I have a new friend at Caffè Nero. His name is Cecil and he’s 87. My quota of octogenarian acquaintances may soon outgrow my dwindling band of ‘normal’ friends. I’m not sure how worried I should be.
Cecil comes into Nero on a Saturday. Like all the other lonely souls, what he really wants is someone to talk to. He moved to Leeds from the East End in the war and lived in a back-to-back in Harehills. He used to travel to school on the tram for a ha’penny but he was too poor to afford a cap.
I’ve yet to snap a candid picture of Cecil but to put you in the picture, he’s a cross between Patrick Stewart and a kindly wizard.
Cecil is entirely pleasant company. If I’m being honest, I’m beginning to grow a bit weary of my other coffee shop friend Peter and his constant carousel of desperate dates.
Pushing 80 himself, widower Peter is still pursuing the entirely unsuitable 50-something year old business woman, who not only has a partner already but appears to be stringing poor Pete along. I’ve tried to point this out to him but he seems completely blinded by love. Never a fool like an old fool and all that.
I mentioned such concerns to fellow Nero regular Linda the other day (former miserly, seen here uncharacteristically shrouded in fur, who’s actually turned out to be surprisingly friendly).
She nodded along sagely, before stating: ‘Peter is a petulant child. Like all men, he’s completely self-obsessed and selfish.’
I haven’t been able to look at Peter in the same light since. I saw him on Saturday and he regaled me with his usual tales of myriad dinner dates, Italian holidays and trips to the opera, while simultaneously dabbing wet eyes about his deceased wife and lamenting how lonely his life is. I couldn’t help but think, perhaps Peter is a bit selfish?
Peter concluded the conversation by telling me about his weight training and the dumb bells he’s been lifting at home.
‘However, I hear you’re very fit,’ he said. ‘You’ve been spotted at the gym.’
‘By who?’ I said.
‘Colin Firth!’ he said.
(Colin Firth is a harassed-looking dad, who brings his kids into Neros on a Saturday, usually leaving a trail of biscuit crumbs and destruction in his wake. Don’t be fooled by the name either: he’s a less attractive, ginger version of his Hollywood doppelgänger)
I’m assuming Firth meant ‘fit’ as in healthy, not the ‘phwoar’ sense. But still, I find the idea of frazzled-father Firth and petulant Peter having such a conversation about me a little unnerving – not least because all I really do at the gym is flap around on the cross-trainer for half an hour.
Peter also seems to have turned on another Nero oldie: Malcolm (dotty old Majorca fan).
‘Malcolm isn’t happy that I’m been getting on well with Bridget,’ said Peter.
(Bridget being another wholly unsuitable love interest)
‘He keeps coming over and standing right next to us, puffing out his chest like a peacock. I’ve had to tell him to push off.’
‘Anyway, you’re on half term next week,’ continued Peter. You’ll be able to see all this for yourself!’
Perhaps it’s time to retreat to Starbucks.