I finish my day at work and automatically ring Esther to find out what she’s doing so I can do it too. This reminds of the joke about when spouses Kenneth Brannagh and Emma Thompson were inseperable in the mid 90s:
Emm: “Where are you darling?”
Ken: “I’m in the shed”
Emm: “Oh, can I be in it too?”
Anyway, unusually for them, Lisa and Esther are sat outside Starbucks having a coffee. I jump on an 82 (not an 88 since I was prevented from boarding one for holding a coffee: “Is that a hot drink?” “No, it’s gone cold” “Well you can’t get on” etc) and hop off the stop before Starbucks, sauntering in my most relaxed-looking way up to the cafe.
“Half F, half N” confides Lisa to Esther as I sit down.
“More F than N, I’d say” says Esther, “He has got a clean shirt on”
I tuck my shirt into my trousers, flustered by the attention.
“Oh no, that’s definitely N, tucking it in like that” says Esther with satisfaction.
Finally, they explain that they have been playing a game where they judge whether people are Functional (have a job and relationship, good self esteem) or Non-functional (on benefits, mentally unstable, or intellectuals) from the way they look as they walk past. I notice a funny man sat in Starbucks window behind us- he has a shock of grey hair sticking vertically up, a huge round belly and a spotted handkerchief peering from a pocket in his white tucked-in tshirt.
“So what’s he then” I say with as much subtlety as I can muster (not much).
“Oh, him. He’s a double N” says judge, jury and executioner Esther.
Next, Lisa scurries off up the street mumbling “Do me”, before turning round after about 3 metres and coming back. She is trying her hardest to look normal, which means she is surging forward with a furious look on her face.
Without having to confer, Esther and I proclaim “definitely an N”, to Lisa’s bitter disappointment. Now Esther goes for a wee, and after about 5 minutes reappears behind us, having sneaked out of the side door. She is unsurprised to learn her N status too.
Ecclesall Road is wall to wall with Fs, usually rich students with box fresh clothes, or kept men or women perched like vultures in the window of Nonnas, draining spousal money in the futile pursuit of real happiness. I think rampant materialism is a sign of something missing.
But if this is what it takes to get status in this world, I guess I am a player too, but only on week days. I am a wekend hippie and a fairweather flakey. I’m proud of my N/F mongrel ways.