21st April 2020

Darling Paloma,

Great excitement! Our local coffee bar has reopened. Yellow lines drawn as if we were walking through US customs. Part of the new normal but that’s ok. The coffee bar is smart because it is scruffy and the coffee itself seems to have got better. Even customers lining up have changed – Spring has come – bright coloured dresses, men in white shirts (except for me) children ignoring the rules of social distancing and when glared at, run to the protection of their mother’s back.

The old gentleman was not there when I left the house but appeared by the time I’d returned. He was sitting on the neighbour’s stoop. Again in a white suit but this time double breasted similar to the type Cary Grant wore. I may be flattering myself but I think he came back to see me. I hope so. I introduced myself, ‘I think it’s time you knew my name. I’m Simon.’ Naturally, I didn’t offer my hand .

‘I’m not sure the name suits you,’ he replied.

‘You’re right, I’ve never really been totally comfortable with it,’

‘You’re more of a Jack,’

‘That’s my second name!‘ I said excitedly.

‘Well Jack it is. What made them go for Simon? Fashion?’

I knew the answer.

‘My mother chose Jack after my great grandfather but my father didn’t like it. Said that it would always remind him of my great grandfather. ‘The meanest man in the world!’ My father told me for as long as I can remember. ‘ So mean that although a rich man, he would take the 14 bus and change to the 73 to get to work because the change made the fare cheaper! That was one of my father’s tales.

‘ He resented my mother’s parents because they thought their daughter had married below their class. He never forgave them! Called them snobs!’

‘I know all about that one,’ the old gentleman sighed and spoke in a soft casual early evening tone telling me a story of a close friend who lost his young wife. ‘The family blamed him. The family moaned to everyone that he was never the right man. Even complained that he buried her in the wrong cemetery. ‘It’s packed in there,’ Meaning the wrong sort of people are buried in that cemetery. And when my friend said, ” there is no class distinction underground.” They dismissed him as a fool. They even moaned about him to the press who because of the family name gave it a sensational but brief coverage.’

The old gentleman looked at his own nose and gave himself an awful squint. ‘Like with so many of these stories, the press and everyone else soon gets bored and move on leaving my friend and the family to continue their lives without distraction and alone with memories.’

I wanted to ask how his friend was now doing or how he lived the rest of his life but I felt the old gentleman stiffen and a door slam deep in his soul. So I made an excuse that the coffee was getting cold and it was not worth upsetting my wife.

‘Have a good day,’ I said.

‘And you too Jack, ‘ he replied.

I turned the key to my front door. It made a sad groan.

‘Hey Jack!’

‘ Yes,’ I replied.

‘The plug fits perfectly. Thank you.’ And he gave the kindest of expressions as if it was tailor made for that exact moment.

Te quiero mucho,

Papa

Published by Simon Astaire

Simon Astaire was the youngest agent ever employed at ICM starting the Music department and representing a variety of clients before turning to head a PR agency where his clients included brands such as Bulgari, Armani and celebrities and members of the Royal Family. He is regularly quoted in the press and has been described in The London Times as a PR Prince. He had a regular column in the Sunday Telegraph called Station to Station where he interviewed a diverse mixture of high-profile individuals on their imaginary last train journey. He has written six novels and two biographies including soccer star Sol Campbell when he was nominated for best new sports writer. His latest novel The Last Photograph, was made into a film of the same name. It had a US theatrical release in November 2019 and is now available on all platforms. His blog ' Letters to my daughter' began March 19th 2020.

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