Who needs Coronation Street when you can enjoy a real-life soap opera at Caffè Nero?
Last week, I popped in for my usual latte to find Nero’s perma-fixture Porridge-Loving Pensioner remonstrating angrily with a scantily-clad woman, before throwing a bunch of flowers at her and stomping off.
Let me backtrack slightly.
Porridge-Loving Pensioner first appeared on the Nero scene about a year ago, pitching up at 7.30am, scoffing mounds of porridge all day and gazing mournfully out of the window, before departing at closing time by taxi.
He oscillates between being a curmudgeonly octogenarian, who guards his seat in the corner like a rattle snake, to acting out a scene from Wether’s Originals, handing out sweets to the kids and generously splashing out on coffees and milkshakes to all and sundry.
More recently though, he’s regressed to being a bit of an awkward old bugger. Fellow Nero stalwart and Mallorca-mad retiree Malcolm recently brought him a suit and told him he needed to ‘smarten himself up’. I’m not sure he liked it.
And when I chatted to another retiree-at-large, Peter, he told me he’s been giving Porridge-Loving Pensioner a wide berth.
“I’ve got enough dependents as it is,’ said Peter, who was recently widowed from his sweetheart Brenda but still takes care of his mother. ‘Take it from me once you open the door, it just opens wider.’
‘Legs always talks to him,’ he went on.
“Who’s ‘Legs’?’ I asked.
‘You don’t know Legs?’ exclaimed Peter. ‘She’s always in here. Beautiful girl, got a degree in sport or something. ALWAYS wears shorts.’
‘Of course, Malcolm always makes a beeline for her!’
‘I bet!’ I said.
I’d never come across Legs before but when I walked in and saw Porridge-Loving Pensioner in a heated debate with a girl in very short shorts, I just knew it had to be Legs.
I’ve had to remove her face for reasons of anonymity (but you can see how she gets her namesake).
It transpired that Legs had got Too Involved with Porridge-Loving Pensioner – to the point of actually driving him to his hospital appointment the day before. Porridge-Loving Pensioner then wanted her to drive him more places.
When she said she couldn’t, Porridge-Loving Pensioner got very angry indeed.
Peter was right: when you open the door, it does get wider.
The argument ended with Legs giving the flowers back to Porridge-Loving Pensioner and marching out.
When Malcolm and Peter arrived for their morning coffee, I quickly filled them in. Porridge-Loving Pensioner was stomping around furiously in the background.
‘I can’t believe Legs actually drove him to the hospital,’ I said.
‘She’s a very pretty girl but I wished she’d get dressed when she came in,’ muttered Peter.
‘If you’ve got it flaunt it by all means, but there is a stopping point.’
Suddenly, Porridge-Loving Pensioner appeared, brandishing the wilting flowers.
‘These are for you,’ he said, looming over me and grabbing my cheek. ‘I wondered if you’d take me to the hospital.’
I looked at the hand-me-down flowers and then took a look at his letter. The appointment was for September 1.
That was quite a while off. But my experience of old people is they gradually become obsessed by hospital appointments. Their lives revolve around them.
‘I can’t take you because I’m at work that day,’ I said, quite truthfully. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘The best thing to do,’ I added firmly. ‘Is to call the hospital and ask them to send a car for you. They often do a chaperone service.’
Porridge-Loving Pensioner threw the flowers down and shuffled off.
Malcolm and Peter looked aghast.
‘You handled that very well,’ said Peter.
It was only after the furore had settled down that we noticed Porridge-Loving Pensioner was finally wearing Malcolm’s suit! Malcolm confessed he’d been giving him a selection of shirts too.
‘What he really wants is company,’ I said.
‘We all do,’ said Peter. ‘We all want someone to talk to. The Italians have a name for it.’
‘Enjoy life while you can,’ added Malcolm. ‘One day, all you’ll have is memories.’
‘It’s true,’ said Peter sadly. ‘But when you’ve lost someone, the wound is so great that even memories can’t fill it.’