Monday, 24 December 2018

Ode to a Wild Pony

Ode to a Wild Pony

Oh, it’s true: you’ll have to gallop fast
to keep up with her,
wear her soft against your bare skin like fur.
Stirrup saddled thighs to her warmth
and tense yourself in headlong dash
for the onrushing fence;
untamed smile gives you no defence.
Racing her; chasing her
face-whipped wind over desert sand,
front running the finish line to seize her hand.
Yet it’s sheer vanity to even think
to pin any rosette on her tack,
stroke her wild mane
or seek to tame;
for such élan and style
is something you lack.
Don’t look back;
with luck, she might win,
place or show;
dazzle and headline somewhere you go
with a look of eagles,
toss back champagne
then casual be trainer of your reins.
And, oh, the pumping blood through veins
as you overreach
and stumble half slain,
whirling across myriad dance floors,
leave you pounding on her stable doors,
panting for breath and hard quarter cracked,
dying at your paddock charred.
But the thrill is always in the chase,
you know you lack the poise and grace:
Oh, some such wild longings were built to last,
the time to canter has long since passed
now steel yourself and gallop fast.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Rest and Be Thankful

Rest and Be Thankful

Rest and be thankful today for what was once had.
At Christmas, even scorched hearts should soar and be glad,
not toffee-tongued, bitter burnt, downcast and sad.

When grey winter’s ancient trees hang bare of leaf,
dripping cold upon the weary city’s tangled grief,
remember when glorious sun shone on minds full of belief.

Let us shake off anger and deny its furious powers,
laugh instead; languish beneath warm summer showers,
recall what might have been in fields of flowers.

Learn by heart kissed days when meeting was rich in pleasure,
 azure cool calm watered oases of treasure,
relax side by side, quench love’s thirsts measure with measure.

Praise blissed soundtracks that remind with simple songs
of melodies shared and memories strong,
link us in tune to serenade those days now grown long.

Why, if chance would have us meet without our stir,
then let us dress in grateful smiles to greet the fortunate stars.
Why steal shyly away with crucified hearts of fear?

Wipe from tired faces the frown lines that hold us in thrall,
scale trenches and tear down the wall,
Cry out ‘armistice’, agree truce and wave the white flag,
rest and be thankful today for what was once had.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Holding Rails With Fingernails

Holding Rails With Fingernails

‘There’s nothing for you through there, mate’,
he stated, in claxon tones of self belief,
as I pushed past him to the front,
in search of some needed relief.
He smiled amiably enough.
He could spot I was a little rough;
 train crawling through English night,
eight hours after the Qatar flight,
where they breastfeed you with gin,
and you land almost before you begin.
‘That’s the engine, mate, through there,
that door goes to bleedin’ nowhere,
that does.’ As you do, I internal groaned,
checked the time on the phone.
We’re altogether but quite alone.
Surrounded by shivering captive crowd
nasal tones muttered soft but always loud,
cheerful in our joint irritation
self appointed leader on location,
spokesman for the broken nation.

Greying, small and running fat,
slumped beneath his rambler’s hat,
zipped inside his tatty parka
fingers draw air like magic markers:
‘the ones back there are trashed an’ all,’
he says, fixing me with his one good eyeball,
‘Still, look, this is us, travelling safe,
England’s still a decent place,
they can’t help them slippery tracks,
you know?’ matter of fact, sitting back.
‘You don’t get these in bleedin’ Saudi,’
noticing an Arabic tag on my travel bag.
He chews bacon flavoured crisps thoughtfully;
as the engine flounders and starts to flag
at Plymouth: spinning wheels that wail,
foul farting engine gives up, then fails
squealing in pain like a pig on rails.
‘You from there, then? What’s it like?’
Qatar is sandy,’ I grunt, in frustration,
to the leader of the nation.

Nodding sagely in state, he declaims,
while looking through the misty rain:
‘Stuck now. We’ll never get there
at this or that time. Not a prayer.
‘No heat either. Buffet’s also broken,’
frowning for it was bluntly spoken.
Showing no intent of forward motion
the train bridles like some stubborn goat.
He cyclop stares. ‘Did you vote?’
Remain or leave? It’s much the same,
we’re trapped together on this train.’
Unscrewing a flask he sip-stares,
‘it’s always best to come prepared
for journeys these days.’ And then:
‘There used to be dry fruit cake
with one good cherry in your slice.
The big society put the mockers on that
and the people’s charter raised the price.’
Holding on, we chew nails in contemplation
await the saviours of the nation.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018



Innocent, they sat for days, possibly weeks,
pocketed in your school blazer,
the inside one that rests over the heart
secreted beneath the stitched-on badge.
Just a fistful of brown tipped matches,
looking spent and worn,
sleeping in their balsa box like colourless crayons.
Not crimson Swan Vestas
or anything fancy like that,
but there they were, living, breathing.
itching to be struck, urging to spark,
burning under cover, begging; they impel,
but the tang of smoke might kiss and tell.
Passed for safe keeping by that older mate:
Dobson, who slouches, haunting night’s corners,
his smirking cocky eye neither welcoming
or disdainful in its experience,
a passing resemblance to David Essex:
in That’ll be the Day or Stardust;
Flicking two fingers at your mother
where the one is much the other.
Forever on the brink of leaving,
tossing life’s homework into thick reeds
splitting secrets and spilling seeds.
Up well after your bedtime, late
shoulders shanked against the cold,
surrounded by the scary,
round bellied, back row girls
who taste of fags and relish lads
and fail their tests with pride.
Short terms, seeing the world
torn in two by two, after riding dodgems
or the corkscrew.
He’s waiting, beckoning you to join him,
whilst keeping close watch on his home,
because he’s mostly there alone.
Asking you for the fags with a grin,
the ones you nicked that are the passport in.
Next to his matches in your pocket.
Your dad isn’t going to miss one or two
from the score or so,
and you took three or four
just to make double sure.
Dobson flicks your blazer with amiable scorn
from within his shammy leathers;
knowing you steered clear of white feathers
you flush, when he accepts,
receiving your offered tribute graciously,
patting pockets in playful frisk,
snatches the matches that you risked,
offering them around and in return,
gifting you the least likely girl.
She sparks up, sucks and shivers,
scowls and then sweetly delivers.
Dobson heels his spent butt
into memories of the door you just shut
where Dad kind ruffled your hair as you left,
you remember it, as you slink back,
almost the same, but smelling different,
and as you push open the kitchen door,
the warmth has left it. Cold now.
He’s still there, standing by the table
and your shammy smile is hardly able
to reach him. He looks with bitter eye,
or anger, or pain, or shame:
where the one is much the other,
or the same.
Oh, he almost wants to believe it and repent:
that you thought they were used. Spent.
But he knows them, he wears them
beneath the stitched-on badge
upon his old school blazer
sitting next to his heart.
They twist the key and seal the latches,
a fistful of sleeping brown tipped matches.

Sunday, 16 December 2018



‘We will proceed no further in this business’,
he remembered her saying,
after it had already ended anyway.
‘Wait’, he’d cried, but too late:
his corpse lay before him,
rotting rigid on top of the sterile shores of grit,
beside a concrete sea of tranquillity,
dark and pale on her icy disc.
Frozen there so fast, legend has it,
that if you fixedly twist your eyes,
blankly stare at those far silhouettes,
blur in ghost vision just so,
then two become one; frigid.
Resting in solid state,
ready to sit out time and wait,
like two gigantic stone hands clasped
in perpetual unemotion.
‘Wait? Oh yes you will,’ she said,
not in so many words,
but he’d got the message
as she swan dived, angel swooped,
swung in graceful pirouette,
hurling her chakarani halo throat-wards.
Then two bloodied daggers to the back,
just to be sure, certain
he understood, got the point,
lying there, amazed, confused, but no wiser.
‘You will wait forever.
Wait until we both see sense,
which will take all of time,
due to the fact I’ve been on the fence,
given that these days it’s no crime.
So lie there, fool, in the dirt and grime
until flowers full bloom
to cloak in colour mare fecunditatis.
Sprawl there until my feckless forest
comes to high Dunsinane.
‘Well, I didn’t see that coming’,
he thought, as he lay in waste, waiting
face down, decomposing,
wondering how it was that one
not of woman born had felled him.
But even while he turned to compost,
to mingle with that lifeless dust,
replaying words he could no longer trust,
in all kindness, he knew he had to. Wait.
While each grain of Arabic desert sand
was back catalogued and listed missing,
when each snowflake was photographed
falling, twisting and caught French kissing.
Until, eventually, he fertilized with slow decay
to bring forth buds to blossom the clay.
‘Now wouldn’t that be grand,’
he might have softly said,
if the vacuum could bear to hear sound
while he melted into the lunar shell.
‘To here be one day waiting, found
tending our garden, alive and well.’

Friday, 7 December 2018

The Boy With the Cut Off Shorts

The Boy With the Cut-Off Shorts

Chrissie chucked the battered edition of Jekyll and Hyde on the bed then reached long slender fingers underneath the material covering bare and freshly showered shoulders and adjusted the bra strap underneath the thin polo neck T Shirt. It had been biting tightly into freckled flesh but a careful movement in a minor key with rouged long fingernails sorted the problem.

Strawberry blonde.

Not ginger, by no means ginger. Ginger was strictly for the biscuits.

Chrissie was pleased with the reflection in the mirror. Not bad for a forty year old. The thin, opaque material wrapped snugly round pretty decent boobs, presenting and pushing up and forwards. Heads would turn at the strutting confident heels on chipped crazy paving of the hot desert streets.

Unless a stone got in there. One of those gravel chippings.

Not that it was a conscious thing or sought after. Rightly modest was Chrissie, but rightly pert also. And sexy sweater fabric cling-filming all over was like preserving freshly squeezed peaches. Juicy.

Cheryl avoided meeting Chrissie now, hateful bitch. In fact, brunches were disastrous if the two of them met – quite the most terrible occasions. Well, now, it was okay to begin with, but once the second gin had taken hold of her, Cheryl would, obviously and maliciously, place her Michael Kors clutch on the table. Erecting a psychological and literal barrier between them.

It had been a joke, in some tacky bar one night, six months ago. Chrissie had smirked, looked at Cheryl and said. “Well, he’s out of your league.”


“Julius. He’s too young for you.”

“How dare you?”

“Just joking. Go get him, gal.” They’d barely talked since.

But there was something about the man in the cut off shorts. Julius. Down in the schoolyard, me and him. Or something along those lines. Well, if Cheryl didn’t want him now…Chrissie applied a bit more lippy, swung the bag over the shoulder and walked outside where the Uber was waiting.

Well there had been a bit of texting since that time. Or Whatsapping. Or Whatsevering. Not sexting, though. What was sexting anyway? Sending a picture of your cleavage? Well there were plenty of those on Facebook to be looked at. Not that they were meant, in all innocence, they just looked good. Someone else happy-chat-snapped those anyway; the gorgeous female body beautiful. Where was the harm?

And if anyone dared to troll, well Chrissie was quite a ruthless blocker; blocking with the best of them.

Yes, even now, the Uber driver was glancing in the rear-view mirror as the Nissan Sunny swept down the six lane Al Waab Road. Jerking and juddering at every red light. Jiggling in time, Chrissie sat in the back, only glancing up from the iPhone when thrown forward from the back against the front seat. As you do.

Now, once they’d got to Holiday Inn on the old airport road, the driver had jumped out and opened the door. Chrissie had snagged bag in heels syndrome, pitched forward and the boobs had somehow brushed against him. Was he smirking? Well he wasn’t shy in cupping a handful, that was certain.

Chrissie glared, did a quick brush down and looked towards reception. And there he was.

Julius was a damned stupid name and he cursed his parents. Why not Julian? Perfectly good; there had been a Julian in Famous Five, hadn’t there? Fond of Dick.  

But no, no - Julius.

Julius, no.

Come to think of it, Fleming had coined that one, too. Julius No. It made him sound like a cheapskate Doctor Who villain. And he never, ever ordered caesar salad. Well, he did, but hated the bits of crouton that defiled the teeth. Spitting bits out for hours afterwards.

I saw, I came, I spat.

Whatevers. Julius witnessed the tumbling show at the Uber then was pleased to see Chrissie walking towards him, unsteadily, on stacked heels. His heart warmed as he took in the tangled ginger hair, not so much cascading as getting swept o’er the weir like a tossed, abandoned cat.

“Hello you.” he grinned, steadying her as she reached him, how’s tricks?”

“That Uber driver, honestly.”

“Good to see you babes. Really. Really good to see you.”

“Don’t call me babes.”

“Sorry. Did Wolves lose again?”

“What do you mean?”

Julius did his best to look nonchalant, but his heart was racing. Abu Dhabi F1 circuit racing. It had been, Oh God, it had been: since the first time they’d ever met. It was one of those. You know? It’s hard to put into words what happens when your eyes meet and you just know. And horribly, you not only see it, you can flash forward to the heartbreak before even it has ever begun. If Julius made a compilation mix-tape for her, he knew he would have to conclude Side 2 with the songs that he’d listen to as he recovered from the inevitable heartbreak.

Any wise men will tell you the same. But all wise men are fools.

Julius was brought back by her accusing tone, stinging his ear like an unloved wasp. With tinnitus. “You’re wearing shorts.”

“I know, you said you liked them.”

“Well, not here, you fool. We’ll not get in.”

“What? Really?”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake. It’s the fucking Holiday Inn” Chrissie looked for help.

Other diners were filing straight into the hotel, oblivious, passing bags through the security sonar, or whatever the hell it was, and Julius just couldn’t let her down. So he went to the door of the hotel. “Lunch? We’ve booked a table.”

“Of course, sir.” The doorman, Filipino probably, made a pretense and returned almost too quickly. “Sorry, sir. You must wear trousers.”

“Oh, come on. The flyer said ‘casual.’”

“Yes, sir.”


“Too casual, sir.”

Julius scowled. Chrissie was taking no prisoners, anyhow. She looked at the diminutive doorman who was never nothing if not polite. “Can we borrow some trousers?”

“You want my trousers?”

Chrissie rolled her eyes. “Well, of course not. How is my Julius (be still that beating heart) supposed to get into yours? You are far too short. He’d split them, wouldn’t he? And then, when he returned them to you, you’d be sent home. In disgrace. To get more trousers. Is that what you want? Where would it end? Just go and find some trousers of a roughly equivalent size to the legs of Julius that you see before you and be sharp about it. khalas, khalas.” As he scurried off, she added, “fool.”


“Not him, you.”

Chastened, Julius waited, fingering his wallet, heart pounding. Chrissie didn’t even look at him; the contempt was palpable, how like his mother, always disappointed; cherished silence, buttocks tingling, waiting for the swipe of the spoon, the feigned cry of pain, the alarm.

In any case, the only thing that happened was the doorman, who returned with no trousers, but two rolls of bandages, the kind used to make a sling. He proffered them apologetically and with a half shrug. It was clear that Julius was supposed to wrap his legs in them. “I’ll look like a bloody mummy.”

Chrissie scowled at him and began wrapping his legs with the help of the doorman. It didn’t quite work due to the bandages being white and the cut offs being black.

“I feel like the invisible man.”

“I wish you were the invisible man.”


“Shut up, or I’ll wrap your bloody head.”

“I get blackening boot polish, sir?” The doorman indicated the contrast between the thick linen wrappings and the frayed shorts.

“Don’t push it.”

“Push? Wheelchair, sir?”

Chrissie stabbed a final safety pin in to secure the wrapping and pushed Julius through the security scanner. “Get a move on. I’m hungry.”

It was quite difficult negotiating the dining tables wrapped in bandages and Julius was drawing some odd looks with his stiff zombie movements, but he made it. He plonked himself in the offered seat and was glad to get them out of eyeshot under the table. As she sat down, he made a mental note not to drink too much beer – avoiding trips to the toilets would be advisable. He smiled. “You look great.”

“Thank you.” Her voice was cold, though. She ordered drinks – sparkling wine and a bottle of beer.

They glanced through the set menu which bragged, in a swirly font that resembled the one used by British Rail canteens that they were about to ‘Experience Exciting English Cuisine’. It was pretty standard for a weekend lunch. 100 Riyals got you three courses and a doggy bag to take home – alcoholic drinks were extra and expensive. But the choice seemed decent enough, promising artichokes, asparagus and crispy duck. Not convincingly English, but Julius thought he’d let it pass without comment.

The drinks arrived via a becloaked waiter, wearing a headscarf, darting and hovering like some oversized, black coated hummingbird who hadn’t sipped pollen in weeks, placing the bottle of beer in front of Chrissie. “Curry powder, sir?” he asked, in a shrill voice.

“What?” Julius blinked, looking at his glass.

“In wine, sir. Curry powder.”

“Er…no thank you.”

“Sure, sir? Is tasty.”

“It is?”

“Yes, sir. Hot Bengali spices, sir. English, sir.”

Chrissie slammed the table and glared at the waiter. “Is anybody else having curry powder in their Prosecco?”

“Yes, yes. Same, same.”

“No, he does not want curry powder in his wine. How stupid would that be? I’ve never heard anything so pathetic.”

“Sorry. You order now?”

“He’ll have the asparagus, followed by the salmon en croute. I’ll have the same.”

“Sure, sure. I get.”

“Does that come with curry powder?” But the waiter had hovered off to another party.

Julius and Chrissie looked at each other across the round table, resting elbows on the sheer white tablecloth. One of those awkward silences followed that most couples nowadays, nationality regardless, cover by staring at mobile phones while swiping them, tapping them then grunting with false amusement or surprise as though they were in much better virtual company than real. Chrissie sipped from her bottle head bowed and thus engaged; Julius just stared at Chrissie. The silence made him aware that his bandaged limbs were throbbing, due to the tight tourniquet around his legs. He could feel pins and needles in the soles of his feet.

He coughed. “Who are you talking to?”

“I’m not. I had a message from Derek. It was odd. Something about Cheryl.”

“Ah, Derek. Strange, isn’t it?”


“When you go on a date and your date is messaging another man.”

“What makes you think this is a date?”

“It isn’t?”

“I didn’t say that.” Chrissie scowled. Julius supposed she was still being difficult about the shorts. He had wanted to please her but recognised his mistake. Many years ago, Julius had once dated a stunning Indian woman where the reverse had happened – he’d wanted to show her off to his friends and told her to glam up on a river trip around Plymouth Sound whilst they’d all got pissed. She’d sat miserably in the cold for two hours, looking out of place dressed in a sari. They’d never seen each other again.

“I’m sorry about the shorts. Look, after this, we’ll go back to mine and I’ll shower and get changed. Then we could go into town for a drink?”

“Go back to yours for a shower? Anything could happen.”

“Could it?”

With a delightful, delicate fragrance, the asparagus arrived and was imperceptibly slid onto the table by the hummingbird waiter. He paused as the couple took cutlery, cut in side on and raised a balanced forkful to lips. “Is good?”

Julius looked at Chrissie and hissed as he  munched, “Does yours taste like curry?”

“A bit like curry, yes.”

“Very good, thank you.” Julius wanted to spit it back onto the plate but was too polite. He continued to munch slowly, watching for movement.

The waiter seemed in no hurry to leave, though, nodding and smiling appreciatively in time to their chewing like a bespectacled metronome. “Good, yes?”

“Very good. Very good indeed.”

Still he hovered, as the third portion was jointly consumed. “Still good?”


“Not cold?”

“No. Good, but not cold.”

The waiter nodded, smiling in understanding. “Gets cold now?”


“Yes. Very cold now.” The waiter leant over, blew on Julius’ plate, dipped his finger in and sucked it thoughtfully. “You want curry powder? Make hot?”

“What are you doing? Why did you do that to my asparagus?”

“Yes sir, I did it sir. Chef ask me you like lime pickles?”

“These lime pickles. Are they also hot? A bit like curry?”

“Yes sir, tasty, make hood hot. From Mumbai. With spicy mango chutney and poppadum. English like.”

Chrissie dropped her fork onto the china plate with a clash. “Excuse me, what’s your name?”

“Alfonso, miss.”

“Alfonso? Fuck off. Julius? We’re leaving.”

“Are we?”

“Yes we are, this place is a joke. Why did we come here anyway?”

Julius looked shiftily at the other diners. If they were having curry powder tipped onto food or into their beverages, and there was no absolute evidence of this, they didn’t seem to be creating any fuss, that was certain. He cleared his throat. “Ah…well, ah…it is quite near to my flat and I had hoped, not to put too fine a point on it, I had hoped that…ah…well it’s been five years, you see? Five years is a long time to go without, you know…”

“What? Curry powder?”

“No, no, I was thinking, well if this had gone well, between you and me, well, you have needs and I have needs, so…”

“Needs? Sexual needs, you mean? What kind of a girl do you think I am?”

“A fake one.” The voice was shrill, angry and deep in contempt – not an easy combination, but its owner managed it anyway. Alfonso, having left as ordered was suddenly and terribly back. With one dreadful moment, he whipped off the cloak and headscarf to stand revealed. “Tell me to fuck off would you, darling?”


“Yes. It was me all along.” Opposite Chrissie, Cheryl viciously pulled the white tablecloth towards her. The glass, plates and cutlery somersaulted into Chrissie’s body – a trifle of beer, wine, gravy and asparagus cascaded against her frock like the multi-coloured puddles often found beside Dudley gas works after a hefty storm. She screamed, threw herself backwards and tumbled over the top of the chair, legs splayed and winded.

“You were in disguise.” gasped Julius, hazily remembering the menacing figure as some woman from a night out where he’d drunk too much.

“Of course I was in disguise, lacing your food with curry powder and not just any curry powder, either.” Cheryl took the tablecloth and scrubbed her face; some diminutive Svengali who held all the cards; about to pull the rabbit from the hat.

“My God! You’ve poisoned us, you venomous sea serpent…but why, why? I’m too young to die…” Julius wanted to move as Cheryl advanced, but the bandages had by now cut off all feeling. He was pinned to his chair like some victim in a horror movie, waiting for the final slashing cut of the knife. Julius looked for help from the other staff, but they seemed oblivious.

“Of course I haven’t poisoned you, idiot. But later, when you try to get romantic  tonight…the results will be explosive. Hah!” And with that, she tossed the cloth aside.

“You evil bitch.”

“Yes. Too bloody young for me? How dare she. And what do you make of this sad, old trollop?” she continued, indicating the floor where Chrissie was now pushing herself off the ground, dripping in food. “Here, let me help you.” Cheryl moved forward and callously seized Chrissie by the chest and hair, pulling her roughly to her feet. With a quite ghastly ripping sound, the whole ensemble came away and she held her trophies aloft in triumph, grinning at Julius. “Poor deluded fool!” she sneered holding a bouffant, strawberry wig in one hand and the thin sweater in the other.

Chrissie, also standing, covered her chest. She was sobbing, either in anger or misery.

Now there was pandemonium in the restaurant. A partially naked woman? In The Holiday Inn? The waiters, once so tardy, so unmindful, rushed over. “Please to cover up miss…er…mister?”

Chrissie’s bra had been wrenched so forcefully, it hung from the shoulders in two pieces and padding material was tumbling pitifully onto the floor like the first flakes of snow on a winter’s day.

As Cheryl was bundled towards the exit, still creaming in triumph, Chrissie snarled and made as if to follow, but one of the staff retrieved the tablecloth that had previously been cast aside and covered the shoulders; gently pushing him onto the chair. “You stay here. You get calm. I call manager.” And he waved concerned diners back to tables. “Please to continue to eat.”

“Yes. Nothing to see here.” added Julius, still unable to move very much. With a grimace, he began to unwrap his legs until he had two bundles and a couple of safety pins. “Here,” he said fondly, and used the pins to fix the two pieces of bra together, stuffing the crumpled bandages into the cups tenderly. “There you go.” He took Chrissie’s hands. “I knew, you know.”

“You did?”

“Sure. See that Cheryl? Not my type.”

“I am a woman. Inside.”

“You are a woman inside and outside.”

Chrissie smiled and placed two hands around his. “I was scared. Scared that if we went back…to your apartment….”

“I’ll get the bill.”

“We’re paying? For this?”

“Of course we are. It’s not The Holiday Inn’s fault that Cheryl happened, is it?”

“That bitch.”

“Don’t worry, she did us a favour.” Julius grinned and waved, indicating, with his hand that ubiquitous ‘pen writing cheque’ thing we all do, until the waiter noticed, and, relieved, was soon by their side.

“You pay now?”

As Julius fished around in his pockets for his wallet, Chrissie began gathering stuff up and made sure the cloth was about the shoulders. Finally, Julius pulled it out and plopped it in front of him on the table. “How much?”

“Two hundred riyals, sir, with two drinks…three hundred.”

Julius pulled some notes and a coupon out with a satisfied flourish, presenting them with pride. “Look, here, Chrissie. I have this buy one get one free voucher. I snipped it out of the Gulf Times. Heh, heh, heh. Good eh?” But, to his astonishment, she didn’t look pleased. “Good, eh?” he repeated, his smile beginning to fade. “What’s wrong, dear?”

“Wrong? Is that the sort of girl you think I am? Buy one get one free? No wonder you wear fucking cut off shorts.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Of course you don’t. You cheapskate.” Walking to the adjacent table, Chrissie snatched a jug of water and pitched it at him. It caught him full face on. As the jug was thumped back down on the table, Chrissie turned abruptly and left.

“Where are you going?”

“Fuck off.”

Julius watched her leave and sighed.

The waiter also appeared to understand. “Another drink, sir?”

“No, no, I’ve got things to do. I’m just off to make a mix-tape.”