My meeting was with a female client who had said she was coming to the UK from her home in Spain and wanted to eat a proper English meal.  I assumed by that she meant the British National dish- Chicken Tikka Masala, so was a little surprised  but not too unhappy to find myself being instructed to be at Rules (English) Restaurant, Maiden Lane Covent Garden for 12.30 sharp.

The lady was in her mid to late sixties, trim, well dressed but not matronly nor by the same token mutton dressed up as lamb, well spoken but not gratting, tanned but not leathered and had an air of being used to getting her own way without being domineering. and all in all was quite likeable.

The food was very good as always and just for the record I had potted shrimps followed by Steak and kidney Pudding.

As I said, she was agreeable enough company, but maybe a bit too right wing for us to make it as a couple.  I said this to her and she laughed heartily and said it was funny I should say that, because she had been a very active socialist and member of CND in her youth and was a friend and collegue ofBruce Kent or was it Clarke Kent?

“You know Mr Norman, today’s socialist worker is tomorrows stuffed shirt.”

“What makes you say that?” I asked not disagreeing with her.

“Well my dear, just look at Peter Hain for goodness sake, a few years ago he was a subversive menace, London’s answer to Che Guevara, throwing stones at the window of the South African Embassy and being a right pain in the rear, fighting the oppressor, alleging he was framed by Special Branch and now he has Special Branch protection and there are concrete blocks around parliament to stop people who were just like him from attacking the seat of democracy, by which I mean he doesn’t want to get blown up now that he has made it to the big time and has all the trappings it brings”

“A bit cynical don’t you think?” I said again not entirely disagreeing with her.

“Maybe, I am not just picking on Peter Hain, just using him as an example, but I have been around these sorts of people all my life.  Everyone in Politics talks a good job and how they are there for the people, but they aren’t they are in it for themselves, look at the expenses submitted by some MPs, many of them claim three times the average salary, how can they be in touch, its not them that will be made redundant because they have messed up the economy is it?”

“No, but they could loose their seats at the elections, which is the same thing”

She laughed and smiled “Ah yes and then they move on to the board of some company or other, so they just change jobs, they don’t have to make ends meet on unemployment benefit”

She had a point.

“All very interesting, but you didn’t ask me to lunch to discuss the rights and wrongs of politics did you?”

“No, but I understand that you studied Politics at unviersity and I was intrigued as to what kind of person…..”

“Goes there, does that and then eventually becomes a mercenary”  I said saving her the awkward question.

“Well yes” she laughed

“That still doesn’t really tell me what you want me to do for you”

“No, it doesn’t you’re right.  Its my husband, he has had a late life crisis and has gone walk about”

“Another woman?”

She shook her head “No, well I say that, I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think so, but he had been acting odd for a while and then just took off”

“How do you mean?”

“Well he was there in the evening and I got up the next morning and he had gone, no note, no goodbye, nothing”

“Any ideas where he may have gone?”

“Well I thought he had gone to our place in France”

“Where abouts”

“Near Cahors”


“So far nothing. I tried ring him on his mobile and on the landline plus email, but that got no response, nothing”

“What about friends and family?”

“No, I tried that but nobody has seen hide nor hair of him”

“Very odd indeed” I agreed

“Well done Inspector Morse” She said with good humour. “It is odd”

“Well you know it is funny you should mention Inspector Morse, because I remember him saying to Sergeant Lewis “People just don’t disappear Lewis, they have to go somewhere” and I have always kept that in mind, he has to be somewhere and somebody knows where he is, all we have to do is find him.

“That simple?” she said

“Well simple might be putting it a bit strongly”

“So where do you think he is then?”

“I have absolutely no idea at the moment, but people usually leave some trail, it is just a question of finding it and then following it”

“Is  everything in your life so simple?”

I looked at the plush surroundings of the restaurant and the murmur of conversation and felt that satisfying flush of lunchtime wine and having eaten well, it seemed so unreal when only a few days earlier I had been under the baking sun hot, tired, thirsty and hungry.

I shut my eyes I could almost hear the flies and the sounds of the dying children and the human desperation that war brings.

I opened my eyes and looked at her

“I wish”

4 Responses to “Spain”

  1. Sally says:

    Will we get to hear what happens next? Are you off on your travels to find this bloke?

  2. havingmycake says:

    I love steak and kidney pudding but I dont think Ive ever had potted shrimps.

    One wonders if the current economic situation will bring about more and more of these mid/late life crises. People who have never been out of work before and others so stressed just by trying to make ends meet for their families. Meanwhile, the fat cats responsible sit tight on an obscene golden goodbye that doesnt seem to be performance related. It’s a scandal. But so often politicians and big business seem to go hand in hand with each buttering the bread of the other.

  3. dl says:

    I’ve been to Rules a couple of times, both longer ago than I care to think about. Magnificent experience! And, like havingmycake, I adore steak and kidney pudding.

    Where had you just been: hot, flies, dying…

    I reckon our Afghan boys must often be having similar thoughts to yours, as you described them here. Not so long ago, they were in some form of hell, then things got even worse while they were on their journeys over, and now they find themselves in cosy middle England where we’re more pre-occupied with currency fluctuations and how a handful of fatcats have cocked up.

    All the best,

  4. Uncle says:

    Sally – Travel broadens the mind and hopefully the bank balance! Lunches like this broaden the girth

    J – I agree entirely with you. How can you get a massive bonus when you have lost a few billion. I would love to run my finances like these banks do.

    D- Fortunately the human is a very resolute and incredible bit of kit that seems to be able to recover from the most horrendous of experiences, but I do wonder at these kids and the horror we inflict on them generation after generation. I really admire what you, Sally and the rest of your family are doing to help these two lads.

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