My normal café is closed for essential repairs which I presume means re-vamping their recipe for sausage sandwiches, currently scoring poorly on the flavour scale, and I have been forced slightly “off-piste” in search of emergency catering. I come across Terry, another exile who is returning from his emergency coffee of choice and we say, almost in unison, “Hello, Cold Isn’t it, Bloody Freezing” and other profundities which pepper the conversations of those who are joined in the reckless search for truth.
At the end of the conversation, as I walk away, a man I know better called Reg stops me, and pointing to the receding figure of my ex-conversationalist says, “Friend of yours is he?” “Yes” I reply. “Have you ever eaten with him at any other restaurant or pub than “The Tuck Shop?” (That is the name of our local morning haunt by the way.)
“No” I say. “Has he invited you round to his house to look at his famous collection of dried centipedes, a roast meal or even just a glass of cheap merlot?” “No” I say.
“Do you fancy his wife and dread being caught in a compromising situation with her?” “No” I say, but now with greater emphasis. “Have you ever borrowed money off him without having the slightest intention of repaying it?” “No” I say.
“So he’s not really a friend of yours is he Stan. He’s just a bloke you meet in the street, “and this time I can say “Yes” because, let’s face it, that is the heart and soul of the matter, the very nub, the bitter truth!
You can see I like to get past the commonplace and drill into life’s depths, which might explain why no one invites me to into their home, or wives wink at me in a way which indicates that “Hubby is off to the golf-course this morning and the sofa will be ours to shake for the next two hours!”
In short, I largely slide past social opportunities and return to Jacintha my loyal goldfish who is swimming calmly through her estate, or tank as it is called by the uninitiated, which rests on a table in the living area. I pause to dump my shopping, make another coffee, (you can’t argue with the price of the ones you make at home so damn the quality,) and sit down next to her in my customary manner saying, “Have you ever been invited to another bowl by another goldfish to share their breakfast?”
Jacintha, who uses words carefully, or possibly not at all, flicks her tail and with a movement suggesting disdain drifts over to the far side of her estate. I can see the topic will not “light her fire” or whatever the term is in the world of goldfish and so return to sipping my coffee and nodding frequently to emphasise my enjoyment of home-made pleasures. Now Jacintha returns to my side of the estate and opens and closes her mouth slowly in a way which tells me how much we share the simple joys of life, if not coffee.
So ask me, “Is Jacintha a real friend of mine?” and the answer is “Yes!” We’ve never had a deep conversation but I recognise the wisdom in her firm belief that the world outside her estate, is best left unexplored!