Thursday, September 5, 2013

I want to ride it where I like

“It’s just like the Scarlet Pimpernel.”
“It’s not in the least.”
“Yes, it is. They seek him here, they seek him there, his clothes are loud, but never square.”
“That’s not the Scarlet Pimpernel, that’s the lyrics to Dedicated Follower of Fashion.”
“Is not.”

I was quite enjoying the bickering between Born and Bred Boy and Absent Minded Girl. My head was swivelling from one to the other, like I was watching Billie Jean King wiping the floor with Bobby Riggs. Except here, in Café Nero, the battle of the sexes was reversed; AM Girl was losing, on the grounds of incorrect usage of a Scarlet Pimpernel analogy.

“So what’s the Pimpernel’s spiel then?” she demanded of me.
“I believe it’s: ‘We seek him here, we seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere.’”
“See? Practically the same. Pimple totally plagiarised the Kinks.”
“Look, there are two reasons why the Scarlet Pimpernel is a red herring,” said Boy. “First, he was elusive, which is the exact opposite of omnipresent. And second, he was not a bicycle.”
“You are just nit-picking now.”

I felt the time had come for me to step in with a carefully worded intervention. “What the flippety flip are you two on about?”
“That gold bike that advertises the tattoo parlour.”
“You never know where it’s going to pop up.”
“Just like the Scarlet Pimpernel, in fact,” cried AM Girl.
“No!” yelled Boy. “How many more times? The Scarlet Pimpernel was not easy to find. Whereas that bike is all over the place. One minute it’s on the corner of Grange Road…”
“…the next, it’s chained to the railings on the Phoenix Causeway.”
“I’ve seen it,” I said, “outside Nationwide.”

AM Girl’s phone made a noise like a whoopee cushion. “Makes me laugh every time,” she said, and started replying to her text.
“Apparently this is called ‘phubbing’,” I told Boy, knowing he would find this neologism infuriating. “It stands for ‘phone snubbing.’ It’s when someone starts looking at their phone when they’re in the middle of a conversation with you.”
“Were we in the middle of a conversation?” murmured AM Girl, texting busily.
“This bloody awful modern world,” railed Boy, waving his skinny soy latte around irritably. “If my old ma was here, she would make YOU” – meaning Absent Minded Girl – “put your phone in the high cupboard; she’d make YOU” - me - “wash your mouth out for saying ‘phubbing,’ and if she knew there was a tattoo parlour in Lewes, well, I can’t even begin to imagine.”

“Anyway,” I said, discreetly tugging down my sleeve so that Boy wouldn’t comment on my Celtic warrior armband design, “where is the tattoo place?”
“Opposite the station,” he replied. We both looked at him, and he continued, less confidently, “I’ve, uh, looked in at the window a couple of times.”
AM Girl’s phone farted again, but she ignored it. “Are you thinking of getting a…”
“Certainly not,” said Boy, going as scarlet as, well, a pimpernel.

Beth Miller. Published in