I was pulling closed the midnight-black gloss painted wrought iron gate which allows access to the rear yard of the shop from the side road. You take two steps up from the back door and you’re there. It’s a masterpiece of concise geometry with an ancient flint wall on your left hand side, a sad yet proud remainder of when farmland stood where now cars and people make their ways, ignorant of what lies beneath.
Jules from the pharmacy was passing by, her long blond mane hidden beneath the hood of her coat. She was smoking a cigarette, causing a cancerous halo to linger above her head in the still evening air.
“Just finished darling?” she asked me. She always calls me darling. Jules always calls everyone darling, so I don’t take it as a come on. I would though. However, I’d have thought it was pretty fucking obvious that I’d finished for the day as it was gone 5.30 and my shop was in total and utter darkness.
“Yup” said I, as always at this stage of the proceedings of the day, loathe to waste words.
“You alright darling?” inquired Jules with a touch of the solicitous about her, a smile poking out from the fur trimmed hood of her ashtray scented parka.
“Ah now, I would be Jules my darling, if I didn’t have this need to go back and check that I’d turned off all the equipment which needs turning off, then checking and re-checking that I’d set and then re-set the alarm, then double check that I’ve locked the door. Every fucking night.” It’s because I’ve been doing it five or six days a week for over twenty years. It’s all been relegated to some subconscious sub-routine deep within the dark recesses of my everyday awareness. And I don’t register that I’ve gone through the daily routine. So I go back and check. It’s wearing.
“That’s your OCD darling. That’s what that is. See?” Jules was wearing a smoke wreathed smile of triumph and superiority.
“Jules. That’s not OCD. Sitting on the second step down in my front porch every morning before I leave for work, smacking each side of my forehead alternately twenty seven times each starting with the right hand side, with the heel of the pair of kidskin ankle boots what I wear when I go on Eastern and Central European city-break type long weekends between November and March every year, in order to ensure that I’m not tempted to call too many people ‘cunt’ through the day. That’s OCD. Nutting every third lamppost on the way to work so that I’m not involved in a tragic bridge collapse. That’s fucking OCD. Forgetting if I turned the oven off, that’s just my crap memory.
“Is it darling? Is that what you do? How are the family?” That was Jules’ answer. God I love that girl. She has pert breasts for a woman in her late forties and a deep black abyss where her soul should be.
I went on my habitual bike ride along the estuary footpath and then the esplanade on Thursday. Picking my way quite carefully through the deep drifts of shingle, blown up from the shore by the winter storms what we’ve been having. When I got to the beginning of the esplanade, I was shouted at by an obese woman sitting in a car, eating a family sized tray of fish and chips. All to herself.
“You know you’re breaking the law?” She asked.
“I am?” I asked.
“You know that it’s illegal to cycle on the esplanade?” I’ve been cycling along the esplanade for fortyfive years, man, teenie and boy. Habituation should trump legislation. There’s a catchy motto by which to assert ones rights.
“It is?” I asked.
“You could collide with a walker?” I peered through the winter spray along the deserted esplanade into the misted invisibility half a mile away.
“I could? They’d have to try fucking hard to get under my front wheel, wouldn’t they?” I have to swerve to avoid the odd dog in summer occasionally, but that’s usually down to the innate stupidity of people who think that their beloved dogs are simply four legged people who can responsibly be allowed the freedom of an extending leash in crowded public places and who happen to like gulping down nuggets of other people’s shit. And then let them lick their faces.
“Anyway, it’s a bye-law? You shouldn’t cycle there?” And it’s a great shame there’s no bye-law regarding people who are repulsively fat and intrusive.
“Are you victimising me?” I asked her. “Because I choose to burn some of my calories?”
That was about it really. She was gone when I returned after doing my seven circuits of the martello tower and not finding anyone to mow down in a tragic episode of cycle-rage.
So I came home and had a grilled sea bass what I’d got out of the freezer last night. I had it with a bit of lemon to squeeze over it and a bread roll. The next bike ride will account for the energy content.