Thursday 28th June 2012
In the house of the red lion
SO IT was that we disembarked from the taxi outside a house open to the public, in which many people had gathered for the quaffing of beverages and where Brendan, having purchased a drink of orange juice for me and one of black beer, topped with cream, for himself, picked up a folded card from the counter, suggested that we sit on what he called ‘the upper deck’ and led me to a short flight of stairs and an unoccupied table, where I was able both to survey the busy scene below and to scrutinise the writing on the card, as a result of which, following Brendan’s helpful explanations of unfamiliar terms, I discovered that hot dog was not dog, that chilli was not cold but hot, that the ice-cream sundae was not, in fact, available on only one day of the week, and that my choosing the ploughman’s lunch did not mean I would be eating the portion of food reserved for somebody else expecting a healthy repast after a hard morning tilling the soil.
Brendan went back down the steps to inform the hostess which meals we wished to eat.
I gazed at shapes and colours, listened to the hubbub of chatter and laughter: a man giving coins to a machine so it might show him its clever display of flashing lights; three women at a table by the fire, talking excitedly about the contents of large plastic bags emblazoned with the names of shopping outlets; five people standing near the counter, one of them briefly putting over his face a head-mask in the likeness of a chimpanzee, the others laughing; two young men standing by a green-topped table containing a number of red and yellow spheres, which they struck with thin, wooden sticks.
As Brendan was about to return, a woman entered, shouted his name, hurried towards him and kissed his cheek. She was short of stature, fair of hair.
Moments later a tall man with very short, spiky hair, joined their embrace. The man remained by the counter, ordering more refreshments, while Brendan guided the woman to our table.