Do you take salt and vinegar with that?

Wednesday March 9, 2005

We’d done our errands, me to the Post Office, Graham to the phone shop, and so we jumped into Costa Coffee just in time to miss a heavy shower. The young guy who usually serves me lit up with a big smile as I walked over to the counter, and only scowled a little when Graham joined me.

“What is it with that bloke?” Graham asked over his large cappuchino.

“Um, this is good…” I said, wiping crema from my moustache. “How do you mean?”

“He always smiles and laughs with you but all I get is a scowl and a grunt.”

“Search me. Have you been nasty to him?”

“Not at all.”

“Perhaps he just doesn’t like you.”

“His friend doesn’t like me, either.”

“You’d better be careful.”

“So had you. Or you’ll be dead.”

“I didn’t notice young Luke Skywalker anywhere.”

“Just as well, or it’d be you getting the scowl.”


Outside it was chilly but freshly washed, and it didn’t seem quite time to give up on Boston for the morning.

“How’d you fancy a browse in Ottakar’s?” I asked.

“Good idea, there’s some books I want to check on.”

I didn’t feel like braving the stairs to see what was on the poetry shelves today, so I mooched around the ground floor, poked my nose into the children’s section, and ended up giggling at the dreadful sickly-sweet quotes in a display of small ‘Thoughts for your…’ books. Graham was checking prices of new science fiction against the list he’d noted on Amazon, ticking away merrily in his PDA.

My giggles grew louder. Walking over to me, poking his PDA back in its case, Graham said: “Come on, you, time to go.”

“Why? I’m having fun.”

“That’s obvious. The bloke behind the counter certainly thinks it’s obvious.”

“Oh, gosh. You’re right. What a frightful scowl. Why’s that, do you think.”

“Can’t imagine. Perhaps he doesn’t like you.”

Graham hadn’t bought any of the books in which he’d been interested. The prices on Amazon were considerably lower, it seems. So he decided to nip into HMV to check out new music DVDs. I was invited to come along but I didn’t fancy walking into the sponge of sound produced by the booming speakers.

“No. Tell you what, I’ll nip over and treat myself to a small bag of chips and wait for you outside.”

Oh boy but those chips were tasty! I wandered along, nibbling happily, fingers becoming deliciously salt and vinegar flavoured, and paused for a moment right in front of some bloke bellowing the benefits to be obtained by taking Jesus into my life.

“Are you enjoying those chips, friend?” he shouted at me.

“I most certainly am,” I replied.

“I don’t need chips,” he yelled. “I have Jesus to feed my soul.”

“Do you take salt and vinegar with that?” I asked.

At that point he dismissed me as being past redemption and turned his attention to someone else passing by.

I found a space on a bench outside the HMV store and sat there to enjoy my treat and wait for Graham to emerge. Three old folks were there before me, one in a wheelchair, another on the bench, and a man I took to be the second woman’s husband standing behind her.

“How’s your ‘flu, luv?” asked the second woman.

“Been over it a week now,” said the wheel-chair woman. “Took it out of me, though.”

“Did you have the ‘flu jab?”

“Oh no. I don’t believe in them.”

“Neither do we.”

“Did he get the ‘flu?”

“Oh yes. Had it for Christmas. Couldn’t eat a thing for a fortnight.”

“I ate some custard,” he said, stoutly.

“That’s not eating. That’s drinking.”

The man said nothing more. He was too busy coughing. I edged away as far as I could get, finished my chips, and decided that I’d pass on licking my fingers clean. You never know what bugs you might pick up in Boston when you’re in close proximity to willing ‘flu victims. So I took out a wet wipe and removed the grease the civilised way.

Just then Graham popped up. “I’ve forgotten to bring my credit card. Could you come and get me the new David Bowie DVD?”

“Sure thing, chicken,” I replied, and bounced into the cavernous store, immune to the noise, sailing along on the crest of my fried potato, salt and vinegar high.

Back home I found I’d somewhat spoiled my appetite for lunch so I made up a plate of ham salad sandwiches for Graham, and a single sandwich filled with sliced tomatoes for myself. Dressed lightly with salt and vinegar. Even so I had a job getting it all down.

“You’ll never learn, will you?”

“Nope. But it’s good fun trying.”

As I settled down for a happy snooze, I fell to wondering what the street evangelist had for his lunch. No way of knowing, of course. But I do hope he had salt and vinegar with it.


Stickford, Mar 9,'05
‘Postcards from my head’ No. 4
Actually, this works better than I thought it would.



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