irisbleu, blurring around the edges with exhaustion, waits to go in to find out if she can see the Gawain manuscript. I'm the one delaying her from her quest, asking a few last questions of her before her whirlwind tour of the library is done and her work begun. She seems fragile, as if sleepless for the past week in study for an exam which was about to begin. Coasting through wakefulness on the thrill of the chase, she slips through the door, in search of her prey.
Setting: The Hobgoblin, a pub in Reading
The walls and ceilings are covered in tidily nailed-up beer coasters, thousands of them, each different from the others to my eye. The coasters represent every beer the pub has served, an extraordinary procession of local and seasonal brews, on tap. A beer there one day is often gone by the next. We are seated down a zig-zagging corridor of niches and cubbies, our own tucked-away table, away from the growing throng by the counter. I missed seeing the bottles of rhubarb wine and mead, so am drinking something generic while aquitaineq drinks a pint of one of her favorites. As the afternoon progresses, it becomes more and more apparent that this really is her local pub. One bartender stops by to make sure she'll be coming around again in the next few days. The other is a classmate of hers. It may look like an aging locals' pub from superficial impressions, but it's become the pub she'll miss most when she leaves.
Setting: S&M, a diner in Islington
In between creamy bites of cheddar cheese and rosemary mash, I am caught up in the banter between two intelligent, reuniting friends. The venison and the Somerset pork-and-apply sausages are good, but the conversation is better. For the first time, I've found black pudding I would go out of my way for - we all share black pudding fritters, coated in crumbs, deep-fried, and served with salad cream. vschanoes is visiting from the States, half-a-week to spare between teaching classes, and neither of us has seen rozk since summer. V. abjures my love of Thanksgiving; they catch up on politics in deliberate clichés; we all have dessert, not all of us sweet ones. She flew in this morning, and jet lag is starting to hit, so she leaves us ensconced safely away at a café with promises of reunions, R. and I to talk over cappuccino and juice, V. to sleep.