By Michael O’Reilly
There‘s a knack to looking cool when you’re in your 60s.
I considered this when two strikingly dressed customers came into the shop.
Without doubt, they had the knack. I couldn’t make up my mind if I was impressed or not.
Should people even try to be fashionable after they’ve reached a certain age? Perhaps it’s more graceful just to let things run their course and look decrepit.
This pair had an aura of having always been on the right side of fashion.
He wore a leather jacket with a paisley-pattern scarf (like a fighter pilot from World War Two). His blue denim shirt and trousers were set off by cowboy boots. His grey hair was cropped. Spectacles of the rimless variety perched on the end of his nose, and (hardly needs saying, really) a diamond pin sparkled in his ear.
She too wore boots, with a black lace skirt, white blouse, embroidered waistcoat and short denim jacket. Her black hair was in ringlets. Her expression bore the amiable confidence of a woman who had been beautiful in her youth.
They looked dressed up even though they were dressed down. I had a vague idea I had seen her somewhere before.
At the New Arrivals section the woman picked up The Intimate Life of Simon Cowell. Why does that not surprise me! I thought, somewhat smugly.
I take the view that celebrity gush has no place in a right-thinking bookshop (but it sells, of course, for which reason the right-thinking bookshop has to trim the sails of its snobbish indignation).
She seemed to me just the sort of customer who would consider buying talent-show trivia.
“Look,” she remarked to her companion. “There’s Simon!”
These people know Simon Cowell! I was quite irrationally impressed. “No getting away from him,” the man remarked disdainfully.
Minutes later there was a cheerful yelp from behind one of the stacks. “That’s you!” I heard the woman say.
The sound of sexagenarian giggles floated through the ether.
When they came to the counter they brought a handful of books: Gardening in Southern Spain, a history of flamenco, a couple of thrillers.
At the bottom of the pile was a hardback with a garish cover and monochrome illustrations. It was a cheaply produced piece of fan memorabilia printed to cash in on the Bay City Rollers’ 1976 tour of Britain. (Our stock is nothing if not eclectic – as is the way of the second-hand trade.)
I did not speak, though my mouth may have opened involuntarily. I believe ‘agog’ would be the right word to describe my reaction.
The woman sensed my surprise (in the way that women do).
“It has sentimental value,” she explained.
I looked at her and then at her mate. He opened the book near the middle, where there was a double-page spread showing the weirdly-dressed teenyboppers on stage in Birmingham. He pointed to a figure in t-shirt and jeans (mercifully, no tartan) standing in the wings.
“That’s me,” he said. “I did some of the publicity for that tour.”
I looked more closely. The photo clearly depicted a younger version of the man on the other side of the counter.
“Waow!” I said.
I’m not proud of this response. It was effusive to a degree that can only be described as unseemly. “That must have been quite something!”
And then I remembered where I’d seen the woman before. She used to present a TV programme where you go off for the day and they bring in a team of experts to turn the unkempt wilderness around your house into a horticultural showpiece.
“You’re from that gardening show!” I said, as if she might have forgotten this.
“For my sins!” she replied modestly.
Deirdre came back from the shops soon after the couple had left.
“You’ll never guess who was here!” I said.
She was underwhelmed when I told her.
“The Bay City Rollers!” Her tone was more surprised than derisive. “Not exactly the Beatles! And anyway, you’re always saying how you have no time for the whole silly business of celebrity.”
Which is true.
But they were cool customers nonetheless.
To read more by Michael O’Reilly visit www.myspanishinterlude.com
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