by Gerald Heys
Dave poked at his cauliflower cheese – the nearest thing they did to real food at this place. Four of them at the table: him and Hermione, and the outlaws. Hermione’s idea. Their second kid on the way and her with one of her cravings: nut rissoles this time. Nut arseholes, he’d said. Hermione told him to behave. Behave. How could he? Anyone could put up with Daddy here for the evening – Kenneth was all right, one of the old school – but three hours in some pulse pavilion with Hilda, the Queen of the bloody Night? No way. What he could do with now was egg and chips, followed by a van Helsing stake special and a mallet with a non-slip grip.
‘So, David,’ said Hilda, glowering over her lentil bake, ‘how is the building trade?’
‘Pretty good,’ he said, checking he’d not got sauce down his tie.
‘Pretty good?’ said Hilda, her turkey neck quivering, indignant. There was a recession on; he wasn’t supposed to be doing ‘pretty good’. He should be standing in line, cap in hand; or selling apples from a cart in the road.
‘I been careful,’ he said. ‘I’ve not cut corners, though. Still offering a quality service.’
But that was it. He was service, see, trade. The back entrance. An oik from the smoke whose dad really had sold apples in the road. Dad’d been a costermonger up Berwick Street, and proud of his barrow.
‘Well,’ said Kenneth, ‘I think you are to be commended. You work jolly hard.’
Hermione said nothing. She wasn’t looking so comfy. Either junior was getting restless in there or it’d been a rissole too far.
Hilda sighed now. ‘This food …’
‘Don’t you like it, Mummy?’ said Hermione.
‘Well, it’s not …’
Dave knew what was coming. It wasn’t that it was vegetarian, oh no. It’d be something along the lines of veggie nosh being so frightfully middle class. And, of course, we (and by we she meant herself, hubby and Hermione) were upper middle class. He braced himself. A full-on barney was brewing. Sod it. He was ready.
But Kenneth was looking towards the entrance, surprised. ‘Goodness me,’ he said. ‘That looks like Sir John Collins coming in.’
Hilda, eyes popping, said, ‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes, and Lady Cynthia. And, do you know, it looks like they’re coming over.’
Hilda adjusted her pearls and hissed, ‘You know him from the golf club, don’t you?’
They were sweeping toward the table: Sir John in an old corduroy jacket, Lady Cynthia a pinstripe trouser suit.
‘Why, hello there,’ said Sir John, smiling.
Hilda half turned her head, looking like she was about to get up and bob a curtsy.
‘Hello, Dave,’ said Lady Cynthia.
Sir John said, ‘Just passing, Dave. Saw you through the window. Cynthia and I were only saying this morning what a bloody marvellous job you’d done on the conservatory. First rate.’
‘Rather,’ said Lady Cynthia, nodding.
‘So, if you’ve nothing on, we wondered if you might like to come up to our place in the glens come the Glorious 12th. Do you shoot?’
‘Not really,’ said Dave. ‘But I’d love to have a go.’ He gave Hilda a wink as she glared over the table.
‘Good stuff,’ said Sir John. ‘It’s bloody hard to get a man to do a proper job these days. Now, let me get you all a drink.’
‘I’d better have a Famous Grouse,’ said Dave, watching Hilda force a smile through her dentures.
Gerald Heys wrote this as a sequel to Meet the Farquhars.