Cleaned myself: 0
Monkey see, monkey do: 0
Believe in God? N
Lockdown has spared me spending endless leisure hours with Big Tooth. Though for much of the early part, sci-fi and fantasy films replaced the daily diet of sports matches. I’d get a message, and sometimes a call, to arrange a simultaneous watch of one of the genre classics. I’ve never really quite understood the attraction of monsters and other strange creatures fighting each other – not even when I was the right age for it, so, soon after it began, well twenty minutes into The Hobbit actually (that bit where the goblins found themselves in a battle with tree creatures, unless I dreamt that), I adopted the following approach: firstly, I stopped watching/didn’t watch the film at all; secondly, I’d devote a couple of minutes to reading the Wikipedia page about it instead.
The essence of lying by the way, if you have yet to receive enlightenment from an aficionada such as myself, is not, as so many self-declared experts would have you believe, to support the lie with excessive and unnecessary detail. The winning strategy is to be the proposer not the responder. It doesn’t matter that you’re wrong in what you say, or miss important details, just as long as you’re the first to speak and the one that’s driving the conversation along with your faux enthusiasm. And when speaking, endeavour to do so as a true devotee would, and criticise: ‘what on earth was that when those blue things appeared?’ It’s even better when there weren’t any blue things, because you’ll be undermining the case of the actual devotee, who you can be sure will have drifted off for a few minutes and will believe that they missed it. Then as they try to catch up their reputation, they’ll provide you with gifts. Many of them will start to explain the plot, some of them, so affronted by your negativity, will spend the rest of the conversation telling you why the good bits outnumbered the bad with examples, and will allow you to coast through the rest of the conversation with the odd, ‘yeah, I suppose,’ and an ‘mmmh,’ so that, eventually, for about five to ten minutes work, you’ll have saved yourself up to three hours of repeating the worst parts of your childhood.
Speaking of films, Frances works in a post-production house. Yeah, I know. However much it sounds like it, that doesn’t mean that she’s a plasterer, or painter and decorator, though I believe that her job is not dissimilar – something to do with doing drawings on a computer. I was directed to her office by the Pearl & Dean people, who refuse to take homemade ads ‘direct from the general public’ – my internship it turns out, doing nothing to convince them that I wasn’t just a nutter in his bedroom. Such places like those where Frances works, are the vehicles through which you must deliver your ad, even if they add nothing to it, ‘because of file formats, submission protocols, and that …,’ and I quote directly. So, as much as I was pretending to work whilst secretly trying to track her down, it was actually in the course of honest endeavour that I unearthed her. There is a lesson in that for anyone not in a rush.
Of course, I cannot actually use Frances’s business to submit my ad because then she’d realise that a) it was pathetic; b) my lie of working closely with a local client will be revealed for what it is: that I am no more than ‘Head of Promotions’ for a garage; and c) that it’s homemade for a reason, i.e. that we have no money to spend on it.
I did actually lure her to the pad once in the dying days before lockdown. We’d met at a Johnny Carver (Big Eggo) soirée, and both of us anxious for an exit, left at the same time, whereupon, for once, I hit upon the right timing and dredged up a roughly simultaneous surge of courage to manage to stutter out, ‘do you want to come to the flat for a quick drink before you head home?’
Did you notice that, ‘the flat’? Professionally ambiguous, if I say so myself.
It was progressing reasonably well and would not have been a disaster had not Big Tooth followed me back from the party. It put me on tenterhooks for the rest of her stay, fearing that the ambiguity would suddenly be resolved against me by the gawky Nordic giant, who now, all of a sudden, insisted on a previously unwanted compliance to the chaperone arrangement. I was on the point of saying, ‘I’ve promised to look after it,’ like they did in black and white films in the old days, before thinking better of it, but the idea made me laugh. And, you know, the silence between what are essentially three strangers, is broken by one of them laughing for no reason, it makes for an awkward situation turning worse.
True to her sensitive nature, Frances then brought it to a slightly premature end, by saying that she hated the walk home from the tube as it went dark, and as much as I’d have felt judged by her taking leave of me had we been just two, there was also a sense in which she spoke for the two of us, by her going when she did.
Unfortunately, she left before I’d wangled any data out of her, and so the search went on, ultimately to be discovered on the ‘meet our people page’ of their website.
I tried to step up our nascent friendship a bit on the second call, when suddenly she said, ‘Look Richard, is there something you want to tell me?’
What? Like, ‘I’m in love’; ‘no, I don’t have a proper job’; ‘I have spent all my life treading water but now I think I’ve started to drown’; ‘I had an impromptu toilet-break behind Mrs Lindsay’s hydrangea’; ‘It’s not my flat’; ‘I don’t belong in a traditional male-female heterosexual relationship’? But instead, I said, ‘no’ then pretended that my other phone was ringing.
I didn’t call again after that, and I still haven’t figured out what she meant. But all that happened at the very start of lockdown so she’s had a cooling off period now, as the brothers in insurance say. It might be time to test the thaw. Perhaps I should send her the first draft advert video? You never know, she might think I’m kooky. I could definitely become kooky with encouragement from her, especially if thereafter we barricaded ourselves in together away from everyone else. I suspect that she’d like to present herself to the world that way if she could overcome her reticence. In fact, I strongly suspect she’s a bit like that at home. Or was when she was young. Maybe that’s the same thing. Maybe that’s why I feel like a big baby now.
Big Tooth’s tooth. I’ve been looking at it in Zoom quizzes. Yellow and filmy. It made me reflect on my own, which are OK, but between the cracks on those at the side, they’re a bit, how’d you call it? Unflossed. And, as I was to be the actor in the current version of the rushes for our ad – Roger will present the actual version, but I wanted to give him a steer as to what I wanted from him – he’s a bit … literal (I’ve since sent it over to him for him to get an idea, and guess what, Big Tooth’s decided that I’m quite ‘groovy’ and a natural actor – which is easy to say when you are, err, strange, … and indulged), it made me look into the business of the teeth. If you check it out on YouTube you find all sorts of people who’ve got great homemade solutions for all sorts of things like that – you know the way your gran did things like putting a spoon in jug of boiling water. I don’t know why she did that, but it always seemed to work. Anny hoo, there’s one for teeth – you get baking powder (or soda, I forget), salt, lemon juice, a bit of toothpaste, mix it up altogether and brush it into your teeth. It gets rid of all that crusted on plaque apparently, probably by the action of acid on limestone or something like that. You’re supposed to do it for five minutes a week, though some of the comments underneath the video weren’t too supportive of that approach. I did a half hour session, to establish the base dose, then left it rather than rinse it off, since it was my first go at it and there was a hard road ahead. I’ve had no evidence of success bar a smooth and citrus fresh sensation at the back of my teeth, and BT’s ‘groovy’ reaction to the vid. I can upgrade to soot from the BBQ if it doesn’t work, provided that lockdown relaxation starts to flow naturally backwards towards the old normal.
It’s a good idea, the teeth, because say you were one day to find yourself in a relationship with somebody like Julia Louis Dreyfus, even though she’d probably end up paying for you to have an overhaul at some point – not least so that you didn’t reflect badly on her, you’d have to turn up for the first few dates with at least an acceptable set. In the same way that if you were suddenly enriched and you went to the tailor for a proper suit, you’d have to find a half decent one to wear to the first appointment.
I am thinking of sharing the video with Frances as a cool and kooky ice-breaker, using the excuse that I am seeking her advice as to a good P-P House, since I’ve discerned that she’s not loyal to her own. She’s a bit like me in that respect, in that she thinks that all offices are sub-branches of a nationally sponsored insane asylum, full of people who believe that sustaining work just drops into their laps from elsewhere and whose only desire whilst executing it, is to prove that they’re smarter than everyone else in their midst whilst behaving in the least cooperative way possible.
That’s why I love her. And it’s why I’m going to find a way to tell her about my strange non-job so that for her at least, I suspend the lies that otherwise sustain me.