They are closing The Chelsea Kitchen.
For us West Londoners it is the end of an era.
My parents met there, in their heyday.
Wellington is depressed, mournful even
“It’s exactly what it says on the tin”
the feather shoulders
of his coat with the military buttons
quivering as though he might
I ask him, “What was your favourite dish?”
He replies “toast with cherry jam.”
I say “name your most memorable conversation here.”
He says “the Japanese boy
who told me of
white candelabras of blossom
and snowy peaks.”
Then he actually does cry.
We are sitting at the sepia counter,
drinking builders tea.
with a pregnant ketchup squeeze-pot.
“Ex’s taken it worse than me” he says.
Ex is short for Excalibur- he’s
Wellington’s dog. We move
to sit in every booth in
into the damp sog of the leather,
his tattooed forearms
face up on the sticky tabletops.
We talk about his latest find at Bonhams;
a glass case of tropical birds, yellow
red and electric blue, he says,
“plumage is important to me”
he says, as if in defence.
“What’s your favourite place to sit?”
I ask. “The window”
is the immediate reply. Then “indirectly”.
“I like to watch people
in the wing-mirrors
of parked cars”, he says,
“that moped, see? ….She’s lost,
probably looking for a class”.
“The kaballah bracelet” he adds,
“is all the rage”.
I see what he means,
idly thinking of the end of eras
and what it means for us;
and me. Opposite
the light is splintered
through the prongs of a bicycle wheel,
forces Wellington into his shades.
I realize he is talking about
the Montagues and the Capulets
in some reference to rivalry between
origins and new money. In the sky
the flight-paths of planes leave
white X’s as the evening fades
and outside chairs are stacked
in high piles.
As he leaves, Wellington
runs his hands over the wooden
panelling and takes a sugar sprinkler
as a memento. Excalibur puts his tail
between his legs, follows to heel.