Break Point
finished."
    "Well, she'll
just have to chuffing whistle, won't she? Did you not tell her
they're having the Men's Semi's next? Switch the channels. Let's
watch Agassi. I like him."
    *
    Gwen's got a
little yellow chunk of foam in each ear. "Can I take these out now,
Robina? Is it over?"
    "It's not that
intrusive."
    "Not
intrusive? It's been dominating this house every day. I'm fed up
with it. I want to do something."
    "What d'you
want to do then?"
    "I don't know.
Write a letter or something."
    "What, to
Rosemary?"
    "Well, maybe
we could just draft one. There's some writing paper in the
bureau."
    I'm now all
Gwen's, post-Wimbledon, as I unlock the bureau in the sitting room
and take out the Basildon Bond. When I return I sit down on the
bedroom chair. "Right. Do you want to write it or should
I?"
    "You write,
I'll dictate."
    "OK, fire
away."
    Gwen looks
blank. "Dear Rosemary, I know it's been a long time and I don't
even know if you'll get this ... she might have moved, mightn't
she? She was living near Brighton somewhere but people move such a
lot these days, don't they? Not like in my day. We only moved when
we got married or when our husbands needed to move with their
careers ... now where was I?"
    I read back
the sentence. "No, scrub that," she says. "That isn't my style at
all. Dear Rosemary, I'll come straight to the point ... But I don't
know what the point is that I'm coming straight to."
    "Your first
version sounded OK, Gwen. Sort of friendly, like."
    "Friendly?"
She shakes her head. "That's not the tone I want ... Back to
Basics. That's the point I wish to make. I could say that in the
first sentence, couldn't I?"
    "It's a bit
old hat now."
    "Is it? But
it's what our good Prime Minister said, didn't he?"
    "A few year
ago. Anyway, he's not Prime Minister no more. He's been and
gone."
    "Oh, I can't
keep up with them. Harold Wilson. Margaret Thatcher." The sticky
substance stretches like gum each time her lips meet. "Of course it
was that dreadful Barbara woman ... it was all her
fault."
    "Barbara?"
    I'm racking my
brains trying to think of a politician called Barbara. Then it
clicks. Babs! She means Babs.
    "She led my
Rosemary astray."
    (And
me, duck. But I loved every minute .) "Astray?"
    "Let's leave
it for now, Robina. I'm tired. We can write it tomorrow. We've got
all the time in the world now that the tennis is dead and buried at
long last."
    "Not quite,
Gwen. Just one more day. It's the Finals tomorrow."
    *
    At six o'clock
I leave Shari in charge because I have to talk to Babs. I know I
should have phoned first but then Tash might have answered. Me
calling round is going to upset Tash even more but I can't be
tiptoeing round her forever.
    I pay the taxi
driver outside their council flat on the other side of Newminster,
and Babs answers the door. "Bobbie! Come in! We were just talking
about you." She gives me a hug. "I was just saying how it's been a
while since we heard from you."
    "You sure it's
OK for me to come in?"
    "As OK as it's
ever going to be."
    I sit down on
one of the chairs in their flat. Sort of minimalist you'd call it.
Yeah, minimalism is the latest Ism. Everything looks dead white and
light compared with all that dark clutter at Belvedere
Road.
    "We were just
wondering if you were still at your brother's."
    "Not
we," says Tash, her insecure eyes disguised behind her round
glasses. " You were wondering."
    "No, you were
too. How's tricks anyway? Been watching the Wimbledon?"
    I nod. "Seen
any yoursen?"
    "A few of the
women's. I've tried to catch that gorgeous Venus Williams. Tash
love," says Babs, placing a hand on Tash's leg. "You couldn't
stretch that risotto to three, could you?"
    "Oh, don't
worry about me, duck. I'm not stopping long."
    "There's
plenty. Tash'll fix it, won't you? What about a drink? Pils do
you?"
    "Yeah, go on
then."
    Tash, dressed
in her pale trouser suit, all sharp and chic, doesn't budge. She
wants Babs to go to the kitchen, not left alone here with me. Babs
gives her a

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