A moist hand on the bowl

I was touching up the skirting while Lulu wrestled bedding into the front-loader, when Alan dropped in unannounced. His cheeks were pink. Mist clung to his spectacles. He had hurried over from Hampstead to show me a meerschaum pipe he had won in a raffle for Syria, where a goat-heavy diet has apparently exploded into the inevitable civil truculence. “Handle it carefully,” he said. “Meerschaum hates a moist hand.” I would have preferred not to handle it at all, but I gripped it gingerly by the stem and pretended to admire the carving. This seemed to represent a potentate of some kind in a state of high alarm. I thought fleetingly of Simon le Bon, the best way to think of him.

“I suppose I shall have to smoke now,” Alan said. “Mother wouldn’t stand for an ornament.” One tin bicycle clip clinked gloomily on the leg of the armchair. “Careful of the ball and claw,” I cried. “Speaking of mother,” he said.

He said he wouldn’t stay, as he didn’t care much for the smell of the paint, and tripped over a ruck in the linoleum as he went out. Where is Simon le Bon these days?

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