Joseph is frowning…
A couple of miles to the south, Joseph Singer was also frowning. He too was sitting at a table in the corner of a café, but in front of him sat the remains of full English, a mug of tea and the Sunday papers. There was no Puccini in here, just the hiss of a tea urn and some muffled swearing coming from the kitchen.
The cause of Joseph’s frown was an article in one of the newspapers. Only a small piece, less than half a page, it discussed the latest annual reports on the state of the seas, apparently the decline in fish stocks in the Med was much worse than expected. The Ocean Conservation Society was making noises not only about overfishing as it did every year, but also problems in the sea itself with raised pollution levels and changes to ocean currents. The final sentence said that oceanographers had been asked to investigate reports of rip tides at holiday beaches that had never known them before.
Joseph got up from the table and carried his plate towards the counter, where he lifted the flap and walked through.
“Jeannie?” he called, “Is your computer on? Can I borrow it for a sec?”
“You chasing after my wife again?”
A huge man in grease spattered apron appeared brandishing a knife. He winked at Joseph.
“Hi Bill. Can I use the computer, please?”
“Anything for you darling!”
Bill pinched Joseph’s cheek, and then gave up trying to impersonate his wife who was now standing beside him with her hands on her hips and her eyebrows raised.
“Come through Joseph,” Jeannie said, “I was going to do the bread order but it can wait a few minutes. Is everything alright?”
“I’m not sure,” he replied and followed her into the back.
Half an hour on Jeannie and Bill’s computer just made Joseph’s frown deepen. Something wasn’t right, he could sense it. He thanked his old friends who pressed him to stay and have lunch with them, but he wasn’t in the mood. He headed back to his flat which was just down the high street above a fish and chip shop. The irony of this was not lost on him, but he got a lot of space for the money, and he rather liked the smells which periodically drifted up the stairs – they reminded him of his childhood.
The answerphone was blinking when he got in but Joseph ignored it. He wanted to think, and the best way for him to do that was to run so he threw on his gear and went straight back out. After a few minutes of dodging and weaving through the traffic and crowds he left the busy city streets for the relative tranquillity of Hampstead Heath. It was a summer Sunday and the pathways at the foot of the hill were thronged with families, but once he’d avoided the dogs and children, he could shut out the chaos and find his own space. There were a lot of things turning over in Joseph’s head. As well as the news stories, SSS had a big job starting the following morning and he wanted to be sure nothing had been forgotten.
SSS was Singer Scaffolding Services, the company Joseph had run for the last fifteen years. Small but very well thought of, people came to them for specialist or unusual jobs that were too complex or fiddly for the big boys. It suited Joseph perfectly. He loved the discipline of planning out the intricate webs of metal, and got satisfaction from sweating alongside his men through the rhythm of construction. He would never have stood an office job, he had to be outside as a counter to his other life underground, and hard graft worked wonders for a restless mind. Tomorrow they started on this new project, the restoration of an old church. It was going to be slow and painstaking work, the kind he liked best.