So there I was, a-wandering round the supermarket again. I was badly in need of oven cleaning chemicals. To clean the bakery ovens in my little high street bakery shop, since you ask. You may wonder why I don’t buy the industrial grade stuff, which you spray on using a trigger pack, leave for half an hour and then wipe off the suddenly loosened carbon deposits with a damp cloth, leaving two sparkling stainless steel double fan steam injected 2x2kw 3-phase 8 deck bakery oven interiors. They’re the ovens I’ve got. Pretty damned raunchy, yes?
The reason I don’t use that stuff any more is that the fumes fuck with my head. It says on the packaging not to breathe in the fumes but the way I see it, you should know why. They should give you a reason why you shouldn’t breathe in the fumes. Like ‘Do not breathe fumes. They will fuck with your head. And make you cough quite violently. Be warned.’ That’s all it would have to say. Also the last time I used it, a couple of drops dripped from the top of the oven onto my unprotected head and dissolved the hair and the top two or three layers of skin. So I spent the following week or so wandering round with two large red blobs of raw scalp throbbing through the freshly clipped short greyness of my normally quite phenomenal head. And I use the word ‘head’ only after careful study of my 6th edition Concise Oxford Dictionary, new 1976 imprint. It’s that good. So I stick with domestic oven cleaners now. They’re much more forgiving if they drip on you. Like most of the women I’ve known, come to think of it.
Anyway people, there I was wandering wistfully past the pasta and rice aisle, thinking lewd thoughts involving warm semolina pudding complete with a central oasis of seedless raspberry jam, a green foam backed scourer and the bird who plays Martin Clunes’ wife in Doc Martin, when a local pensioner verbally molested me.
I recognised her. She had once asked my permission to harvest the seeds of some harebells which had temporarily taken over the raised paved area behind my shop on the side road down to the municipal multi (2) storey car park. I told her, take all the seeds you want, I don’t give a flying fuck lady, just don’t tell anyone where yo got yo seeds, especially if they turn out to be a bit dodgy, know what I mean? She filled a small paper bag with the seeds and departed, gracefully.
This lady frequently wears brightly patterned wellington boots, an item of footwear which I presume is created by laying a colourful piece of soft cloth over a rubber inner piece on a heated mould, probably, and coating the whole with a thick weatherproof layer of clear flexible plastic material before welding the sole, heal and various supporting and strengthening welts and seams in place. Do you know how fucking painful and time absorbing it is to spend your entire life wondering how every fucking thing that surrounds you is put together? It’s painful. And it’s time consuming. I can tell you that much. Fuck me, but my life is great.
“I’m wondering where I am,” was her opening line. I’ve had people try and talk me into the sack before, but never yet by a seventy three year old feigning geographical amnesia.
“You’re here. I’m here. In the bloody Co Op. It’s where we all are.” I told her.
“Yes dear, I know that. I just don’t know where I am.” She’d started putting eye shadow on that morning, I could see that. There was a patch of turquoise above the outside third of each eye, looking like it was waiting to fade through a palette of more blue, or possibly green, or if she’d really wanted to arouse my curiosity, violet shades, heading towards the bit where thankfully there was a gap between her separate eyebrows, but a just a little bit lower. But it looked like she’d lost interest after green and returned the colours unused to the old dressing table, never to be retrieved. Leaving, as I told you, a patch of turquoise hovering unsure of its purpose above each of her eyes. I said nothing about this though. When I was a wee kid and my mum was getting ready to go to the Hackney Aryan Wives Bingo Club, she described getting made up as putting her warpaint on. She used to look quite glamorously fierce. Like Lauren Bacall as a cagefighter. I was imagining how long the harebell lady would have lasted against her with a posse of North London door to door ice cream salesman howling support for the local girl. Not long, I can fucking tell you. She’d have needed a soothing poultice made from a half melted block of Neapolitan. But now my mum’s been dead for six years and my dad’s not looking too bright just lately either. Eighty three and still smoking thirty a day for Queen and country.
“I think I just asked somebody where something was, and they said they didn’t work here. So I don’t know where I am.” Do you know, I could be the first human to explore the frigid wastes of Callisto, Jupiter’s second largest moon, and there would be an insane geriatric waiting behind the nearest snow-dune, ready to pounce on me and infect me with their inability to cope with life without dragging the nearest innocent shopkeeping passer by into the whole sorry fucking disaster.
“As I said, you’re here.” I’m so patient and kind, I’ll be the first living soul to be accorded sanctity. “And what were you looking for? I might be able to help? It’s only a small town centre supermarket after all.”
“That’s part of the problem. I can’t remember what it is that I want. I think I wrote it on a piece of paper, but I think I’ve lost the paper. Or left it in my bedroom.” Next to the unused eyeshadow, I’d reckon. She looked me in the eye and then hit the side of her head. “It’s in there somewhere.”
“Well, I hope you find it then” I said, hurrying off to the household cleaning materials and soft tissue paper section, past the pet foods and adjacent to the bottled water. Thank fuck we weren’t in Lidl. I wouldn’t have known where to start looking for anything.
When I awoke at 4.45 this morning, I honestly thought that it was going to be just another day, with nothing out of the ordinary happening. See? The first cut is the deepest and the first thought is the rightest. If you speak with the right accent, that rhymes. Nearly.