I was talking to Alice over a late breakfast in the Red Lion. Well into our first gin and tonic, I suddenly realised she was reading a newspaper, as if interested in its contents.
“I’m not in favour of making a fuss over this royal wedding business,” she announced abruptly. “It’s against my republican beliefs.”
“Your what?” I coughed into my gin, which couldn’t have been a pretty sight, but a shock is a shock and you have to react somehow.
“It’s against my republican beliefs,” Alice repeated huffily. I think she’d caught my splutter of incredulity.
“You don’t have any beliefs, republican or otherwise. You’re a cynic like me,” I managed to reply, once I’d sucked the gin dribbles back.
“We all have our beliefs. They’re the most precious part of what we are.” Alice intoned. She turned a page of the newspaper, scanning it with pursed, judicious lips.
“You don’t need beliefs, Alice. They don’t do you any good.” I reached across to pat her arm. A touchy-feely thing to do I know, but the situation seemed to require it.
“I need a few beliefs of my own, surely?” Alice looked away from the pages of the newspaper, frowning at my hand on her arm.
“Not even a few. There are no half measures with cynicism.”
“Not even one?”
“Not even a small one.”
“Oh... a slippery slope you think?”
“A very slippery slope indeed Alice. Beliefs suck the juice out of you.”
“Hmm... You may be right - it has been known. Anyway, I know a few people with beliefs...”
“And you wouldn’t want to be like them.”
“Not bloody likely.”
“Of course you wouldn’t.” I removed my hand from her arm. I could see the point was made. Alice would soon be back to normal.
“You’re right I suppose... I’ll put it down to a momentary lapse of concentration. Ready for another?” She folded the newspaper, tossed it onto the next table and lifted her empty glass, the universal sign of another round.
“Okay, but no more talk of beliefs. How about something to eat too?” I pushed my glass across the table.
“Good idea – I’ll ask for a slice of lemon this time.” Alice took our empty glasses to the bar.