she responded as the flannel fell. Lil readjusted her position and received the steaming tray onto her lap. Her eyes widened and she set about consumption. She was marginally more delicate than usual, however, it was clear that the sight of breakfast had enthused her appetite.

Armando was soon before us again with three side plates, each carrying a blueberry muffin. I was going to miss my solitary sausage this morning.

‘How was Portugal?’ asked Lil.

‘Fantastic thanks, the villa as always was lovely, the sun shone, and sangria consumed as if it were going out of fashion.’

‘You’ve been before?’ asked Cyril.

‘Yes, my friends have a six bedroom, seven bathroom villa which we visit periodically.’

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‘A bit posh…’ said Lil.

‘Yeah we were, until we hit the karaoke in an English bar.’

‘That’s not very Boulevardier-like now is it? Are you a singer or a writer?’ said Lil. She let out a weak cackle. The grilled flat mushroom was assisting in her recovery as she popped another sliver into her mouth.

‘Both thank you Lil. We shared so many laughs. We were off to a great start when my friend Sammy Jo got stuck in the downstairs loo.’

‘Was she pissed?’ asked Lil. Cyril nearly choked on his muffin.

‘I don’t think so, although the alcohol consumption across the holiday was vast. In fact one day we went out for a late breakfast and didn’t get home until 11pm.’

‘What a bunch of bloody lushes,’ said Lil.

Cyril coughed nervously.

‘Something stuck in your throat Cyril?’ said Lil through pursed lips.

‘We played parlour games too,’ I said.

‘What? Between drinks?’ asked Armando. Lil laughed and then threw her hand to her forehead.

‘Yes, and I had a mishap.’ I said.

‘Now this I want to hear about,’ said Lil as she carved her sausage with gusto.

‘There is a neighbourhood dog who always comes to say hello. We call him Saucisson, due to his shape, who was scurrying through the villa. I smiled at him and his tinkering bell as he trotted passed me. I entered the downstairs cloakroom, closed and locked the door, despite my own personal bathroom only being the other side of the wall. After washing my hands I turned the key and it stuck. It would only turn 45 degrees. I tried half a dozen times.’

Lil let out a cackle, ‘please don’t tell me you were locked in the loo, I can’t cope, I might wet myself,’ said Lil. Cyril didn’t look too pleased at the thought of Lil having an accident.

‘Let me carry on,’ I said, ‘a modicum of panic set in. Was I stuck in a small windowless room with a single functional purpose?’

‘Here comes the drama,’ said Lil and winked at Cyril. Armando was shaking his head and grinning.

‘Fortunately in a villa of this magnitude the downstairs WC is still sizeable – I’ve seen box bedrooms smaller, however, they usually have views to the outside. Several beads of sweat formed on my forehead. I dabbed them away with the hand towel. I stopped dead and listened. I could hear my fellow sun-seekers chattering by the pool in the distance. We were separated by several thick stone walls. They would never hear my cries for help.’

‘It sounds terrifying,’ said Cyril.

I took the opportunity to pause and extract a deep sip from my tea before continuing, ‘I turned the key more frantically now, and it wouldn’t give any encouragement that my freedom was closer. I tried to lift the door to the left – nothing, to the right – nothing. I pushed it in, and pulled it towards me. My valiant efforts were futile. Perspiration had multiplied and my breathing became quicker. I was gasping for air. I was convinced I was in a sealed cell and my lot was up. The metal slats in the ceiling assured me otherwise. I rotated the faucet and splashed cold water on my visage and hatched a plan.’

I took another gulp of tea.

‘Come on,’ said Armando impatiently circling his hands to encourage perpetuation of my tale.

‘I sat on the convenience, lid down of course, and listened intently for sound recognisable as one of my potential saviours inside the villa.

Nothing.

I grasped the key, firmer, with renewed and forced positivity – no negotiation.

“Hello,” I called out. I wasn’t sure if the welcome footsteps had registered my greeting.

“Hello, can you help me please? I’m stuck in the lav,” I’d called more urgently and this time “What?” came an acknowledgement. I repeated my statement. “Oh, hold on for a couple of minutes,” came a cool and calming response. I’d hoped Dan had gone for tools. The ascending roars and cackles from the pool confirmed his primary mission one of information rather than rescue. I dabbed the moisture from my brow again, which was forming faster and in greater quantity.’

‘If you’d have spent less time dabbing and more time trying to work the lock-‘, started Lil. Cyril interrupted and said, ‘I feel claustrophobic just listening Wayne, which is making me feel even dizzier, please hurry up and tell us how you got out.’

I continued, ‘I heard a female voice “Babe, pull the key back and try again. It needs to be nearer you.’ It was Sammy Jo, an expert in cloakroom escapology. “I know it’s in the right place. I’ve tried every position,” I answered while attempting again.

Quiet.

“Are you sure it’s in the right spot?”

“Yes I can sense it turning about 45 degrees and then it sticks.”

“OK. Hold on.” And with that I was in my solitary space again. The footsteps were quick and the many voices varied. I couldn’t isolate a single one but knew Jane, Karen, Sorrel, Claire and Sammy Jo were there. Their laughter was loudest of all, and cackles that would match yours Lil.’

‘I doubt that,’ said Lil.

‘My friends – every single one of them – were seeing a funnier side than me. The next three quarters of an hour were filled with keys being levered under doors, shrieks, drills, and despairs before I finally saw the bolt release and facilitate my freedom. In the absence of Sherry to settle my shattered nerves a double white Port was a suitable substitute.’

I sat back. All of my breakfast companions were amused. Lil relaxed in her chair and put the flannel back on her head.

“Feeling bad again?’ asked Armando.

‘It was probably the mention of Sherry,’ said Cyril.

‘Please shut it Cyril,’ said Lil.

‘Perhaps you tried to eat too much,’ said Armando.

‘Or maybe she drank too much Sherry at the wake yesterday, as did I,’ said Cyril.

Mine and Armando’s mouths dropped open.

‘Lil, are you nursing a hangover?’ I asked firmly.

‘For a polite man, you have a flappy gob,’ said Lil glaring at Cyril from beneath her wash cloth.

‘I’m sorry, but I couldn’t let these lovely gentlemen continue to wait on you hand and foot when it’s self-inflicted and you are rather overdoing it,’ said Cyril. Hopefully Lil was too hung-over to blast him for exposing her duplicity.

‘Well, what else do you expect when I was caught up talking to the boring Gloria and Roger,’ said Lil.

‘Who are they?’ asked Armando.

‘We had been to the service at St Joseph’s on Highgate Hill, and to East Finchley crem before we went back to the home, and Cyril, Gisela and I were caught by the deceased’s niece and her husband. Gloria is a large woman with obviously dyed blonde hair and was wearing a black dress which wasn’t suitable for her size. We’d just visited the buffet, which incidentally wasn’t bad; fresh egg sandwiches and chicken and shrimp vol au vents. Anyway I said a polite hello, you know the one where you don’t expect conversation. She respected that for all of 30 bloody seconds before she started with “lovely buffet” which soon moved into their having driven from Dorset and that she had a bad back and couldn’t drive. Roger apparently was a slow driver. Poor Roger kept on going to speak but she’d cut him off. She’d been on a bus to visit an air show. The bus was inching forwards towards the stop, so she got up and started down the stairs when the driver decided to hit the brakes, and she bashed her back on the step behind her – twice. It went on and on. It was only the refills of Sherry which kept me going.’

‘They don’t sound like the best company, but I’m not sure that was excuse enough to get hammered,’ I said.

‘Perhaps Cyril’s a bad influence,’ said Lil.

‘Hardly,’ said Cyril.

‘Are you sure it wasn’t that Marty person,’ I said through gritted teeth.

‘Nah he was at band practice,’ said Lil.

I dare not even ask what type of band he was in.

‘Gisela unwell too?’ asked Armando.

‘No, she only had the one Sherry,’ said Cyril.

‘Perhaps you two should follow her example in future,’ I said.

 

The villa belongs to good friends and is a fabulous place for a holiday. Winter rates are pretty reasonable and Portugal is divine. If you want more information please take a look at http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/VacationRentalReview-g776012-d2120092-Villa_Laranja-Luz_Faro_District_Algarve.html

Here’s a view from the balcony and all the photos in the post are from the villa

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Indian Summer at Breakfast Club

The large chrome electric fan in my bedroom was fast becoming redundant and balmy heat was giving way to a chill in the air. The last vestiges of summer were clinging on but would soon lose their grip to the melancholy of autumn facilitating the onset of winter.

The only positive I could find was that it was Thursday and that meant Breakfast Club. I pulled the duvet up to cover my cold shoulders and wondered whether Armando had re-organised the café to accommodate a larger table to facilitate Lil’s growing popularity. Attendance was becoming a lottery and I didn’t know who would have a lucky number today. Were Gisela and Cyril regulars or passers-by? Was Mavis going to make another battle appearance? Had anyone heard from Bill? The only one I willed not to see was Marty, and I hoped he was already on his way out.

As I knotted my delicate neckerchief I deliberated as to how the promise of a spring scarf had given way to the cold of its autumn counterpart. Depression was setting in. I could feel its dark veil snuffing out my light.

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Our table, which had not altered in size or capacity, was empty. Armando was behind the counter and I nodded and half-smiled in his direction. He reciprocated.

There were three solo customers, each at their own table, clutching their cups and mugs as if searching for the feeling of warmth. No one looked happy.

A gust of pensioner entered the café as Gisela, who was closely followed by Lil, arrived. They both looked flustered.

‘Morning ladies,’ I said with as much positivity as I could muster and rose to kiss them.

‘Morgan Wayne, sorry we are late,’ said Gisela who led the charge.

‘We’re not late, and morning Wayne and to you too Armando,’ said Lil with irritation in her voice.

I glanced at my phone to validate the time as 9.57. No one was late. I decided not to share my findings.

‘We have cut too fine,’ said Gisela and added, ‘I prefer to allow extra time to ensure promptness and we agreed you would arrive at the corner for 9.45 precisely.’

‘I told you I had a last minute adjustment to make and we don’t need fifteen minutes for a four minute walk. Goodness Gisela, you do get dramatic at times,’ said Lil.

‘I’ll order tea,’ I said trying to divert attention. I did understand them both. I would rather be early than late. However, they were neither – they were perfectly on time.

Armando joined us, ‘tea is on its way and café is empty.’

Oh dear the change in season was affecting everyone’s mood.

Judith appeared with a large grey pot which she settled in the centre of the table, and stood, notepad poised to take our order.

‘Full English please,’ said Lil.

‘Me too,’ said Gisela. Lil raised her eyebrows. I surmised that Gisela was attempting a white flag through food.

‘Vegetarian with a sausage please,’ I said.

‘Ha,’ said Lil and cackled, ‘that never gets old Boulevardier.’ Gisela laughed too. It was in fact a small cackle that I hadn’t heard from her Germanic timbre before. Lil was catching and I hoped Gisela was infected by Lil rather than becoming her Single White Female.

‘Blueberry muffin for me please,’ said Armando.

‘No Marty today?’ I asked Lil.

‘No, he’s off to the races. He asked me to go with him but I told him I wouldn’t miss a Breakfast Club,’ answered Lil. She looked upwards and into the distance.

Gisela tutted. She was indeed becoming Lil’s mini-me.

‘How’s the love life Armando?’ I asked.

‘Yes good. He is a nice man. The only problem is his English. He doesn’t really speak any. We have to use a translator application on his phone. It makes for slow conversation.’

‘Time to talk, have you?’ cackled Lil.

Armando tutted.

Lil removed the cream silk scarf which had been covering her head and patted her very set curls. I took my cue.

‘Fancy-pants hair Lil.’

‘Yes, thank you. I splashed out and went to the hairdressers yesterday. Sometimes I need more than just a rinse at home.’

‘I must pay a visit myself,’ said Gisela as she tried to pouf her own deflated locks, ‘looks wunderbar.’

Lil gave her side swirls another pat.

‘I do love an appointment at the hairdressers; someone gently washing your hair and massaging your head. And then a good session under the dryer with a pile of mags at your side. Ooooo I could go every day if I could afford it,’ said Lil.

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‘Why is it at the hairdressers that we don’t get to read anything serious? Does the dye, shampoo and hair-cutting shrivel our brains?’ I asked.

Gisela looked puzzled. ‘I always take my crochet.’

‘Silly sod,’ said Lil, ‘as if you’d read anything deep,’ she added as she pointed at me. She was now fully animated and continued, ‘Look at all that shit you watch? Keeping Up with the Real Housewives of bloody America.’ The magnitude of the squawk filled the café with sunshine.

‘I guess you just want to read something light between the gossip eh?’ I bantered back.

‘Too right sunshine,’ said Lil. She was indeed bringing some sunshine into this grey day.

Our plates arrived leaving a trail of fragrant smoke behind them. I tucked straight in and carelessly pulled my egg apart and watched the yolk blend with the mushrooms and halloumi.

‘Heard anything from Bill?’ asked Armando.

‘Yes, I had a call from him in the week. It was great to hear his voice and he sounded well. His daughter is apparently a bit controlling and has restricted his food intake, but let’s face it, losing a few pounds wouldn’t go amiss,’ said Lil as she frantically added salt to her bacon.

‘You think he’ll come back?’ asked Armando.

The atmosphere started to dip. Lil looked pensive as she chewed on a combination of egg white and tomato. ‘I’m not sure. I’ve not thought anything of it.’

‘He must miss his home. I do, and it’s been a long time since I were in Bonn,’ said Gisela.

Our momentary joy was waning.

‘Autumn always makes me miss my aunt,’ said Lil and dabbed her eye with her pink paper napkin.

I reached over to put my hand on hers, but she moved it too quickly to pick up her cutlery again.

‘But autumn also reminds me of betrayal and that awful Bellamy woman, which makes me very cross,’ said Lil as she tore into an uncompromising rasher of bacon which was proving difficult to slice demurely.

‘I don’t know the history, but she is certainly a multiple faced woman,’ said Gisela as she firmly placed her own cutlery on her plate. She hadn’t managed to finish her voluminous platter but looked sated at her efforts.

Lil was alluding to more than the latest spat with Mavis, but I wasn’t sure now was the best time to pursue her on the subject. The gloom of faded summer had us all in its icy grasp.

‘Yes, well I’m not going to dwell on her and her duplicity, especially as poor Betty isn’t even in the ground yet,’ said Lil.

‘Oh so sorry,’ said Armando and mouthed, ‘who’s Betty?’ to me. Lil saw.

‘Don’t worry boys. Betty came to our Age Club for a while before she got put in care in Highgate. I didn’t know her that well, but the poor sod had no life at the end, according to Mavis. It’s her funeral next Wednesday.’

‘Are you going Lil? Gisela?’

‘Yes, although I didn’t know her. Lil has said it’s OK and that we all go to all the funerals,’ said Gisela.

‘Well they’re the main get-togethers at our age, and I never say no to a free vol au vent,’ said Lil.

There was an air of imminent darkness as seasons were changing but at least we’d shared a few laughs among the tea and sausages at our warming Breakfast Club.

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.