Monday, 21 March 2011
Thursday January 27th 2011- Lunch With Evie.
Today was like blackberry and apple crumble with oodles of soft vanilla ice cream. It was more of a Sunday afternoon than a Thursday, all rather yummy, familiar and quietly comforting.
I managed to scuttle away from my desk for a delicious hour and 20 minutes to have lunch with my old friend Evie.
We met at ‘Little Bella’, which is probably one of the most enchanting of the coffee shop-cum-restaurants that are dotted throughout the county. We are just extremely lucky that it happens to have sprung up here in Middle-Muddlington. There is something about the eclectic mix of wood, soft and metal furniture which immediately draws you in. The white tongue and groove panelling, driftwood shelving and baskets of herbs instantly make me feel both at home and yet somehow transported to a sunny table by the sea.
The decor works; it’s simple and appealing, just like the food. That’s the point I suppose; when something is done really well, it doesn’t need to be complicated. The coleslaw is creamy, crunchy and sensational. The breads are freshly baked. The rocket, pear, gorgonzola and walnut salad is scrumptious and what they can do with butternut squash, lemon oil and a few chickpeas almost brings me to my knees.
Oh, yes and they serve great coffee.
I start with an enormous bucket of the gorgeous brown liquid. Black of course, I don’t do milk in coffee. Perhaps a dash of Moo juice isn’t a crime, but in my opinion it would be a crying shame.
Evie opts for a decaffeinated tea and I can’t help but give her the raised eyebrow.
‘Not through choice’, she explains, ‘Doctor’s advice, on account of me having palpitations. It was either this, or he was threatening me with Beta-blockers.’
When she was about 20, Evie had an operation to repair a massive hole in her enlarged heart. I remember it as being a great success. Still, when you don’t have to live with something, you almost forget that it doesn’t just go away.
Evie just has that wonderfully stoic sort of nature, she’s as soft as butter in the midday sun, but she’s not a whinger.
She is also annoyingly beautiful, only it’s not in the slightest bit irritating, as it doesn’t even seem to occur to Evie that her perfect skin and delicate features might be anything extraordinary. She just doesn’t really do vanity and it’s incredibly refreshing. For my eighteenth birthday I had a fancy dress party and whilst other teenage girls relished the opportunity to vamp it up, Evie came as Andre Agassi. Well, I suppose if you can still look fantastic with a cap and eye-liner stubble, then why not?
We lost touch for several years, Evie and I. This was mostly my fault. We didn’t fall out, but I am a bit rubbish at getting back to people and when the Seven Bitches kicked in, well, I was barely in contact with myself.
Fortunately we bumped into each other in one of the enormous supermarkets in Pilculton a couple of years ago and although I’m almost embarrassed to admit it – we ‘reconnected through facebook.’
There is something about a really good friend that if they knew you well once, even after years of change they can still ‘get you’. It’s complicated and I haven’t got the time to elaborate on it now, but Evie was probably my last ‘best friend’ or certainly best girl friend. Today reminds me of that. The conversation is easy, honest and for the most part hilariously daft. It’s a fact that only the best people can really talk great bollocks!
Sadly, it’s not all nonsense. A couple of months ago, quite unexpectedly, Evie lost her Mum and it’s clearly been tough. It’s not off limits, but it’s not something Evie wants to dwell on, so we don’t.
Evie is trying to ask me about work and she seems fascinated with what it is that I actually do. Between mouthfuls of roasted peppers, olives and marinated mozzarella, I am attempting to explain what an average day might entail.
First we establish what it isn’t:
It’s not sales, it’s not technical, it’s not really planning, it’s certainly not marketing and it’s definitely not financial. The only complication is that like most things, it does have a little of some of these aspects within it, just not enough to be one of them.
It’s at times like this that I look back to the good old days, when I could so easily answer this question.
‘What do you do?
‘I’m an Antiques Dealer.’
Or for a bit of sport, I’d just respond with the one word, ‘Dealer’. Then I’d enjoy a few seconds of pinched looks and twitching smiles, before coming clean.
Fun times, but right now, the best I can come up with is something like this:
‘I sort of look after sites that do X, Y and Z and make sure that they follow A, B and C along the way.’
It’s taken me years to get to this explanation. When the Shoddy Shed Services Ltd closed its rusty old doors for good, I was contacted by a very helpful recruitment agency. They had seen my CV on Monster and wanted see if I was suitable for a particular job, but half an hour into our phone interview the recruitment consultant gave up.
‘Look,’ she said, ’I’m still really not clear on what it is that you actually do, but I am going to put you forward for the job anyway.’
I felt utterly defeated in that moment. ‘Excellent communication skills’ were not in evidence that evening. Anyway, I was offered the job, but I turned it down for the one I’m doing now. With hindsight looming all around me I do hope it wasn’t the wrong decision...
I tell Evie that whatever it is that I busy myself with on Monday to Friday it’s not necessarily looking that secure, but what will be, will be.
After all it’s not really the same job that I left when I went on maternity leave. In fact, it’s an entirely different company, as the original one was sold when I was busy learning how to mash bananas. I have new accounts, as some of my old ones don’t even exist anymore. I also have a new manager, who I have never met and who lives even further away than my previous one.
I look at Evie and she seems to have a slightly glazed expression. I find this to be a standard reaction to anyone who’s listening to me talk about work for any length of time.
‘It’s really not a boring job,’ I say weakly.
‘I just can’t imagine it,’ Evie says laughing, ‘I can’t see you doing something that sounds so...well, sensible, it just doesn’t seem to fit.’
I’m laughing, sadly because it’s true and I really shouldn’t need someone else to point it out to me.
Still, perhaps that is exactly what good friends are for.