Lisa “In my dream, my teeth had been replaced with bottles of sauce with 10 pences sandwiched in between. The necks of the bottles were implanted in the gum.”
Esther “Were they glass bottles?”
Lisa “No, they were squeezy ketchup bottles”
It’s that time of the month again. No, not that time. It’s time to ring my Grandad. After 3 rings, he picks up. For a while, all I can hear is lush orchestral music. Am I on hold?
“Hell-o?” comes his sing-songy voice. “Wait a minute lad, I’ve just got to get up”
A few muffled grunts.
“Hello Grandad, what was that music just then?”
“I feel asleep watching Countdown and when you woke me up it was something else. I don’t understand all these new TVs, what do all those letters mean? What’s a USB? What’s a HD?”
“HD is High Definition. It means your screen has more dots”
“But I’ve got enough dots, lad. Guess what, I’ve got a family of goldfinches living in my garden now”
“The long tailed tits like corn, the great tits have their own hanging basket, and the pigeons have a bit of everyone else’s food. The Goldfinches only eat those seeds, what are they called…yes that’s it, Ninja seeds…”
Lisa is an accidental technophobe. The arrangement of plug sockets and kaput devices in her house means that she has to make stark choices between creature comforts.
- She can either have the laptop on or the TV.
- If she plumps for the internet, her dongle (she doesn’t have a phoneline) only works in the bathroom and bedroom.
- If she has the TV on, she can’t have the lamp on, and her freeview set will only play a random selection of 4 channels at a time.
As a result, she isn’t into TV series and doesn’t know what’s happening online, but rather nibbles nervously from the edges of culture.
“You live in the Dark Ages. You may as well put straw everywhere and sleep on the floor,” says Esther, before adding “But you have got a washer-dryer.”
Luckily Lisa doesn’t have my urge to hoard. Every few days she has brutal purges that consign useful and important objects to the same fate as meaningless detritus. Her reasons for binning something are set in stone (and chained to the wall):
1. too dirty
2. can’t find anywhere to put it
3. more than one of them
Esther has an appointment to get on the waiting list for therapy. It’s taken nearly a year of waiting to go on the waiting list. She’s been waiting to wait. We grab a cab, and the camp cabbie helpfully offers a running commentary;
“So many caffs round here, all offering the same deals.”
[Puts on old Yorkshire woman’s voice] “50p extra for tomato…
Ooh look at that new house, it’s a proper two-up, two-down. I bet some right diva’s going to live there, having soirees and that. Champagne, anyone!”
In between talking, he sings along to low music, but there are no words. And no melody. It sounds like really slow techno, and there’s nothing to sing along to so he just goes
“Boom, tish tish tish, boom”
I bumped into Dr Talpus, my old English Professor today. I tend to avoid him, because about two years ago I caused lots of fuss by begging to be let on an English Masters at the last minute, before spending three weeks nodding off while trying to read Virginia Woolf and finally quitting before I had to pay any money. Now whenever I see any English tutors, I duck my head and try to act humbled.
Dr Talpus, rotund and bespectacled, lifted the outer-estuaries of his mouth in a smile both friendly and obsequious.
“How are you getting on? Still doing the old..” the expansive pause allowing a suggestion that he remembered what he had forgotten
“Yes, yes. And you?”
“Still working, for as long as I have a job.”
After each sentence, he would utter an inadvertant whistle as he sucked the air back in, as if he wanted to recall his words lest they be ill-considered. Despite his palpable discomfort, Dr Talpus has the gift of leaving the listener at ease.
After this brief exchange I think I can now frequent the 6th floor cafe where the humanities tutors lurk, with my head held, if not high, then politely perpendicular.
I’m meant to be back at work in ten minutes but I find myself in Primark changing room with 11 things to try on. I’ve come to the conclusion that mirrors warp time. This is my theory:
When you look into mirrors, the world is doubled and so the time is halved.
If there were no reflective surfaces in the world, time would lull and meander rather than evaporate like sweat. This is what I will say to my student if I ever get back to work.
I read that we are programmed to utter a finite amount of heartbeats and so I guess if we spend our lives out of breath or high we’ll use them up too quickly. It’s the metronome that ticks away our future.
Oh dammit, I’m really late now, I’m going to have to spend some of my future by running back.
This diet isn’t working. I find myself gutting a cherry scone and smearing its entrails with butter. My body is becoming a trunk, with no discernable waist. Diets come and go like fair-weather friends, never lingering when things go awry.
Attack– just eat meat
Decay– as your minor organs fail, the weight just falls off
Sustain– this is the hardest bit. You better not be eating any of that hospital food!
Release– finally, you are freed from this mortal coil and its calories and photoshop perfection.
I have made a secret vow never to follow this diet because (a) Lisa eats bowls of cold oatbran gruel for breakfast and (b) her weekly highlight is “vegetable day”: her five-a-day has become a one-a-week (even fruit is verboten).
“Bananas are the worst” she says as I tuck into one.
“Bananas are fucking fruit!” I squeal, exasperated.
For God’s sake, ‘they’ tell you to eat crappy fruit instead of delicious processed cakes, and then ‘they’ tell you that all the fruit that tastes half decent is out of bounds because it’s too sugary. Well fuck you ‘them’ and fuck you body, I never asked for you, I’m a prisoner inside your lumbering frame.
So instead, my new diet is the exact opposite of Lisa’s and involves eating muffins, bagels and cookies with post-apocalyptic desperation.
Ah the delights of Saturday TV. It’s time for Koko Pop with Jameela Jamil trying to glamour the camera like a rubbish vampire instead of presenting. My ex-wife Marina is on in a babydoll dress with an Antoinette heart, singing about the reason she dumped me (she wouldn’t let me eat cake). No-one realises but I’m the Primadonna not her.
“’Koko Pop’? Must be for kids”
“No it’s not” I say in an offended tone, “it’s a proper programme…”
but as I talk I remember that all the audience members were barely teenagers and it’s named after the most childish of cereals. She’s got me. I’m a manchild, a mannish boy, an age imposter.
Anyone watching my face during the programme would have seen awe, wonder and glee play across it; this very concoction is the essence of childhood.
Marina walked out into the crowd and I swooned, and she turned and walked back to pick up a toy dog and I grinned like a fool; anything she does which isn’t in the script (though of course it is in the script to not be in the script) makes me ticklish with pleasure. And then Carly Rae Jepson actually touched people’s hands as she bounced around in her anodyne innocence. Imagine being them! A fix of nouveau Fame through the fingertips like 0:12 on this:
Right, I simply must go now; it’s time for Elevenses.