scorcher

I was sitting with a coffee and Wendy a friend. She was telling me about when her mum died a while ago.

She was telling me about how the undertaker had asked if the recently deceased had shown any preference as to what clothes she would like to be despatched in. Bearing in mind the proviso that it is forbidden to be cremated whilst wearing any clothing made of PVC. Fuck me! How about that. PVC ist verboten!

“So, Wend, did he er, know your mum then? And if so, how well? To feel the need to tell you something like that? Was mum a bit of a pingu?” I had to know. I knew Wendy’s mum when she was a locally respected breeder of miniature longhaired badger hounds. When Wendy was but a toddler in fact. I cast my mind back, trying to recall if I had had ever detected an unexpected, intrusive petro-chemical smell about her or an unlikely sheen of perspiration on her brow on a cool day. There was one occasion, but a child’s paddling pool and a tub of swarfega also figured strongly in that memory, so it may have simply been a day-dream I had once after overindulging in a dispenser pack of hermesetas. Wicked things.

Wendy blushed, she often does.

“It’s not something I’m going to ask my dad about, is it? Anyway, we had her dressed in a nice country outfit. Like a tweed jacket and skirt. She looked lovely.” She always did. The phone rang.

It was Fretful Mathew.

“Hello, Graham,” he said in his best impersonation of an English Country Self Harming Depressive. “Sorry I didn’t come in yesterday, I had to play at a funeral and it over-ran. My fault, probably. It usually is.”

“What was the deceased wearing Mathew? Did you smell a smell like a brand new pacamac? Were there signs next to the grave warning people not to smoke?” I asked him. There was a confused and mournful silence on the line.

“I er, I don’t know, Graham. No, I don’t think so…er would you serve me if I came into town now? I know it’s late, it’s my fault I fell asleep in front of the television watching the news and when I woke up there was a wretched programme called Doctors on and…”

I broke in with a lie.

“Oh, I’m sorry Mathew. It’s been so quiet that I decided to close early and skip off with a young lady for an hour or so, I’ve known her an awfully long time, her name’s Wendy and her mum died and she wasn’t wearing PVC. It’s a long story.”

“If I call a taxi now I can be there in twenty minutes….”

“Sorry Mathew. I’m just closing now.”

“Er Graham, what’s PVC?” Mathew has led a sheltered life. I did in fact close up for the day shortly afterwards, but returned home to the warm and voluptuous bosom of my family rather than skipping off with Wendy for the afternoon.

 

When I walk to work in my shop in the mornings, now in darkness due to the eternal mechanics of the solar system and stuff, I cross a bridge over the river. There are usually two or three little egrets prowling the river’s edge, preying on small innocent aquatic creatures. They have very sharp bills, do egrets, so they’re very good at spearing things, as well as seeing off the much larger herring gulls, which are vile thugs. this morning, in the dim early morning semi-light, there was a grey heron standing motionless at the water’s edge. I stood and watched it for a few minutes, until it became aware of my presence and flew silently off seawards. Made my day, that did. So much so that I sat down and had a lovely coffee before doing anything. That was also partly because I’d got to work ten minutes early as well. For no good reason.

I went for a haircut when I’d finished today. Richie’s got a new woman in his life. And he’s looking to get rid of his old boat and get into sailing. He’s currently looking at a nice thirty three footer. He showed me forty seven photos of the boat he’s looking to buy. And then he showed me another seventy two photos of  various boats he’s looked at which he’s decided not to buy, but which he keeps as a reference to remind him of stuff to avoid. He explained every one of those reasons to me, why he will now avoid certain models and sizes. I once had a vague dream that I’d like to get a boat, hang around down at the river, go out on day trips, maybe build up to a longer voyage, after getting a few qualifications and the necessary experience, of course.

Thanks to today’s haircut, that dream has evaporated. Thanks, Richie me old mate. I decided I prefer it when Richie’s being loudly insulting about my ability to grow vast quantities of hair in improbable places, and even when he’s being vile and disgusting about how he thinks a holiday is only a holiday if you spend most of it performing sexual interference on willing ladies of a pensionable age.

So that’s this week’s voyage into the abyss. Chin chin.

 

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les visitours

So there we were. Fretful Mathew was standing poised on the edge of the abyss, undecided as to whether he should disclose his terrible secret to me. I, on the other hand, was waiting for him to decide whether he wanted to start with a double pot of tea and two sliced cheddar sandwiches and a freshly made strawberry tart, or, more likely, a bowl of homemade minestrone soup EVEN THOUGH  IT CONTAINED ONIONS  and a buttered poppy seeded french bread roll. It really is French you know. I import frozen raw dough and prove, condition and cook it on my own premises using my own French built bakery equipment, which cost a fucking fortune to buy and an even bigger fucking fortune to operate and maintain. But it’s worth it, dear friend, for the end result.

‘Yes, Graham. Since you ask, the wedding ceremony went quite well.’ Mathew spoke, a haunted look upon his lightly perspiring brow.

“Really Mathew? I’m mightily pleased to hear that. Tea? Sandwiches? Soup? What’s it to be? The wedding went well. Good.” He hasn’t got married. He plays the organ at a picturesque ancient flint-walled church in a picturesque, quite old, flint and brick walled local village. Quite near here. Just along the river in fact.

‘But I wish…I wish people wouldn’t change their minds about the hymns they want played…I wish…the light wasn’t broken above the organ…I think I might have a soup to start with…do you know, I don’t think people always notice when you make a mistake…do you think that’s the case…?’ He wasn’t so much haunted, as much as totally fucking spooked.

‘Soup Mathew? Certainly. So you’re saying you might have made a mistake? Played a …wrong note? Wrong hymn? You were in the right church?’ He occasionally plays at another picturesque napped-flint church, in yet another picturesque Downland village not so far from here but slightly further away than the usual one.

‘Oh no. I just made a few mistakes in one of the hymns. These people, they decide on which hymns they want, then change their minds. And it’s rather dark. The light’s been broken above the organ since February. I don’t think anyone noticed though.’

Well thank fuck for that, thought I, as I made my precarious way across the shop in Mathew’s direction with his soup.

Timmeh and Dolores were seated nearby, sipping in a superior otherwordly manner at their respective coffee and tea, and stenching the place out. They’re a quite intelligent couple, both electronics engineers working for a local niche electronics designer company. One lives on a boat. The other doesn’t. But they seem to share their lives in a seemingly random and unplanned manner between the two domiciles, one brick and the other steel reinforced glass fibre and wood. Fittingly, they met on the internet. Neither have any recognisable social skills, they both look like they sleep in doorways and neither their persons nor their clothing ever come into close contact with soap, water or any freshening agents. At all. Much as the Queen, may God Bless Her, must assume that the world outside of Buckingham Palace smells of fresh paint, so Timmeh and Dolores must assume that the world outside of their tiny odorous orbit must smell of canned air fresheners hastily sprayed and it must sound like industrial air extraction systems cranked suddenly up to maximum power.

They were talking about how they went up to Glasgow for the referendum weekend. I tried to find out where they stayed, so I could avoid it if ever my travels take me North. I failed. The thought of sleeping, even in the far distant future, in a bed that was once occupied by Timmeh and Dolores simply turns my fucking stomach. Hanna my assistant was pulling faces behind them. We later decided that they were lucky to return alive, as they tend to discuss their fellow humans quite loudly and dismissively, like they’re talking about lab specimens of an inferior species. I expect they left many baffled or angry Scottish people behind them. I pity anyone who shared a train carriage with them.

When they converse, they either whisper or they bark loudly, but the volume never seems connected to the content. They occasionally emit strange hissing noises, which I think are meant to indicate that an attempt at humour has been attempted. Timmeh is quite a large smelly person, while Dolores is a thinner smelly person, so being in the neighbourhood of one of their convos is a bit like watching a Discovery channel documentary about semi-aquatic mammals which eat, and smear themselves with, varying quantities of decaying marine wildlife and spend lots of time skirting around the practicalities of getting a bit of blubber on scrawn action. If you get my gist. It’s bad enough watching them eat. Even vaguely imagining the sights and smells of the two of them doing anything more intimate, well it’s all quite horrible and it makes me queasy. Hanna my assistant enjoys recounting imagined dirty sessions between them, just to see me go nauseous.

These are some of the fascinating people with whom my work brings me into daily contact.

It was my birthday the other week. Anita took me out for an Italian. We had a lovely evening. We both, as usual, bathed first. These things matter.