Talking to Strangers: Peter Rosengard’s week - A cautious tailor and an ungrateful wasp

Featuring a brush with the law, an inquisitive Swede... and an angry insect


Wasp sitting on a glass - danger of swallowing a wasp in the summer

September 01, 2022 13:50

FRIDAY 10.30am
l I lost 10 kilos during lockdown, so when, two weeks ago, my trousers fell down as I was leaving a restaurant (I caught them just in time), I ordered two new suits.

Today I’m heading over to the tailor’s for a fitting.
“I’m still isolating. I’m vulnerable to Covid, but come on over,” he says on the phone.

I ring the shop bell and he buzzes me in. My suits are lying on a table in front of me.
“Don’t come in! Stay where you are! Take your trousers off!” he shouts from the back of the shop.

“What? I’m not taking my trousers off in the doorway on the street! People are walking by.”

I start to go in. “Not one more step! You can’t come in!”

“I’m already in. And I’m not taking my trousers off in the doorway. How about if I come in just a tiny bit and stand to the right of the door?”

“No! Don’t come in, I’m shielding.”

“This is crazy. Sorry, I’m off. Let me know when you’re not isolating.”

I jump on my Vespa and speed off. I get 100 yards down the High Street when a police van, lights flashing, comes alongside.

“Pull over please, sir.”

“I’m very sorry officer. I do apologise — was I was going a little fast?”

I tell him my “take your trousers off” story in mitigation.

“You did the right thing, sir. If you’d taken your trousers off in that shop doorway I would have arrested you for disorderly conduct. My advice — get yourself another tailor, sir.”
He lets me go.

MONDAY 9.30am
St Paul de Vence, South of France

I am here for a week to edit my new book, They Only Call Me When They’re Dead.

I video WhatsApp a friend in Stockholm. His daughter Birgitta answers.

“Did you know I have a Scottish, Jewish, Chinese, Canadian daughter?” I ask.

“That’s funny — you don’t look Chinese,” she says.

(Three years ago a trawlerwoman from Gothenburg said exactly the same thing. What is it with the Swedes?)

TUESDAY 3.30pm

I’m standing at the hotel reception when an elderly Englishman who was at a table next to mine at lunch yesterday walks by.

“Hello! You look like someone I knew years ago. What’s your name?” I ask with a smile.

“I don’t give my name to people I don’t know,” he says without a smile.

“So you only give your name to people who already know you? That doesn’t make sense.”
He walks off.

Lunch on the terrace. I’m eating my starter of figs and melon when I get a sudden sharp pain. I spit the fig out. There’s a wasp on it.

I look down at the wasp. He/she looks up at me.”Help me!” he’s saying.
Then he/she buzzes off with not even a “thank you”.

THURSDAY 10.30am
l I’m still asleep in bed when I get a call from my friend Goldsobel in London.

“Olivia Newton-John’s grandfather was Jewish!”

“Sorry, Goldsobel, I can’t talk. I’m jet-lagged,” I tell him.

“You can’t be jet-lagged! France is only one-hour time difference!” he replies.

“You get jet-lag on the train from London to Edinburgh,” I say and go back to sleep.

La Maison de Something restaurant.

I’m waiting for Mel and Delia from Liverpool. I met them yesterday in a cafe when they admired my water hand fan; it blasts a cool mist in your face.

People keep asking, “Monsieur please can you give me a quick blow?”
I sit down at an empty table. The owner comes over. “I am sorry, but this table is reserved for a rich Russian oligarch.”

“Well in that case, I’m definitely not moving. Solidarity with Ukraine!” I say.

FRIDAY 1.30pm
l When I got here five days ago to start editing, I was on 85,945 words. I’m now on 145,795 words.

I don’t think editing is my forte.

A young Indian couple at the next table ask, “Are you a writer?”

“I’m a life insurance salesman,”I say.

Amazingly they still keep talking to me. They’re from Kochi/Cochin.

Twenty-five years ago I visited the old synagogue there with Shirley, my Chinese Canadian wife.

I asked for directions. “You just walk down Jew Alley, turn left onto Jew Street — you can’t miss it,” a shopkeeper told me.

I rang the bell. The old Indian rabbi opened it.

“We are Jewish people from London, can we come in?”

“That’s funny … you don’t look Jewish,” he said.

September 01, 2022 13:50

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