I'm off to Paris today to see my brother-in-law defend his PhD at the Sorbonne... and to eat a lot, in the name of research. So over the next few days, I'll be posting some of my favourites from the past year or so.
This is a piece I wrote back in March for the Writing Adventure Group:
I sip my strong coffee as the unfamiliar sun caresses my head. No gloves, no coat - it feels like freedom after the gloominess of a London winter. Lionel Richie floats through the mild air from a nearby old-school ghetto blaster. The street is slowly stretching its Sunday morning arms. Ahhhhhhh...
'Am I annoying you?'
Hunh? My eyes fly open. At the next table, a middle-aged posh-looking man has settled into the chair next to a complete stranger.
'No, you're alright, mate,' the stranger says, engrossed in his newspaper.
'I smoked seven grams of cocaine and had six hookers last night,' says Posh Man, swaying slightly in his chair.
Stranger barely looks up. 'Sounds like a messy night,' he says in a typically understated British way.
Posh Man looks offended. 'No, not messy. Not messy at all. I'm just coming down. I smoked seven grams of cocaine and had six hookers last night,' he repeats, louder, in case any of us have missed it.
Stranger continues with his newpaper. Silence falls.
'I'm the best film maker on this street. Too bad my wife has left me. Man, she was hot.' He points to Stranger. 'Now, if she was with you, I'd be impressed. You're rich. Not as rich as me. I have a Rolex that used to be owned by Frank Sinatra. I'm the best film maker on this street.'
Stranger folds his paper now, giving up. 'No, no, I'm not rich.'
'You are!' Posh Man protests. 'You have a Patek Philippe watch.'
At this, I have to steal a glance at Stranger's watch. I have only heard about Patek Philippe in Vogue, and even I know they're worth thousands of pounds.
Stranger doesn't deny it. He puts his paper under his arm and gets up. Silence descends again, until another couple nab the table where Posh Man is sitting. Posh Man looks their way.
'I smoked seven grams of cocaine and had six hookers last night,' he says, delighted to have a new audience.
And it goes on. The Man and I get up to leave, stifling our laughter.
'He's a nutter!' The Man says.
'But he looked so posh...'
'He's wearing a bow-tie,' The Man responds assuredly. 'The mad ones always wear bow-ties.'