If you are going to be late, there is something to be said for being extremely late rather than a tad late. Anticipate being received with pursed lips and sighs of minor irritation in the latter situation. Arrive extremely late and expect to be greeted with expressions of unmitigated relief that you have turned up in one piece, which proved to be the case when I arranged to meet Mandip at the Tate Modern on Bank Holiday Monday. I was sending her a blow-by-blow account of my own royal progress to the vast complex, a former electricity power station. When she failed to answer her mobile I assumed she must still be on the underground and hence could not use her phone. After an hour had elapsed beyond the original time we had agreed to meet up and I had still not received any message, I rang her landline, wondering if some domestic disaster had befallen her and she had not actually left her house. I had had a similar experience with the Catwoman.
In the days before I became friends with the Eagle, l had invited our mutual friend, the Catwoman, over for supper. She rang me from work to say she would be leaving shortly but would return home first to change. I calculated how long this would take her, given the vagaries of public transport and the fact she did not have a mobile phone to let me know of any delays. I had anticipated that she would arrive shortly after . came and went and she still she failed to appear on my doorstep. I tried to ring her landline but there was no reply. She has a tendency to never answer her telephone unless she thinks it is her mother calling, whereupon she immediately launches into her native tongue. At I ate the supper I had prepared and went to bed thinking there was little I could do, other than wait until the next day, a Friday, and see if I received a call from her from her workplace. Receiving none, I rang her office number with some trepidation. I had decided that when the person on the other end explained that Catwoman had not been in the office that day, I would describe how she had been en-route to see me the night before and had failed to arrive. I would suggest that Personnel sent someone around to her house to check up on her. To my astonishment Catwoman answered the telephone herself. It seemed when she had got home she had felt too tired to venture out again. As her landline was broken she could not ring to let me know. Moreover, she claimed she did not have my number at her house.
“Then why didn’t you ring me the moment you got into the office?” I fumed.
She had not rung me from the office because she thought I might be angry with her! Why she thought keeping me in suspense as to what had happened to her for potentially days on end would make me more amenable to her tardiness I don’t know. When I next saw her I gave her a handset to replace her own broken one.
Catwoman is a genuine eccentric and I tolerate behaviour in her I would not allow in others. It was through Catwoman that I became friends with the Eagle. We knew one another by sight, having once worked for the same organisation and we also had certain other friends in common. In addition, we were members of the same health club and saw each other there from time to time. Our initial impressions of one another were far from favourable. I thought she was deliberately cutting me by failing to acknowledge my presence in the gym with even a friendly nod of the head and she deemed me a somewhat forbidding aloof presence. Finally the ice was broken and we did begin to chat to one another in the gym, our common ground being the Catwoman. One day I bumped into the Eagle at the local supermarket as she perused the magazines.
“I am having Catwoman over tomorrow for super, “ I explained. “I would have invited you too but I was not sure if you would be interested.”
I am very careful as to who I invite around to my flat. It is my sanctuary as well as a reflection of my personality. Consequently I would be crushed if a guest were to be rude about it. One former friend determined that it was far too small for her liking and declared that she could never live in such a tiny flat. I bit my tongue and refrained from reminding her that my flat, albeit small but perfectly formed, was funded solely through my earnings. By contrast, her two-bedroom pre-War Council house and garden were wholly paid for by taxpayers as she had not chosen not to work for a number of years. What was even more grating was that she complained that her Council house was becoming too small for her needs and that she was going to insist the Council found her a larger one.
On a separate occasion I found myself obliged to check up on the whereabouts of another friend. Her brother answered the phone. He explained that his sister had already gone out for the night.It seemed she had forgotten her prior commitment to dine with me. I was about to dish up. I always used to carry a torch for her brother and realised I had a superb opportunity to invite him around in her stead. However, I thought better of it and gave him a message to pass on to his wayward sibling, saying that our meal could be postponed until the following day.
Convinced something untoward had happened to Mandip I left a forlorn message on her landline saying I would wait a further half an hour, privately thinking something awful must have happened that she could not even get to a phone. At that point my mobile rang and an apologetic Mandip announced that she was making her way over to the Turbine Hall. As I said at the beginning of this post, I was so relieved to see her I could not be cross with her.