From my seat in the greasy spoon café I looked out on a typical English row of shops on a typical English street in a typical English village turned suburb.
It was a rundown block consisting of a betting shop, a hairdresser, a charity shop, a chemist, an off-licence, a tattoo parlour and, right at the end, a ‘wellbeing’ clinic, which I took to be a place selling methods to undo all the damage done in the other places.
We had driven to this suburb just off the M3 to help a friend who is trying to sell his collection of classic cars. The builder boyfriend is a dab hand with motors, so he offered to help our friend do the pricing.
We stopped at a café for a bite to eat before getting to the lock-up, and our friend treated us to lunch for our trouble.
‘Look at that,’ I said to the BB as we tucked into our meals, a roast beef dinner for him and for me a double cheeseburger which turned out not to have any cheese, which was not a major surprise as the man who took my order over the counter, standing beneath an enormous board emblazoned with hundreds of menu choices, did not show any sign of caring whether the cheese would come or not, even as he handed it to me.
‘Look at what?’ asked the BB, cramming over-boiled cabbage and rubber beef into his mouth with gusto, for he likes that sort of thing and if anything butters him up it is a place he can pronounce ‘caff’.
‘Behold the English high street in all its glory. You see here all our preoccupations.