Occasionally it feels like the Universe is a kindly place, casting a warm glow of happiness and satisfaction over me, and at those times the world is good.
As a for instance the other day, a group of Scummy Mummies were in my shop showing off to each other their heavily subsidised nail-art, slag-tags and occasional offspring in the plural. It’s hard to tell which children belong to which mothers, they all look and sound the same and you often see different children with different women, I suspect it’s got something to do with attendance allowances and educational special needs statementing. Anyway, one of the more vile of the hags was proudly displaying a new tag that she’s had tatted on her rear shoulder.
“It’s my granddaughter Tegan-Kye-Lillie. She’s a year old. I had to have it done off a photo, cos I haven’t seen her more than twice , Malook* left her muvver when the baby was tiny, he didn’t want her to grow up seeing them fighting all the time. And that.” That gives you a very approximate idea of her speaking style. More than five minutes of it and you get a fucking migraine. Despite myself and against all good judgement, I stopped and looked. I felt compelled, mainly because due to the tax and benefits system I’ve unwillingly contributed a large amount of the cost of the child’s upbringing as well as the grandmother’s rather dodgy looking artwork.
“Does it really look like that?” I asked. You could have cut the air with a chainsaw. They were only in my shop because the other café down the road was temporarily closed due to a Border Agency raid and they didn’t have any staff.
“What?” She asked.
“The child.” I explained. “Does it really look like that? The funny shaped pointy head. The strange circles where its eyes should be. Kids don’t look like that. Did the tattooist’s hand slip or something? Or was he drunk?” Or blind perhaps, but I didn’t say that. I didn’t want to seem rude.
“This tattoo cost me £300. My Tegan-Kye-Lillie’s gorgeous. What do you mean? Course she looks like this.” I gaped, speechless. I don’t know what’s worse. It’s either the ugliest child on the planet or the picture was done by the world’s least talented tattooist. Every month without fail I write out a cheque for the tax man for an amount that would pay the mortgage on a sizeable house in the country. I’m so pleased that my money’s being so wisely allocated to the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, who quickly finished their drinks and left, leaving an awful mess of crumbs and spilled drinks behind them. I always find it quite satisfying ridding the shop of the poor and the vulnerable when they are particularly pissing me off..
Occasionally it feels that the Universe is playing observational games with me. I was sitting on a bus the other day and noticed a patch of paint was missing from the leg of a seat, leaving a two inch high scar in the shape of the African continent upright on the metal leg. But Madagascar was missing. How likely is that? If you tipped Africa up on end would Madagascar be likely to slip down, crashing into Antarctica? What would happen to gravity? Would it turn horizontal? Would there be millions of Africans each the size of a molecule clinging onto the Veldt as it reared up towards a carelessly discarded copy of Metro? Or, being so small, would gravity still hold them down so that they didn’t even realise that anything untoward had happened? Would we still get unbelievably generous offers via email from Nigeria? Perhaps it’s already happened and our existence is now perpendicular to its previous orientation. You’d never know.
And then sometimes the Universe is just plain malevolent. On Monday morning I heard that a friend of mine had died on Saturday of a cancer that was diagnosed in his lung and his brain back in February. Four months journey from a cough and a headache to the grave. Then on Monday afternoon my friend Jill and her granddaughter Jesse came over to tell me that Jill’s husband had slipped on a ladder and broken his neck. I felt I was running out of friends and acquaintances fast.
Thursday came and I heard news of yet another friend. He’s got a lovely big house in one of the nearby villages, with a converted railway car on his land. He’s got a good business building garden structures, stables and workshops, and he owns a small island off the coast of West Africa where he’s in the process of creating a fish farm. He has a gorgeous wife and two lovely children. Plenty of money in the bank. Most people think he’s got the ideal life. He gave his gardener a list of jobs which would keep him busy for three or four hours, with the instruction to call in to the workshop when he’d finished to collect his wages, and then locked himself in the workshop and hung himself from a roof beam.
Sometimes the Universe makes no sense to me at all.
*Malook: it’s actually two words. My and Luke. Her son. Similarly, when excusing her addiction to prescription painkillers, maback is often cited.