Emma fetched the car and picked Mad up in front of the chemist’s, and they stopped at the road-block for their passes to be scrutinised once again. Mr Libby, the landlord of the Sailor’s Rest, was talking to the marine on duty. He waited for the formalities to finish, then stepped forward and bent his head to the car window.
‘Good morning,’ he said.‘I think I have something that would please you both. I’m not letting on to everyone, mind you.’
His tone was confidential.
‘They deputy commander of the camp here is a most obliging gentleman. What I say is this, if you do your best for them, they do their best for you.’
He glanced over his shoulder.
‘How about a case of Californian wine?’ he murmured.
‘Sorry,’ said Mad, ‘it’s against my principles.’
Mr Libby opened his eyes wide.
‘No hanky-panky, I promise you. It’s all above board. No duty to pay. We’re to import it in large quantities, and this happens to be the first consignment. You’ll find it much sweeter on the palate than the French stuff you usually have.’
‘Mr Libby,’ said Mad, ‘when I come to you asking for Californian wine you will know I’ve got tired of drinking my own bath-water at home. Drive on, Emma.’
She turned to her grand-daughter as they shot up the hill. ‘I meant it too. Californian wine my foot! So Vic was right. What else are we going to be forced to consume, is what I ask myself. Teabags forever, I suppose … and those terrible clams.’
I love Mad.