Service station lover

I don’t know if you read the New Statesman web pages, oh beautiful Ritazza woman, but if you do then

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So I am about half way through my latest tour of the UK, with my show about the delights of turning 40. It is a relentless routine of travelling, usually by car, interrupted by two hours of talking to a room full of strangers, then back on to the motorway for a four hour drive home in the dark.

Were I more successful I would be able to pay a man to drive me around and to lug my props and programmes into the theatre, but financial constraints dictate that I am a one man band doing my own driving and lifting and then selling my own DVDs out of a plastic bag in the bar after the show. My guess is that Ricky Gervais and Russell Brand don’t do any of these things when they are on tour. And if they do I am sure they have bags made out of gold and diamonds to carry their merchandise around in. But I am not jealous, because I have my integrity, which is better than having loads of money and TV contracts and supermodels who want to sleep with you.

As I believe I have remarked before, it is quite a solitary existence, though I have enjoyed the experience a lot more this year than last, when the recent break-up of a relationship somewhat heightened the loneliness. I am mainly enjoying the seemingly endless hours of my own company this time, though inevitably it can take its toll on one’s mental balance.

I find myself looking forward to the stop offs at service stations along the way more than is healthy for a grown man. When I was a child and stuck in the car on the long trek from Somerset to Middlesbrough to see my grandparents I would try to convince my dad to stop at every single service station, relishing the chance to purchase sweets or hang around amongst the video games and fruit machines. They seemed like magical kingdoms of wonder and I resolved that when I was an adult and doing the driving myself I would not let a service station pass without stopping off to sample its delights.

Alas the unforeseen practicalities of real life mean that this is not possible, but a small residue of that childish excitement remains, despite long years of experience of the disappointment and expense of these crappy oases of the road. I tend to favour the Moto establishments, largely because they tend to have Marks and Spencer Food Halls in them, which means that one can get some guarantee of the quality of the food you are going to consume. Expensive on the High Street, these are actually rather competitive in the super-expensive world of the service station and it is much easier to find something healthy to eat.

I have though become slightly obsessed with the coffee outlets at this particular chain, Caffe Ritazza, which are probably only familiar to people who do a lot of driving or who spend time at airports. I am glad I live in the 21st century where it is possible to get a reasonable coffee at such locations, as another memory from childhood is how awful the cafes used to be at these places. I remember my granddad nearly having a heart attack when he offered to buy a round of teas for the family and it cost him fifty pence, so God knows how he would react to being charged £2.69 for one milky coffee I do not know. In many ways it is a relief that he never lived to see this twisted world.

Perhaps due to my lack of meaningful human contact I have become slightly obsessed with the model who features in the over sized photographs that decorate the wall of every Caffe Ritazza. She is a very pretty brunette, who we see enjoying espressos in three separate shots. In one she is laughing delightfully, in another smiling coquettishly and in the last she is brooding, looking seriously out at the world from over her coffee cup. I feel that this triptych gives me a perfect view into this woman’s entire personality.

She can be very happy, normally happy or thoughtful, which is surely all a man can ask in a potential partner and consequently over the last few weeks I have fallen hopelessly and truly in love with her. She is, after all, the only constant in my itinerant lifestyle. She is always there for me. Always the same. I believe we are destined to be together and I look forward to meeting her for real. I am so often at the Caffe Ritazza that she so obviously loves to frequent that it is only a matter of time before our paths cross.

I know that she will probably be cautious about men’s motives for being interested in her – after all I am sure she must enjoy a healthy discount on all beverages, which would be enough to swing it for a man like my granddad who hated to be overcharged for hot drinks. But I am sure I could convince her that the love I feel for her is genuine and deep and spiritual, based on an understanding of her soul through intense study of the three emotions that she has put on public display.

I could even learn to love her if it turns out that in reality her face is not six feet wide, as it appears in the photographs, though I will of course be disappointed if she has more regular sized features. But I love her so much that I could forgive this deception, but only provided that she never exhibits any other emotion than extreme happiness, normal happiness and sexy brooding.

I am very impressed that someone who drinks as much coffee as she does never seems in the least bit irritated or overwrought. That is one of the things that made me fall in love with her. That and her gigantic mouth.

I don’t know if you read the New Statesman web pages, oh beautiful Ritazza woman, but if you do then please get in touch. Especially if you also get a discount at Marks and Spencers. Then we can arrange a meeting. Perhaps we could rendezvous on one of those comfy coin-operated massage chairs that all Moto service stations seem to have positioned right outside the toilets, which I have never in all my time in these establishments seen anyone actually using.

I don’t know if that’s because people don’t like the idea of being massaged so close to where people are urinating. Perhaps they would feel self-conscious about having to acknowledge all the people exiting the lavatories, whilst they sit in a big vibrating chair. But whatever the case, it makes for the perfect meeting place as they are always free.

If not then perhaps Caffe Ritazza could just send me copies of the gigantic photos so I can put them up around my house, so I still feel like I have a meaningful relationship once the tour is over.

Richard Herring began writing and performing comedy when he was 14. His career since Oxford has included a successful partnership with Stewart Lee and his hit one-man show Talking Cock
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