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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Bonkers Bingo

I drew the bed covers up and raised my second Assam of the morning to my lips. I loved our Breakfast Club but equally enjoyed the decadence of a long lie in, particularly when the air has a glacial bite to it. I had opened one of my sliding wardrobe doors and was looking intently in from the warmth of bed. I had no idea what to wear.

I knew how to dress for an evening with Eve Ferret at Crazy Coqs, or a night at Polari Literary Salon at the Royal Festival Hall, but what would I wear to a charity bingo afternoon at the community centre? I wanted to make sure that Lil was impressed. It would take several more cups of tea before I was able to make a good decision.

It was ten to two. How time flies when you want it to stay still, and I was having a final check in the mirror; the hair was quiffed, and the combination of purple chinos, Amy Winehouse T shirt, blue/silver Prada trainers and a dark blue cord jacket said I’d made an effort but not overdone it.

Lil and Armando were waiting, arm in arm, outside the Café as I approached. Armando had seemingly combed his hair and applied some pomade, and wore a plain shirt beneath his coat, and blue jeans. Lil looked a picture; his lips were rosy, her cheeks rouged, the hair purpler (she’d been at the rinse again), and she wore a tightly buttoned woollen coat with oversized buttons – an animal print silk scarf warmed her neck. Her fancy court shoes matched her patented handbag. She’d pushed the boat out and I was glad I was wearing some glad(ish) rags too.

‘I hope you haven’t forgotten to take off your house coat today Lil,’ I joked.

‘Shut it Boulevardier. You could have made an effort,’ Lil retorted with shooting speed.

I took Lil’s other arm and we escorted her the short walk to our afternoon entertainment.

As we entered Lil spoke to the door staff; apparently called Tom and Ted. We didn’t get an introduction but paid our fees, handed over our prizes of wine and vouchers, and received our bingo cards.

‘I’m just nipping to powder my nose gentlemen,’ Lil said, and with that she was off. She reminded me of a peacock and we were her plume.

Upon Lil’s return her cheeks were re-rouged and her lips coated in an extra layer of liner. We re-linked arms like the front line of battle and shuffled through the double doors into the hall. Our entrance wasn’t as smooth as expected as Armando caught his sleeve on the door. Lil pursed her lips briefly and then switched as we entered the hall and let out an enchanting cackle as if one of us had said something funny. She was performing. We would have to oblige.

Lil guided us between a number of elderly patrons to an empty table near the front. She asked Armando to get us a Sherry each from the bar. This was out of habit. She was used to Armando serving us. While he completed his mission Lil steered me to the front where a portly elderly gent was bursting out of his chequered waistcoat.

‘I’d like to introduce you to my good friend who is a writer, Bill. This is Wayne and Wayne this is Bill.’

‘How do you do,’ I said trying to sound as much like a writer as I could.

‘Likewise. What do you write?’

‘A blog.’ Bill looked nonplussed. An online journal and some short stories.’

‘Good afternoon Lilian. Please move away from the bingo cage. We don’t want to be accused of fiddling with the balls now do we,’ came a familiar voice.

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‘Hello Mavis,’ Lil said through gritted teeth, ‘you seem to have forgotten to take off your pinny.’

‘It’s a pinafore dress Lilian as well you know.’

‘Are you sure? You look as if you should be in the kitchens.’

Mavis smiled politely but was not prepared to engage Lil further and moved to another table where we could hear her loudly exclaiming to other attendees. I coaxed Lil back to our table where Armando was waiting with the Sherries.

‘Lil, honestly, you and Mavis are like a pair of schoolgirls,’ I said.

‘She accused me of trying to cheat,’ Lil said in a low but firm defence, ‘and I’m not having it.’

We were interrupted by Mavis, booming through a microphone to thank everyone for attending. We were invited to help ourselves to a selection of sandwiches and cakes and a hot drinks as the bingo would be starting in fifteen minutes.

I left Lil with Armando and ventured forth to get a sharing platter. The sandwiches were varied and on large aluminium plates with doilies for decoration. I’d finished my Sherry and fancied a coffee and approached the two ladies who were standing on either side of two large stainless steel urns and made my request.

Back at the table I enjoyed the simple cheese sandwiches. Why do we go for fancy sundried tomato and Prosciutto when simple and traditional tastes just as good?  I’d also secured three slices of Battenberg. Our afternoon tea was cut short as Mavis announced the commencement of the bingo.

‘I’d like to pronounce this Bingo event open.’

‘She’s not naming a bloody ship,’ said Lil loud enough for Mavis to hear.

Bill stood. I hoped the buttons on his waistcoat stayed put as they were being stretched and could cause quite a nasty injury should they ping forth. Bill turned the handle on the metal bingo cage full of coloured balls before lifting the latch and pulling forth ‘number 23’ which he then placed in its designated circular hole on the large wooden board.

None of us had ‘23’ on our cards and regrettably this was to be a harbinger as we didn’t win anything. I came close once where I only needed one number but was beaten by a rather downtrodden looking lady at another table. I reasoned that perhaps she deserved to triumph more than me.

Mavis announced the end of the proceedings, thanked everyone for their time and contributions which totalled several hundred pounds for charity.

‘At least Mavis didn’t win anything either,’ said Lil.

I turned and looked at her and she appeared defeated and tired. Did she want or rather need to win a prize?  Lil looked vulnerable.

Mavis was still full of spirits and laughing loudly with some of the attendees. Lil looked upset and I felt protective. We needed to get her out of there and home as soon as possible. A nod from Armando meant that our thoughts were in sync.

We exited the venue quickly and without further incident. Mavis was still busy talking to some of the winners on the other side of the hall and Bill was focussed on putting his balls away. As we walked back to the café Lil relied more on the arm support.

‘Are you tired Lil?’ I said.

‘A little, but let’s get a nice tea together in Armando’s café before we separate.’

Our usual table was taken but Lil seemed too weary to mind and we sat next to the front window.

‘Thank you for coming with me, my lovely boys. You don’t know how much I appreciate it.’

Armando and I looked at each other. We knew.