Brews.

I was discussing matters various with Sticks. Mostly about how he’d recently been to the hospital for blood tests and scans and stuff, and how they’d called him back to have something removed from inside him. Something he wasn’t willing to identify, but he looks all pale and worried, which isn’t really much different to his usual ghostly demeanour. Sticks had also come in to return to me a book he’d borrowed about twenty years ago, but which had while in  his secure and tender care mysteriously acquired a ‘Read and Return’ stamp inside the front cover along with a handwritten price tag of £2.49(!) and a thick slab of Tippex over my monogram. It had also achieved a patina of wear not usually found on objects less than eighty or so years old. But it has been returned to my hairy and still tanned bosom, so I’m happy.

We were in the final stages of negotiating this week’s loan. How it works is, Sticks comes in on Thursdays, skint and hungry since he lost his job as a mechanic at the transport company for passing out in an opiated doze over a hot tyre welding machine or something frighteningly lethal like that, and I lend him anywhere from fifteen to thirty quid to see him through till next week. Then the next Thursday he returns, and we negotiate an extension or increase to the loan for the following week. The thirty pound debt now probably stands at a level which would make the Greek finance minister shift uneasily in his chair. But never mind. It’s Sticks. One day he may return my original vinyl copy of White Light White Heat that I lent him in 1978. I just don’t like to pester. It’s sure to be scratched by now anyway. Occasionally Rodger his ex-boss from the transport company slides into the shop and asks me if “you seen that waster lately?” I always feign ignorance and irritate him by not having a clue who he could possibly be referring to. He usually buys a cream cake and fucks off.

I’d just bidden a relieved yet fond farewell to Sticks when the lovely Abbie came in, holding her hand over her face. She has always been fond of me since she was a teenager in the late nineteen-nineties when her less than perceptive schoolmates used to call her Scabby Abbie, and when they started it while in my shop I handed out a rather harsh verbal spanking to a few of them. Happy days.

I asked her if she was alright and why she was covering her face. She moved her hand and showed me her top lip which looked like a brick had punched it at a high velocity.

“Ooh. Blimey. How did that happen?”  I asked. You would, wouldn’t you?

She’d been to a parlour to have lip fillers injected. I don’t know why, she’s got lips you could happily spoon feed honey and manmilk to. I told her so and she blushed. The girl doing the injection had hit a vein and her blue, swollen appearance was the result. She asked if I had some ice, so I put some in a small plastic bag and wrapped it in clean cloth for her to apply it to the swelling. There are swellings and there are swellings, are there not, dear reader.

She looked like she needed cheering up, so I told her that she actually looked really sexy, in a sick sort of abused and damaged woman type of way. She winced a bit, and made a noise something like a coy giggle. She knows I mean well. She knows I am fond of her.

There are French visitors in the house next door. They have a small grey French dog with them which yaps excitedly at me every time I go out into my back garden. I spent two hours today pruning trees and bushes and generally tidying up the garden. I asked the monsieur if he wanted some Lockets for the hound’s sore throat. He said no, so I told him I’ll probably be having another small bonfire this evening, just to be pro-actively polite. I had one last week, which burned for hours, until the rains came. I’m currently considering ways and means to deal with the ever increasing numbers of grey squirrels which are beginning to become a plague-like nuisance in the grounds. The madwoman who lives at the back, as well as buying four loaves a day to feed the swarming herring gulls, has installed on her ranch style fencing a battery of feeders which she daily fills with seeds, fruit and nuts for the tree-rats. It is a provocation and an incentive to violence. I fear that blood may be shed and bushy tails may be pinned as trophies and as warnings along my North-Eastern boundary. “Just sayin’,” as the children write on Twitter.

Now I’m off to have a plate of ταραμοσαλατα και ψωμι before I start a warming blaze in the incinerator. Night night, internet.

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The Dying Bough

Mathew was fretting over his customary pot of steaming hot tea. He says I’m very kind as he always has a large pot of tea, a pot which is technically our pot for two persons, but I only ever charge him for a single small pot. I’m climbing the stairs to beatitude, honest to God I am, but it can be such a tricky route, beset with potholes and pratfalls.

Only yesterday I had to eject a smelly Dutch derelict from the shop. He kept coming in with a handful of pristine pro-life postcards which I refused to take or display, and every time I asked if I could help him, being a helpful and attentive shopkeeper like what I am, he told me that he was there to help me, and the only way that I could be helped would be if I were to refrain from killing children, now and into eternity I guess. I asked him politely to leave but was reluctant to eject him bodily as he smelled like an abandoned farmyard and there was a thick dark patina of grease upon him. I don’t wish to be unnecessarily polluted. He wears a large hand carved wooden cross around his grimed neck, hanging reluctantly close to him on a shiny leather cord.

Luckily my mate Geoff came in. Geoff smells rather like a semi-abandoned farmyard himself by the end of the day, mostly because of his job but as I never see him on a Sunday it might be because he’s not the world’s most fastidious ablutionist himself. But he’s a good lad. Chunky, too. Using Geoff somewhat in the manner of a human shield, I enlisted his admittedly superior physical presence to kick out the anti-abortionist tramp. And gave him a coffee, as that was what he wanted.

Mathew today was fretting. “I don’t know if it will survive. It’s in a bucket in my garage where I put it this summer when it started to turn brown”, he worried. I worried too, as my attention had drifted at some previous point when he was bewailing his cat’s cystitis.

“Your cat’s in a bucket turning brown in the garage?” I said, shocked. He looked at me as though I should be a candidate for vagazzlement.

“No, Graham. The Christmas tree. I told you. There are two large elderberry trees on the bank near part of my garden. I’m thinking of chopping one down and the soil there has some clay in it, so if I plant the Christmas tree there from last year which I put in my garage in the summer when it was hot but it’s started to turn brown now, it might help bring it back to life. It might help it. It would be such a waste if it died. There is still a small part of it which is green.” He said more in hope than certainty. Mould, probably. Or algae. One never knows.

“Yes, Mathew, and if it recovers you can call it Lazarus, can’t you?” He plays the organ in a couple of small village churches hereabout. He knew what I was saying. He winced and returned to his tea, looking all worried and fretful.

My next door neighbour died in January. She left everything to her grandson who is French and lives in France. So the house lies mostly empty, apart from when French persons random and various come to stay for a week or so now and again. The neighbour’s daughter, who was my sweetheart for a few months when we were teenagers, has asked me to keep her informed when particular people come to the house. But sometimes I forget. I don’t want to be a snoop. I don’t want to get in the habit of texting or phoning her too often. Is that so wrong.

I’m learning the Greek language at the moment, so thought it would be a helpful thing to add a Greek keyboard to my phone in order to do the exercises and lessons required by the app. Fuck me, but have you ever tried to revert a phone which has completely gone Greek back to English? It took me a clammy and sweatful thirty five minutes of panic and despair, but it speaks English again now. All is well.