Simon and Debbie have been married as long as I have been alive. They ran pubs, all over, including The Gypsy Moth in Greenwich. I tell them I know it. Simon’s job is to sweeten the barman. Debbie checks the rooms. He is now a stout used-car salesman and they live in Blackpool. “Shithole” he says, with a smile. He’s driven Jags and lived through days when you could pile into a car and just go for a drive. “Now it’s all tax” he says and the thing is, he is right, to some extent. That purple patch is long gone.
Carol, or Karen (it is loud, she is quiet) makes up the group. Her husband died two and a half years ago. We drink lurid cocktails the colour of anti-freeze. She is hesistant to speak. Simon makes terrible jokes that make me laugh. He sends around 12 texts a year. “I like the email though,” he allows.
The next day, my hangover subsides in slanted hot sunshine. I walk, and walk. Directionless and motive with You on my mind.
Carol sits outside again the next night as ‘Cabaret’ is in full swing. She lights a Berkeley.
“He made me confident,” she says. “When he died, my confidence just went like that.”. She mimes a fall with her hand. “Oh, I’m getting maudlin. Just tell me to shut up.”. But I want her to tell me the bitter truth.
“We never really talk about. Dying, I mean” I say.
She goes on to slowly, hesitantly tell me about her son, her daughter. The plans her and her husband had. Her father is 84 and hasn’t had a passport since his wife, her mother, died. She was 77.
“What religion are you?” she asks.
“Oh, I like them. They’re a bit more like us.”
Who ‘us’ is isn’t clear but I can see that since her husband died, her entire system of self-confidence and action has taken a battering. “He used to tell people I was better than I was, you know. So I’d … ” she tails off. Her anecdotes about Raj Motors and the genial Sikh guy who fixes their cars are like comic relief. They sound like Alan Bennett’s “Talking Heads”.
“He’s a lovely man”, she says.
It is late and my hangover is catching up with me. I make my excuses and head up with two large glasses of water. In my room, I read “Diary of a Nobody” by George Grossmith and there is something delicious about thinking of it as I pen these lines.