I Digress

 Tea shop

Sitting at a window table in the cosy Pizza-carto looking out on a bright day. Everything looked right with the world until, that is, you saw the leaning angle of the people walking down to the quayside. It was a-blowing a good ‘un. I swear blind if the wind stopped they would all flat on their faces. That is apart from that dyed blonde women with the large enhancements, it would be an absolute impossibility for her. 

The Pizza-carto is possibly the worst Pizzeria ever. It’s run by a big Irish bloke called Phil and his red headed Irish colleen of a wife. Last year it was a soup kitchen specialising in inedible home made soup served with the sort of homemade bread even the ducks on the park pond would reject. The year before it was a brown wheel of a thing that Phil called a giant Yorkshire Pudding stuffed with bits of indescribable gristle and assorted vegetables. All of this swum in a creosote like liquid that Phil insisted was homemade onion gravy. 

In truth it didn’t matter what food he sold provided he didn’t fall foul of the food police because his beer provided by his brother’s microbrewery was to die for. Add to this his wife’s looks and lilting voice to say nothing of her skills in seeking out superb wines at bargain prices. Her wine knowledge had earned her her Master of wine. Food just wasn’t what we went there for. Phil, provided he kept his liquids going will never go broke, mind you while he maintained his food standards he will never make a fortune either. Speaking for myself and Phil’s other regulars we really hoped that his food will remain truly bloody awful. That way the beer and wine will guarantee its continuing existence but it will never become trendy and impossible to get into. Cliquey lot we are. 

But I digress my name is Nick Brown and I am here to meet some people I only know through the internet, I am a writer, least ways that’s how I describe myself having had a book accepted and published some fifteen years ago. Truth to tell it was due to a mistake that I made in my name on the manuscript I sent them. Well it wasn’t really my fault one letter out on the keyboard and they accepted it thinking it was from one of their established authors one Mick Brown. Since then my collection of rejection slips should earn me a place in the Guinness Book of Records. I augment my earnings from writing by cooking full English breakfasts for a local hotel and doing various summer jobs for the local theatre, you know the sort of thing taking a turn in the box office, selling programmes, working the interval bar all those front of house chores. Well it keeps me busy. Off season which round here is about eight months of the year we rely on my partner Mich’s earning, well I call her my partner she is my wife really but nobody says that anymore and I do like to keep in with the arty and alternative lifestyle types. Mich is a Conveyancing Manager for a local firm of solicitors and fortunately commands a very respectable salary. 

But I digress, I arranged to meet there people here because having briefed Phil “not to know me” if the pace is busy enough which it should be if I don’t like the look of them I can just slink out. Come to think of it life is a digression I call myself a writer but I spend more time doing fill in jobs and trying to raise my small fisherman’s cottage, no the fisherman weren’t small, well I suppose they might have been but it is the cottage that is small. See I digressed again, as I was saying trying to raise our cottage from rustic wreck to rustic shabby chic. We’ve nearly achieved the shabby the chic is still a long way off. Not that I am certain that I want chic. Chic doesn’t somehow seem like Mich and me. The writing has however picked up recently, recently in this context being over the last couple of years. I have had a couple of short stories accepted and I was commissioned to do the blurb for a new hotel in a remote part of Germany. That was difficult the place was charming enough if you turned right immediately on leaving the hotel but if you turned left fifty yards down the strasse was the back wall of the biggest slaughter house I have ever seen. The smell and the noise was appalling but fortunately the constant prevailing wind took the stink away from the hotel. Still I cobbled together some thing for the hotel owners and they must have been pleased because they paid me my commission, expenses and a small bonus. They also promised me a free holiday anytime I wanted out of their peak season but I don’t think I’ll bother. 

See how easy it is to digress? Anyhow these people I am supposed to meet, one of them is from Spain, an ex-pat as they call him over here visiting with some of his chums and somehow I got invited. I should really have been helping Steve. 

Steve is the owner of one of the other cottages in out little terrace of four, the others being the mad woman, she isn’t really mad her name is Madeline and she is a commercial interpreter and can swear fluently in seven different languages. A truly handsome, formidable lady. The other cottage is owned by George who claims to be a retired Captain home from the sea. Steve doesn’t believe him, he reckons George knows too much about carpets to be anything but a retired carpet salesman but we all pretend to believe poor old George as we wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings or spoil his illusions. Steve is a fully qualified Accountant and an ex public schoolboy. You can tell he is proud of his old school as he often wears two of his old school ties, one to keep his trousers up and the other to keep his long, lank hair out of his eyes. He is a very choosy accountant finding just enough clients to finance his life and drinking but still leaving as much time as possible for what he calls the important things. Funnily enough his clients all seem to be the kind who supply him free with more than fees, things like fresh lobster from a fisherman client, fruit and veg from a greengrocer and well you get the drift. Steve and I spend quite a chunk of time on another of life’s digressions repairing and tarting up old bits of furniture old wooden chairs for example. Steve is quite adamant everything in his cottage has to be old and what he calls artisan. Me? I don’t care if it is old or new made to look old as long as it looks right and is cheap. 

Oh dear this digression is really holding up the story. They told me this guy who calls himself Ally Cante, gawd that’s nearly as bad as Phil’s Pizza-carto, was over for a three week traipse round his old haunts and he would be visiting the four of them for a couple of days and would I like to join them for a spot of lunch. 

At the back of our row of cottages each cottage has a courtyard and then a passageway and then on the other side of the passageway a quite small garden. The Mad Woman’s, Steve’s and my gardens are smothered in flowers in pots climbing trellises and anything to enchant the eye. George’s is covered in weeds and he never goes there claiming, as a seafaring man, he does not understand the in and outs of gardening. Fortunately his garden is at the far end of the row so we just ignore it. As The Mad Woman says why should architects be the only ones allowed to make blots on the landscape. 

Gosh this is getting bad I even digressed from a digression. Let’s see I was telling you about the plans I had originally arranged with Steve. I was going to help him to rub down, stain and varnish eight old wooden chairs we had bought very cheaply from the local weekly auction. Four for his kitchen and four for ours. The chairs we had already got in our kitchens we had arranged to sell to Phil thus making a small profit. Steve’s good at things like that. 

Now where was I before I digressed? The four people who have Ally Cante, I can’t get over that name, in tow are Grace Disful, Big Fat Joe, Jaunty Jack and Legs Eleven. Where the hell do they get these names from? 

Phil’s Irish gem has just come into the bar I don’t think I told you her name is Kate. Phil can’t be easy for her to live with. Don’t get me wrong he is a charming easygoing fellow but he is such a dreamer and so full of plans to make their fortune. He is already working on plans for next year. His latest idea is to build the menu around Lamb shanks and change the name from Pizza-carto to Sheepshanks all made up out of knotted rope. Mind you it will never happen Lamb shanks is this year’s hot menu item next year’s will be different. 

It was Grace Disful who chose  Pizza-carto for our rendezvous. This causes a dilemma for me. Shall I warn them and thereby admit Phil’s establishment is known to me and moreover cost Phil, who after all is a flesh and blood mate, four lunchtime meals? Or do I keep quiet and risk the wrath of the assembled party? On balance I decide to let them make their own choices after all the beer and wine will be excellent and they’ll probably babble away and not even notice what they are eating. I well remember one night when, for a bet, Phil deliberately served different food to that ordered to a party of four who had perfected the art of all talking at once and listening at the same time. Not an easy thing to do. Well after they had worked their way through a starter, main course and dessert he presented them with the bill and they actually complimented him on the food. Believe me Phil was astounded no one but no one ever compliments Phil’s food. 

Oh damn again I digressed. I look at the clock and realise they should arrive any minute. I begin to fervently wish I was helping Steve with the chairs. The place is nicely full but Phil has reserved a table on the far side for the expected party of five plus me if I like the look of them. I begin to feel like a cross between someone on a blind date and a character from a bad spy story. Instinctively I hunch down in my seat and try to hide behind my pint wishing I hadn’t picked a window seat. Even in a really bad spy story the spy wouldn’t make that mistake. If I was a real writer I would be using this experience as research for a future book but on balance I think I am cut out for short stories with a high failure rate and blurb writing.  

Phil comes wandering over and much to my horror sits down at my table. He looks at my horrified expression and says “I’m sorry to tell you Nick, because I know you’ll be so disappointed, but their car has broken down and they wont be coming after all.” 

So you see it‘s true, in the end, life is just one big digression.