‘They’re called hash browns. Not the ready-made fake ones you can buy frozen. These are real potato hash browns you are making Mikey.’
‘They remind me of Boris’ hair.’
‘Yes! They do! A little darker, but all those criss-crossed strands do bear a semblance,’ Nicky enthuses.
Mikey and Nicky are getting on. Business is good enough, and Mikey has succumbed to the predominantly transatlantic menu. Having added steak and ale pie to the ‘English’ menu of fish and chips, it has encouraged his better attitude, but the fact Boris no longer visits also helps.
‘Do do, do do,’ Mikey hums.
‘You do seem happier,’ Nicky enthuses some more. ‘What’s that tune?’
‘You know I really can’t remember. I heard it somewhere and I recall it struck a chord’ – Mikey chortles at his unintentional joke – ‘but I can’t remember where and I just can’t get it out of my head.’
Nicky is slicing baps and placing them at the side of the preparation counter in readiness for the lunchtime rush. Her eyes as round and wide as the upper halves of the bifurcated buns, she scans the kitchen and out into the eating area through the large open hatch. The diner is about two thirds full and people are eating and talking happily and Nicky reflects on the changes in her life. From a former position of power and influence – but with all the attendant stress of being loathed for her attempted decision-making – she now surveys the simplicity of working with ordinary people with ordinary lives eating ordinary food and being content. Nicky feels content too. Life is good, and with Mikey being less and less of a treacherous bastard, she knows it can only get better.
‘I feel good,’ she confides in Mikey. ‘I think we made a wise decision buying this franchise. I know we didn’t have much choice, but we have landed on our feet, haven’t we Mikey? This is a change for the better, don’t you agree?’
‘Man’s yesterday may ne’re be like his morrow. Nought may endure but mutability,’ Mikey quotes meaningfully, if a little pompously. ‘Shelley,’ he adds. ‘One of the great Romantics. I so wanted all 16 year olds compelled to study our fine Romantic poets whilst at secondary school, but that’s one battle I didn’t win.’
‘It’s a burger culture,’ Nicky quips. ‘But correct me if I am wrong Mikey,’ she seems to suddenly and with surprise intention change tack, ‘weren’t the Romantics a radical movement of writers placing the promotion and celebration of Intuition above Reason? Indeed, a revolutionary celebration of the Imagination? That seems a rather progressive idea for someone like you to be encouraging and supporting.’
Whilst getting on in their new burger partnership, Nicky stills feels the ache of having had to follow in the wake of Mikey’s more sensational time as Education Secretary, causing his notorious problems through legislated dictatorial decisions compared with her problems of flaccid but nonetheless annoying failures.
‘Yes, yes, but they were English,’ Mikey flusters, tousling with the strands of hash browns to make them a whole, fried into their mess of completeness.
‘And wasn’t it Shelley who wrote
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away
and doesn’t that remind you a little of political failure Mikey?’ Nicky asks, smirking at the sharpness of her planning.
Mikey puts his spatula down on the grill and stares into the hash browns. He seems to be looking for wisdom in the patterns of random coalescence as a popular side-dish for the even more popular Groovy Gove Burger that has proved such a success at their diner. He turns slowly to Nicky.
‘And written in iambic pentameter,’ is all Mikey adds, sounding meaningful again, if pompously again. He turns back to the grill, picks up his spatula, begins transferring the cooked hash browns to warming dishes, and continues to hum,
‘Do do, do do, do do, do do, do do.’