Wednesday 18 February

The cotton crunch may have bitten, but the ‘he-session’ has moved in for the kill (it turns out the ladies kept wads of loot and any number of part-time jobs beneath their billowing petticoats). In an effort to economize and help keep Miss Jordan in the lack of style to which she is accustomed, I forego the steam train and instead catch the Megacoach to London for an ostensibly educational visit (missing a lecture by one of my heroes more than he missed me). As my unconvincingly Italian father used to say, ‘What a mistake-a to make-a.’ Beginning my journey in a stylish lemon woolsuit I am soon sweated to tart discomfort – the primitive air-chilling system having literally backfired. By the time I reach Rosa’s in East London I am as delayed as a pre-booked carriage and my jokes are twice as hackneyed. No matter, I am soon cheered by beers at her local alehouse, exotic London made more so by the sense of urbane Europe she exudes. Only later do we dream of ragged, windswept Swedish islands, over cooking sherry back at her flat in the early hours. In between we meet an artist in a late bar and I am reminded of the gentle acts of artifice that oil the wheels of commerce and conversation in the capital much more than in crude, rude Manchester. It is perhaps because allies are rarer in a city the size of our capital that instead of dismissing the precocious middle-aged talent soon resting a hand on her knee, Rosa is all charm until we part when she makes it clear that in this town, on this continent, in this lifetime, she has no need of his contact details.

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