Mona ordered the spiced venison, a cold potato salad, and grilled courgettes and aubergine with crème fraîche and chives, while her mother opted for a smoked sirloin steak with grilled pineapple, stem broccoli and green peppercorn, and a blue cheese sauce. Do you think Daddy will ever be his old self again? asked Mona. Men never change, said Jacqueline. He may be comatose but it’s still him in there. With an imperious finger she summoned a waiter to the table. This is dreadful, she said. Take it away and bring me something that isn’t an affront to the intellect. Okey-dokey, said the waiter, and sashayed away to the kitchens. Speaking of men – and I use the term loosely in this instance – I’ve given Sebastian the chuck, said Mona. Not before time, said Jacqueline. I never liked the way he behaved at the dinner table. You’d have thought he had never seen a fish knife before in his life. Using it for the butter indeed! The in-house pianist doodled a medley of tunes from Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ long-playing record, intermingled with a leitmotif not a million miles distant from the ‘Imperial March’ in John Williams’s score to the ‘Star Wars’ films. The waiter returned and placed a dish of something ambiguous in front of her. What’s this? she asked. We have a variety of names for it, said the waiter, depending how we feel. Let’s see, there’s “Chelsea Pensioner”, “Last Chance Saloon”, “The Faerie Queene”, “Indian Uprising”, “South London Crime Syndicate”, “Your Place or Mine?” . . . .  Alright, alright, said Jacqueline, I don’t care. It looks and smells yummy-yum-yum. Ambrosial, in fact. Merci beaucoup, mon ami. With which she tucked in. Actually I’ve been seeing quite a bit of Tarquin lately, said Mona. Oh Tarquin’s a dear, said Jacqueline, chewing on something. He has a pleasing way about him, and carries himself well. Nice chassis, and good bum, too. I’ve taken him for a test drive and he performed very well, said Mona. But I think he may have faked his mileage and, if I might be allowed to extend the motoring metaphor, I think he isn’t being wholly truthful about how many owners he’s had. You may so extend, said her mother, and if I may further extend, I must say I enjoy a gearstick, and Tarquin’s definitely manual, not automatic. Mona hesitated a little, forced a smile, and then toyed with her potato salad, pensively.




Conrad Titmuss
Picture Fabrication Nick Victor






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