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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

CHAPTER 2


Father and daughter hardly ever had breakfast together, or any other meals for that matter.  They were human ships passing each other at various times, morning noon and night.  But this particular morning, they found themselves drinking coffee and eating toast in the same room at the time.  The sticking point was the choice of radio station.  Sophie loved to giggle and titter along with Chris Moyles on Radio 1, a music station, mused Jonathan to himself, that allows brainless cackle for twenty minutes before playing any music at all.  He was a John Humphries, Radio 4 man, especially if some politician, expert or industrialist was being chewed over.  But it was a Moyles morning, at least until Sophie left for work.  Jonathan decided to chance his arm.
“I saw a couple of potential flats in last night’s paper.  They might be worth a look.”
Sophie’s tut seemed to echo round the kitchen.  “I’m listening to this and you’ve made me miss the joke.”
“If we don’t make appointments this morning, they’ll be gone.”  Jonathan crunched a crust and waited for a response.
“I can’t talk about this now.  I’ve got to go.”  And with that Sophie jumped up from the table, grabbed her bag and coat, headed for the door, hesitated, turned and walked back to give her dad a kiss on the cheek. 
“I do love you,” she said, “even though you can be quite annoying.”  In a flash, she had gone out of the door.  Jonathan caught himself smiling, smitten by his wonderful daughter and, clearly, oh so clearly, he knew he was putty in her hands.
Later, after an hour at the gym, Jonathan stopped off a The Mug O’ Coffee for a snack.  His muscles ached a bit from all the stretching but he felt quite relaxed and on good form.  He was sitting, reading from a collection of newspaper clippings that he always carried around with him.  He was a Saturday and Sunday newspaper buyer because, he had convinced himself, that they were the days when one got value for money with magazines, supplements and occasional free gifts.  He would read through a pile comprising The Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Express and Daily Mail on Saturday, cutting out interesting items to read during the week, and then the next day repeat the same exercise with the Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, Sunday Express and the Mail on Sunday.  Every now and then Sophie would scream: “You’ve cut a chunk out of the fashion page, you doughnut.  Why can’t you mark what you want to cut out, then when people like me have finished reading the paper, you can attack it with your scissors.”
“Hello, Jonathan.”  It was Dot who ran the deli in the block where Jonathan lived.  Maple Court, as you faced it from the front, was a straightforward red brick apartment building with a delicatessen and a small grocery convenience shop at the bottom.  On the left-hand side, the deli side, a newly married couple that had yet to introduce themselves occupied the first floor apartment.  Above them on the second floor lived Mrs Kingston, an elderly widow. Jonathan and Sophie occupied the third floor flat.  On the right hand side, above the grocer’s, lived Dot, divorced for just over a year.  The second floor flat was empty, awaiting a new tenant and the third floor was shared by three students, two girls and one boy, who liked to party and therefore were a bit noisy at times, but were a likeable bunch nonetheless.  By virtue of the fact that he had lived there the longest, the other tenants looked to Jonathan as a communications link with the landlord if anything major needed to be done.  He adopted the role with a degree of pride.
“Oh, hello Dot.  How are you today?”  Jonathan knew immediately that he shouldn’t have asked because Dot had a tendency to talk the hind leg off a stool given the chance.
“Let me get myself a coffee and I’ll tell about my morning, Jonathan.”
Jonathan liked Dot, despite her gift for the verbals.  He had even contemplated asking her out on a date but, after reflection, he decided against it.  She was a very good-looking woman, under forty he guessed, but she was not his type, not that he was altogether clear on what his type actually was.  Anyway, Dot was a kind soul.  Every so often she would ring Jonathan to ask if he wanted anything from the deli, free of charge, near sell by date stuff that Dot hated to waste if possible.  If yes, Dot would deliver it at the end of the day.  This arrangement only started after Jonathan’s wife had left him, about two weeks after as a matter of fact.
Dot sat down at the table.  She looked fed up.  The Mug O’ Coffee was not as busy as usual which seemed to add atmosphere to her looming depression.
“What’s up?  Bad morning?”  Jonathan sat back, knowing that he would not have to talk again for a while.
“Oh, it’s silly things that annoy me.  I work hard in my little shop to give good service with nice manners, a warm welcome, a cheery chat and a smile, and then I go into some of the shops on the High Street and come across so-called customer service assistants who look as if they have sucked a lemon seconds before serving me.  They grunt and instead of asking me how I am, or offering a good morning, please, thank you or whatever, they are only interested in whether or not I want a carrier bag or some half-priced chocolate.  It’s a bloody disgrace.  And this morning, this young lad in the stationery shop was chewing gum with so much noise and gusto, smacking his lips, clacking his tongue, mouth opening and closing and he had to cheek to call me darling.  He was seconds away from a punch on the nose.”
Dot went on like this for ages and Jonathan smiled, nodded and gasped at various appropriate times.  Finally he said that he had to go.
“Thanks for the chat.  By the way, how would you like to go to the pictures on Friday night and then maybe for a meal afterwards.”
Jonathan paused.  He looked at Dot and, in answer to her invitation, he blurted out: “Yes, yes, that would be lovely.”

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