For Victoria and Grace it is about who has the coolest car, the grandest house, the most fashionable interior designer, the most expensive bespoke kitchen (with under floor heating), over-the-top dinner parties and fine wines, ostentatious jewellery, servile domestic help, the number of holidays a year, and, of course shoes and, especially, handbags.
The two women’s friendship mitigates their endless competition; it’s not malicious but intense; catty, some say.
Their husbands, old friends from childhood, conclude that they too, the providers of the bounty, need something for themselves: they buy a gin palace and employ a crew to sail ‘The Good Ship Lollipop’ around the Aegean Sea.
It is late when the two couples arrive on board, having come their separate ways from England. They celebrate with champagne and delicious canapés that have been carefully prepared by the Lollipop’s chef. Tired, they retire early.
On the second day, dinner is served beneath a canopy on the high aft deck in full view of passing tourists, who, wandering on the quayside at which the Lollipop is moored, gape at the rich.
After dinner the two men continue to drink in the salon while Victoria and Grace retire to the stateroom carrying cardboard boxes. They are both excited.
What have you got? Victoria asks.
Me too, Victoria shrieks.
They open the boxes. They are astonished. We’ve both bought Sekrè bags, Grace gasps.
Each bag, costing six thousand pounds, contains cut up fragments of original personal letters and photographs of the famous.
Who’ve you got? Victoria asks.
Grace Kelly, and you?
Our names, they giggle.
The two women embrace, tearfully stand back from each other, laugh, kiss, and hug again, and, laughing ask, Catty? Us?
On the next evening, all along the waterfront enticing smells from taverna kitchens drift and swirl in the breeze, timeless as ancient history, while bottles of beaded Retsina wait in fridges all along the quayside.
White houses, made golden by the setting sun, glisten; gardenia blossom intoxicating in the warm evening air; deep blue cupolas of churches shimmer as the breeze brings the tang of the sea. Blue and white wooden saint-blessed fishing boats stacked with nets gently rock in harbours.
Locals promenade arm in arm to ouzo bars, while in quayside squares, plastic-covered taverna tables wait.
Hungry cats scurry, hunting for their nightly scraps amidst the high-healed and deck-loafered feet of swanky gin palace travellers. Yet more dance to the piped bouzouki beat.
Grace and Victoria, at a table, nibble their starters of little fish, their glittering Sekrè bags resting at their elegant ankles as they kick their feet and shout, Skeet! at the dancing cats.
A single cat takes the lead and hips swinging to the beat, purrs while preening, spraying piss upon the Sekrè bags. As it slips away, pleased, shoulders up, a second cat, tail swaying, takes up the bouzouki beat inundating the bags once more to ensure a souvenir of the Cyclades will long endure.
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Ah… the wisdom of cats: inscrutable, mysterious satirists of human foibles. They still make me sneeze though.
Thank you Phil. This is one of the best so far – more to come I very much hope.