Tarquin ordered lamb shank and lentil stew. Mona, another lamb fan, chose the lamb and aubergine moussaka with fresh green salad and a herby tomato dressing. She was on a sort of diet. What do you think of Sebastian’s new beard? he asked. He’s got a beard? Mona replied in surprise. It must be longer than I thought since I last saw him. It’s probably so he doesn’t shave his spots and bleed to death. Tarquin called a waiter over. This is dreadful, and it’s got a funny smell, he said. Take it away and bring me something I can eat that doesn’t remind me of a tramp’s underwear. And be quick about it. Okey-dokey, said the waiter, and crawled away to the kitchens. You don’t stand for any nonsense, do you? said Mona. I like that in a man. It’s my upbringing, Tarquin said. Father’s philosophy of parenthood was based on his years in the army. Don’t stand any nonsense, that was his motto, and it’s mine too. I can’t say I enjoyed being beaten with barbed wire, or the occasional solitary confinement on bread and water, but Father had the best of intentions and in my opinion it paid off, and made the man you now see standing sat before you as smug as a bug in a rug. The waiter returned and dumped a bowl down on the table, splashing Tarquin a bit more than slightly. What’s this? Tarquin enquired as he dabbed spots of a dark brown something or other from his jacket with a napkin. Some kind of soup thing, and I think they’ve put some leftover meat and vegetables in it, I’m not really sure, said the waiter. That sounds very much like a stew, said Mona. We don’t do stew, said the waiter, although we do knock up a pretty decent casserole, but this isn’t it. Okay, whatever, said Tarquin. I’ll give it a shot, because it smells yum. Gracias. While he gobbled it all up, Mona nipped to the restroom where she applied some “Softly Private” balm to where it was much-needed.



Conrad Titmuss





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