I finally gave in to the horrendous sight of my hair sticking out in a silver pre-afro mass of rowdy tufts. Jen is still not back in her little salon so I went over the road to Richie’s for a haircut. I think he was glad to see me back.

“Alright me old mate. You come back to me have yer? Three and a two is it? I was just about to close up for the day, things to do, bills to pay, but I’d better do you hadn’t I?”

He didn’t sound bitter at my recent defections at all, which was a relief. So now I am once again beautiful and close cropped.

I wanted to go to Brighton to get some shirts and pay a visit to Waterstones, neither of which activities are possible in my home town. It’s the place where ennui went to die. Possibly for want of a warm plaid shirt and a good read.

I asked the bus driver for a return ticket to Brighton. Because that was my plan. Go to Brighton. Visit a couple of shops. Wander along Western Road to the Lebanese supermarket, grab a handful of exotic food items. Possibly get a snack and a drink. Return home. That was my plan, it was a coherent plan and it would have sufficed. The view along the coast is nice enough, and there was nothing and nowhere else that appealed.

The driver had other plans.

“Are you sure you don’t want a Saver?”

“No. I want a return ticket please. From here to Brighton and back again. Thanks.” My needs today were simple and straightforward.

“But if you get a Saver you can get off the bus wherever you want, get back on another bus on the route and continue your journey. However often you may want to.”

“But I don’t want to. I want to go to Brighton. And then come back here. So you see to me it’s all the same thing.”

“Ah. No it isn’t the same thing you see, because if you want to do that then all you need is a return ticket. Whereas the Saver gives you flexibility. You don’t get that with a simple return. Do you want a Saver?”  In a different universe, or if I had a few variations in my DNA which could have resulted in me being a totally different representative of humanity this would all have been helpful,  possibly interesting or even vaguely relevant. But in the here and now I was heading for a Fegelein moment. Flecks of spittle were forming, I was ready to decompose and howl. I held my composure though.

“No.” I seethed, calmly and collectedly. “I don’t want (fucking) flexibility. I don’t want a (fucking) Saver. I want to go to (fucking) Brighton and then come straight (fucking) back again. On a (fucking) simple five pound return (fucking) ticket. It’s that simple.”

I got off the bus, returned home, changed my clothes and after donning my Czech fur hat and woolly gloves against the chilly North Easterly wind, went for a seven mile bicycle ride and screamed at the sea. The sea shrugged off my frustrations by breaking itself on the pebbled shore.

There were people fishing, people dog walking and simply strolling along the esplanade. All wrapped up for Autumn, all looking calm and happy on this bright but blustery day. Even the ice cream van is still turning up and parking for the day. It’s me, I thought, plunging myself into a gloom of self loathing and doubt. I see the end of times in a helpful and obliging bus driver. The poor sorry fucker only wanted me to buy a Saver ticket.

Then I went and bought a nice looking piece of brisket beef for tomorrow’s dinner. It’s marinading in some homemade beef stock with vegetables and aromatics out in the outhouse fridge right now. I’m going to look on easyjet’s website for a weekend city break for the new year. Prague or Rome. I haven’t been away for seven months and it’s beginning to tell on me.




Stranger Triangles

So. Where to begin…there’s a lass called Emilie who regularly visits my shop and often engages me in dangerous conversations loaded with incitement and innuendo. It’s usually under cover of asking my advice about the latest man in her life, who she has discovered to be betraying her, enabling her faults, abusing her trust or otherwise simply being a bloke, as they may say. She has a seven year old child named Earnest, which sets certain alarm bells ringing in the dust choked cloisters of what you may describe as my mind.

But this isn’t about her. Or Earnest. It’s about her mum, Paula, who also regularly calls in to my shop to buy snacks to eat on her regular train journeys up to London, a place where she undertakes freelance employment of an undisclosed nature. Or so she has me believe. They’ve never yet been in together as far as I can tell, but I doubt that that means anything.

Just to set the scene. I have a mild case of the hots for Em. Em adores her mum. Mum, meanwhile, gets very flirty and saucy with me. An unconnected, non existent menage a trois, going nowhere on a slow burn. But Paula was going hard at it today. I was attempting to sort out her order. She insisted on making frequent interruptions.

“I do like your hair Graham.” she fluttered. I ignored her but couldn’t help a slight leer and wink in her general direction.

“You’ve got a bit of a silver quiff going on there. Nice.”  I realised that I’d better play along. Although there was quite a queue building up.

“To tell you the God’s honest, Paula, I’m over eight weeks from my last haircut. Richie over the road is well pissed off because the new girl who opened up two doors down last year has gained my patronage for my last two cuts. She’s sweet, she’s hot, she doesn’t gabble on for ever about shagging pensionable age cripples, and she gets my hair cut in ten minutes rather than Richie’s usual half hour. And she calls me darling, which I can’t imagine ever wanting Richie to ever do. But she’s been on holiday for the last couple of weeks leaving her sullen male assistant in sole charge. So I’m waiting for her to come back and if she doesn’t appear soon I’ll have to swallow my pride and plug my ears with cotton wool and go over to Richie’s place for a cut, but he’s hurting and I don’t want him hurting me, see? Hence the slightly bouffant style which I’m currently sporting, however reluctantly. See?” I stopped for breath. Paula looked hard into my eyes.

“It’s a shame about your window.” Yes it is. Some vulnerable youth wearing an offensively loud tracksuit and baseball cap strode purposefully up the High Street at 3 a.m. yesterday taking hard kicks and punches at shop windows various and five in number, of which mine happened to be the largest and hence most expensive to replace. The overall effect is of a stream in a strong spring breeze, all curving lines and undulating glittering triangles. But no minnows or frogspawn.  It’s currently held together with copious amounts of sticky backed plastic whilst the glaziers source, cut and bevel an appropriate sized sheet.

It would have helped my fragile sense of well being today though if I had printed and posted on the shattered remains of  the window an A4 sheet of paper saying

Yes I know it’s broken.

No I don’t know who did it.

Yes it will cost a lot.

No, standard shop insurance

doesn’t cover it.


So that’s me, not the happiest person alive today. But problems, as I know only too well, are purely relative. And relatives can be problems. But that’s another tale.