'So she thinks she can get me a job. So you must this do for me.' Gustav sounded like he meant it.
'Do what?' I asked, telling him to come in from the downpour outside. Great start to the week. Great start to the summer. By the time he'd finished waffling, I wished I'd left him outside. That I stayed in bed and ignored the knock on the door.
'Dating's not really my thing,' I said. His face dropped immediately.
'It is no such thing,' he rebuked. 'It is nothing more than a friendly interview. She has friend in town, so she is along - you know - for the ride.' I knew what he meant. I just wasn't sure Gustav did.
'Please. I need job. The dole it - sucks.'
Tell me about it!
'One drink,' I said.
'Three,' he said. 'No more than four. What harm can it do?'
What harm indeed. I agreed.
'I owe you. Big style,' he said, leaving. 'I see you Friday. In my home. About 10-30.'
'In the evening,' I called after him.
'Yes in the evening,' he said. 'Stupid question!' He disappeared back across the wall. Phew! I thought he meant the morning. Grand for Leon - not for me.
I stopped by to see him after a quick visit to see her frailness in the middle of the week.
'Ah, Mr. Booker,' said the nurse on duty, rather condescendingly. 'Nice of ye to drop in.' She finished making Mum's bed - patting and tucking all in the one movement. It was impressive to look at. She could have been a maid. If care hadn't worked out. She left without saying another word.
Mum looked her usual lost self. A contented lost perhaps. She's clinging. I'll give her that. Pity about the weather. It spoils her view. I stayed for the afternoon, half hoping the nurse would come back. Others did. She didn't. But she was right. I should visit more.
At least there was no snide remarks from Leon. The crappy day had given way to a amber evening - though it still bit with the cold. There were fresh flowers on the grave again which I found strange. I looked for a card, but there was none. Maybe his own bearer had dropped by. It started to get colder as the wind picked up for a few seconds, before dying again. I turned to leave. Straight into Will - Charlie Ferrell's brother. Charlie's missus in tow.
'Seen you here. Thought we'd say hello,' he said. I don't know how long ago it was since I had seen him.
'How's things?' I said, not sure where to look. She was draped to him. As she was the day I met them by the river.
'Same as everyone else, I suppose,' he said. 'Keepin' the good side out. What else can you do?'
'True,' I said as the wind picked up again. It threw her hair wildly to the side. It came to rest on Will's face. Just as it died off again. Her hair stayed there. Little strands of gold. He started to blow it off, but it did no good. He broke away from her.
'Gusty,' he said.
I made my excuses and wished them luck. I noticed a wedding band on her finger as I shook her hand. Maybe they had married. I didn't want to ask. They looked happy. I sauntered off back in the direction of the town as they made there way over to where Charlie was set down. Poor ol' Charlie. Didn't deserve that.
Government leaflets and booklets spammed my letterbox twice this week. A little nudge to sway me to the 'Yes' side of the treaty debate. I will bitterly drag myself up to vote. I remember the gusto I walked with all those years ago at Lisbon 2. I think I've zoned out now. It's all going to blazes as far as I can see.
The markets are trembling as Greece remains in chaos politically. Consensus can not be found. More elections loom - with a swing expected to the anti-austerity side if that is the case. The stock markets rattled around the world as a Greek default and euro exit becomes a real possibility again. The rest of Europe seem prepared to let it happen. The consequence of that, yet to be known.
A procession of anti-austerity rallies across the world at the weekend. Some marred by violence. There is a lot of social unrest in Italy and in Spain.
Spain's government had to bail out their third biggest bank last week. Merkle's party suffered electoral defeat at the weekend. She acknowledged her conservative parties worst ever result in North Rhine Westphalia as a ‘bitter and painful’ defeat. Did she announce a change in strategy? Did she feck! She hooks up with new French president, Francois Hollande, today for the first time. You would have thought she'd have done the traveling, seen as this is his inauguration day and all. But no, Berlin bound he is. He's talking growth. She's driving austerity. Long live Europe.
With all the uncertainty about the place, the call on our own heads of government is to postpone the vote. Time and again in the past number of days they have said the vote will proceed. For confidence. For stability. For the 5,000 sick days HSE staff take every single day. How would we survive?
All joking aside - it's getting messy out there again. In that little world these players of economic chess remain cocooned within. Deluded - or simply ignorant of the realities. Their policies have failed. They have failed society. Continually now they suffer at the ballot box in various European states. Those pushing austerity as a way forward out of the mess Europe is in, are being cast aside by voters. But being cast aside for what? That remains to be seen yet.
I nipped into Gus on Thursday evening. I was getting a little bit worried about the following day.
'You have nothing to worry for,' he said. I wanted to correct his grammar - but what would I know? And anyway - I couldn't speak a word of his language. This 'date' business had me flustered. Causing that irk in me to rise to the top.
'Can't you just entertain the two of them yourself?' I asked - in desperation.
'I thought we were draugi?' he said.
18 stone of foreigner layin' a guilt trip on me.
'I'll go. I'll go,' I said. He filled me in on who we were meeting. Linda worked at the local supermarket. Not the Irish one. The other one. With the blue fronts. I shop there myself sometimes. It's cheery. The colour. Yeah - Linda...
She was the assistant to the manager and they were looking for staff.
'Security?' I asked.
'Stacking shelves,' he said - proudly! I'd done it as a nipper. But as a man? He told me how he had flirted with Linda for a few months when he was in buying vodka. She'd mentioned the job over by the drink display.
'I'll put in a word if you ask me for a drink? she had said to Gus. It was an offer he 'have not refuse.' I asked how I had got dragged into all this.
'Bad timing,' he shrugged. Story of my life! He explained that her friend from Essex had had a row with her 'geezer.' He'd dumped her for weekend with the lads up in Manchester. For the final game of the premiership season. So, she'd turned to Linda for a shoulder to cry on. It was Linda's call to have her tag along. Gus' call to invite me.
'It makes for good public relation,' he said assuredly. 'I must get this job or I must have to leave.'
I don't know. It all sounded like a bit of a set-up to me.
I didn't sleep a wink Thursday night. Twisting and turning - even fell out of the bed once. What was I worrying for? It was only a couple of hours. How bad could it be? I'd give anything for a quite life. I wonder if I boarded the house up would people get the message? I'd probably get squatters then. Never get them out.
I arrived into Gustav's about ten. A few shots never did the nerves any harm. Not at the time anyway. The girls arrived right on queue.
'How I look?' asked Gustav. Oh for pete sake. I was breaking out in a sweat. Gustav opened the door. There they were - a bottle of wine each. In each arm.
'Three for twenty,' Linda's friend said as she made her way past Gus at the door - already plastered. Linda pulled her lips wide across her face until they looked plastic.
'Yikes,' she whispered, following her friend, who threatened to trip with every step she took. Linda introduced us to 'Emma' - fifty - if she was a day. Short black hair, leather jacket to match. Hot-pants. Pink ones. 'Tart' etched on the back. Tights. Laddered. High heels. More pretty than not. Gustav closed the door over. I hope the neighbours weren't looking out.
'No funny business now,' she said to me once in the kitchen - eye-ball to eye-ball. Then she started laughing. Spontaneously.
'I've a man, you know.'
Yep. He was in Manchester. I was beginning to see why.
'So what about those Tories,' I said. Bit of an ice-breaker.
'Dave Cameron and that bunch,' I said, sounding - well, not like me.
'Who?' she said, waltzing off. Bored of me already. Thankfully!
She made herself at home. Rooting around in drawers looking for a wine opener - oblivious to Gus, who was already sliding a cork from a bottle. Into presses she went until she found an adequate drinking vessel. A pint glass as it turned out. She half filled it. She need not have bothered.
She was wailing into a toilet bowl within ten minutes and unconscious upstairs within twenty. Linda was mortified.
She told us that Emma was just a Facebook friend who she's met through a mutual liking for Nancy Spungen on her fan page. They'd spoken maybe three times 'on chat.' Then Emma announced she was arriving over. Emma needed to hit back. At 'Greg' - Emma's tattoo-splattered other half. His profile picture looked menacing as Linda brought it up - then in closer - on her phone. With her fingers! I'd have me one of those.
'He's Metropolitian Police,' said Linda. 'Emma runs a nail-bar, that's pretty much all I know,' she continued, between bouts of profuse apologies.
How do you run a nail-bar? Quite well spoken, Linda. Likable. Naive - but likable.
'I'm so sorry,' she said to me as she filled up my glass. I raised it to my lips. It smelled like vinegar.
'You probably thought you'd be getting a once-over,' she said as I gorged.
I tried not to choke. But I did. Caught unawares. By abruptness. Of honesty. What this lady could teach a politician or two.
'I'm sorry. I say stuff without thinking sometimes,' she said. A noble fault.
I hadn't expected anything. Just to get in and out of Gustav's as quickly as possible and with stress levels I could manage. Once Emma was snoring upstairs I'd reached that point. I finished my glass and left them to get on with 'their interview.'
'Sorry,' she said as I left. Nothing to be sorry for. I was back indoors before the cuckoo clock struck twelve. And I don't have a cuckoo!
I tuned into the football highlights on Sunday night. I watched as Manchester City claimed the league title in England- their first in 44 years. Two goals in injury time. Leon would have loved it. It's an old cliche - but you couldn't write the script for that one. Harvey Weinstein would laugh his tits off at ye.
Arsenal nicked one like that back in 1989. Against Liverpool. At Anfield - a fortress at the time. Injury time. Up pops Mickey Thomas to score and send himself into Arsenal folklore. I'd watched that one in an old Snooker Hall. With Leon. Never forgot the feeling as that ball crossed the line. Bit of real life magic.
I saw it again on Sunday. Written on the faces of fans. Of Manchester City fans. They may have bought the title - but it doesn't take the joy of that moment away. If anything it stays with people forever. Brings them together.
I wondered how Greg was getting on and if he had Emma on his mind as the blue half of Manchester drank away years in football oblivion. Liam Gallagher leading the chorus. Mario Balotelli tracking down Joey Barton. For talks.
Impossible things happen sometimes. Right before our eyes. A little jolt from somewhere - a push in a good direction. A boost from no-where.
Don't know when Ireland's next one is due. But I guess that's all part of it, hey? Like the chocolates Mama Gump used talk about.
I remember when Manchester City were riding the tail-end of the lower divisions. They've been down there. At the mercy of financiers. There existence in question. Life must have tasted pretty sweet on the blue side of Manchester these past few days.
Better than the taste in Emma's mouth when she woke up I'm sure - whenever she did. She probably doesn't get out much. Over there in Essex. Probably a country girl.
I've heard nothing from Gus since Sunday morning. He woke me with a text message. Before eight in the morning.
'I got job.'