It clicked with Little Georgey at around the time of his eleventh birthday. At first it was his father’s inventiveness, the way there was always some unfathomable new excuse: No, there could be no new holiday, not while the roof needed fixing. No, there would be no big birthday presents this year, not while his mother’s job was unsettled. The roof was never fixed. His mum worked happily. But there were no big presents, no holiday. Little George asked why. His father shook his head and laughed. Little boy, he said, little boy, it’s the way things work. You’ll learn.
Eschewing the flamboyant (critics said “grotesque and overindulgent”) designs of the previous decade, the new couturier at the fashion house picked up his scissors and set to work. He had chosen a heavy material and was mulling over words: sackcloth? Too pious. Workwear? Blandly utilitarian. He sighed and snipped – and snipped until a small, minimalist dress was made. In at the waist (tight at the belt) and accentuating the bust, he thought. But not one of his models would wear it. All they saw was snippets of cloth lying across the floor – and the dress, a tiny, useless remnant of fabric.
There is something especially pleasing about smoking a large Havana cigar while drinking brandy. Feet resting on a leather stool, with the windows open on a late afternoon in summer and the rush-hour traffic grumbling along below. How content one can be.
This was the thought that filled my mind as I let the smoke roll round my mouth and the alcohol warmed my heart.
The moment was broken by the junior who rushed in.
It’s done, he said: We’ve been successful. The schools are ruined, gone.
I smiled. Ah, that content feeling again; truly the way things should be.