(1938-10-22) Cheesy and Toasty
Details for Cheesy and Toasty
Summary: On their respective days of Ranjit and Frid make friends in Covent Garden market.
Date: 22 October 1938
Location: Covent Garden Market, London

A day off is a wonderful thing, even if a good portion of it must be spent doing the things you don't have time to do while working. Being a down on your luck healer with a good-for-nothing ex-husband that skipped out on you and a lot of debts means you can't afford to wine and dine yourself in posh restaurants or even splurge frequently on a nice bit of fish from the chippy. Dressed a tad more sedately than her usual lime green Mungo's robes, Ranjit has a much more muggle friendly wool coat over a jumper and a pair of slim fitting trousers. Even without the robes an Indian woman in London's Covent Garden Market isn't so common in 1938 as it will be in twenty or thirty years time. She holds a basket in one hand as she moves from one food stall to another; green grocers, butchers, fishmongers all shout about their wares in an effort to entice shoppers to come there way. At the moment Ranjit is contemplating buying a few apples.

Not a million miles away, a casually dressed Frid shakes hands with the owner of another stall, giving a friendly nod. "Yeah, you look after yourself, mate. Always good to catch up," he insists, tugging up the collar of his jacket and moving away. The Indian woman is given a once over, it being an uncommon sight, then a polite nod as he's spotted. "Ma'am," he offers, maneuvering his way through towards the fruiterer to eye what's on sale there.

The aire of the exotic leaves when Ranjit opens her mouth and that peculiar accent of her's comes out, a mixture of Brummie and that lilt which identifies her as having English as a second language. "Oh, hello." She gives Frid a polite smile, "Good morning." She points to a small paper sack of mushrooms just off to the tall man's left. "Would you be able to hand me that bag of mushrooms, please? I think they will go nicely in my tea."

Frid can't help himself, reaching for the sack of mushrooms before asking curiously, "I hope you don't mind, ma'am, but can I ask where you're from?" He holds out the mushrooms, granting a faint smile.

Ranjit reaches out and takes the mushrooms, adds them to the small bowl of things she is purchasing from the green grocer. Her eyes twinkle with humour because it is a question she often gets. "I was born in Birmingham. Near Bourneville. But I went to school up in Scotland." Not that there is any hint of that in her voice. "My parents were from India." She reaches across a little, with a polite, "Pardon me," to pick up a few potatoes and put them into the bowl, as she does so she looks up at Frid with a smile, "I'm Ranjit."

"Fred," Frid responds, dipping his head politely once more. "I served with some of your fellows in the war. Good bunch of people," he approves. "Interesting meals. What do they call those little triangular things? Those were rather good."

"Thank you Fred." she graciously accepts the compliment on behalf of all Indians everywhere. Brows lifting, Ranjit smiles again, "Ah samosas? They are very good. My grandmother used to make ones as big as a man's hand. She was very traditional." Looking down at the bowl again she calculates what else she needs to buy and compares it to what she can afford then takes out one of the apples and puts it back on the pile. "Where you in Belgium or further afield?"

"I was at Wipers," Frid responds, watching the replacement of apples thoughtfully, before giving the stall holder a smile and asking for some apples for himself. As the man begins to bag them up, the light London drizzle starts turning to a heavier, driving rain, enough to have Frid pull down the brim of his hat, hunch his shoulders, and fumble to undo the strap on his umbrella to open it.

She tilts her head back and looks up at the rain with a resigned sigh and a faint shake of her dark head. Ranjit pays for her purchases and drops them into her basket then notices Frid's struggle with the umbrella. "Please, allow me." Reaching over she undoes the strap then steps back so he can open up his umbrella. Not having one herself she just turns up the collar of her coat and pulls the edges of it closer together. "That autumn warmth we were supposed to have seems to have been short-lived."

Frid courteously holds the umbrella over her, half smiling. "You said you went to school in Scotland, ma'am. I'm sure you're used to it. I recently moved up there myself, and I could swear it hasn't stopped raining since I arrived."

"It has been six years since I left school, I think I have finally become used to not being soggy for ten out of ever twelve months." Ranjit steps in closer, not too close just enough that the umbrella can shield them both. "I liked it up there but it was cold and wild. We used to go to a tiny village at the weekends and buy sweets and hot drinks. It was idyllic at the time. Not like the faster pace of life now." She steps aside as a woman bustles past with a pram and an umbrella, her gaze dropping to the baby briefly before returning to Frid's face. "What brings you to London if you are now living up in Scotland?"

Frid half smiles at the admission. "I have a few days off," he admits, "and there's only so much idyllic solitude I can take. Besides, if I were still there, my employer would no doubt find me with some minor crisis or other."

She laughs at that. "Sounds like my work. Always someone needing something. Ranjit shifts the basket in her hands as the rain gets heavier on the umbrella. "There is a small cafe over there," her chin juts towards it. "They do bottomless cups of tea and a decent cheese toastie." Her head tilts back so she can look up at him, "If you would like to join me that is?"

"That sounds like the best idea I've heard all day," Frid admits, holding out a hand to offer to take her basket. "What is it you do, ma'am?"

Handing off the basket. Ranjit walks with Frid to the little market cafe. "I am a midwife." She opens the door, holding it as an elderly woman comes out then looks up at Frid. "What about you?" Not used to chivalry she finds a table for them both and starts to shrug off her coat. The cafe is warm, the single paned windows steamy. Most of the tables are filled but not all.

Frid pulls out a seat for her, taking her coat to fold it. "I imagine that must be rewarding," he responds. "I'm a valet. Nothing like as interesting, I'm sure." He lifts his chin to catch the attention of the waiter, giving a slight smile as he orders tea and toasties for both of them. "Does it take a long time to train?"

Taking his job as an explanation for the behaviour Ranjit grins at Frid, "Just can't help yourself?" She brushes a hand over her slightly damp hair. "It takes several years." She settles comfortably on the chair. "How does one become a valet? It seems such a traditional profession. You are the first valet I have ever met."

Frid flashes a grin at that. "Manners cost nothing, as they say. Well, there aren't so many of us around these days," he admits. "The economy hasn't been kind to domestic staff. I started out as a footman in one of the houses here in London after the war, and worked my way up to butler, but then… well, staff are expensive, and the families had to make cuts somewhere. I was fortunate enough to find a new employer, but most of my old comrades have been less fortunate. Factories and pits, for the most part."

"Indeed." Ranjit toys with the cutlery the waiter drops off in preparation for their food, watching as the small brown ceramic teapots and mugs are set down before the man walks away. "When I was a girl I had a friend from school who was wealthy like that. His family had the whole lot. Their housekeeper was a frightening woman. I always thought she knew when I was even thinking about stepping into something messy."

"Any family I know?" Frid asks, nodding thanks for the tea and, without asking, beginning to pour. "Milk and sugar?"

"Both please." Ranjit takes paper napkins from the dispenser and slides one across the table to Frid. "Fred, you do not need to serve me, but thank." She gives him a little smile. "The Palanchers were quite nice to me even if their housekeeper was a fright. But they were new money, it sounds like you trained in grand old houses."

"I was fortunate," Frid agrees, quirking a smile as he adds the milk and sugar as requested. "And I'd hardly be a gentleman if I let you pour, would I? So are you a private midwife, or one of these modern hospital ones? I'm not sure I agree with having children in a hospital," he admits, "but I'm open to debate either way."

Ranjit takes her tea and stirs it then sets the spoon on the napkin. "I do both. Complicated cases need to be in the hospital but others can be at home if the house is clean enough." She takes a sip and looks over at him. "How big is the household you are part of now?"

Frid holds up a finger. "Just one," he admits. "An older lady, recently widowed, and come into the inheritance of a small pub. So I suppose you could count the staff as part of the household, too. Regardless, I seem to spend most of my time making sure it's run as a business and not open hospitality for all. My employer is notoriously generous with her time and alcohol."

"That one widow sounds like she more than makes up for being your only charge." Ranjit sets her mug down on the table and leans back as their food is set down by the waiter. "Some of the mothers we get are quite a handful like that. Change can be scary, being a new widow must be quite a drastic change. She is lucky to have someone like you to look after her."

Frid flicks a wry grin. "Some of your mothers are overly generous with their time and alcohol?"

Ranjit laughs, nodding her head, "Actually yes. Not everyone has read the pamphlets on the best way to care for yourself during a pregnancy." She eyes her cheese toastie, turning her plate one way and then the other before she forgoes the cutlery and just uses her fingers to pick it up. "We don't just get the wealthy women, they come from all walks of life. Even those who are overly generous with their time."

Frid takes up his tea for a sip, cradling it in both hands as he leans back, slowly drying out. "It's unfortunate," he notes, "that there do seem to be more and more, ahem, generous young ladies around. When I was younger, they would have been snapped up as maids and so forth. These days one wonders what options they have."

She takes a bite and lowers her food back onto the plate, wipes her mouth with her napkin and sips some of her tea before saying anything. "The bad economy took care of that, so few places to work." Her mouth twists wryly. "The lucky ones end up working in shops or hotels I suppose, hoping nobody learns about what happened to them so they don't get fired." She presses her lips together in a thin line. "Life can be cruel. Some mistakes you pay for for an awful long time."

Frid lifts his teacup towards her. "Then, ma'am, here's to discretion. In all walks of life."

"Indeed," Ranjit lifts her drink towards him in return and takes a sip. "Getting any warmer?"

"Marginally less soggy," Frid admits with a smile. "And you? I hope you're not going to catch a cold."

"You should eat," she nods to his plate. Ranjit smiles, "I don't get ill, hearty constitution. Besides, a nice man offered to shield me with his umbrella."

"He sounds like an absolutely marvelous gentleman," Frid comments, obediently taking up his sandwich for a bite. He brushes a crumb from his lip with the napkin. "You should probably arrange to meet up again next time he's in London."

She watches as Frid eats. "I'm thinking about it. He's even tidy with toasted bread which is a hard thing to do." Ranjit's mouth quirks up into a ready smile revealing her brilliantly white teeth briefly before she takes another sip of her tea.

Frid laughs quietly, dipping his head. "It is a talent," he admits modestly. "Tell me, do you like jazz music, ma'am?"

A hand comes up, brushing her dark hair behind the whorl of her ear. "I like all kinds of music. Even traditional Indian music." Ranjit sets her cup aside and picks up her toastie. "When I was a girl I tried to learn to play the sitar, it is a cross between a guitar and a," she laughs, shrugging a shoulder, "giant lute. I was horrible."

"I'm not familiar with it," Frid confesses, "but I'm sure you can't have been that bad. I've always felt that there are only two instruments with which one can be truly awful. The bagpipes, and the violin."

She coughs around her bite of toastie and has to quickly swallow a mouthful of tea. "Sorry," Ranjit wipes her mouth with her napkin. "I just had this mental image of you up in that pub in Scotland with hands over your ears as the pipe band went by."

"It's a very small village," Frid tells her with a grin, taking another piece of his toastie. "If we're lucky there isn't a single piper, let alone enough for a band. Fingers crossed, anyway."

"Here's hoping," she salutes him with her mug before taking another sip and setting it aside so that she can eat. "So jazz?" Ranjit cants her head as she looks over at him.

Frid breaks off another piece of sandwich. "Nat Gonella is playing this evening at the Corinthia," he explains. "Which is rather why I'm down here. Of course, I'll understand if you have other plans, but you'd be very welcome to join me if you'd like?"

"Today is my day off. If you can promise me that there will not be a screaming pregnant woman there then I promise not to bring my bagpipes." Ranjit inclines her head most regally, "I thank you for the offer and graciously accept."

"I can't guarantee it, but I shall do my best to avoid any," Frid promises solemnly, reaching for the teapot and hovering it over her cup is question.

"Please." Ranjit nods towards her cup. "How is your cheese toastie?" Her own is nearly finished. She isn't quite as neat with her toast as Frid is but she does manage to keep the crumb situation contained to her plate and napkin.

Frid tops up her cup. "Cheesy," he decides after a moment's thought. "And somewhat toasty." He flashes an easy smile, starting on the second half of his. "Please, I've been talking too much. Tell me more about yourself?"

"If a cheese toastie should be anything it should be cheesy and…toasty." Ranjit responds to his smile with one of her own. "I'm not that interesting, which you will soon realise." She stirs the freshly topped up tea and takes a sip.

"Nonsense," Frid decides. "Everybody is interesting. Tell me about your family? What do you do on your days off? What was the last play you went to see?"

She looks down at the remnants of her lunch. "I don't have any family. Haven't had for years." Ranjit takes a thoughtful bite, wipes her mouth with her napkin. "On my days off I do some shopping, sometimes I'm lucky enough to meet up with friends or make new ones." The play takes more thought. "I don't go to the theatre often. The last film I saw wasn't very memorable, however. Some gangster film from the States."

"Or sometimes you're dragged into cafes with old men and force fed cheese toasties," Frid replies, lifting a hand briefly to catch the attention of the waiter and request the bill. "I should apologise, then, for keeping you from your shopping and your friends."

Ranjit laughs as she sets her napkin on her empty plate. "Playing the old card now that you want to run away?" She drinks a last mouthful of tea and half turns to fish in her coat pocket for her purse. "It has been nice meeting you, but if you would rather not do tonight I will understand. Sometimes we make impetuous offers we do not mean."

Frid waves her down, pulling out his wallet to pay. "No, no, I do mean it. Seven o'clock at the Corinthia," he informs her with an easy smile, fishing through his wallet past a few… well, they must be foreign coins, gold and silver… to pull out the pennies owed. "Bring a friend if you like, I don't want you getting the wrong idea about me."

Ranjit sighs when he decides to pay, "Thank you, but I will return the favour and buy you a drink later." She slips from her chair, getting to her feet and picks up her coat. "I'll see if some of the others who are off today might like to come along. Everyone likes to kick their heels up once in a while."

Frid rises to his feet as she does. "I look forward to it, ma'am."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License