Wednesday, August 29
We woke up to discover that Irma has to celebrate her birthday today. I reached into a drawer and bring out a wrapped copy of Crazy Like Us with a card that I had smuggled here from Helsinki. The card declares that she can spend £157 at Duty Free on the way home.
I had kipper for breakfast: a whole one, Diane suggested. To my slight disappointment I received a genuine kippered herring, when I had expected (and maybe secretly hoped for) a bright yellow boil-in-the-bag one. My stomach objected violently again, and I realised that I might well spend a second day with stomach ache and more.
My hunch would prove correct.
As we walked down the seafront we stopped to wonder whether we could see the tide coming in or going out. We asked a little old lady, and she and I decided we could see it coming in. Irma disagreed and by the time we reached the pier I had to agree with her. The tide had receded noticeably.
We walked down the High Street again because Irma wanted to look in Peacocks, Superdrug and Boots. The High Street has benches every five yards or so so. I moved from one to the next as Irma nipped in and out of shops. I felt happy observing, and sitting down had a tendency to keep the stomach ache at bay.
I noticed that every third or fourth person seemed physically or mentally incapacitated. I have never seen so many rollators and mobility scooters in one place, used by people of all ages. I pointed it out to Irma when she joined me on a bench between shops, and from that point on neither of us could stop noticing this.
We nipped into the Sovereign shopping centre to look at Marks & Spencer and Waterstones. Mobility scooters filled the corridors there too.
After this we decide to walk along some back streets, where we come across Vinnie’s, a deserted café bar dedicated to Vinnie Jones. A sudden rainstorm starts and we step inside. As we order a drink it stops but the free wifi proves much faster that at the hotel so we stay for awhile, while the rain stops and starts again.
By this point we will have gathered a couple of heavy shopping bags. Irma has decided that she would get much more value from her birthday money if she spent it here than at Heathrow. I agreed and so that has powered some of today’s shopping. English chutneys, pickles and underwear have caused the rest
We will decide to take our bags home before going to eat, and on the way we will pause briefly at the Criterion, where, on a day colder than any so far, the barmaid wears pink hot pants and a t-shirt saying I Have No Tits over her ample sized breasts. We will leave puzzled.
We will walk to Seaward Restaurant, which we visited years ago at the time the four of us came to Chips’ wedding. Irma will have fish and chips and I, with one eye on the menu and the other on my grumbling stomach, opt for a ploughman’s lunch.
When it arrives Irma will laugh uncontrollably, because it contains enough Stilton to feed a family for a weekend. Even though I will leave enough cheese for another large ploughman’s lunch it will not prove as happy an experience for my stomach as I had hoped.