“Shit! Shit! Shit!” I bellowed, storming around the kitchen, having discovered
I was out of wine. The freshly cooked pasta was congealing as I stalked from
cupboard to cupboard with corkscrew in hand, in the vain hope of discovering a long
forgotten bottle. The whole exercise was utterly futile but I continued nonetheless.
The previous tranquillity of the evening had long since evaporated. Where pasta, a
bottle of white and a copy of Kind Hearts and Coronets on DVD should have been
the recipe for a perfect, stress-free evening, the lack of essential consumables had
driven my blood pressure to new and dizzying heights, jettisoning both appetite and
good humour on the way. Boy! Was I pissed off! Something had to be done. Even as the pasta cooled into an unappealing mass I was running down the stairs, hat on head, car keys in my mouth and arms fighting their way into coat sleeves.
I manoeuvred my camper van through the April evening traffic. It is as nimble as an aircraft carrier and twice as slow but I love it and refuse to part with it despite several attractive offers. Finding a parking space in town is as rare as hen’s teeth or a winning lottery ticket, so I could not believe my luck when I spotted one right in front of the off-licence and dived in.
The off-licence offered the usual bewildering array of wines. I wandered, lost in awe, as I gazed up and down the rows of enticing labels, flitting from France to Germany, to the New World, wherever that may be, and back again. It did wonders in placating my mood. I toured through the vineyards of California, down to Chile, took a quick leap across the Atlantic and finally plumped for a bottle of South African Chardonnay with a picture of a cat on the label. Because of the picture of a cat on the label.
“That’ll be £6.99, please,” said the bespectacled young man behind the counter as he swiftly enshrouded the bottle in green tissue paper. “Nice V-Dub, by the way.”
“Thank you very much.” I passed him a crumpled fiver out of my pocket.
“Thank you, sir,” he replied, ringing the money in on the till and popping my penny in the charity box without asking. “You’re in there, mate.”
My jaw flapped for a few seconds. “Come again?” I spluttered.
He nodded towards the window. “A lady has just left a note on your windscreen. A very nice young lady.”
He said young lady in much the same way as I imagined Leslie Phillips might have uttered the phrase. I turned to look but could see only the familiar outline of my camper.
“You missed her, sir. If you hurry you may just catch sight of her.” It was evident that he found the matter far more exciting than I did. It was, perhaps, the most interesting thing to have happened to him all week. Possibly even during his entire working career in this shop. This is Wiltshire after all. The man handed me the bottle. I took it, mumbling a thank you, and hurried outside.
Of the mystery woman I could see no sign. There was, however, a small folded letter tucked under one of the windscreen wipers. I opened it. It was brief and to the point.
I looked around. A couple of youths sat smoking cigarettes by their mopeds. An elderly man ambled by carrying a tartan shopping bag. I could see the assistant in the off-licence regarding me with interest through the huge glass frontage; peering out
of the O in Special Offer. I screwed the note into a ball and tossed it up and down a few times as I pondered what to do. There was a bin not far off so I wandered across and dropped it in. As I turned back to the camper a woman stood blocking my path.
She was rather striking to say the least; strawberry blonde, impeccably dressed and
obviously after my attention. It would not take a detective to work out that she was the author.
“You got my note?” she enquired with an edge of sarcasm.
“I did. Would you like it back?” I replied, peering into the bin.
I have to admit the slap across the face that followed did catch me by surprise. Jesus; that stung!
“You wanker!” she trilled. “I spent ages driving around trying to find a parking space and when I do eventually find one you stick that bloody great truck in before I get a chance to put the car in reverse.”
What could I say? I could not remember seeing this car when I pulled up, but then again I had homed in on the space like a hawk on its prey. A quick glance round confirmed that, unfortunately for me, there were no police nearby. A small audience of passers-by had formed some distance away. I said the first thing that came into my head.
“God! You’re beautiful when you’re angry.” Shit! Why can I not keep my big mouth shut?
The woman looked at me, dumbfounded. I tensed, ready for the next slap. She giggled, and then began to laugh. I joined in; I could not help myself really. The crowd dispersed, disappointed that a full-blown fight had not developed, leaving the two of us laughing like fools.
That night the pasta slid from the plate into the bin, unappetising and unwanted by someone who had dined out. The bottle of wine sat unopened in the fridge, chilling nicely. In the corner of the room sat a couple of traffic cones I had ‘borrowed’ on the way home. A certain young lady would not have any trouble finding a space outside my flat tomorrow night when she came to dinner.