The Cabaret Pub had replaced The Folky Pub in my affection. It was probably temporary, but for the moment I was enjoying its continued offerings of music which seemed to happen most nights of the week. As well as the upstairs venue which, hence my name for the pub, was set up like a cabaret bar, there was a downstairs venue which was set up in a more homely fashion. As it had been a cellar, there was a low ceiling which immediately gave it an intimacy and there were even a few comfy armchairs dotted around. I preferred the cabaret feel of the upstairs bar, but was happy to go to wherever the music was, as the quality was generally good.
I noticed a friend had ‘unfriended’ me on Facebook. It wasn’t someone I’d dated, so it wasn’t an ‘unfriending’ beset with emotion or for effect. It was a female and I was still friends with her partner, whom I barely knew, but whose request to link on Facebook I had accepted, because I would have felt awkward about refusing it. I’m not one to always feel righteous in these situations, so I reflected on what may have led to the Facebook link being severed and I could recall nothing. My last interaction with her was the planning of a blind date with a single male friend of hers, which I had ultimately cancelled because after my Tinder experiences, I had about as much interest in contrived romantic set-ups as a cat has in a trip to the beach. I had joined her for a meal out with her friends and apart from her and her partner, there had been 1 or 2 people there that I vaguely knew, so despite my reservations about not knowing anyone, it had been a pleasant evening. I felt wholly unsatisfied with my pondering over this and started to feel a little maligned. I have to accept this, I concluded. Pre-Facebook, you just got a feeling that there was bad air between you and a friend, or you heard you’d upset them. Or if the friendship was valued, one party would confront the issue (whatever it was) head-on with the other. But now, there is the risk that you will quietly discover your friendship has been lethally sliced in two with no explanation. I had noticed her lack of posts and I had planned to message her. But then her partner tagged her in a post and, realising that I should have seen the post twice, I checked and saw the hostile ‘Add friend’ button where there should have been a happy tick and a reassuring ‘Friends’ button. Ah well. Wimbledon Man still hadn’t unblocked me which was just plain odd, given his renewed interest in me and apologies for impetuosity. But I was already growing bored of his daily ‘how are you’ messages which were the reason for my bluntness towards him in the first place, which brought about (I believe) the whole unfriending and blocking situation.
The Easter holiday had brought ample opportunity for furniture shopping, for which I’d budgeted in the selling and buying of property because beds and sofas are fairly necessary. The four of us (Rhiannon joined us for the excursion) had ventured out to suitable shops for this purpose and so relevant furniture had been chosen and was on its way. Halfway through the shopping trip, we stopped wearily for lunch and I had my first experience of Nando’s, which probably ought to have happened before the onslaught of vegetarianism in the family but there was typical veggie fare such as halloumi available. Rhiannon had returned to carnivorous ways so along with Hannah, ate chicken with relish (both sorts) while Joseph and I enjoyed the veggie menu. All that was left now was perpetual worry that the right choices had been made regarding the furniture. I can always put a throw over the sofa, I thought. And who cares what my bed looks like.
One morning, when Rhiannon had returned to her uni house because of illness (probably pharyngitis, which is what you get when your throat wants you to have tonsillitis but you’ve had your tonsils removed) and Joseph and Hannah were having an Easter holiday lie-in, the Rastafarian messaged me and invited me over for a morning coffee. Being at a loose end, I went and his sister was there. The more I chatted to his sister, the more I liked her. Their physical resemblance was startling, but I could see that their personalities were very different. I had considered her grumpy and unwelcoming initially, but unlike the Rastafarian, she took some time to ‘warm up’. We chatted about chocolate, church, where I lived, coffee and she said that she would give me some Rwandan coffee next time I saw her. I told her about my penchant for good coffee and how I had fresh whole beans delivered once a fortnight, so I could grind my own coffee in the grinder that my children had bought for me for my last birthday. The last despatch happened to be from Rwanda (it was random every time) and it wasn’t that strong, but of course that was just one type, so maybe her coffee would be richer.
I was keen to return home, to cook breakfast for my guests, but I had agreed to take the Rastafarian into town. He was taking his usual eternity to leave the house (I have never witnessed anyone – male or female – take so long to get ready both physically and mentally. He had to look good, have eaten and drunk, listened to reggae and then relaxed, before even putting his shoes on). Finally, we left. In the car, he said:
“What do you think? My sister, she tell me off for asking you for money!”
She had witnessed him asking me for money in town, while I was at the nail bar.
“Well, it’s fair enough,” I replied, deliberately harshly and without a shred of the sympathy he clearly desired.
“You do things for me, I do things for you,” he attempted a justification of his resentful feelings.
“But you don’t do things for me!” I argued, with a derisive laugh. Whereas I was growing pessimisitic about ever having my loan repaid, I wasn’t going to allow him to imagine that I had forgotten about it.
His reply was a definite ‘harrumph’. I could have left it there, but I was curious . . .
“So, she doesn’t know about the 2k you owe me?”
This was interesting news. Maybe she could help me. If she knew, she might hold some sway as his big, bossy sister in returning it to me? I stored the information for possible future use.
The conversation changed, to weather talk, which struck me as funny, as it is such a British pastime. He suggested I join him on the beach in the sun. I explained that I wanted to spend time with Joseph and Hannah before they returned, but that I intended popping into town later and would have some time on my hands whilst waiting for my laundry to wash, so if it was sunny, I may as well spend that time on the beach in the sun. He said that he looked forward to that and that was how we left it.
When that time came, he did not respond to his messages. He did not respond to my calls. This was not an unusual scenario, but as long as I didn’t hear news of a fatal stabbing on the beach or something similar, then it was all fine. I recalled a time during our relationship when, on waking one Saturday morning, I had missed calls from him and messages to call him, between 2 and 4 in the morning. I called him and messaged him, but to no avail. I went into town, only to be greeted with white tape in one of the main shopping streets (where I knew he had been out and about the night before) and on asking in a local shop, it transpired that a man had been stabbed at around 3 in the morning. Still, I failed to make contact with him, so I went to his flat. His flat-mate answered and I was relieved to see the Rastafarian sleeping soundly and definitely alive. My concern changed to anger and when he woke up, he couldn’t give me a good reason as to why he had been trying to contact me in the small hours. The other thing he couldn’t do, was understand my distress.
“You’re checking me out,” he said, meaning that I was checking up on him. He always made that mistake.
“In a way,” I had admitted, “but to see if you were alive!”
“You don’t trust me,” he had accused.
“Well, no, but we’ve established that and this isn’t about that. It’s about your welfare.”
He would go AWOL, so to speak, on occasion and his excuse that his phone died was well-worn. Sometimes I would catch him out, by pointing out that Whatsapp had given him away by declaring that he had been ‘active’ when his phone had supposedly died. Or I would suggest that he couldn’t have been home, otherwise he’d have charged his phone, so where had he been for 2 days? Where had he slept? ‘I forgot to charge my phone’, he would claim, on occasion, an obvious lie, as his phone was as important to him as one of his limbs.
It was vital to my recovery from the relationship to remember these things.