I am a wearer of hats. One day – four hats – same head underneath. I think.
Hat 1 – 6.15am
This morning it’s a struggle to leave the house; so much to do and I daren’t be late. Dirty washing flung into the machine, sandwiches made, fruit sliced, yoghurt poured, cake cut, bags packed, coffee machine on… last leg of the journey to the door in sight…
In the bathroom, he sneezes. Twice. ‘Two for a kiss’. I kick off my shoes and charge upstairs, swearing under my breath, expecting the perennial ‘You took your time’, which is wearing a little thin to be honest.
He turns from the shaving mirror, razor in hand. “Sexy dress” he tells me softly “I don’t think I’ll be working late tonight.” The kiss tastes of shaving foam, but I don’t mind.
A tiny pillarbox with a feather and a veil… if you look carefully you will see the stains from years of wear.
Hat 2 – 11.00am
The young man from the auditors pokes his head around the office door. “Is this a good time?” he asks. I push my chair back from my desk and smile; I guess now’s as good a time as any.
But there are few problems, and none I can’t resolve. He congratulates me on the order and preciseness of the finance department; I say nice things about the professionalism of his audit team. Transaction complete, we shake hands and he leaves.
Another fairly sizeable crust earned. I am paid to get it right.
A bowler hat – what else?
Hat 3 – 3.45pm
The wind whips across the cricket ground, pushing fluffy grey clouds ahead of it. I brave the cordon of small children waiting for their hero to complete his sponsored walk. I know he’s just about to round the corner, but I also know it will be a while before I can talk to him. TV cameras come first.
There is no-one here I know, and sometimes I detest the lonely awkwardness of chasing a story. I put on a sociable smile and chat to the nearest person. At least it passes the time.
A dangerous, exciting number with a wide brim I can pull low over my eyes to hide.
Hat 4 – 4.30pm
“Let’s have a cuppa to warm us up!” He dives behind the bar and starts assembling cups, milk, teabags in a most disorganised manner. “It’s not like my kitchen!” he wails in mock complaint. We compare how blue our hands have become after our brief spell outside.
We take our tea to an empty meeting room where we will not be disturbed. He needs to vent – my role is to make comforting noises. It has become so much a pattern it could make our friendship seem lopsided – but it isn’t. “I love grumbling to you” he says, and he is more than half laughing, tired blue eyes dancing and alive.
As ever, he has earned the right to grumble because he understands we are travelling a two way street. This week he made time for me when I bumped my car, when he thought I was lonely on my own in London. This week he has learnt to swear in front of me, made jokes at my expense, opened his heart and mine a little further.
I text him after I leave: ‘You really are a good friend, you know – but I’d never embarrass you by telling you’. As usual, there is no reply. I like the way that some things don’t change.
A floppy felt hat in a bright colour, the last word in comfort for the head. Probably waterproof as well.