I will never leave my wife because she is the source of all my wealth, health and happiness. It is because of my wealth in particular that I am able to meet my friends in this café in London’s ever-popular Leicester Square.
Although not on a par with the Ritz, Brown’s or the Savoy, where afternoon tea will set you back £70 or £80, the Rendezvous Café must surely sell one of the most expensive cups of coffee in the world. Which is great, because it means that even in the crowded heart of London, at the busiest time of the day, you can always find an empty seat and have an impromptu chat in comfort with your friends — something you most certainly can’t do at the Ritz, Brown’s or the Savoy, where you have to book two months in advance.
Leicester Square is one of those places that American visitors always mispronounce. I suppose it’s because they never established their own Leicester Square, along with their versions of Greenwich, Kensington and Chelsea. Nevertheless, you get a lot of Americans in Leicester Square and you can look at them through the window of the Rendezvous Café as they queue up to buy cut-price tickets for the many theatres just a stone’s throw away.
Occasionally Lanying and I pass one of those theatres and spot a famous actor leaving by the stage door. We don’t often go to the theatre in the evening because we don’t like to stay out late. When we go it’s usually in the afternoon. We buy our tickets full price, on impulse, as we are passing. We usually sit near the front because of my bad eyesight, and think nothing of the price because (of course) of my wealth, but also because it’s a priceless experience, being in the theatre in the presence of great actors bringing to life a triumph of the imagination.
And we have all this to enjoy thanks to a Chinese fortune-teller. He told Lanying long ago, “You will have a hard life but you will bring good fortune to those close to you.”
By implication, those no longer close to her won’t be so lucky. And so it has proven over the years. Her first boyfriend betrayed her and she left him. He suffered a brain tumour. The worst of luck.
Her next boyfriend was mixed up with gangsters and had just suffered a terrible car accident when she met him. Under her care he regained his health, left those gangsters behind and started a successful business. After she left him he nearly died. His business ran into problems. He had to leave the country. He started mixing with the wrong sort of people again.
Last year she had a row with her boss. While she was with him he was doing very well. The first year of their collaboration he was the number three salesperson in his company. Year two he was number two. Year three, number one. Then he turned against her for some reason. He made her life hell and she walked out.
Just before Christmas she got a call from a stranger. A man had collapsed on the pavement outside his house and the caller was trying to identify him. It was a disturbing call, so she gave the phone to me.
“Did you say it was an old man?” I asked.
“No. About forty, I’d say.”
“There’s only one person I know in that part of London,” I said. “And he is about forty. Flaxen-haired?”
It was Lanying’s former boss. He’d had a stroke.
Tomorrow she’s going to the memorial service. She was trying on a stylish black outfit as I came through the door tonight. She looked stunning.
Definitely not a person I’d ever want to leave.