Here I am again, sat here all alone in the bar of the Civil Service Club. Well, I say alone, but there are already a few other old-timers (haha) at nearby tables; but at the moment it’s just me flying solo, with my lonely cup of Civil Service coffee. Of course we both know that, contrary to popular belief, us Servants of the Crown do not sit around drinking tea all day; oh no; in fact we actually discovered coffee quite a few years ago! And the cup I have before me is rather good, just the right amount of froth, perked up with just sufficient sugar not to send me into a hyper, but enough to keep me sweet. (haha).
In case you’re wondering, I’m on my Jack Jones ‘cos OH has left me here as a ‘safe place’, surrounded by embassies and members of the military, as well as fellow Civil Servants, both serving and retired. Oh I do wish I could look up and see you coming through the door, tap-tapping your stick and being greeted by other members. You were known, respected and loved by so many people and are greatly missed.
But I’m okay with my memories, and the barman is really very easy on the eye too, so I expect I shall be getting through quite a bit of coffee before OH returns all shorn and pampered, and orders a bottle of wine ready for lunch. You will remember how decent the bar meals are here; in fact I think I’ll have the salmon today, fish always being one of your favourites. And OH is paying!
I’m like Pavlov’s dog; every time the door opens, I look up like OH and I used to when we were waiting for you, sad really. Still, I usually manage to find someone to chat to when I’m here on my ownsome. It’s looking a bit fallow today, though it seems something big’s going down at the Nigerian Embassy next door; we had to squeeze through loads of people on the pavement just to get into the club, and there’s a huge shiny black limo with silver crest and diplomatic plates parked nearby, and a couple of large black cars with darkened windows too. Ooh-er, just visible above the window boxes there’s a clutch of armed coppers; all guns, mikes and stab vests. I reckon they’re the Diplomatic Protection Squad. I’ll ask OH about it when he gets here, he’s bound to know, having done decades of hush hush jobs in Defence, and working for the Met on his last placement before retirement.
He’s been gone half an hour now, and still no nice old veteran to entertain me with tales of derring-do (let alone derring-don’t – you’d be surprised what these nonagenarians got up to in their younger days!) I must have that sort of face -I bet they tell me stuff that’d make their wives’ hair stand on end back in the day. Pretty much like mine is at the moment – the weather is appalling! I’ve never seen such gusts in central London; well, not since the day a bomb went off outside the M.O.D. building where I was working: the blast bloody nigh took my head off. Not much damage done, just a quick evacuation and check round the building - as designated bomb officer I had to check round my floor for suspicious objects – then business as usual. Keep Calm & Carry On! You know the drill better than I do!
Anyway, that was back in the 70s, and now I’m almost in my 70s, and you’ve had your 70th celebration, and now you’re no doubt propping up the heavenly bar while I’m contemplating the heavenly young barman!
Ah! I might be in luck. An elderly chap’s just came in, not that old I reckon, maybe mid 80s and wearing various lapel pins plus a Veterans Badge such as I sent for some years ago for my RAF Dad and my Navy Father-in-law, who, as you will remember, both served in World War 2. Oh bother, he’s gone over to the other side of the Club, where there seems to be a pal of his waiting for him. Time for another coffee methinks. And the loo. Coffee goes right through me these days, but needs must.
Coming back from the Ladies I notice quite a few grey heads through the window bobbing above the geraniums; probably as it’s coming up to lunch time I guess, and the aroma of todays Bar Special ‘Lamb Madras’ is tickling my nosebuds. Or tastebuds even. Still haven’t seen the limo pass by so I guess the embassy reception or whatever is still ongoing. It would have to pass this way as Old Scotland Yard is a one-way street at the moment – anyway, a shiny black stretched roller with a silver crest and fluttering pennant would be quite hard to miss.
Still more grey heads coming up the path, and there are a few hardy souls braving the wind sitting outside in the covered area; maybe they’ve got the heaters going. Even though the sun’s shining it’s cold enough for a walking stick as your auld Mum would say. Amazing what some people will put up with for the sake of a fag.
Now there’s a likely looking grey approaching – bet he’s one of the back-room squad – Oh, hang on, it’s OH – I swear he was less grey when he left me an hour ago – guess that demonstrates how we’re both getting on a bit, he must’ve left the remains of his brown hair at the hairdressers (no, NOT the barbers; remember how you used to tease him about that)! He still treks regularly to town to patronise the Italian hairdresser he’s been going to for years. Actually the original hairdresser was this bloke’s Dad. He’s retired now and handed the business over to ‘the boy’, who’s all of 45. Do you remember when our boy was getting married, OH insisted on taking him up to get both their hair’s done for the wedding? The Dad insisted on doing the Groom and OH was relegated to ‘the boy’. Crikey that was over 10 years ago now, Tempus Fugit, so has my coffee.
And indeed OH (you would have said ‘Yer Man’) is now approaching my table, and I’m ready with appropriately appreciative words for the ‘new look’. Not bad for his age, my old man. I still fancy him. And talking of fancying, I think I’ll stick with the salmon and we’ll raise a glass of something fizzy to you, our dearest mate, gone one whole year, but never forgotten.
P.S. It turns out today is Commonwealth Day, hence presumably the ambassadorial roller. Which explains the appalling traffic in town, and the ridiculous time it took to get home by public transport. How the other half live eh? xxx