Dulltown, Europe: Today’s expletive is ‘Good-lack-a-day!’ – a ladies’ oath from seventeenth century England.
So, the other evening, having stupidly waltzed out of the cafe accidentally leaving behind my bag of shopping, I decided to spring out of bed early the following morning, go back there, for a nice tea and a toasty as breakfast, and retrieve it.
Standing at the chilly bus stop to get the bus into town I was joined there by a middle-aged chap. He had two plastic carrier bags on the wrist of one hand and was dressed pretty normally, except for his shoes which were strangely smooth and round, and looked like they were made of black plastic – at first sight I thought he was wearing baseball cap, but on closer inspection it turned out to be one of those eye-shades that late night gamblers used to wear in those 1940s black and white detective films.
‘Do you live down that street?’ he asked, pointing whence I had come, He had a very nice Scottish accent.
‘Yes.’ I said.
‘I’m looking for a tall man with long white hair – I’ve got something in my bag for him…’ he rattled his carrier bags, ‘I’ve walked up and down here, and I can’t seem to see him.’
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘He doesn’t seem familiar to me.’
‘It’s a DVD player… I don’t want anything for it… I said he could have it…’
‘Oh?…’ I said.
‘I had it in my shed, I don’t think it works… it’s got the wrong remote you know.’
‘He’s usually round here at about 9.30.’
‘It’s only 8.55…’ I said.
‘Buses in Bristol are really expensive – £4 and it’s no distance at all.’
‘Yes… A nice city.’
I said, ‘I can smell bacon frying,’ – I could, it was coming from the nearby sandwich shop.
‘All the buses are coming early today,’ he said, and suddenly walked off up the road peering down alleys and side streets.
After about five minutes he returned and we discussed the strength of the wind – we decided that it was gusty and squally.
‘It’s worse in Scotland this morning,’ he said, ‘people are so unreliable in these parts.’
‘You don’t know where he lives then,’ I offered.
‘If I knew where he lives, I’d take it round – he lives down your street!…’
‘I can’t recall seeing him,’ I said.
‘My wife, she was a good woman – do anything for anyone…’
‘Oh…’ I responded.
‘The number 57 has gone.’
‘Has it?’ I said, and looking at my watch I said, ‘That’ll be about an eight-minute wait then.’
‘Windy, but at least it’s not raining like it was in the early hours… If I knew the make, I could possibly get a remote to suit.’
‘Yes,’ I said, and added, ‘that bacon smell is making me feel hungry.’
‘People are so unreliable round here – it’s not as if I want anything for it, is it? I’ve got it right here, in my carrier bag.’
The number 57, which we thought had gone, broke cover in the distance behind a tall cream coloured lorry and slowly approached us. My companion wave his free arm at it and it pulled up for us. We both got on. I let him get on first. He went downstairs, and I went upstairs – it’s nice to have the choice isn’t it?