“Where’s Oliver?” asked Hamish, as he met Charlie outside the Royal Oak on Columbia Road.
“Oh, he’s a bit hungover…” explained Charlie. “He went out last night with his friends.”
“You didn’t go?” asked Hamish. “What was it?”
“It was that Daddy Issues party at Beach Blanket Babylon…” replied Charlie. “Bob the Drag Queen was there.”
“I love Bob!” exclaimed Hamish. “I didn’t realise he was in town. Was he doing a show?”
“I don’t know, to be honest…” shrugged Charlie. “I haven’t got much information out of Oliver yet."
“I still don’t get why didn’t you go out…” pushed Hamish. “What’s going on? Is everything okay with you and Oliver?”
“We’re fine…” insisted Charlie. “Come on, let’s look at some flowers. Have you bought your tree yet?”
“I got mine last week…” confirmed Hamish. “Are you sure you want to battle through all those crowds? I thought we might just grab a Bloody Mary in the Royal Oak?”
“That is exactly what I was hoping you’d say…” grinned Charlie. “Your shout?”
The pub was rammed with festive shoppers awkwardly overloaded with stems of red berries, pussy willow, and poinsettias. Hamish eventually squeezed his way through to the bar and placed his order.
“Tony Blair - discuss…” said Hamish, returning with their drinks to the corner where Charlie was waiting.
“I don’t understand why everyone hates him so much…” shrugged Charlie, clinking glasses with Hamish.
“I guess it’s the whole war thing…” suggested Hamish.
“I guess…” agreed Charlie. “But it’s weird that the left and the right all hate him so vehemently. Whatever he says, everyone wants to do the exact opposite.”
“But still he keeps on sharing his opinions with the world…” shrugged Hamish. “It’s like the ultimate exercise in delusional self-confidence.”
“I think I actually agree with what he’s saying on Brexit…” said Charlie.
“I know, right? So do I!” nodded Hamish. “But even though it’s probably the right thing to do, no one else is going to agree to it, because no one wants to be that person who agrees with Tony Blair! It’s crazy!
“That’s the times that we’re living in…” smiled Charlie. “Total crazy-town.”
“Let’s go to the bakery after this…” suggested Hamish. “I want to pick up some mince pies.”
“Oh, I can’t go in there…” replied Charlie.
“Into this bakery here?” asked Hamish. “Why not?”
“You know how I’m totally broke…” began Charlie. “Well, on Wednesday, I had £23 in my account, so I took out £20 to get some groceries and something for dinner. I called into the bakery here because they sell these really nice cardamon buns…”
“Cardamon buns?” interrupted Hamish.
“I think they’re Scandinavian, or Nordic, anyway - they’re really delicious and I know that Oliver likes them…” explained Charlie. “I ordered a loaf of sourdough as well. I handed my £20 over, and the girl on the till explained that they only take card - no cash. I said something like - Oh, I’m having problems with my card. The girl insisted that she give it a try. Obviously it was declined. I was so embarrassed. What made it worse was how nice they were - they offered to give me the buns. A woman in the shop offered to pay for them. I had to run out before I burst into tears. I felt like a homeless person.”
“You had £20 left and you were spending it on cardamon buns?” asked Hamish.
“You say that like it was a bad decision?” replied Charlie.
“Come on…” smiled Hamish, finishing the last of his drink. “I’ll buy you a mince pie.”