Less than a month ago I wrote an article about the unnecessary naming of parts, and accordingly wrote fondly about my former art teacher, Erasmo Fernandez. I have not seen the man for at least ten years and in my story I referred to him in the past tense, not because he is in my past, but because I did the mathematics and calculated that in all probability he had passed on in the terminal mortal sense.
Yesterday I wrote and reported on these pages about my tennis leg. For that reason Sunday Morning tennis was cancelled. Mrs Monk decided that we should seize this day and make an early start that would enable us to travel further than normal, even as far as Hampton Court Palace, where we would enjoy the gardens and indulge in nostalgia since twenty years ago we were near neighbours of the ghost of Henry Vlll, and treated his habitat as if were our own backyard.
Long before that I got a job in my school holidays clearing tables at the Palace cafe, which is in exactly the same place. Since I was just fifteen years of age this was a thrilling experience, because even then coach loads of French students would arrive on masse and oddly they were only girls. No French boys were ever dispatched to Henry’s Palace, or at least I was not aware of any French boys. I was straight out of a boys-only school and no one prepared me for my first encounter with this alien species of pubescent schoolgirls.
The Cafe is now Cappuccino-ised, and is unrecognisable from my teenage years. I am quite certain that the food served then was vile, but I was fifteen, and working class, so I assumed then that it was sophisticated cuisine that was served. It was my job to clear away the used plates, and take them to the dishwasher, who was a morbidly obese bearded lady, who chain smoked as she worked the dishes in a supine position.
Today I approached the same origin of my formative years with Mrs Monk, and it was Mrs Monk who first noticed an elderly couple walking towards us; both of whom sported walking sticks, and who would otherwise have passed us by without a second glance. I did not notice or recognise them. They did not notice or recognise us.
Mrs Monk however, immediately confronted the couple, and soon pennies began to drop.
“Erasmo” said I.
“Leslie” said Erasmo.
We exchanged hugs, and stood on the same spot for an hour or more. We reminisced, exchanging news of him and of her, and details of potentially life threatening medical conditions that we had each met, fought, and won.
I wanted him to know we were thinking of him. I told him he was mentioned on our journey to Hampton Court Palace, that very day, since we passed through Battersea where we had a mutual acquaintance.
I also reminded him of his goal keeper story. He immediately went into the same story again that I had heard him tell before more than once, as follows......
Erasmo visited his native town in Southern Spain, and convinced them that he was a goalkeeper of some renown, claiming that he had trained with Manchester United Reserves.
This was a tall story because Erasmo is not at all tall, and tallness is the normal prerequisite of good goal-keeping.
Nevertheless Erasmo was picked to keep goal for his town against the neighbouring town, with disastrous consequences. Erasmo’s performance, so disappointed his team-mates that they felt the town had been humiliated. Erasmo escaped on a motorcycle, and never looked back.
On the whole I would rather hear a tall story from a short man, than the platitude of a giant.
Long live Erasmos Fernandez.