So here I am, listening to an old Nerina Pallot record ‘Fires’ that I’d forgotten I had. It just goes to show that wonderful memories can be found lurking in the open, if only you can be bothered to look. I was a bit bored and on a whim rummaged through the disc collection. And there she was. So I’m listening to her again. Good stuff.

I was sitting in the barber’s the other day and Richie was buzzing at a breathless pace across the nape of my neck. “Plug yerself in, Richie baby!” I howled, mainly to confuse poor Olly who was awaiting his turn in the chair. Bobby the senile Dachsund looked at me with despair and disdain. Dogs ain’t what they used to be. That one isn’t, anyway. Olly looked up, and spoke. He always calls me “Doctor”. I don’t know why. I have been called many things, some sacred, some profane but mostly mundane. But Olly calls me “Doctor”.

“Here Doctor, did I tell you I got a promotion?” I haven’t seen him for three months. How shit can his memory be?

“Last time I saw you, Oll, you’d quit the bins. Where are you working now? And why are you still dressed as a bin man? Does it turn on the old ladies?” Olly shares Richie’s penchant for shagging decrepit old ladies. I really mean old. And I really mean decrepit. Worryingly there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of willing takers.

“Nah, Doctor,” he chuckled, “I’m doing the street bins now. I quit the lorries. Now I’ve got my own little truck and I do the street bins.” He looked mightily pleased with himself. I was thinking of the scene in The Maltese Falcon where Bogie slaps Wilmer and says “when you’re slapped you’ll take it and like it!” but my hands were restrained by Richie’s cape and my own iron self-discipline. So Olly escaped a good slapping.

“Fuck me Olly, I really can’t keep up with you. Not that I’d particularly want to. All the best with it anyway…” and he started to launch into a description of the perceived benefits of emptying the street bins. The bins around the local care homes are probably pristine, I thought, but really couldn’t be arsed to move the conversation along any further. And Richie had finished with me anyway, with a final flourish of his trimmer along the leading edges of my ears. No blood. Ten quid well spent.

I had to get to the dentist next for my annual check up. Aisleen spent a minute checking my teeth and gums, and fifteen minutes chatting about holidays, surgery inspections, silk vs. cotton in regard to underwear and other stuff. I got the impression from her breath that she’d been chewing cardamom seeds. Much more pleasant than when she spent eighteen months on the Brussels Sprout diet. I left her surgery with a slight limp to the right and a feeling that that had been twenty five quid even better spent.

So then I bumped into the lovely Gillian as we both did an unsuspecting 180 degree turn into each other by the salad display in the supermarket. We haven’t seen each other for a couple of years; she was and will forever be my favourite person of all time who isn’t my wife and I was occasionally her very favourite person who isn’t her husband. So she has led me to believe, anyway. But they moved away when she took early retirement and we didn’t keep in touch. And here we now were, surrounded by bags of prepared leaves and various other green yellow and red salad vegetables and fruits and the world around us faded away to a curious distance as we caught up. She was wearing her customary maroon woollen stockings, straight grey skirt and flat shoes, which look on Gillian I find quite unaccountably exciting. It’s lovely to be able to talk to someone who’s on the same wavelength; it turns out we’ve just finished reading books by the same author. Gill’s eyes are like little pools of hazel light, glowing and bright and her voice feels like the lightest touch of the feathers from the wing of an angel against your ears. Am I just a little in love with her? What do you think, reader of mine? But her husband was waiting outside in the car park and I had a basket to fill with dairy consumables, so after another hug and a brief kiss or two, we parted with a promise to keep in touch this time. You need friends like Gillian. I do anyway.

I went for my regular evening bike ride along the coast that night and it decided to rain when I was eight miles out, along with the wind increasing to an onshore gale stinging the face with lashings of sea water and small flying grains of flinty sand. My front light battery died shortly after that. The bastard. The estuary path runs alongside the main coast road, separated from it only by a six foot wide verge of coarse grass, dead rabbits and shattered hubcaps and the only lights, apart from the steady distant morse code of the lighthouse across the bay, are the glaring headlights of the cars hurtling towards you at eye level, blinding and terrifying through the rapidly rising storm. It makes you feel especially conscious of both the excitement and the fragility of existence at times like that, and I was quite pleased to arrive back at the safety of home even if I had forgotten to fasten the back gate and the tempest had shattered it against the wall, separating a cross piece from an upright beam. I fixed the fucker though. I always have a bucket full of steel strapping plates and zinc covered two inch screws on permanent standby in the outhouse.

I made me a huge bowl of Spaghetti Putanesca to cheer myself up once I was dry and dressed. Anchovies! Always have anchovies as part of your diet children, they are truly food from heaven. I only ever eat them when my wife’s not about though because she has an unfathomable and quite unreasonable dislike for the poor little fellows. My little Juanita was at work that night however, and remains unaware of the dramas of the day even now.

So that’s pretty much all that the new year has brought so far. Some good, some not so, but all real, all intense.

And Nerina Pallot’s still playing!

Good night, dear readers.




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