The coco pinchard boxset.., p.46
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.46

           Robert Bryndza


  Wednesday 13th July 20.47

  TO: [email protected]

  For Prisoner AG26754 Adam Rickard

  I started dog walking with Marika the other day, and in the heat it’s harder than I thought. She walks up to six hours a day! Her dog walking business is booming. She has started to get queries from a couple of guys about overnight stays — for their dogs, that is, not for them!

  She hasn’t told her mother she is a dog walker. Blazena thinks she is temping at City Hall, and the only reason she is happy about this is that Marika has told her it’s the perfect place to meet a rich husband.

  On the way back from dog walking we’ve been stopping at a new café on Brockley Road that serves ice coffee in little glass jam jars, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

  I have become addicted, and tried to replicate it at home, making a litre and a half of instant coffee with a little sugar in an old a lemonade bottle that I keep in the fridge. I have also bought ice cream, and even splurged on a tin of coco powder for dusting. When you are released, I am going to make it for you.

  I had three visitors the other day. I was expecting Rosencrantz, but shortly after he arrived, Meryl turned up with Wilfred.

  “Oh Coco, it’s… snug,” she said, as I closed the door behind her.

  “Hey Aunt Meryl,” said Rosencrantz, coming in from the back door, “and Wilf!”

  Wilfred was dressed in shorts, a little blazer, and tiny Trilby with a feather tucked in the brim. His plump little cheeks were very red.

  “You look fucking cool, little man,” said Rosencrantz.

  “Please Rosencrantz, no toilet language. I live in fear of Wilfred’s first word beginning with an ‘f’.”

  “There are plenty of other nice f-words,” said Rosencrantz, tickling Wilfred’s tummy. “Fiddlesticks, fuddleflum, flibbedy flobbidy floo!”

  Wilfred laughed in delight and shuffled his legs. Meryl took his Trilby off, and put him on the floor to crawl.

  “I haven’t hoovered, Meryl,” I said as Wilfred started to turbo crawl and disappeared round the back of the sofa.

  “It’s okay,” she said. “I want him to build up his resistance and be exposed to lots of germs. That’s one of the reasons we popped over.”

  Rosencrantz and I looked at each other.

  “Would you like an ice coffee?” I said. Meryl told us, over ice coffee in the garden, that she had been to give Ethel “a dressing down” over her antics at the christening.

  “I don’t understand my mother,” said Meryl, in a rare candid moment. “I try to make the best of myself. I’ve fought my way up from nothing in a two-up two-down with an outside loo… I thought she’d be proud of me, of what we can give Wilfred.”

  “I think you should have included her more, in the christening,” I said.

  “Tony said the same,” mused Meryl. “It’s just… you never feel good enough…”

  “What do you mean?” asked Rosencrantz, who was bouncing Wilfred on his lap.

  “I could have the best christening and wear the most expensive clothes in the biggest marquee, but there will always be whispers: ‘did you know she grew up in a slum, she failed the eleven-plus and went to her local comp…’”

  “Why should you care what they say?” said Rosencrantz.

  “Oh, the luxury of privilege,” said Meryl. “And I don’t mean that in a nasty way,” she added. “That’s why I so admire Carole Middleton, she came from nothing. And is now mother of a future Queen.”

  “That’s what Wayne says about Mum!” grinned Rosencrantz.

  Meryl looked confused.

  “Rosencrantz,” I said, shushing him.

  This was fascinating; Meryl talking about how she felt. All I normally get out of her is recipes.

  Meryl went to continue but Rosencrantz’s phone ringtone blared out. He passed Wilfred to Meryl and answered.

  “That reminds me, Coco,” she said. “I’ve got a super recipe for cheese straws, it’s as quick as a flash. I’ll email it you.”

  Suddenly Rosencrantz started whooping.

  “I got the job!” he cried, leaping up and down. “I got the flibbedy flobbedy job!”

  Wilfred laughed and clapped his little hands and Rocco barked and ran round the table.

  “What job?” I said.

  “A television job! Well, it’s one of those personal injury claims adverts. I’m a guy who breaks his leg ballroom dancing.”

  “Ballroom dancing?” I said. “I thought those adverts were for people who have accidents on forklift trucks.”

  “No, people have wised up to those. They’re cornering the ballroom dancing market. You know how popular Strictly and Dancing With The Stars are? They figure there are millions of people out there who are joining dance classes and going arse over tit. What do they say? Where there’s a blame, there’s a claim.”

  We both gave him a hug.

  “You’ll have to give me your autograph!” said Meryl.

  “Well, make sure it's a piece of paper you give me. Did you know, last week on my TIE tour one of the mums actually wanted me to sign one of her breasts!”

  “No, it would only be on my jotter pad,” said Meryl nervously.

  “You know the best bit about this job?” said Rosencrantz. “It’s five grand for a day’s work.”

  He starts filming next week. It’s an odd feeling, though, when your children start to earn more than you do!

  That’s all to report for now. It’s baking hot and I’m sitting outside, even though it’s ten in the evening. Can’t wait to see you on Friday!

  Coco xxx

  Friday 15th July 20.14

  TO: [email protected]

  I got back late last night after a terrible journey to see Adam. Rail replacement buses and trains with no air conditioning. It ended up being a round trip of twelve hours. I collapsed into bed shortly after 11pm and didn’t wake up until mid-morning. I had no food in the house, so I pulled on some clothes and went to the little corner shop. It was closed due a power cut so I walked the long way up to Honor Oak Park and went to the little shop near Marika’s flat. I paid for my things at the till, and when I turned to leave, I came face to face with Xavier, the hot guy from Insomnia Café in Marylebone.

  “Hey! Coco!” he grinned.

  “Hello. What are you doing here?” I said, shocked to see him.

  “I live here, what about you? Are you visiting someone?” he said.

  He looked amazing. He had on a sleeveless white t-shirt, denim shorts, and flip-flops. His muscular arms were a warm caramel colour. His hair shone raven black and fell over his forehead in a sexy sweep. He smelt enticing, all wood and fresh soap, a smell which gave me goose bumps of the erotic variety.

  “No, I live here too,” I said.

  “Really? Where?”

  “Down the road in Brockley.”

  “I’m just up the road…” he said.

  He had a black sausage dog on a lead with a red collar. It had long eyelashes and was standing there shyly whilst Rocco gave him the once over. I knew I had to make my excuses and go or I would be doing the same to Xavier. He was as melt in the mouth delicious as I remembered.

  “Well, I’d better get going,” I said.

  I think I sounded a little blunt, but I had lust in my mind and I was alarmed it wasn’t lust for Adam.

  “Maybe I’ll see you around, I walk my dog up on Hilly Fields,” he said.

  I smiled back at him then scuttled back home with Rocco. I had a long cold jug-wash in the bath, and I don’t think it was entirely because of the hot weather.

  I had just got dressed in a clean pair of shorts and a t-shirt, when the buzzer went for the door. I opened it and there was Xavier.

  I looked at him. He looked at me. The low drone of a lawnmower working hard floated up from outside.

  “You left this at the shop,” he said, holding up my purse.

  “Oh. Thank you,” I said.

  “I said I’d bring
it to you, your address is inside… The guy in the shop wanted to send his father, Zoltan, but I didn’t think he would make it in the heat in his mobility scooter.”

  I laughed. Xavier was sweating. We stood for a moment staring at each other.

  “Would you like some ice coffee?” I said. “I’m just making one.”

  I know I shouldn’t have asked him in, but nothing had to happen, I thought. There is no harm in looking, and the most pleasure I have had in months was leaning against the dryer at the launderette and waiting for my bed sheets to finish. Xavier came in with his little dog that was quirkily named Columbus. Rocco came running over and after a series of excited little barks and snorts, they ran off together into the garden. If I was fluent in dog, I’m sure it would have translated as:

  Rocco: Hey, you want to come and play? I’ve got my own garden!

  Columbus: Cool! Let’s go!

  “What are you grinning at?” said Xavier, following my gaze to the open door.

  “I was imagining what they were talking about.”


  “The dogs…”

  He looked at me oddly.

  “I’ll get that coffee,” I said. I went to the kitchen and pulled some ice cream out of the freezer.

  “So, why are you living in Brockley?” he said, looking around at the living room.

  “Um… I’m renting out my house and writing. It’s quieter here and it supplements my income…”

  All of this was somewhat true, but I left out a big part of the truth: Adam. We carried on chatting but a voice in my head started to chant, Adam, Adam, Adam, Adam, Adam…

  “Why don’t you go outside and have a seat. I’ll bring the coffees,” I said.

  Xavier went outside and I spooned ice cream into glasses, poured over the ice coffee then dusted both with cocoa powder. The chant of Adam, Adam, Adam kept up in my head.

  “Will you be quiet,” I hissed to myself. “I just want one piece of innocent excitement.”

  When I came out with the coffees on a tray, Xavier was sat in the sun.

  “Who were you talking to?” he said, as I put them down.

  “Um… My plants.” I said. “They do really well if you talk to them, I do it all the time.”

  We spent the next minute or two in silence spooning ice cream out of our glasses.

  “I like this garden,” he said. “I’d like a space outdoors, for when I do my weights.”

  “Where do you do your weights now?” I said.

  “I have to move all of the furniture in the living room. Still, it pays off. Look at this.” He lifted up his t-shirt to show his six-pack.

  I noticed the ripped curve of muscle from his hip which disappeared under the waistband of his shorts.

  “How lovely,” I said, sounding much like Meryl does when she’s browsing colour charts in Homebase. I realised I would have to have another cold splash in the bath after he had gone.

  “What are you going to do with that washing machine?” he said, pointing at it with his teaspoon.

  “Oh that, it’s a pain in the backside. It’s broken but I can’t get rid of it.”

  “I’ll get rid of it for you,” he said.

  “You don’t need to do that.”

  “My brother’s hiring a skip next week. I pass by the end of your street all the time, so I can swing by and we can lift it over the fence.”

  He wouldn’t let me say “no”, so I asked him to call and gave my number. We watched the dogs playing for a while longer and then he said he should go.

  “Maybe we could walk the dogs sometime?” he said eagerly.

  “Maybe,” I grinned, and waved him and Columbus goodbye.

  I am in lust and I don’t like it.

  Wednesday 20th July 15.03

  TO: [email protected]

  Rosencrantz phoned last night to say that he would be filming his advert today and the location is literally round the corner from me, at The Rivoli Ballroom.

  “The where?” I said.

  “The Rivoli Ballroom, it’s near the Co-op, on the way to Marika’s place,” he said. “Come and see me if you’ve time.”

  Ethel called round this morning. We left Rocco snoozing in the cool of the bathroom and walked up to the Rivoli, which was tucked away amongst the chip shops and junk shops on Brockley Road.

  “Iss bin a long time since I came up to the Rivoli,” said Ethel, stopping to catch her breath in the heat. “Me an’ Wilf used to come dancing ‘ere.”

  There were two lorries parked on the road outside, both with their back doors open showing endless coils of electrical cable and mysterious metal boxes. The front doors of the ballroom were open but I couldn’t make out much else in the low squat building.

  We went to go up the steps by the main entrance, but a girl eating a sandwich and wearing a headset blocked our path.

  “You can’t go in, it’s a closed set,” she said.

  I tried to explain who we were, and that Rosencrantz was in there but she was having none off it. The girl pressed her radio and a big smelly ginger-haired guy in shorts and a filthy t-shirt came and told us to leave.

  “Iss only a bloody accident insurance advert,” said Ethel. “It ain’t Carnegie bloody Hall.”

  “You can’t go in,” said the guy.

  A fire exit opened and an old grey-haired woman of Ethel’s age shuffled out with a mop.

  “Ethel Dewberry?” she said.

  “Bunty Brown?” said Ethel. “Well, I never! Iss bin years. Course I’m Ethel Pinchard now.”

  Bunty leant on her mop and squinted in the sun.

  “This is Coco,” said Ethel indicating me.

  I said, “Hello.”

  “Are you in this telly ad?” said Ethel.

  “Gawd no,” said Bunty. “I’m the cleaner ‘ere. You wanna come in?”

  She opened the door for us and we marched inside, much to the annoyance of the security people.

  I was expecting some old community centre with a bank of disco lights and a little plastic mirror ball. However, the inside was stunning.

  “Iss the only surviving 1950s ballroom in the country,” whispered Bunty, as we moved through an art déco foyer. She pushed open a large set of doors and we entered the ballroom. It was flamboyant and kitsch and like walking through a time portal. Three giant chandeliers hung from a long, shallow, barrel-vaulted ceiling, and in between were Chinese lanterns and delicate scallop-shaped lights. There were plump red velour padded walls and gilt picture-frame-style panels. The dance floor was a deep polished wood, the colour of maple syrup. It twinkled and shone and I felt I had seen it somewhere before.

  “Tina Turner filmed ‘er ‘Private Dancer’ video here,” whispered Bunty. ‘Iss used all the time for music videos and films.”

  A camera was set up to one side and a crew was milling about. The director, a handsome greying chap in a t-shirt and shorts, was sat in his customary chair in front of a small TV monitor with a set of headphones about his neck.

  “Right, stand by,” he said. The chandeliers roared up to their full twinkling brightness. “And action!”

  A set of red velvet curtains parted on a raised dais at the back, and Rosencrantz emerged in tight black trousers and a skintight glittery shirt. His hair was combed up into a quiff and glitter speckled his face. His ballroom dancing partner was a tanned, almost leathery young lady in a green sequinned dress that shimmered as she strutted on his arm.

  “And dance 2, 3, 4,” said the director.

  Rosencrantz and his partner did a short routine in silence, their glitter and sparkles catching in the light.

  “And Rosencrantz… FALL!” he shouted.

  Rosencrantz tripped and fell over.

  “And cut! Let’s re-set…”

  Rosencrantz quickly came over to us.

  “Hey,” he said. “Isn’t this cool?”

  “Why aren’t you dancing to music?” said Ethel.

  “They’re putting it on in post… post-pro

  “And yer getting five grand just to fall over?” said Ethel.

  “Yeah,” said Rosencrantz excitedly.

  Bunty and Ethel cooed over Rosencrantz a bit longer. Then he had to go back to work, so we said goodbye.

  “How much is it to hire this place?” I asked Bunty when we were back on the steps outside. “I was thinking how wonderful it would be for a wedding reception.”

  “Ooh, they don’t do them ‘ere,” she said. “It would get wrecked. All them young uns… Besides, you wouldn’t see the likes of us three bein’ able to afford a party ‘ere,” said Bunty.

  As I got home I realised I had been included in Bunty’s observation. The ease in which I was included in their little group of poverty-stricken pensioners scared me. I went to the bathroom and took stock. I have an inch of grey hair showing, I have run out of my fifty quid moisturiser. I look… well… old.

  Thursday 28th July 21.14

  TO: [email protected]

  London has been unbearably hot. The last few days Rocco has been sleeping on the bathroom floor, which is the coolest place in the flat. I would have joined him this morning, had it not been for the grey pube I found behind the toilet (not mine). The pube seemed to herald the start of another very low day, feeling old and washed up. Thank you for the expensive face creams you gave me the other day. I know it sounds shallow but they made me feel a little like my old self again.

  I ventured out to the shop in the afternoon and it seemed like so many bad things converged at once. There was a huge pile of vomit outside the gate, which really upset me, and then someone had smashed in the windshield of a car further down. Then just before the junction, a beautiful black cat I often stop to cuddle had been run over. Its burst corpse covered in flies. I turned round, came home, and spent the rest of the day attempting to write something, but I had no ideas at all.

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