0879_Hayden_Williams_Carmen_Dell_Orefice (2)

Hebe is always late. It’s a constant source of tension between us. Today it’s been arranged we should meet at a café in the Village. Even though I have timed my arrival fifteen minutes later than the appointed time, Hebe is, as usual still yet to arrive.

Then I see her – a tall willowy figure, striding through “The Great Unwashed” toward me. She wears a metallic-coloured Sass and Bide tunic that falls in soft folds just past her waist, longs legs encased in skinny black jeans and on her feet are gravity defying Christian Louboutin mules.

Hebe is indeed beautiful. At fifteen paces, she could be mistaken for thirty. At close quarters she looks a youthful forty.  A definite compliment when you take into account she celebrated her 60th birthday last march.

“Darling, so sorry I’m late.” she leans forward, kissing the air either side of my cheeks in the European manner.

I’ve learnt from past experience not to press for any explanation. Hebe subscribes to the maxim “never explain and never complain.” Instead, I ignore her tardiness and offer to buy her coffee. “That would be lovely,” she responds graciously.

Bad feelings avoided, we arrange our chairs either side of the table, facing out, thus allowing the best view of the passing crowd. It’s become a habit for us to meet on Sunday mornings; to catch up on each others news but, more importantly, to indulge our passion for people watching.

It’s not long before I feel a sharp kick from beneath the table. Hebe draws my attention to a cyclist dismounting his delicate machine. He is a tall man, past his prime but still enjoying a certain vigor due to past athleticism. His body is large, tending towards plumpness, meaty muscular thighs and a heavy bottom.

That in itself isn’t a crime but to have the before-mentioned body squeezed into puce green  and purple lycra is, at the very least, an offence against good taste.

“The indignities to which lycra is subjected.” I hear Hebe murmur from behind her coffee cup. Avoiding her eye so as not to succumb to laughter, I opine, “Well at least he is exercising.”

‘That Darling, I applaud, but to do it in such a conspicuous manner? Clothes do not maketh the man and , in this instance, they certainly don’t make the sportsman”.

It’s then I remember, Hebe isn’t fond of cyclists, having been run over by one speeding at great velocity along the Riverwalk. It wasn’t so much the sprained ankle she resented but more the broken heel of her favourite Jimmy Choo’s.

Of course, the incident did leave Hebe with a somewhat jaundiced opinion regarding most bike riders. She has been heard to say: “I resent them as a pedestrian and as a driver of a vehicle. They are neither fish nor fowl. On the footpath one moment, then on the road the next. It’s as if they consider themselves exempt from the law.”

When it was bravely suggested that perhaps more of us should take to bikes and lessen our carbon footprint. Hebe’s response was mischievous: “The human species enjoys a great many sterling qualities but, collectively, restraint isn’t one of them. I suspect we shall go the way of the dinosaur, despite our valiant efforts to avoid doing so. As for your suggestion we should all hop on a bike to help save the planet, consider the exacerbating effect the collective flatulence of all those bike riders will exert on global warming.”

“Surely you’re not suggesting bike riders are more prone to wind than anyone else?” expostulates her inquisitor. Hebe smiles broadly her eyes dance with merriment. I can see she is enjoying the tease tremendously.

“Darling, have you ever been downwind of a group of cyclist as they endeavor to climb Teneriffe Hill ” It would be foolhardy to light a match in any proximity such is the level of methane they’ve generated.”

The corpulent cyclist has finished his coffee and returns to his bike. Obviously impatient to continue the ride, he quickly straps the helmet to his head, swings his leg over the slender bike frame and settles his large derriere on the narrow seat, enveloping it entirely with lycra clad flesh.

“Good Lord ! says Hebe, almost choking on her coffee. “Forget about the  indignities done to lycra. It’s nothing compared to that experienced by the poor bike seat.”

Coffee done, I walk with Hebe to her car. A young cyclist passes us, his muscular legs and buttocks pumping the pedals with effortless rhythm.

“You see, Darling? That’s how lycra should be worn,” says Hebe. “He reminds me of the Bette Midler joke about the onion and the donkey.”

“What joke is that?” I ask.

“What do you get when you cross a donkey with and onion?”

“I have no idea, ‘ I respond dutifully.

“Well Darling, most of the time you get an onion with very long ears but, occasionally, just once in a blue moon , you can be lucky enough to get a little piece of ass that makes eyes water.”


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