Simon, 60, prides himself on being a free spirit. Since his divorce 15 years ago he has lived on a houseboat, its extortionate London mooring fee funded by a healthy inheritance. Over the years has worked as an actor, picture researcher, Tai Chi teacher and gardener, to his family’s and ex-wife’s dismay. Now his only criteria for employment is that it should leave him free to go to Goa all winter and, ideally, shock his bourgeois friends. He hears about EatNow, a new restaurant delivery company, and signs up as a “rider”.
Swooping through the city on his fixie, Simon feels a profound sense of contentment. This is the job he was made for. No office, no desk, no notice period, the odd free samosa and an endless stream of waitresses to flirt with. As a bonus, his physique is wirier than ever. One evening, Simon picks up an order for two from Ottolenghi destined for a mews in Camden. His ex-wife Lydia answers the door. Neither of them says anything for a second. Then they both open with insults – Lydia to remark on his “fetching kagoul”, Simon to ask if she’s about to pass off the food as her own. Within minutes, it has escalated to a full row.
A well-groomed man around their age approaches the house, holding a bottle of wine, and asks Lydia if everything is all right. “Oh it’s absolutely all right,” snaps Simon before she can answer. “Good to see Lydia’s finally realised she can’t cook.” He mounts his bike and starts bouncing. over the cobbles, but before he’s out of earshot hears Lydia say: “No idea what that was all about. These corporate giants really should check their minions.”
He’s not sure if he’s more insulted by her feigned ignorance, or having his freedom so rudely re-framed.