As they walked, Bertram asked Gertrude, “Have you ever visited Rene’s, old thing?”
“No. What’s Rene’s? Is it another sex shop?”
“Ah, no my dear, Rene’s is the best street café and cake shop in the known world and if I’m right, it’s only five minutes from here. A great place for an afternoon snack. They do very good coffee, great filled croissants and the best cakes that I’ve ever eaten. Their apple strudel is worth the trip to Amsterdam on its own.”
“Ooh, sounds yummy,” said Gertrude. “It’s lucky that I left my diet at home.”
When they got to Rene’s, the several coffees that she had drunk already that morning had made their collective presence felt in Gertrude’s bladder.
“Do they have a loo here? I’m bursting for a pee.”
“I don’t think that they do. It’s just a street café. I’ll ask,” said Bertram, turning to the lady behind the counter.
“No sir,” she replied, “I’m afraid zat vee don’t. However ief you go into zee restaurant opposite and explain zat you are one of our customers, zey vill allow you to use zeir facilities.”
Gertrude trotted off to find the loo and Bertram ordered a coffee while he waited for her return. He twirled around on his stool with the large carrier bag at his feet and settled to face the street, perched there, sipping his hot, sweet, double espresso watching people and feeling that life was good. The sun was shining, God (if he existed) was up there somewhere feeling quite chipper and all was well with the world. There came the sound of good, sturdy, leather shoes approaching from the direction of Dam Square. Lots of shoes, marching in a purposeful and orderly way.
People scuttled out of the roadway as the march of protesting Calvinists got nearer. They drew level with the open shop front, shouting slogans as they went, an unstoppable wall of sturdy, self-righteous women. Bertram smiled and waved to one of the dozens of decent, stoic, tweed-clad, serious-looking gels marching past waving their protest placards.
On leaving the ladies’ loos, Gertrude nodded to the restaurant proprietor, “Thank you. Very nice. Very clean,” leaving him in some doubt as to whether she was referring to his rest room or, indeed, to himself. Folding her coat over her arm, she returned to Rene’s.
There was a crowd standing outside the café looking in. A phalanx of indignant tweed was marching away from them further down the narrow street shouting about the devil, sex and filth, in fact most of the usual stuff that evangelising protesters bang on about and once again there was the sound of Police sirens hanging in the air.
Gertrude pushed her way through the crowd looking for Bertram and found him in his very own Circle of Hell. He was still sitting on his stool, his mouth opening and closing, and he was wearing a confused frown on his face as though he was trying to do some difficult mental arithmetic like the square root of, say, the number seventeen. His empty coffee cup was swinging from his finger and the sugary coffee was splattered over his beard, shirt and trousers. Most notably though, he was covered from head to foot in a ratatouille of rotten vegetables. The floor surrounding him was knee deep in the same slimy veggie gloop, out of which was sticking the carrier bag… and several half buried Bibles.
“Bloody Calvinists,” sighed Bertram, “I should have known better than to smile.”
The Austrian-sounding woman who was serving, popped her head up from behind the counter where she had taken refuge. The rotten tomato skin hanging from her hair suggested that she had not done so quickly enough.
“I sink zat perhaps your carrier bag did not help zee situation. Vhen waving at Calvinist women demonstrators, iet ies not good to do so vith a bag at your feet zat is printed vith the words zat translate into the English… Perverted Sex Filth und… Zis Vill Bring Tears To Her Eyes! In fact ief you are wanting to be provoking them into a rage, the bag alone should just about do iet…”