Nicknamed the ‘posho Euro’, he sat opposite me in a rooftop bar, chainsmoking. The cigarettes mustied the pashmina around his throat.
The waitress came over.
“Hello, yuz?” A Polish inflection.
“I’ll have a whisky and soda, please.”
He looked at me.
“Oh, whithky and thoda? I love you awready,” a smile, a frank expression. He was amusing.
“Tho, I’ll have da – da – calarmarz –,” pointing to the menu.
The waitress, “yuz.”
“And den, da – da –.”
“Zorry, ze camembert dozn’t come wiz ze rosemary, iz ok?”
“Yeth, yeth, I hope da camembert doethn’t come at all, I’m dairy-free.”
“Yuz, ze charcuterie,” she said, scribbling it down.
“And then, thome white wine; here, you know more about wine,” (I didn’t), he pushed the menu towards me.
I pushed it back, “don’t you pin this on me.”
“Waitreth, what are they having?” He gestured to another table.
“Mizze beefz zhallot.”
“Ah, mickst leafth thalat, yeth one of those. Here, you’re thharing with me.”
“I certainly will. Also, we’ve had some terrible mistakes.”
“Allow me to adumbrate.”
“Adum –? What are you thaying?”
The waitress agog, keen to please, but a total failure.
I pointed at the waitress’s notebook – “my dear: not camembert, he said ‘calamars’, and he’s dairy-free not charcuterie, and that’s a leaf salad, and – and –”
“Oh, tho you thee,” he said, ignoring the hopeless situation he had created, trying not to perturb the simulacrum of fitting in with the English. He was charming.
“You thee, I’m vewwy forward, cannot thtand bad thervice, if there’th a charge, I’m not paying; have you ever walked out of a restaurant without paying?”
He continued, “hath you ever theen a man die before? I hath, two or three timesth. The lasth was in a plane to New York, and thisth man – thisth man –”
“On a plane? My god.”
“Yesth – a heart attack. It wasth actually quite funny.”
I turned in aversion.
“Oh yesth. Oh it wasth. Tho he was thitting there with his family – no noticeth for anyone of courseth, that’sth life for you, all health before he got on. And he hasth thisth heart attack and they announce for a doctor, and thomeone getsth up, and triesth, but he passthed away becauseth he didn’t have da –, da –” he gestured.
“Yesth, that. Anyway, the family were justh there like thisth –” he pulled a blank, motionless face, quite funny.
“Anyway, tho no one could go to the bathroom for like five hoursth, to clear the way in caseth they needed the corridor for the man, it wasth tho funny, everyone around me thaying they were bursthting for the bathroom, and all these Americansth thtarted holding handsth and praying, and I wasth justh thitting there trying to watch my film.”
“So what happened?”
“Oh, tho he passthed, they dwagged him down the corridor – really! really! – away from Busthness Classth, tho respectiful, they couldn’t have a – a – ‘corpseth’ (Yeth? A ‘corpseth’?) by Busthness Classth could they?, tho they dwagged him and put him by the bathroomsth, and still no one wasth allowed to go, and they put a curtain over him, right where I was thitting, but it wasth too short the curtain – no, not joking! right where I wasth thitting! – and histh feet were thticking out at the bottom all the way over the Atlantic. And thstill I couldn’t go to the bathroom.”
Coq d’Argent has a rooftop bar at No. 1 Poultry, Bank EC2R 8EJ