I told you a little while ago that I was hoping to have a week away by myself in early June, most likely in Corfu, Crete, Patmos or Symi. Yes? Well it didn’t quite work out how I planned. I got sucked into a game of bluff with the holiday company website and it turns out I’m going to have a week in Rhodes. In late June. It’s all good though.
My wife is a nurse, what they call one of the caring professions. At the moment she’s working in a unit where they rehabilitate amputees. Which seems quite strange to me, as if I’d had a bit of me chopped off, the only rehabilitation that would make me happy would be if the absent member were to be replaced, regrown or rejuvenated somehow. Anything less would leave me sobbing with dismay and despair. Which most days is how I finish up anyway, but physically I appear to be whole. She can come across to the uninitiated as somewhat fierce at times, can my wife, so most of her patients tend to recover surprisingly quickly, fearing the consequences of disappointing the lovely little Juanita. But they die, some of them, despite her best efforts to achieve the opposite . You just can’t help some people.
Anyway, she’s not coming with me this time. I needed a haircut earlier this week, so that when I go in ten or eleven days time it will have a chance to look lived in again. There’s nothing more likely to annoy me than seeing people with freshly cut hair, especially if it’s like mine, so I tend to avoid mirrors for the first couple of days. I often wish I could avoid my mate Richie, the barber across the road who enjoys my patronage, because he’s quite foul mouthed and he always remarks on what a hairy bastard I am. You’d think he’d be grateful, after all the business he gets out of me.
This week however he seemed very subdued. He didn’t ask me if I was going to find a pensioner to shag, which is the one vital ingredient which he thinks a solo holiday should invariably contain. He didn’t mention the prodigious amounts of hair which constantly sprout in clusters from my ears, nose, eyebrows and neck – he just trimmed, clippered and snipped the offending growths to a state of relative order. Almost in silence.
“What’s up Richie?” I asked. “You seem a bit down today. Julie (his bird) okay? Bobby (his dachshund) okay? You haven’t gone and got a dose?”
“Nah…it’s her next door. The competition. I’d give her one, you know, but I can’t help but think she’s taking trade off me. I don’t know me old mate, things are changing. Don’t know if I like it.”
Her next door is a friend of mine, Lorrie, who’s recently opened a tanning salon, beauty parlour and nail bar next door to Richie. When she chats, she tends to emphasise important points by sucking in air over her clenched brilliantly whitened teeth while heaving her quite substantial bosom outwards. It’s quite a sight to see, and when we chat, I always do my best to drag the convo out as long as possible and induce her to emphasise as many important points as possible.
“Oh, Lorrie. Nice, isn’t she? I don’t think she’s really taking too much trade from you, though she did tell me the other day that she’s been quite surprised by the number of youngsters, you know, boys, young blokes, who go in for eyebrow shaping and threading and all that. Vain little fuckers. When I told her I’m going away in a couple of weeks she offered to wax me. All over. All fucking over, Richie. Back, front and down under. How about that? ”
I had waited until his hands were empty before telling him that. I didn’t want to upset him while he was holding a dangerously sharp pair of hairdressing scissors. He looked at me in the mirror. He sighed. He spoke.
“Fuck me no. You reckon she would? Dirty little bitch.” This is what passes for stimulating social intercourse between two small business owners at the end of a busy Tuesday in our town.
“I reckon she would you know Rich. I’m not going to let her though. I’ll save myself for you.” I teased him. He looked at me in the mirror again.
“Seven and a half quid. And fuck off. See ya me old mate.” He’s really not himself.
When I got home I had my first sea bass of the year what me other old mate Robbie brought in for me, flapping and gasping. I told him he really should get a refill for his ventilator. Ha ha. As I was washing up, the phone rang. It was my cousine, Shazza.
“Awright, Grazza?” she asked.
“Ello Shazza, you awright?” I replied. We always speak properly after exchanging the old childhood greeting. She was after some family information which had been the cause of some disagreement at a family party the previous weekend. My aunty Nina, who since the death of my mum eight years ago, considers herself to be some sort of family matriarch but the rest of us think is a batty old trout, had disputed that my dad was as old as my uncle Morris, his brother, had told her, his sister in law, that my dad actually is. He is. Eighty four. Which is what Morris had told Nina. Which she didn’t believe. So I confirmed that fact for Shazza, who will probably spend the next few months trying fruitlessly to convince Nina. Personally I wouldn’t give a shit, and I’d let her think whatever she wants to think.
“Of course, if I’d been at the party I could have told her myself. When was it by the way?” I asked Shazza. Sharon really. There was a silence.
“erm, they didn’t invite you again, did they?”
“Would I have gone if they had?”
“erm, no. But you upset her last time didn’t you.” Yes I did. I told her that the only reason I liked to get invitations to her parties was so that I could refuse to go. And if she didn’t invite me then what was the fucking point of me refusing to go to her fucking parties in a pokey fucking village hall in the middle of fucking nowhere surrounded by all her fucking yokel rellies and didn’t she know I couldn’t remember how old my gran was when she died and why does it fucking matter how fucking old everyfuckingbody is all the fucking time? Worry about important fucking stuff! I accept that one shouldn’t normally converse so with a seventy eight year old, especially if they’re related to you (if only by marriage), but it seemed the right thing to say at the time.
I had consumed rather a lot of the alcohol which Nina and Morris had very kindly provided, so it could be said that they were partly responsible for the evening’s upsetting scenes. But yes, it’s probably best that I avoid their little do’s for a while yet. Family. What can you do?
I went for my daily 7.78 mile bike ride this evening. On the path ahead at one point I thought I saw a young moorhen struggling to achieve flight, its wings flapping ineffectively in the gentle Saturday evening breeze and failing to achieve lift. As I drew closer, it became clear that what I thought was a bird was actually a small black plastic bag of dogshit. So someone had carefully bent over, scooped their dog’s bodily wastes into a bag which they had obviously brought with them, tied it up and deposited it on the footpath next to the small pond where the moorhens live a mere two hundred yards or so from one of the many bins provided for depositing bags of turds. By the council. Life is full of these illuminating little moments when the deepest meanings and machinations of the workings of the universe in all its sacred and sublime beauty are briefly revealed in a blinding flash of cosmic revelation. All because of a sandwich bag full of shit which was left on a gravel footpath. It happens all the time.
So yes. I’ll see you at Gatwick early on the 18th. Bring a towel? And some anti-perspirant? You won’t need anything else.