If you did not know, and I suspect many of you do not, April 23rd is “International Day of the Book” organised by UNESCO to promote reading, publishing and copyright. So I mused ‘what if’ a favourite character leapt out of the pages…..read on if you want to find out!
It is not often I eat out alone but once in a while necessity dictates. The other day was a good case in point. I had gone to the station to meet a friend off the train and the train had been delayed so I had time on my hands. Then my phone had beeped, a text saying “Sorry missed connection. Not arriving for further 2 hours. Can you wait?” So there I was, needing to kill more time, on my own and with lunchtime approaching becoming hungry. So I went in search of something to eat.
Lunchtimes are not always the easiest times to find a table in a busy town centre but I thought a table for one should not be too difficult. I joined the queue at a pizza restaurant.
“Er, table for one, please,” I said trying not to sound like a Billy No Mates. Success! Seated straight away, a table for two, next to a window overlooking the town square and I was on my own. I took my coat off, sat down, picked up the menu and began to study it. I didn’t hear the gentleman slip into the seat opposite, prop his black silver topped cane against the wall and slowly start to remove his leather gloves, pulling one finger off at a time, placing them on top of a grey homburg bound with a black band carefully placed at the edge of the table.
“I hope you don’t mind my intrusion. Waiting for a colleague is such a devilish thing and espying you perusing the menu I could not help notice the empty chair suggesting instantly you were alone. You don’t mind do you? No, of course you don’t, I thought not. The name’s Holmes, Sherlock Holmes. Delighted to meet you, Mr……?”
He did not give me time to reply before continuing. “Trains! So unreliable and the unpunctuality these days. Most unsatisfactory especially when one is not prepared for it. I believe they really do serve the most singularly exquisite pizzas here, baked in a wood fired stone oven for exactly 75 seconds. Not 70 seconds or even 80 seconds mind, no, 75 seconds precisely. Mark my words well.”
He stretched his right arm above his head and waved a long finger in a circular motion through the air. “Waiter, if you would be so kind. My colleague and I are ready to order. Please proceed and take this down, there’s a good chap.” Suddenly his hand which only a moment ago had hovered uncertainly between us dropped like a hawk homing in on its prey and snatched the menu out of my hand with forefinger and thumb and tossed it behind him. Catching my startled look he held my gaze with a steely stare and spoke in a low almost sinister voice, “I don’t think we will need that.”
“Now, a Neapolitan pizza, pizza napoletana, San Marzano tomatoes grown on the volcanic plains to the south of Mount Vesuvius with mozzarella di bufala Campana made with the milk from water buffalo raised in the marshlands of Campania, not Lazio. Got that. Oh good. And garlic bread, a generous plateful, drizzled thinly with Fattoria Montecchio. That’s it, now as swiftly as you can.” And with a languid wave of the hand, the waiter was summarily dismissed.
He steepled his fingers together, stared intently at his nails and then fixed his steel grey eyes once more on mine. “Whilst we are waiting for our feast let me amuse you with my observations. I deduce you are from Yorkshire, married, and to a Scottish lady….there are certain Scottish inflections you have picked up and if you had lived in Scotland there would be more. And you live nearby. Retired, earlier than usual, judging by your age. It is also mid week, you are not attired for the office and there is a faint tan to your skin suggesting you are recently returned from a holiday or spend time outside. Gardening, you have been engaged in cutting back bushes or trees. There are small cuts to the back of your hand and wrist. A day off work this time of year and so soon after being away would be most unlikely. There is a faint indentation on your middle finger from holding a pen, from years spent working in an office and your hands are not rough from manual labour. Yet you still use a pen, and quite regularly. Hah, a writer. We have already established you are waiting for a train, there’s a timetable in your coat pocket and the train’s delayed, you are marking time, waiting. You are not shopping, there are no bags, no evidence of purchases, and you have glanced at your watch three times already. You drive a car, Japanese marque, a blue one, which you have recently washed and polished. Your key fob, makers name and badge, and there are traces of blue polish on your finger nail.”
He held a finger up to his lips. “No, shush, no need to utter a word. It’s really quite elementary.”
Then suddenly with a bound he was out of his seat and tapping on the window with the tip of his cane. “Aha, the game’s afoot. Watson, Watson….!”
He snatched up his coat and flung it round his shoulders, his hat and gloves and in a trice was through the door leaving a startled waiter in his wake holding on to two pizzas.
The pizza? It was delicious and Holmes was right about the tomatoes and the olive oil. But, of course, nothing more than you would expect. I was, however, left with the bill, but I can hardly forward it to 221b Baker Street, now can I.