Poor put-upon Bertie is still struggling to escape his overbearing mother’s influence, his yoga lessons, and his pink bedroom, while wondering why new baby brother Ulysses looks uncomfortably like his psychotherapist. Bruce has returned from London to land, on his feet and rent-free, in the arms of heiress Julia Donald.
But all is not well among the residents of 44 Scotland Street: painter Angus’s dog Cyril is under threat of execution, while Pat and hopeless romantic Matthew are on the verge of making the most terrible mistake of their lives.
Can they rescue things from the brink? Or will the residents of 44 Scotland Street descend into chaos?
“Chinos,” she said suddenly.
Matthew looked up, clearly puzzled. “Chinos?”
“Yes,” said Pat. “Those trousers they call chinos. They’re made of some sort of thick, twill material. You know the sort?”
Matthew thought for a moment. He glanced down at his crushed-strawberry corduroy trousers; he knew his trousers were controversial—he had always had controversial trousers, but he rather liked this pair and he had seen a lot of people recently wearing trousers like them in Dundas Street. Should he have been wearing chinos? Was this Pat’s way of telling him that she would prefer it if he had different trousers?
“I know what chinos are,” he said. “I saw a pair of chinos in a shop once. They were ... ” He tailed off. He had rather liked the chinos, he remembered, but he was not sure whether he should say so to Pat: there might be something deeply unfashionable about chinos which he did not yet know.
“Why are they called chinos?” Pat asked.
Matthew shrugged. “I have no idea,” he said. “I just haven’t really thought about it ... until now.” He paused. “But why were you thinking of chinos?”
Pat hesitated. “I just saw a pair,” she said. “And ... and of course Bruce used to wear them. Remember?”
Matthew had not liked Bruce, although he had tolerated his company on occasion in the Cumberland Bar. Matthew was a modest person, and Bruce’s constant bragging had annoyed him. But he had also felt jealous of the way in which Bruce could capture Pat’s attention, even if it had become clear that she had eventually seen through him.
“Yes. He did wear them, didn’t he? Along with that stupid rugby jersey. He was such a ... ” He did not complete the sentence. There was really no word which was capable of capturing just the right mixture of egoism, hair gel and preening self-satisfaction that made up Bruce’s personality.
Pat moved away from Matthew’s desk and gazed out of the window. “I think that I just saw Bruce,” she said. “I think he might be back.”
Matthew rose from his desk and joined her at the window. ‘Now?’ he said. ‘Out there?”
Pat shook her head. “No,” she said. “Further up. I was on the bus and I saw him—I’m pretty sure I did.”
Matthew sniffed. “What was he doing?”
“Walking,” said Pat. “Wearing chinos and a rugby jersey. Just walking.”
“Well, I don’t care,” said Matthew. “He can come back if he likes. Makes no difference to me. He’s such a ... ” Again Matthew failed to find a word. He looked at Pat. There was something odd about her manner; it was as if she was thinking about something, and this raised a sudden presentiment in Matthew. What if Pat were to fall for Bruce again? Such things happened; people encountered one another after a long absence and fell right back in love. It was precisely the sort of thing that novelists liked to write about; there was something heroic, something of the epic, in doing a thing like that. And if she fell back in love with Bruce, then she would fall out of love with me, thought Matthew; if she ever loved me, that is.