It was 3am this morning when the phone rang.
It was Anand, a young Indian comedian friend of mine, who is living in Los Angeles. He is in London for a few days. We were due to meet for breakfast.
“Are you asleep?” he asked.
“No Anand, it’s only 3am. Why would I be asleep? I was just lying here in bed with my eyes closed, pretending to be asleep.”
“Oh good, that’s OK then.” he said. “I just wanted to tell you I can’t make our breakfast meeting this morning at 9.30am, but I thought I would call you now, as I didn’t want to wake you up in the morning.”.
“Thank you Anand for being so considerate.” I replied..
At 8am, just as I was getting up, the phone rang – it was Anand again.
“Did you get my message?” he asked.
“Anand, we spoke when you rang at three this morning, remember?” I said.
“Oh yes I forgot.” he said…”I have hayfever.” he addeed.
I thought I’d go for breakfast at my local café, Raoul’s in Maida Vale.
As I drive the three hundred yards, I opened my mail.
One of the letters was from my motor insurance company, telling me they won’t insure me any more because I have had thirteen accidents in the last year.
WHAT IS THEIR PROBLEM? Not one of them was a big crash.
OK, very occasionally I go into the backs of cars, that’s all!
Cars have a habit of stopping in front of me… and, as there’s a lot of cars always in front of me and I drive round town every day, over a whole year it adds up.
OK, I must admit 2000 was an exceptional year, but they seem to have forgotten I only had nine insurance claims in the whole of 1999.
I rang The Norwich Union Insurance Company on my mobile. ” But that’s what insurance is for isn’t it?”.I asked the clerk “…just missing an old man on the zebra crossing,…”( doesn’t he know my claims history?)
“I pay the insurance premiums to you, I have the occasional small accident, and you pay for them. That’s how it works, that’s insurance isn’t it?” I said.
” But you had thirteen ‘little’ accidents, totalling £34,000 in claims last year alone, Mr. Rosengard.” he replied.
” So,what’s the problem?” I asked.
“Your problem, Mr Rosengard, is that we are not going to insure you any more.” he said.
“I must warn you I shall take my business away from your company unless you reconsider.” I said.
“I don’t think you quite understand, Mr. Rosengard…..” he said.
“Look, I am sorry, I can’t talk right now… I am on the phone.” I said.
“You are not driving while you are on the mobile are you. Mr. Rosengard ?” he said.” You realise that is illegal.”
” Wh.-.aat? I’m s.-.or-..ry.. bu-t you are br-eak..ing u-.ppp.” I said.
A police car was coming towards me on the other side. I rubbed the phone up and down my cheek pretending I was shaving. As far as I know, there is currently no law yet against shaving whilst driving – .unless it’s a wet shave… the foam can get in your eyes!
I hung up my razor.
I drove round for fifteen minutes. But I.couldn’t find a space to park .
So I drove home to get my other car, my Mini. I use it to I park in the bits other people leave between cars.
I swapped cars and drove back to Raouls.
There still wasn’t a parking space to be seen. I tried for ten more minutes, then I drove home again. I went and got my new folding bicycle out of the cupboard under the basement stairs.
It only took me twenty minutes to assemble it, and I cycled to the café. In all, it had only taken me fifty minutes to get to Raouls.
I know! I could have walked round in five minutes; but I don’t like walking. I sat down at a table in the no smoking section. …which, being London, is just one table away from the smoking section.
My mobile rang.
“It is Anand. I am at the Doctors.” he said. “I have gastro enteritis. I am seeing an ENT specialist. It.must be the food here in London” he said.
“Yes, you have to be careful” I said. “Never eat outside of your hotel…or from the roadside stalls on the Kings Road.”
“I am staying with my parents in Belgrave Square.” he said.
Anand is starting off from where most comedians want to end up.
“When can we meet?” he said.
“Breakfast tomorrow?” I suggested.
“Can we meet for lunch?” he replied
“Why not breakfast ?” I asked.
“I am going to a party at China Whites tonight – it doesn’t start till 1am… shall I call you later?”
“Don’t call me from the party, Anand. I have this strange habit of sleeping between midnight and eight in the morning. Why don’t you call me tomorrow afternoon when you wake up.” I said.
“Ok” he said.
Five minutes later, the phone rings again.
“I need to ask you a favour” Anand said.
“What is it Anand?” I asked.
“Carlton TV have called and are interested in doing a comedy series with me”
“That’s great.” I said. “What s the problem?”
“Do you know any comedy writers?”
“Anand, I am a life insurance salesman…you are the comedian.”
“OK.I am.sorry, I forgot.” he said.
I was just drinking my 3rd glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, when 75 year old Cyril, a member of the Raoul’s Breakfast Club, walked over and slapped me on the back.
“You will never guess who I saw at Waterloo Station yesterday?” he said.
” OK, who did you see, Cyril?” I said, wiping orange juice off my glasses with a napkin.
“Guess.” he said.
Cyril and I have been having these kind of conversations ever since I sat at the next table to him in Raoul’s three years ago. He has always just spotted or met a famous person.
“President Putin?… Gregory Peck?… Brian from Big Brother?” I asked.
“Jeffrey Archer.” he said.
” I thought he was in prison.” I said.
“He was waiting for a train. He was reading the Guardian.” he said.
“Sounds like you’ve got another scoop to me, Cyril.” I said, as I had a spoonful of honey, nuts and Greek yoghurt. “I’d start with the Guardian.”
“I am just going to do it.” he said.
Cyril was in one of my dreams a couple of weeks ago.
“Guess who was standing next to me at the check- out counter in Sainsbury’s this morning? ”
“Who, Cyril?” “Hitler!”
“Hitler’s dead, Cyril.”
“It was Hitler!…he had a packet of Kellogs cornflakes and a salami under his arm…it was definitely him,. I’d recognise him anywhere…I’d never forget that moustache.”
Cyril’s spotting of Archer, reminded me that he’d once claimed to have seen President Canaan Banana of Zimbabwe having lunch in the Hellenic Greek restaurant on Marylebone High Street.
I just happened to know Banana was in prison in Harare at the time The International Herald Tribune headline had read ‘President Banana Jailed for Committing Sodomy on the Run.’ ( I remembered thinking ‘that’s incredible .most people find it difficult enough to do it standing still.’)
“Maybe he was allowed out for lunch.” Cyril said.
“What, fly all the way from Zimbabwe to London for a quick kebab before flying back for supper in jail?” I said.
I am typing these words at 2.45 am on Sunday morning. As usual, I am wondering how the column will finish.
The phone rings. I pick it up on the fifth ring. A familiar voice says ” Hi….It’s the guy you probably don’t want to hear from.”
” I know who it is.” I said
“I know.” I said..
“What’s your schedule like for tomorrow?” he asked.
“Tomorrow’s fine.” I said. “Good. I will call you tomorrow then” he said.
“Goodnight Anand.” I said. .
Copyright Peter Rosengard 2001. All back columns including those that first appeared in The Independent 1993/1995, are now up on the site. Please see The Saturday Column Archive.