Carmen, Ana and Maria
MARIA: Oxford Street! Just look at it! Thousands of people! Hundreds of shops! And we have all morning to go round them! Marvellous! No problems!
ANA: Except money! Look! Crowds everywhere!
CARMEN: I’d like to go to Selfridges first.
MARIA: What’s in Selfridges?
CARMEN: Everything! (She consults her book) Women’s clothes, men’s clothes, kids’ clothes. The Sienna Café, the Gordon Bar.
MARIA: The Gordon Bar?
CARMEN: Yes, it’s named after Gordon Selfridge, the American who founded the store in 1909. The first big department store in Britain.
ANA: Is there a restaurant?
CARMEN: Of course there’s a restaurant! There are several. What about the Obika Mozzarella Bar?
ANA: It sounds OK.
MARIA: It sounds expensive!
CARMEN: Well, we’ll see. Come on!
They went round Selfridges and bought tea and shortbread to take back for their families in Madrid. Then, for a change of scene and some peace and quiet, they crossed over to Waterstones, the bookshop.
MARIA: Waterstones. That’s a funny name. “Agua piedras”.
CARMEN: It’s a good bookshop, though.
MARIA: It says here that you can browse at leisure. What does “browse” mean?
CARMEN: It means looking through a book, reading a bit here and a bit there, without any hurry and without having to buy it. In the dark ages 20 years ago some people read whole novels like that, just coming for ten minutes or so every day.
MARIA: And now they just download e-books on their mobile. O tempora! O mores!
CARMEN: And since when have you been quoting Cicero?
MARIA: As I’m not allowed to speak Spanish, I have to fall back on the next best thing, Latin, and Latin is where it all comes from. But nobody in the world knows Latin any more. Alas! O tempora! O mores!
CARMEN: As you said before! Anyway, going back to “browsing”.
ANA: I’ve seen the word on my computer.
CARMEN: Yes, there you are. The computer looks around for something here and there. That’s what happens with words.
MARIA: What happens with words?
CARMEN: Well, a word means different things according to what people need to use it for. Browse was for books and now it’s for the computer. Life moves on. Now for every single time it’s used to talk about books, it’s used a thousand times on computers. Just like “mouse”.
MARIA: Mickey Mouse!
CARMEN: Thank you! But now it’s used much more often for the computer mouse than for Mickey Mouse! We need a word for new inventions, new ideas, new customs. Sometimes you go back and find an old word to do the job. A word like ‘mouse’! It’s fascinating!
MARIA: Well, not exactly fascinating. Just of momentary interest I would say!
MARIA: But I see what you mean.
CARMEN: OK, so what does “flatpack” mean?
MARIA: No idea!
ANA: Something that’s packed all flat.
CARMEN: It’s furniture from Ikea!
ANA: Ah yes, that’s all flat. You can put it in the car.
CARMEN: And then you spend the rest of the day putting it together! I once bought a …
MARIA: Look, there’s a coffee shop here. I’m dying for a drink.
CARMEN: OK, let’s have a coffee, then have half an hour looking at books, browsing, then meet at the coffee shop again.
MARIA: OK, I think I’ll stay at the coffee shop all the time.
After coffee Carmen went to the section on Shakespeare, and Ana to the books on quantum theory. Each to her own! Maria took longer over her coffee and then found the medical section with books on digestive enzymes. They met again after half an hour.
CARMEN: What was your coffee like, Maria?
MARIA: Excellent! Then to check what was happening to my coffee I found this book on the digestive system. I’ve been looking for it for ages. It’s much cheaper here than in Madrid. Just look at the diagrams! The digestive system is fascinating!
CARMEN: Well, not exactly fascinating. Just of momentary interest I would say!
MARIA: Thank you, Carmen! Now where?
CARMEN: Marks and Spencer’s?
CARMEN: Clarks shoes?
MARIA: Its lunchtime. Let’s go back to the Mozzarella thingy in Selfridges.
CARMEN: Right. At least we’ll be able to sit down somewhere.
No matter which direction you walk in Oxford Street there always seem to be more people coming the other way! After struggling against the tide, the three friends finally made it back to Selfridges for lunch in the Obika Mozzarella Bar. The food was good but, as Maria had predicted, it was also rather expensive. Then, after lunch, Carmen and Ana met Calum and Harry at Shakespeare’s Globe. Calum had bought tickets to see “Much Ado about Nothing” that afternoon. Maria wasn’t interested in the play, so she found a comfortable pub, ordered a pint of Guinness and sat down in a quiet nook to read about the digestive tract and to wonder about the attraction of a play that by its own admission was a lot of fuss about nothing at all.
Later, outside Shakespeare’s Globe
Carmen, Ana, Calum and Harry.
CARMEN: Well, “Much Ado about Nothing” was great! Fantastic! And we saw it in the same theatre that Shakespeare acted in.
CALUM: Well, almost the same. This one was only built a few years ago.
ANA: But it looks exactly like the original.
HARRY: It is exactly like the original, all except for the sprinkler system. Health and safety regulations rule us all, even Shakespeare’s Globe!
CALUM: Yes, it’s a great experience. It’s a pity Maria didn’t come. She would have liked it.
CARMEN: I’m not so sure she would! In fact, I’m fed up with Maria. She complains about everything.
HARRY: Well, she did lose all her clothes.
ANA: That’s no excuse! Anyway, she’s got them back now. Her suitcase arrived yesterday.
CARMEN: We should do something about her!
CALUM: And the same with Olly. He’s not been himself lately.
ANA: I think Maria’s past changing!
CARMEN: Wait a moment. How about this? You remember the play. You know how Benedict and Beatrice were always making jokes about each other. You know how they were always arguing.
CALUM: Yes, they waged ‘a merry war’ with each other.
CARMEN: Yes, that’s right! Then their friends played a trick on them. First they made Benedict think that Beatrice was in love with him, and then they made Beatrice think that Benedict was in love with her.
CALUM: And the result was that they fell in love!
CARMEN: Well, they were in love already. That’s clear from all their arguing beforehand. But they wouldn’t admit it! So, we’ll do the same with Maria and Olly!
ANA: It’ll never work!
HARRY: Not in a month of Sundays!
CARMEN: If you think like that, of course it won’t work! Come on! Nil desperandum! Look! If you think someone loves you, you are halfway to loving them. It’s the first step! It never fails! Calum, you and Harry will have to help. Now, this is what we’ll do.
Talking together, hatching this cunning plan, they left the Globe Theatre and walked along the river towards Waterloo Bridge.