Meanwhile, the shade of a man is cupping his hands and peering into the windows of Northpoint café. It’s closed, of course, but it’s set up in there as if for a feast, or a banquet, with tablecloths patterned with sparrow-hawks and wild horses, and vases with sprigs of heather. He turns to the boy who’s with him, a translucent lad with his headphones on, altogether lost in another world. ‘Look, Fleance,’ says the man. ‘Look who’s sitting in my chair!’ ‘Da-ad,’ says the boy, ‘it’s Flean-Z. Like Jay-Z’. ‘Bad-azz,’ says the man, but Flean-Z has gone already, vanished. The man taps on the window at the small black and white cat who is curled up on the very cushion that still bears the imprint of the royal posterior. The cat stares back right through him at the empty street outside.
The life of the self-employed writer and artist is full of receipts for Her Majesty’s tax inspector to inspect. These usually pile up on one side of my desk, along with the lists and the fluff and the pencil shavings, until I am forced to deal with them by putting them in a box file and closing the lid firmly. But lately I looked more closely at them, realising that they consisted mostly of receipts from the cafes in which I can no longer sit and write. I sort through them all, remembering the libraries, museums, the shopping centres, and stations, until I find, at the very bottom of the pile, a receipt from Northpoint café, with its ghosts of princes, past and present. I smooth it out and put it on the top of the pile.