Edward and Mrs Simpson – 3

They’re back… not from honeymoon, I don’t think. They picked up the same routine as before, arriving and leaving the café separately. Yesterday we sat closer to them and I could see that he wears a wedding ring and she has both wedding and engagement rings. So they are married/widowed or whatever. Not to each other though. Of that I‘m convinced.

They didn’t look very cheerful so whatever their circumstances, they don’t seem happy.

How long can this go on? Surely something will happen sometime? Since they showed up at the pub, we are now on nodding terms so perhaps we can start a conversation one of these days. Mind you, it has taken months to get to this stage so we may all have lost interest by then.

Edward and Mrs Simpson

They have disappeared – no sign of them last Friday or on Monday this week.

We did notice them checking names from a list last week. Maybe it was a guest list. Maybe they got married at the weekend and they are off on honeymoon on some far away exotic island. Won’t it be great if they turn up again, tanned and happy, arriving at the café and leaving together, pouring over proofs of the photos of their big day? I can just imagine the scene, she in a simple, long ivory lace dress with flowers in her hair to match the delicate spray in her hand. And Edward by her side, proud and handsome in cravat and tail coat, pale grey I think. Two beautiful bridesmaids stand on their left, his daughter and her best friend and a tall dark young man, in tails matching his new step-father, on the right.

Or maybe one of them is on holiday.

Miss Haversham

Having to queue to get to work by car is only marginally less annoying than having to queue to get home again. My route to and from work is actually quite picturesque, although not in a pretty countryside sort of way. It takes me along a lovely, tree-lined residential road with beautiful and very large properties on either side. Queueing, sometimes for as long as 20 minutes, gives me time to gaze at the lovely homes, watch the progress of the very many improvements and extensions being built and, of course, to speculate about who lives there.

After about a mile the road cuts across another wide avenue and just on the other side, as the road sweeps down a short hill, there was a modest bungalow. The house stood out for several reasons. It was very small. The blue paintwork of the doors and window frames was old and peeling and the lace curtains in the windows never changed. The large gardens around it were very overgrown with huge untended bushes and trees which encroached on the semi -circular drive in the front. On the right of the house there was a tiny detached garage and in front of the old wooden doors was an ancient little caravan, an old motor bike and side car and one of those tiny three-wheeled cars. I googled the strange little car and I think it was a BMW from the early 50s, so surely quite rare.

Over the 10 years or so that I made my daily commute past the house, the caravan had disintegrated and crumbled to a heap, battered by the weather, and the bike and the little car just rusted where they stood. What a waste! They definitely looked to me as though they might once have been valuable. In the last couple of years, students began to park their cars in the drive. Rude, I thought, did they have permission? I assumed that the house must have been abandoned because I had seen no sign of life at all, not even a light in any of the windows.

Then, one dark winter’s afternoon, I saw her. There was a dim light on the porch and an ancient, stooped lady made her way slowly across the yard to the rubbish bin. She appeared to be wearing a long white nightie. In the half light, it looked for all the world like a wedding dress!

Now, I admit that this may have been a figment of my imagination, but of course it sent my mind racing. Had she been there alone all this time with no one to care for her or to help with the house and garden? Was she sitting forlorn in the half darkness, in her wedding dress, like poor Miss Haversham, jilted at the altar? Or had she been left all alone after a long and happy marriage, one half of a devoted couple with no children to comfort her when she lost her beloved husband? I’d say that he must have been a collector of the old vehicles, an enthusiast who would be horrified to know that they were just left to go to wrack and ruin over the years.

Sadly I’ll never know. Just a few weeks ago, to my horror, I saw bulldozers moving onto the site on my way to work. By the time I drove home again, the house was gone and by the next day the rubble had been taken away. It took no time at all to wipe out the bungalow, vehicles and all, and turn the whole area over. It’s now a plot of land with only the little garage and the rubbish bin left standing. I never saw any sign of a removal van, nor do I think the vehicles were taken away, so it looks as though everything – a life and all its trappings – was just swept away. It’s enough to bring a tear to the eye, and I admit it did cause me to well up one day in my queue. If what sat on that property was a mystery, the mystery is infinitely greater now that it’s gone.

Mrs Cellophane

Cellophane, Mr Cellophane shoulda been my name
Mr Cellophane ’cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me and never know I’m there

Chicago – Mr. Cellophane Lyrics | John Kander

Why? Well, the notion started with something  Sheila Hancock wrote about in her book ‘The Two of Us’ about women of a certain age becoming invisible and it occurred to me that it is true. And surprisingly liberating, especially when, like me, you enjoy the gentle pastime of people watching.

Take the couple who meet in our local cafe, for instance. I have called them Edward and Mrs Simpson. They are perfect subjects for people watching. He, Edward and she, Mrs (for I am sure she is married) Simpson, meet there every weekday morning. When we (my love, to whom I happen to have been married for 30 years, and I) habitually arrive around 08.00am for a coffee and croissant, he is already there, in the same seat by the side window, empty espresso cup on the small round table in front of him. He studiously reads his iReader, glancing at the door now and then in barely concealed anticipation. I am not sure whether he’s dressed for the office or the golf course. In any event he’s  smart, silver hair, sparkling glasses, chinos, crisply ironed shirt, loafers, blazer and very handsome. She arrives at around 08.30, petite and slim with casually styled short blonde hair, dressed down but undeniably expensive and chic. They exchange a brief kiss and he immediately closes and puts his iReader down.  She goes to the counter to collect her coffee. She doesn’t pay, obviously he’s already ordered her coffee.  They sit and chat, intimately I’d say, for about 20 minutes and leave together. Another brief kiss and he gets into his Mercedes salon car while she slips into her Mercedes B Class and off they go.

So, is it an affair? Are they lovers? Are they married to other people and stealing a few precious minutes before going to their separate lives?

I admit that we have been observing them for quite a while, so there have been ups and downs, twists and turns. One day Mrs Simpson left in tears, with a sad little wave.  “Oh no”, I thought, maybe it’s all over? But no, they were back the next day with all as usual. Another time, and this is really odd, Edward was in his usual spot but with a young lady in jogging gear. His daughter? Surely Mrs Simpson wouldn’t show up. But she did and kissed them both hello! Then, when they left, the young lady got into Mrs Simpson’s car and drove away with her! The plot thickens.  But that’s not all… last week, in the early evening sunshine, we were sitting outside our usual watering hole (which I shall henceforth call the Wheatsheaf as it may crop up now and again) and they appeared. Together! Hand in hand. They cozied up in a corner over a glass of white wine and left again after only about half an hour. Intriguing. So it could be a simple courtship. Maybe they are planning their wedding (second for both of them, families happily integrated) or it is an affair and they take the opportunity to meet when they can in the evenings, not just over early morning coffee. I’ll keep you posted.