It was half past nine, I’d just turned the ovens off and I was hoping that I wouldn’t need them again that day. Damn but it was hot in the kitchen, and I had to stay there. Things to do, people to see, baking sheets to scrape down and scrub, as usually happens on a Wednesday morning. The phone rang. One of the girls answered it. Hanna. I heard her lying to the caller.

“Oh, sorry, he’s not here at the moment, if you…oh! yes I’ll just get him for you.” That’s what she said, that’s pretty much how she said it. We get plagued with sales calls, anywhere up to seven or eight of them on particularly bad days, from utility firms, and that’s what I’ve asked all the staff to do. Lie. I lie to these people too. I deny that I’m the owner of the business, but if they’d like to leave their name, business and number, he’ll be delighted to call them back. If he’s interested. Which he won’t be. They never leave a number. I tend to hang up about then.

Anyway, this call was from the lovely Kelly, receptionist to my dentist. There had been a cancellation or two, and therefore Ail would like to squeeze me in for my crown fitting early if I was interested. I was. I removed by baking apron and, dusting the flour and blood from my shoes, scooted up the road to the surgery.

As I sat in the chair, the protective goggles appeared upon my face and the ready primed and speeding drill bit screamed into the temporary plastic crown. Right through it onto the unprotected stump beneath. I twitched somewhat. Ail withdrew, mopped my brow and apologised. After drilling the bulk of the plastic off she proceeded to scrape the stump clear of the last traces. My eyes were popping. Ail smiled into them. We’re nearly finished she murmured, her voice drowsy with love. Or something like it.

We were indeed nearly finished. Five minutes later and a couple of hundred sovs lighter, I was being waved a fond farewell out of the door.

I had to go see my dad that evening. He’s been right poorly, has my dad. We thought we were going to lose him a few weeks ago. But he’s bounced back. And my sister and I dragged our two useless brothers to a family meeting to explain that it really would be helpful if we could all find it in ourselves to go round, one per day only so it involves no more than two visits a week, to see that he’s fed, clean and whole, daily. Spread between the four of us. One brother was determined to do nothing but bang on relentlessly about his ‘partner’s’ mother’s place in France, about whom and which I do not give a fuck. The other brother kept complaining that all he could see was flashing lights whenever he looked at the screen of his mobile phone and that he can’t read anything written in a seriffed font. My sister and I compared him to various parts of the human anatomy, usually kept sheltered from the public gaze, as we also did the other brother when he sprang to his sibling’s defence. I very rarely have anything to do with my two brothers. Some people wonder why.

Anyway, my dad was quite well that evening and I got to his door with a big bag of fish and chips, enough for the both of us, hot from the chippie.

“Fish and chips, dad?”

“Oh, I don’t really fancy it…”

“You did yesterday when I asked you if you fancied fish and chips tonight. Remember?”


“And you did when I phoned you an hour ago to ask again if you fancied it, knowing that you tend to forget stuff more than usual just lately.”

“Did I?”

“Yes dad.”

“Oh, I know.”

“What do you know, Dad?”

“Do you know what I really fancy for my dinner?”

“Er, no, what’s that then?”

“Well, sorry if you were thinking of cooking me something, but I really fancy a bit of fish and chips.”

“Well destroy my virginity with a soil auger and half a pound of Trex! Guess what I’ve got right here in this carrier bag!”

Never was a meal of haddock and chips so well enjoyed.



I was busy in the back kitchen of my shop today, getting stuff done in the part of the shop where stuff gets done. I was wondering about how this afternoon’s visit to the dentist would go. Ail, my dentist, loves me, and her fingers have never felt like anything less than the light steps of angels tip-toeing through my mouth. But today, because I split one of my front teeth in half a little while ago, eating a soft spinach pastry if you don’t mind, she had to prepare me for a crown. My first ever crown and I didn’t know what to expect.

After she’d taken the impressions to send off from which my new tooth would be created, she was merrily drilling the remainder of my tooth to a sharp point, on which I presume the crown will be impaled. The crown man, who had happened to arrive just after me to collect recyclable waste fillings and removed crowns, was kept waiting while my two sets of impressions were prepared. So that I can be fitted with my crown next week instead of the week after. Ail kept him waiting. That’s how much she loves me. She writes books, and I’ve appeared in one, or so she told me. She’s never told me under which name she writes though. Perhaps she’s just teasing me. Anyway I survived the drilling and Ail fitted me with a temporary plastic tooth, which she warned me may start to fluoresce strange and variable colours if I eat any foods high in turmeric or drink red wine.  I’m having a curry tomorrow. I think I’ll have a bottle of rioja with it. Just to make my number two upper left glow vermilion.

As I said, I was in the kitchen, getting creative with melted syrups, spices and oatmeal and stuff, when the Lad called me.

“There’s a lady here, she’s asked if you can stick your head round the doorpost.” I bet that wasn’t what she’d actually said, but I decided to indulge him. Who could it be? My curiosity was aroused. I stuck my head round the doorpost. My body quickly followed.

“Gianna!” I cried, instantly struck light-headed by a sudden rush of blood to the groin.  The lady blushed and grinned. She stepped forward and hugged me.

“Graham! I didn’t know if you’d recognise me.” I recognised her. How could I not have? I last saw her fifteen years ago. She’s even more gorgeous now than she was then. She has eyes that should have been painted by Vermeer. Hair by Burne-Jones. Clothes by River Island, but it’s what’s inside that counts, is it not, dear reader? We chatted for a while, choking on memories of things that could have been but weren’t and laughing about things that shouldn’t have been but were. She promised to come and see me again, as her job now brings her back to town six or seven times a year. I told her to make sure we don’t leave it another fifteen years.

Marilyn’s mum was sitting nearby. I hadn’t noticed her. When Gianna had gone, she asked me who I’d been talking to. I should really have called her a nosy cow and told her to sit down and drink her tea, like any self-respecting coffee shop owner would to any of his regular customers for whom over-familiarity had bred utter contempt.

“Ah, that was my old friend Gianna. I haven’t seen her for years. Isn’t she gorgeous, Marilyn’s mum? Doesn’t she just bring a lump to your pocket? Do you know, if I wasn’t married to my little Anita, who I love very much as it happens, I’d follow Gianna to the ends of the earth and she would make me very happy as my second wife.” Marilyn’s mum’s eyes went all hard and cold, like flint or obsidian.

“Well I don’t know about any of that, but some people might think you were very lucky to have a first wife. Did I tell you that my Marilyn has split up with her Mikey? Did I? She has. He left her. She’s in pieces.”

I shrugged, rubbed my tongue on the rough back surface of my temporary crown, and went back to making the parkin.