Friday, 3 May 2013

Mr. Mojica's Weather Forecast

It's 1993. It is 6.30AM at Catford Sorting Office in south-east London. 'What do you reckon then, Ray,' I ask, 'is it going to rain?'

Ray Lester considers his answer in silence. At first it seems like he hasn't heard the question.

He's a little bloke, getting on in years, wrinkled like Sid James and, as Gilbert has noted on a few occasions, he bears a striking resemblance to Parker, Lady Penelope's bloodhound-faced butler in the children's puppet show Thunderbirds. Whenever Gilbert and Ray are arguing, a cruelly timed yus m'lady from the former tends to settle the matter in the same way that a chess match can be settled by kicking over the board and laughing in your opponent's face.

Ray often gives me a lift along Randlesdown Road to where I begin my walk. For the short duration of the car journey we share cigarettes and listen to his tapes of Frank Sinatra, amongst others. Once I asked the name of a particular singer whose songs had begun to grow on me.

'You know, Ray, I'm really getting to like this stuff,' I told him.

He said it was Matt Monro, adding 'he had a good voice on him.'

'So where was he from?'

'Used to work on the buses, he did.'

'I mean he's from London, then?'

'Yeah he was, but he died. He was a little bloke, he was: a midget. He had a great big head.'

It was one of those conversations I'll remember until the day I die, but back in the present, there's still the issue of the weather, and what it's going to do.

Ray doesn't seem to laugh much, but when something amuses him he wears a sly grin. 'Don't ask me. Lino's the expert.'

Lino Mojico - whose first name is pronounced Lee-noh - is another little bloke. He has a huge family back in the Philippines, and no-one quite knows how old he is, but then we've never thought to ask. Thirties, forties, fifties - no-one can be sure except perhaps Mr. Mojica himself. He is man of mystery in many respects.

'What's it going to do, Lino?,' Ray asks.

Mr. Mojica pauses from throwing letters into his frame, then smiles broadly. 'Ah - stay dry. I think it will stay dry.'

An ominous grey sky can be observed through the row of windows set high up in the wall behind us. As we leave the sorting office, we take our waterproof jackets. They're cumbersome and a pain to carry around, but walking about in the rain for an hour or more can get pretty miserable.

As it happens, the rain holds off.

'That's incredible, Lino. How do you do it?'

'Ah - I don't know. I just guess,' he laughs.

The next day, Mr. Mojica forecasts rain. The sky is brilliant blue. The day is warm, and yet nevertheless it rains. I am amazed.

'I swear I'll never doubt your weather forecast again, Mr. Mojica,' I tell him, genuinely impressed.

He laughs politely.

The third day, Ray asks, 'what is it going to do today, Lino?'

'Ah - no need for waterproof today. Today it will be dry.'

Ray grins as if to say bollocks.

As we leave the office, it is pissing down, a tropical storm almost. Three minutes later, the skies clear and the rain stops, exactly as Lino predicted.

'You're a fucking dark horse, Mr. Mojica,' Ray tells him, almost smiling. 'I tip my hat to you.'

'Ha ha! I just guess. Sometimes I am right.'

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