This is the next exciting installment of the Meridian Love saga.... it follows "Black dog" .... Enjoy!!
Meridian woke up with the heavy gloom familiar to all the worlds’ drinkers, smokers and party goers. The feeling was made much worse for Meridian,
with the realisation that dear Terence had now left and was, even now, cavorting in the USA. Like the Sun rising in the morning though cloud, it
slowly dawned on him. No fresh ground coffee, no breakfast, no one to tend to his needs. He was still hung-over from the binging he took part in,
following Psip’s being overcome by the Black Dog. “Ah, Psips Semen…” thought Meridian, as he gradually roused himself from his bed.
Meridian gently swung his massive legs to the floor, groaned, farted and gingerly put one hand to his throbbing head, as with the other he reached to
the bedside table for a cheroot and lighter. Inhaling deeply, he was convulsed with coughing. When the cough subsided long enough for him to stand,
and the little points of light had stop flashing before his eyes, he was able to reach for a long, silk dressing gown hanging on the door. Robed, and
his feet in Persian slippers, Meridian stomped through the kitchen, cheroot hanging from his bottom lip, the smoke making him squint. He banged about
unaffectedly with the kettle, abandoned the idea of coffee and settled for a bloody Mary and an extra vodka. Knocking it back in one, just as he was
considering a second, the phone rang,
“Mr. Love...Mr. Meridian Love?
“Yes…This is he. Actor, bon viveur, dramatist, poet and Fortean researcher. Pray, who is that?”
"Mr.Love? This Gemima form Harpic Collars. Did you receive the cheque we sent you?”
“Cheque? “ A warm glow flowed through Meridian that wasn’t entirely due to the Vodka.
“The advance cheque? The cheque for sequel to the Irish book ? Give me a moment will you?
Meridian placed the phone down with a flourish, removed the cheroot from his lips and exhaled luxuriantly,
He walked to the front door and, sure enough, there was a large white envelope, endorsed by Harpic Collars franking. Meridian tore it open and found a
letter with a garish letterhead and a cheque. A crisp, bank-printed, cheque for.... For Meridian had to concentrate to focus properly on the amount.
He rubbed his eyes, yawned, then rubbed them again.
“Yea Gods and little fishes!! Ł150, 000!!!.”
Back at the telephone table Meridian, clutched the receiver to his chest and looked heavenward for a moment.
“I have the cheque Miss Gemima. All seems to be in order.”
“And the contract Mr. Love?”
Meridian fanned out the documents that were paper-clipped to the cheque.
“Yes. I seem to see some mere technical documents here. I worry not for such trifles dear Gemima. For I am he, Meridian Love, actor, raconteur…”
“Thank you Mr Love. We will send a car at 11.30 this morning. We wish you to discuss the terms, and a synopsis of the Irish book’s sequel, with Mr.
Heinzerling, our Director of Publishing.”
“11.30? 11.30, you say? Quite out of the question, I’m afraid. One has errands, chores, things to do, people to see…”
“Mr. Heinzerling will, of course, be taking you and Mr. Lumpkin to lunch at Claridges.”
“Lunch…AH! Lunch…. Free lunch … mmmm“ Meridian let this word roll around his mouth a while, as his taste buds, previously clogged with lasts nights
offerings, started to produce copious quantities of saliva, much like a Pavlovian dog. AH! The anticipation of a Claridge's lunch, the aperitifs, the
wine lists, the port, bottles of brandy, champagne, cigars…; the food was pretty good too.
“Lumpkin is in the Americas I fear. I, of course, have complete executive authority to negotiate for both of us.”
“That is most satisfactory Mr Love. Our car will be with you at 11.30. Thank you Mr Love.”
“No, thank you, Gemima.”
Meridian arrived at Claridges at 11.30 and stood in the centre of the Entrance Hall’s marble floors, like the prodigal son come home.
Above him, Meridian breathed the ambience in. Sparkling chandeliers, lace, beautiful furniture, a magnificent staircase set a tone of dignity and
elegance that waits to welcome visitors to Claridges. The Foyer has, for generations, been one of London’s most fashionable rendezvous. Visitors and
their guests are served by liveried footmen and entertained by a Hungarian Quartet. This unique music, played during dinner and luncheon, has been a
special feature in the hotel since 1902.
In the adjacent Reading Room, morning coffee and traditional English afternoon tea, are served in the comfort and style of this classical room. The
rattle of cups and saucers, and the low murmur of genial conversations, no more than a whisper, punctuated by an occasional loud fart, were like a
symphony to Meridian. He inhaled deeply, as to drink it all in, although regretted it immediately, for the odour of a particularly “SDB” (silent but
deadly) fart had been released by some Countess or other.
Recovering, Meridian wandered into the Restaurant, hoping that the functionary sent by the publishers wouldn’t arrive just yet and spoil his revelry.
He hadn’t seen the new terrace, nor indeed, the new mirrored mural, by Christopher Ironside. He hoped it hadn’t upset the balance of the beautiful art
deco restaurant. He was pleasantly surprised, the new additions were perfection. “This…” thought Meridian, “.. is the Life!” Although he made a
mental note to himself: “Don’t inhale too deeply in the Reading Room…”
Meridian private bubble burst. He turned and scowled at the thin, grey man addressing him.
“Mr Love. I’m Heinzerling…From Harpic Collars?”
Yes... of course you are… Mr....?”
“Heinzerling… Director of Publishing - and general big cheese – Harpic Collars. Gemima rang you this morning Mr Love? We sent the car to bring you
“Quite…a mere bagatelle, Heinzerling.! Now, look around you and tell me what you see.”
“This is the restaurant, isn’t it? It doesn’t open until 12.30… I thought we’d eat in the…”
“This is a temple. A temple to civilised self indulgence. This is my spiritual home…Mr.?”
“Yes…well…I thought we’d eat in The Causerie…”
“Designed in 1926 by Basil Ionides. He was at the height of his powers then… it’s quite exquisite...”
“Yes I’m sure it is… The Causerie? It’s open now…”
Meridian looked hard at Heinzerling. Here, he thought, is man on who all this opulence, and splendour, is wasted. “Your idea of self indulgence…” ,
concluded Meridian, “ … is a Toffee Crisp and glass of Tesco’s Sherry…”
“Open for drinks…lunch from 12…”
Heinzerling was instantly forgiven by Meridian, “Lay on MacDuff; and damn’d be him that first cries “Hold enough!”
Claridges and elegance, Claridges and quality, Claridges and style, the eponyms ran around Meridian's head as he watched his second double Bushmills
glinting in an exquisite lead crystal tumbler.
“And the Sunday Newspapers are already interested in serialisation…”
Meridian looked impressed, thinking even now of the spin off and interest this would create for the sequel to the Irish book. “The Sundays eh…Oh!!
Waiter, could we have some more drinks!” A statement, not a question, of course.
“More Bushmills sir?”
“Yes… oh bring a decanter would you …save on those pretty legs of yours! Another mineral water for you Mr.?”
“Yes…Of course you remember what the great W. C. Fields said about water…Ha!”
The waiter blushed and shuttled off.
“Mr. Love the contract...”
Heinzerling offered a very expensive fountain pen and waved the contract under Meridian nose.
Meridian blew a great curtain of cigar smoke into Heinzerling face, and laughed loudly, as Heinzerling turned green. Meridian flourished the cigar in
a grand gesture,
“I leave all that to my legal department...”
“Your legal...I thought we could sign it now and…”
“And save a fortune on what this lunch is going to cost you…”, thought Meridian, “…not bloody likely, sunshine, you’re in for the duration.”
“If you could elucidate on the salient points, Mr HeinzBeins, whilst I order for both of us.”
“Whatever. No matter. The Causerie is particularly famous for its smorgasbord buffet…yes?”
The waiter, still blushing, appeared silently at the table and cleared a place for the silver tray, overloaded, it seemed, with crystal tumblers,
soda siphon, mineral water and brimming decanter.
“Ah, dear waiter, you’re a darling! However …we won’t need these...” Meridian held out the soda and mineral water to the waiter.
“There is only one thing to put in good whiskey and that… is more whiskey...could you bring a box of hand rolled Havana?”
Heinzerling slumped visibly. He had been warned about Love but the publicity from the Spontaneous Human Combustion on “Good morning, Britain”, had
been too much to miss.
“Shall we order? Fill the beast with food before the booze takes over?”
“I always eat a light lunch”
“So as not to soak up all this lovely free booze”, thought Meridian.
“Oh Waiter? I, Meridian Love, am ready to order. Sally forth, dear boy!! Quickly!! Chop-chop!!”
“Are you ready to order sir?”
“Seafood… bring me the fruits of Poseidon…fish is so good for the libido! Surprise me…tell the chief to express himself with Scallops…I want
turbot…oysters…langoustines… and Shrimps swimming in something alcoholic. Champagne may be suitable…and side orders of Sushi…rice wine of course….”
Heinzerling slumped further into his seat.
“And send the wine waiter over sweetie! Mr. HeinzBeins…? “
“I’ve lost my appetite”
“Shame. No matter. Hop to it lovey. I’m ravenous.”
“The contracts, Mr. Love? When do you think you could…?”
“My dear, dear boy. I, Meridian Love, cannot possibly think on an empty stomach!”
Meridian took a huge swallow of whiskey and reached, once more, for the decanter.
“I’m sure that there is huge interest in the sequel to the Irish book since dear Richard’s ...flare up...I’m sure that you, dear HeinzBeins, will make
every effort to secure our services, by every means ...what?”
Meridian did indeed have Heinzerling, in person, and Harpic Collars in particular, by the short and curlies. Publishers, Newspapers, and media moguls
were at this minute falling over themselves to sign up Love and Lumpkin, their chequebooks gripped in their hot, sweaty little hands. Meridian
thought, “If they could fix Martin Amiss' bloody teeth, they can bloody well put me clover too.”
“These things take time. There is absolutely no need to rush such things.” Meridian waved his hands expansively, and holding both a cigar and a wine
glass in each, spilt wine and cigar ash all over the contracts.
“Oh lord… My poor Mr. HeinzBeins”
“My fault...” Heinzerling mops ineffectually at the ruined papers, making them worse. “If I don’t get this lush old Queen to sign today ….”..His mind
swam at the consequences.
“I’ll get the office to fax us some more. I won’t be long”
A flotilla of trolleys arrived at the table. Every sea food dish the chief could think of, and some he had invented especially for this order, were
piled high. So pleased was he at this opportunity to show off his culinary skills to a true lover of exquisite foodstuffs, he followed the trolleys
from kitchen, beaming from ear to ear.
“Mr. Love… I cook you something very special…”
“Carlo… You are an artist... a genius..."As they embraced, with continental kisses all around, Heinzerling lurched round and shouldered away to the
fax machine at the front desk. He carried with him the soggy contracts, whilst his groin dripped wine at Ł150 per bottle.
Amidst the trolleys and table, which are groaning under food and feasts, Meridian, like Bacchus on a bender, simply slavers and drools, much like
the Hund that Psip’s had encountered last night Carlo, unperturbed by the great man’s girth, and streams of saliva, was feeding Meridian forkfuls of
delicacies from each dish.
“And thisa one I make especial for you Meridian…isa good hey?”
“Carlo… the sauce… and the Whitebait!"
“Oh you lika the little fishes…here I wippa your chinny…I love to see you eat”
“And I love to eat your creations…Carlo these scallops! As fresh as choirboy’s goollies!"
“Oh Meridian, you so naughty!!” Carlo giggles, and flutters his eyebrows coquettishly.
Beating his way through the attendant wine waiters, busy keeping Love topped up, came a pageboy bearing a phone.
“Call for you Mr. Love.”
“For …mmm…Me? Meridian washes down a mouthful of food, draining the glass in one gulp.
“A Mr. Terence Lumpkin… calling from America?”
“Lumpers? Pass it here dear boy.”
Pulling the napkin tucked into his shirtfront, Meridian stood up so the assembled blue rinsed widows, farting Countess’s and retired generals could
get the full effect of his international call.
“Terry Dear, how are things over the pond?” Meridian speaks loudly enough for all to hear, whilst Carlo shoes away the waiters from the table.
“Meridian? I’ve had to move Hell and high Waters to find you… Claridges? You’re not paying are you?”
“I, Meridian Love? Of course not Lumpkin, fret not, dear boy!! All courtesy of Harpic Collars. And the fat cheque dear boy!”
“An advance… for another tome…after Richard so kindly went Whoosh!”
“Another book? Have you put the cheque somewhere safe? Meridian!”
“Sorry Darling just firing up a cigar...Safe? Of course it’s safe…My flexible friend...my gold flexible friend is ...well…fully flexible once more…and
about to go platinum.”
“Look Meridian…listen…this is very important…We’re in danger...great danger… You’re in danger! Grave danger!!”
So, *what* will happen next, dear readers? Be scared, very scared...
[Edited on 26-1-2004 by Genya]