Another double header, Dave on the left, Debbie on the right ...
Saturday morning found London bathed in unexpected sunshine. Niusha was already up and about when I woke, apparently preparing breakfast, given the smell of spices emanating from the kitchen. I wondered whether I should call Debbie ... get some details about what had actually happened the previous night, but then thought better of it. I would call later but ... well, it was still early and she'd sounded like she'd been anticipating an eventful night, so ...
Also, I thought, as Niusha came back into her bedroom, wrapped in a sheet and carrying a tray, it was hardly fair to her I mean, I'd been perfectly clear about my position viz a viz Debbie, and I had no reason to believe that she wanted anything more from me than companionship and, well, sex, but ... it still didn't seem fair to prioritise Debbie just at the moment. Also, of course, the breakfast she'd prepared smelt wonderful and, I realised, I was really hungry, so ...
I woke in one of those strange dreamlike states which for a moment left me unsure as to where I was ... and who it was breathing gently beside me. As I gathered myself together ... noting the large quantity of clothing strewn across the floor, and blushing slightly at the sight of a large glass dildo lying amongst the debris ... some of the events of the previous evening came back to me. I shuddered, remembering that I'd come very close to being raped, had been assaulted, by a guy who I should have known not to trust. It was not a good way to start the day, really, so I was glad in a way when the duvet beside me stirred and a tousled mop of red hair appeared, followed rapidly by the bleary eyed but smiling face of my new friend Jane. I reached down to her, pulled her up towards me and gave her a long kiss, aware of her nakedness pressing against me. I wasn't sure that either of us were entirely awake, yet, but, then, neither of us seemed to have a problem as the kiss extended and became rather more of a caress, both of us subsiding back into the bedclothes as our hands began a mutual exploration...
Which was interrupted by the bathroom door opening and a large harrumph ... from Kath, standing above us both, just as naked as we were and with a sardonic smile on her face.
"Well," she said, grinning, "I admire your energy, I'd have to say, but I think you could at least have waited for me ..."
Jane replied before I could, simply moving one hand from its position on my nipple and reaching out to pull Kath down on the top of us.
Breakfast, I realised, would have to wait ...
Niusha sat on the bed beside me as we ate flat breads and cheeses, served with distinctly British-style tea and smiled quietly. We didn't talk much, beyond a comment or two on the unseasonable weather, but it felt good, relaxed and easy. I said as much as I stroked her thigh gently, putting the plates to one side as I reached up to draw her down towards me.
She pulled back slightly to loosen the sheet she'd tied round her, casting it off her as she leant for ward to kiss me, her small breasts brushing my chest as she did so. "Oh, good," she murmured, reaching down to stroke my stomach, moving lower, "I was hoping you wouldn't be too tired after last night ..."
Some time later, we were dozing in a tangled heap when there was a firm rap on the room door. Shit, I thought, wondering, after all, how this sort of thing would go down with the management of a small country hotel, but pulled myself up out of the bed anyway, kicking some of the more blatant evidence out of sight even as I found and pulled on a robe, wrapping myself in it as I pulled open the door.
It was Colin, the architect, looking a bit embarrassed ... and Rosie, leering at me from over his shoulder. I grinned at them both, a pernicious voice in my head wondering whether I should let the robe fall open ... see what happened. But, no ... that could produce reactions that I really didn't want to have to deal with ... at least not with Colin. So I greeted them politely enough, wondered how I could help.
Surprisingly, Colin, the timid one, spoke up probably because Rosie was too engrossed in her undoubtedly salacious thoughts, I reckoned, except that it turned out that Colin was the one with the problem. Or not a problem, exactly, it was just that at some point in the previous evening Jane, or Kath, or both, had agreed to give him a lift into Bowmere to get his train back to London and, I remembered, also to take me in so I could meet the new legal bloke off his train up. And, now, it was obviously a bit later than I'd realised, no-one seemed to know where Kath and Jane had got to, the snow was falling heavily enough, again, to make taxis a bit reluctant to come up the valley and ... This was, frankly, not the sort of problem that Colin was particularly well equipped to deal with and Rosie, typically, was enjoying his discomfiture far too much to volunteer any sort of help. So he'd come to me. Which was, I reflected, exactly the right thing to do, for once. I shooed him away, promised to locate the missing pair he must have been able to hear them giggle from inside the room and told him I'd join him downstairs in ten minutes, providing he could get three cups of coffee sorted out by the time I got there.
Which turned out not to be a problem, when we finally got our respective acts together and sorted out the tangled mess of clothing enough for each of us to appear decently dressed, which took rather longer we found that the hotel was, in fact, already serving lunch ... it was even later than I'd imagined.
Oh well, I thought, in the circumstances even Colin should be able to obtain caffeine and indeed he had done ... three large cups arriving at the table just as we sat down to join him. I noticed Kath look wistfully at the bar before shaking her head, decisively, and then, marvellously, redden slightly as the waitress serving us Charlotte, again, I think greeted her and Jane as Mss Braithwaite and Whittaker, a knowing smile indicating that she was under no illusions as to how they happened to have just staggered out of the residential side of the hotel, in the company of a guest, looking a bit ... dishevelled ....
"Bugger," Kath muttered. "Ex-student sees a teacher in these sort of circumstances, it gets around. Ex student sees two teachers and ..."
She laughed and, to my surprise, so did Jane ... and, from across the room, Charlotte, too.
We decided to take a walk in the park, given that it was such a nice day and neither of us had anything particularly pressing to do. I was amused to see Niusha gather up the various used condoms discarded around the bedroom and, eventually, throw them away in a public bin just down the street was she wondering about her reputation with the bin men, I wondered? but, task completed, she lost her slightly preoccupied look and once again started to chat amicably and at length.
This time about supermarkets.
"We should blow them up," she said, "even if we have to leave their distribution networks in place for the moment." I was a bit taken aback by this, my own thoughts having been rather more on the various aches and pains emanating from the general area of my groin, as well as by wondering quite how she maintained her athletic ease of motion when she surely couldn't be feeling less battered, but the realisation that I was discussing blowing things up, in public, in London, with a woman wearing apparently Islamic clothing brought me back to reality.
"Sorry," I said, more or less intelligently, "how did we get started on this?
"We didn't," she said, "I did. I was wondering about the stuff we were talking about last night, and amongst the many other detrimental effects of the big retail chains must be that they stifle community engagement. You no longer need to source anything, negotiate the purchase of anything, actually talk to anyone, you just pitch up at your local big brick box and there it is. Hell, you can check out by machine and cut the human side out of it entirely. Aside from the poor sods stacking the shelves, of course, but whoever takes any notice of them?"
I contemplated this, wondering where it was going, turning to look at her and noticing again the peculiar beauty of her eyes well, and the rest of her, actually when she was enthused. Come to think of it, last night, when we first ... no, I brought myself back to the present. Forced myself to concentrate on the conversation, not the woman I was having it with.
"OK," I said, "I can think of a variety of reasons why supermarkets are a bad idea the fact that most people choose or have to drive to the buggers being an obvious one but I have yet to be motivated to get out the chemistry set. And what was that about leaving the distribution networks intact?"
She had a reply waiting, of course. "Simple. Talk to the local shop you buy your vegetables from I know you avoid supermarkets, too and you'll find that they have increasing difficulties in sourcing produce. Its not so bad in London because of the number of restaurants and stuff, but there are parts of the county that hardly have any wholesale markets the big chains just hoover up the entire harvest. So its a simple statement of necessity ... for the moment ... that we need to keep their supply chains active."
"So ... what ...", I replied, thinking aloud, "a bloody great artic turns up every few hours and unloads onto a bomb site. Unloads ... oh, you know, crates of 5 000 cans of beans, 2000 nappies, that sort of thing. That's a recipe for either chaos or more likely a riot. And possibly starvation, given the stranglehold the buggers have at the moment."
"Well, yes, that could be one outcome. Or, of course, you could get a little more organised distribute or, rather, allocate, the loads in advance, either to smaller traders not necessarily conventional shops, maybe individuals who'd like to be the local source for baked beans or whatever the hell else. Or, more positively, to local food co-ops, ideally acting as not for profit distribution hubs for a fairly small neighbourhood. In either case, you'd have the chance to instigate an actual market but a diffuse market, free from existing virtual monopolies ... and maybe including elements of barter to supplement the cash economy. And, come to think of it, such a localised network structure would be ideal for LETS a Local Exchange Trading Scheme so no need for a central currency ... or at least an exclusive one.
I could see that this was the product of more than an evening's thought but I was still wondering why we were going into such detail just at the moment. If only to gain further thinking time, I commented on the distribution side of things and the centralisation that represented.
Niusha snorted. "Oh, come on Dave, shipping onions from Kent to Nottinghamshire to send them to London to sell? How long do you think that would survive. It doesn't make sense now, for god's sake ..."
"Yeah, OK ... and there's probably no reason why your co-ops or co-ops of co-ops couldn't eventually buy direct, maybe from farm co-ops." I thought for a second. "Oh, I see where this is going ... its like buying books. You can buy from a conventional bookshop, of course, but you get a better range at Amazon probably the ultimate in centralised distribution or at AbeBooks, for instance, which is almost the opposite, in a way."
She looked positively gleeful. "Precisely. Add in some appropriate IT and you can not only ensure access to necessary resources, you can also balance supply and demand without resorting to price rationing. Which, of course, ..."
I cut in. "... is where CastList fits in. Except that currently it doesn't do anything of the sort ... and certainly isn't ready to be used by barely computer literate individuals all over the country..."
"Well," she said with a smile, "actually I think you're wrong on the former even if you did mainly write the thing as it has sufficient database functions built in to handle basic supply/demand stuff with ease while also allowing more significant balancing / bartering through the matrix model you already use for role enhancement. And, of course, running under GNU/Linux reduces the hardware costs and, being open source, well ... a user friendly GUI is hardly going to be a problem, is it?"
I stopped walking, gently pulling her to a halt, too, turning her to face me. "One thing that interests me in what you just said," I said, deadpan, hands on her shoulders and looking her in the eye, "is the number of is and wills rather than might or coulds definite statements, I mean, rather than speculative ones. Which makes me wonder: Just when do you have the revolution planned for?"
She looked straight back at me, face showing no expression but a definite gleam in her eyes. "Oh, well ... I thought we could make a start, in a small way, obviously, in ... oh ... I thought ... maybe ... a month or so?"
"What, start with blowing up a few shops, then move on to the rest?"
"No, not really the bomb stuff was merely a metaphor, as well you know. Actually, I was thinking more of starting with CareSpan's existing work with food co-ops and TimeBanks in London, take it from there. In fact," she smiled broadly, "I'm having dinner with May later on to talk about it. Consider yourself invited."
Kath drove us down in the Landrover, of course, only to find that trains from Bowmere were cancelled because of the snow, so that we ended up dropping Jane there, then driving on to Hartsholme on the understanding that trains were running from there.
They were and, wonder of wonders the buffet on the platform was actually open so we sat over coffees and waited for both trains both currently on time, according to the information displays while I talked to Colin about changes to the plans given that I'd suddenly gone off the idea of doing business with Karol and his associates ... and was sure that Dave would not have a problem with my decision.
Colin was, in fact, a little dubious not that he didn't understand what had gone on, he was just being a technocrat and thinking that there were no very obvious alternatives on the market, in that the other options would make planning permission a more contentious issue. Of more immediate concern, he pointed out, was that we wanted the costings done incredibly quickly so that we could at least have a chance to get some contracts in place before the shit hit the fan with PCW et al. Which would mean that we also needed to identify an alternative incredibly quickly so that the relevant mounting points and suchlike could be built into the structural calculations. I could see the significance of this, realised that actually we just needed to get on with things at the moment, that we could fairly easily make changes later ... even if it did cost more as a result. So I told him, in the end, to proceed with the original ideas; we'd sort it out in the end.
While we were talking, though, I noticed Kath looking a bit uncertain at the mention of Karol's name. I realised that, of course, she was a bit worried about having left him up on the hill last night. I can't say that I was overly concerned about anything that might have happened to the bastard but I could see that Kath might have some uncomfortable questions to answer if anything too terrible had resulted. So, I patted her on the arm, pointed out that Colin's train was due in in only fifteen minutes, with Gareth's ten minutes after that. Once we'd got first away and collected the second, we could head into the valley the back way over the high road and see what there was to see.
This time, Kath looked dubious because of the weather it was snowing, heavily, again but I could see a glimmer of relief in her eyes as she gave me a brief hug. We went on making light conversation, Colin obviously pleased to be going home though equally obviously having enjoyed his stay ... and, maybe, mainly Kath's sister, until eventually the London train wheezed its way in and it was just the two of us, walking through the subway through to the north bound platform.
Of course, one thing I'd forgotten, what with one thing and another, was that I had no clear idea what Gareth actually looked like never having met the guy and of course he wouldn't be expecting us to meet him here. Not that I should have worried ... only about three people got off the train and only one of them could possibly have been a "gnome like" Welshman with an interest in climbing. Specifically, the guy who was almost as wide as he was tall ... not more than 160cm, at a guess ... and carrying a large rucsac with a couple of vicious looking ice axes and a whole rack of climbing hardware. He was looking at the display telling him to forget about getting a train into Bowmere for a day or two ... and muttering something under his breath about finding a bloody taxi in this weather ... when Kath took the initiative and tapped him on the shoulder.
He spun round in surprise, then reeled a little further on seeing Kath smiling down at him from an apparently great height. "I think we can do you a taxi," she said in what I recognised as her broadest Cumbrian accent, preparing no doubt to see how far she could run with the misunderstanding. Instead, however, he grinned broadly at her, and at me, before greeting me by name. Should be getting used to this by now, I thought ... every bugger seems to know who I am before we've even been introduced.
Of course, as Gareth explained on the way back to Church Gate, Dave & Seffi had given him an idea of my appearance well, the tall and blonde bit, anyway and it didn't take much to work out that I might have known about the cancelled trains and taken the time to get to Hartsholme to meet him instead. I liked him, right from the start, and I liked the way that he just accepted that going a little out of your way to help someone out was just an entirely natural way for people to behave. Yeah, I thought to myself, Dave was right ... the guy would fit in.
Kath, you could tell, was also quite taken with the guy, cramming him onto the front bench seat between us and more or less immediately launching into a recitation of the climbing routes in and around the valley, including a surprisingly at least to me update on the ice conditions on each of them. Which, I felt, was good, if only that it kept everyone's mind off the increasingly desperate road conditions as we ground our way up the Honcliffe Pass road. Kath had the vehicle in low ratio drive, and clearly knew what she was doing, but progress was still more of a slither than anything I would have described as comfortable ... or safe.
So I for one wasn't too disappointed when we saw the blue flashing light ahead of us, the distinctive orange and white checks of a mountain rescue ambulance blocking the road in front of us, a guy standing in front of it, flagging us down. Kath drew up beside him, opened her door and greeted him, friendlily, as Archie.
"Oh, its you, Kath", he said, "Thought it was going to be another plonker out for a wee spin hah! in the lovely weather we've been having..."
He let the thought hang, Kath asking whether they'd been busy. "Oh, not really, I suppose ... had to drag a couple of guys off the hill this afternoon axes but no crampons, completely lost in a white out, GPS given up in the snow. This time, though, its some arsehole from up Maryport way ... tried to take a bloody Fiat Panda over the high road last night, lost it on the ice, he said, ended up in a ditch. We're bringing him out sometime now, tho' at least the wazzock had a sleeping bag ..."
"Not too bad, then?", Kath asked calmly and Archie shook his head. "Nah, he'll live to be a bloody idiot another day, I don't doubt. But I don't think I'd go any further up over the pass or the high road, today, if I were you ... hell, this was as far as we wanted to bring the Landie, so..."
This seemed a fair point, and anyway Archie had answered our questions quite succinctly: It appeared that the dickhead was alive ... and being quite discreet about how he'd come to be there in the first place. Which I guess counted as a result, in the circumstances. I said as much to Kath as she laboriously got the Landrover turned round on the narrow road, proceeding very carefully back down the pass. Which, of course, meant that we then had to explain the situation to Gareth ... who took it well, really, with a mixture of outrage at the events ... and amusement at the denouement.
Back in the Albion, Kath was first in the bar while I got Gareth checked in and then showed him up to his room which was next door to mine, after all. No problems with the change of names in the register but the receptionist explained that they were a bit short staffed due to the weather so the room was still being cleaned. Which was not a problem, we agreed, and proceeded up so that Gareth could at least dump his bags. He commented that he could do with a shower, after a few hours on a crowded train, which I could sympathise with. In fact, I was just explaining that he should just use the shower in my room as we let ourselves into his ... and found Charlotte, doubling up as a chambermaid ... and giving me a very strange look ...
I left Niusha back at her place in the early afternoon, went back to my own to sort a few domestic things out before rejoining her at May's later on. And phoned Debbie as soon as I'd got the essentials out of the way.
Who told me that Gareth had arrived and was currently in the bar with both Kath and Rosie (god help the guy, I thought) and apparently planning to spend the next day climbing with either or both of them. Which sounded like he was fitting in nicely, though it did mean that Debbie hadn't had a chance to talk to him about the contract issues yet, not that I would have expected her to do so ... let the bloke relax for a while, I thought, he's not even working for us, yet...
I also got the details of what had happened the previous evening, which caused me to swear quite a lot but which Debbie seemed to be dealing with quite well. I resolved to buy Kath a very big drink next time I saw her though Debbie pointed out that she'd already done that ... and then some, as she put it ... and anyway, Kath didn't seem to think that she'd done anything she needed thanking for. Well, agree to differ on that one, I thought, before asking her whether she was still planning to come back to London the next week. She paused slightly, said that she was, probably on the Tuesday or Wednesday remarkably she'd got the District Council to agree to look at the plans young Colin had drawn up pretty much instantly, so that they could tell us if there were any glaring problems with our being likely to get planning permission for the conversion. In any case, she'd be back as soon as she'd been able to do that. I could hear a reticence in her voice, wondered what was worrying her about coming back ... but all I could get from her was that she wanted to talk to me in person, not on the phone ... and that it was nothing to worry about.
Which, frankly, felt a bit like the old cartoon caption 'I've got some bad news, Johnson, but I don't want to ruin your weekend so I'll tell you on Monday' but it was fairly clear that I wasn't going to get anything further from her on the phone, so I resolved to leave it ... and look forward to seeing her, in person, within days.
Which was nice. Or, at least, I hoped it would be.
To take my mind off things I also called Naz at home ... something I strenuously avoid doing over a weekend ... and talked to him about wind turbines. Which conversation was not at all what I was expecting, not least because Naz seemed actually pleased when I told him we wouldn't be doing business with Karol and co. Or maybe I should have expected that: I knew he was passionate about not patenting or copyrighting his code and I also knew he was pretty excited about the turbine design he'd come up with as a result of his simulations work. What I hadn't realised was that he thought I'd give it away to a commercial company, who might just exploit it on an exclusive basis. In fact, he said, the only thing the Cumbrians had going for them was their (flawed) blade design the idea of a vertical axis wind turbines was hardly novel and the actual generators they were using were commercial off the shelf types. So, all we had to do was find someone to physically make blades to his design either from metal or polycarbonate and put together the necessary gearing, etc, and we were in business ... possibly quite literally. It all sounded too good to be true, I told him, but that, he suggested, might be because, in engineering terms, I didn't know my arse from my elbow.
On which cheerful note, we left the conversation, agreeing to talk on Monday, and I began to get myself together to go over to May's.
I finally got to talk to Gareth properly over dinner, Kath and Rosie having gone back to the latter's to 'freshen up', as they put it. Obviously, we'd done the social stuff in the bar employment and life experiences, likes and interests, that sort of thing, but it was over the trout pate that we started to talk about work ... and those contracts. We talked through the lamb (for him) and sea bass (me), carried on through coffee and were still at it when people began to conspicuously clear up the dining room around us. So we moved back to the bar, where Rosie and Kath were still ensconced around a corner table and proceeded to pretty much ignore them, at least for half an hour or so, when I at least had to come up for air and seek distraction before my brain dissolved in legalese.
I'm not pretending that I understood all the minutiae that's what we were paying a lawyer for, after all but the upshot appeared to be a lot more positive than we'd thought previously. In fact, according to Gareth, Dave and I had - were a majority on the board of the organisation, so we really could set the direction of travel pretty much regardless. Well, there was all that 'maximising share holder value' stuff but given that we also owned 50% of the shares and we could also define what we meant by value in the first place this was not necessarily a problem. Nor was future funding, in a way ... PCW were tied to a contract that obliged them (within limits) to match whatever cash Carla's lot put her way, so if the Americans stayed on board, that also gave us room to manoeuvre.
Of course, the last if was a big if, particularly if Carla remained out of the picture ... and even more so if PCW effectively blocked us generating future income. I mean, at some point, we definitely had to be in a position to pay all of these people back and from what Dave was telling me from London the business plan was not looking as concrete as it had first seemed. Not just because of Dave's difficulties with FrieBank but because we did not seem to have the corporate 'access all areas' pass we'd assumed we would have.
For the moment, though, Gareth's opinion was that we were fairly safe to go ahead with the renovation and relocation, both costs having been "more or less" bindingly agreed by Carla in advance, but that future prospects really depended on rapidly improving our relationships with both our funding partners. Which, we agreed, meant talking to states-side ... and coming up with some income flows to keep PCW off our back in the interim. We both agreed that, from experience, PCW might just pull the plug and walk away, even if it cost them money, just because they didn't like us. Or, as Gareth put it, just because they were scared of us. Which was an interesting thought.
And a comforting one to take with me as I began to re-engage with my friends, eventually finding a rich seam of conversation in Kath's collection of climbing horror stories, Gareth's Welsh variants on the same topic... and Rosie's professed horror at the very subject despite her ready agreement to join the pair of them on the crag in the morning. It was a lot more fun than contract law ... and when I finally went back up to my room alone I was feeling pretty happy ...
I actually met Niusha coming out of the tube on the way to May's, showing that we had a similar sense of time keeping, at any rate we were both about twenty minutes late and so walked the kilometre or so to her house together. I was surprised to find slightly apprehensive about the evening, discovered it was simply a cultural problem with May's cooking. Or, as Niusha put it, "She'll do Persian, I just know it, and ... well, fuck, you know ... I do Persian, rather well ... I don't need her to make me feel at home for gods sake."
I agreed, honestly if diplomatically, that she did indeed cook well, suggested that she should accept May's efforts in the way they were intended. At which she laughed at her own apparent intolerance, put her arm through mine and chatted happily and, for once, inconsequentially for the rest of the walk.
In retrospect it was probably a mistake to arrive together, albeit not a huge one, but I was left with an uncomfortable feeling that we were being mistaken for a couple ... or perhaps that my presence was otherwise complicating May's plans for the evening. Not that May was anything other than a charming host, nor the meal less than excellent ... and although Niusha was right about the ethnic theme for the evening, she was never less than polite in her estimation of the food served. I just thought it was lovely.
Not of course, that this was a conventional dinner party in the chattering classes sense of the word ... conversation was political from the off. May didn't seem to have been briefed at all on Niusha's plan to launch the revolution from CareSpan I gathered that she'd merely asked Niusha to come up with an interesting idea or two for future project work but caught on quickly enough and began to get cautiously enthused. There were, as she pointed out, difficulties with the approach for instance, whether the projects N was targeting were either big enough or diverse enough to make it practicable but eventually Niusha battered her into submission and got the formal go ahead that she was looking for.
Around which point I realised that May wasn't the only one being roped into the scheme and that I'd pretty much committed to tweaking CastList to deliver what Niusha needed, including significantly refining the user interface ... which I'd have to do personally as (I) Naz was going to be in Germany for at least the next week and (ii) wasn't actually all that brilliant in making the stuff he wrote accessible to mere mortals. Well, whatever, I thought ... it would give me something to do while PCW tried to strangle the company at birth ...
Once we got started talking about CastList, of course, I had to explain the situation to May who was outraged, of course, or at least to an extent. You could tell that she agreed with Niusha's view that there were better things to aim for in life than improving the work experience of bankers even if did you a state of the art eco-complex in the Lakes to do it from and so things lightened up considerably when I told them about Naz's conviction that we should go into the wind turbine business, darkening again when I explained why we were dropping our previous suppliers of the things.
And so the conversation, by now liberally lubricated, turned to Debbie and my hopes ... and fears ... that she would be back in London sometime in the next week. Not that I went into any details, of course as much as I liked them both, some things are personal and later on I wondered why I'd found it so easy to talk to Kath about this stuff and not May. Not that I came up with any answers, but ...
Before then, however, May mentioned, almost casually, that she'd had an e-mail from Zhu Lui Carla's one time emissary (and May's one time conquest) which included the news that both Carla and expected child were no longer considered in imminent danger, though far from out of the woods just yet.
Frankly, I didn't handle this piece of news quite as well as I might have blame the wine if you like but I got quite annoyed ... OK, angry ... that she hadn't thought it worth mentioning long before like, by phone, as soon as she'd got the bloody thing. Which was unreasonable, I know, and impolite and a lot of other things, but Carla was a friend for crissakes ... and also potentially quite an important player in a lot of stuff going on for me at that particular moment. So, I got angry. Didn't quite storm out I'm not that much of a fool but I did make enough of a prat of myself that leaving seemed to be about the most reasonable thing to do. Anyway, I rationalised, signs had been around that Niusha and May had things they wanted to ah - discuss in private, so ... Neither of them looked too distraught to see me go, anyway.
And so I was walking back into my flat, alone, when my mobile rang, a familiar number, by this time, showing on the screen. Debbie, or Debbie's hotel, I thought, remembering the previous night, and picked up the call.
Thankfully, it was Debbie herself and there wasn't any sort of problem, she said, she just wanted to say hello. Which sounded good to me, so I sat on the couch and said hello back, after which we chatted inconsequentially for a while and she told me about her conversation with Gareth and I told her about my visit to May's and her news about Carla and my unfortunate reaction to it. She laughed at the latter, taking my side regarding the timing of the announcement, sure that May was unlikely to bear a grudge. In any case, she said, and I could hear the smile down the phone, just for once we're both sleeping alone. I agreed that this was true, that it did make a change.
"Oh well," she said, "it won't be for much longer, now ..."