I am running slightly late, of course, when I get a text.
"I am in the Great Court Café. You nearly here?"
I am going into the British Library. There isn't a Great Court Café in the British Library. I call him up.
"Where are you?"
"Well, you go up the main steps and into that glass covered bit..." he explains very carefully.
"British LIBRARY, I said! Not British Museum. Library!"
He laughs, delightedly. "Oh, sorry Em."
We reconvene on the corner of Tavistock Square: I see his rangy form coming towards me, sly cigarette, rucksack, big smile. We hug, and head to a café where he hands over 4 packets of Hula Hoops left over from Christmas and a giant box of Yorkshire Gold teabags.
We sit in the sun and talk about:
Hot cross buns (I have been dreaming of hot cross buns through this long, barren detox of hell)
The death penalty
Boiled eggs and soldiers
Lenin's blue plaque
What chickens eat
The social composition and political leanings of Montreuil
Our prospects of success at the ludicrously bureaucratic financial operation we have come to attempt: still, ten years later, fall out from my mother's death. At one point, in this context, he brings out his favourite Heinrich Böll phrase: es wird etwas geschehen ('something will happen', I think?). "But the etwas may not be the etwas we were hoping for."
We head to the bank. As we are about to go in, he makes me stop outside and look at the trees in Tavistock Square, which are indeed very pretty, and in full bloom. As he finishes his cigarette, he tells me about a stype of chestnut tree you apparently only find in London.
We go into the branch, where Prog Rock has recently made a very specific appointment with a specific man to do a specific operation. At the information desk, they tell us man with whom we have an appointment no longer works there. Prog Rock starts cackling. They eventually find someone else to see us.
In the stuffy customer booth, he gets unreasonably giggly at this sign:
"That's like one of those jokes, 'the Italian book of war heroes' or something."
Then he launches into a monologue about how poorly British banking reacted to the sub-prime crisis.
The woman isn't sure about one of Prog Rock's folder of papers. She disappears for a very, very long time. During her absence he tells me about:
The shift in portrayal of civil service - politician relationships between Yes, Minister and The Thick of It.
Money: the unauthorised biography and the story of the giant rock currency on the Pacific island of Yap. Apparently, on this island which used giant, impossible to move rocks as currency, one of the rocks was sunk in transit from the island where it originated to the island that used it as currency. But it was still owned, transferred, in 'circulation'.
The Irish banking strike.
Our chances of success, again. "Still better than 50:50" he opines, optimistically.
He's wrong. The woman returns. The piece of paper is ok, but it turns out she needs to get us to fill in a form and she doesn't have the form, and cannot obtain it, other than by post from Head Office (can we all take a moment to contemplate that someone could utter such a sentence, in 2014). Even though we have come here specifically to sign this form. We have failed in our mission. We must return at great expense in a few weeks. The etwas was very much not the etwas we were after.
Predictably, Prog Rock finds this both unsurprising and funny."I've done a lot of this trustee business" he reassures the Natwest lady as he puts his folder of papers back in his rucksack and we prepare to leave. "And you are far from the worst."On the way out, he stops to admire the ceiling rose in the entrance to Tavistock House. Then we part, laughing at our failure, and he heads off to the bookshop to find a grammar primer for my sister.
I should be annoyed, we both should, but Prog Rock - eternally curious, eternally amused, eternally gentle - has rubbed off on me, just a little. The sun is shining. I still have a few hours do find a nice etwas to do.
(Thank you so much for all the webcams. You saved my webcam bacon. Mmmm, webcam bacon)