Cleaned myself: 0
Monkey see, monkey do: 0
Tics: to revert
Believe in God? N, N, N.
A sudden rush of rationality has seen me delete a text destined for Frances inviting her to bubble with me at Roger’s flat. What was I thinking? It sounds so abruptly intimate doesn’t it? And such a grubby word too. Mother would soon have rooted that out. But there’s time yet for a hundred visions and revisions and yet still have it labelled impetuous by the housemates. The ignorant Johnny Carver, incapable of rational analysis, now, in my mind, seems to be the sort of person who could bowl a girl over with a proposition like that, just by sheer energy and zest. Mine sounded like a plea from a trainee groomer. ‘Yah, bit awkward at first, but me and F have got a great relationship now actually. Really solid. Taking it to Hong Kong next month.’
It’s just as well perhaps, since mother’s husband often reminds me that I never stop to consider the consequences of my actions, and it will save a month/the rest of life from that. If only they knew for how long it was that I sat on my hands whilst ignorant pricks like Johnny Carver went out and grabbed a slice of the world. Inaction. The sofa provides a poor panorama and an even worse starting point for those of us who should eventually have statues erected to honour our shame.
The beauty of a bold leap is that it can define the relationship from the outset. In this case: me, that crazy intemperate thing full of ideas; her, the wise and good-natured confidante who would triage all my noise down into a manageable portfolio.
That is the thing, to find yourself in good company. For many of my contemporaries, they bounce their dreadful ideas off of their friends in the business, some of which turn into commissions. Me, I have to try and inveigle myself into the real world by dint of an advert made on my phone for a used-car salesman. I wonder if I could work up a joke about double-bubble, in which I present myself as a child prodigy working from his bedroom, and invite her to join me – you know like making a camp with bed sheets?
In days to come I may well recall this as the time that I didn’t act on my impulses, but for the sake of an accurate record it must be said that I am fastened to fastidious introspection by another factor: Roger has lost interest in me during the interregnum, and I feel that it is not so much double, but no bubble that soon awaits me. He is one of those people, Roger. He seems to have but one attribute – an obvious schoolboy cunning, to put with his natural disposition: a sort of easy authority which belongs only to grown-ups. He has this way of chewing gum and looking straight at you as if he’s slightly amused by how useless you are. When finally, I caught him on the phone and he deigned to talk to me, he just said, ‘You do it. That film on Les’s phone looks all right to me.’
‘But it’s supposed to be funny,’ I said, and he said, ‘I know. It is.’
My idea had been to create something like that double-glazing ad where the owner, a person of restricted height, is angrily imploring you to buy his self-made product. Though in ours, the owner needs to be more Botox face and blond highlights from the back of his Bentley, so that we might make posh cars feel accessible to common rogues. Roger is ignorant enough to pull it off. Me, I look like one of those hateful children lip-syncing a song to their gran on Zoom in a broadband advert.
We were supposed to be having a great creative laugh about it all and egging each other on to yet more ridiculous heights – as would be the case if I was in a proper job and counted my clients as mates. Instead we’re looking at each other through our phones, and he’s got this expression which says, ‘I haven’t sold anything for three months, and I’m paying you to do this?’ So instead of cutting the call, and waiting ‘til we’re face to face again, I double down and talk about the other event that we’re organising, which is now to be our coming out of Covid re-launch.
I was running through my list of ideas, when he cut across me and said, ‘Just make it a Sevens Tournament. It’ll last all day, I’ll put £500 behind the bar, and we’ll pick the best-looking player on the winning side to make man of match and we’ll loan him the sports car for a couple of months.’
For those of you who have never had the pleasure, let me describe the game: it is a seven-a-side version of rugby union played on a full-sized pitch over a much shorter time frame. For the participants, imagine running up and down stairs as fast you can twenty or thirty times, then just as you finish the last one, breathless and incapable of raising either of your feet from the ground, you notice an intruder in your house with an unmistakable desire to inflict grievous bodily harm etched on his face, and he’s coming towards you. Your job now, is to run away as fast as you can, with him following, for about fifteen minutes or so. That’s the game. Oh, and you’re scrutinised by a large audience, and the ground is so hard and dry that your feet sting from the get-go, and you get carpet burns every time you come into contact with the pitch.
They are always organised as mini-tournaments on a knock-out basis: start with sixteen, get down to two in the final. If you’re knocked out in the first round, never mind, all the first-round losers play each other in the Loser’s Plate. Loser’s Plate? Imagine hanging that from the minstrel’s gallery when you get home – oh that’s interesting, what is it? It’s the Loser’s Plate actually buddy.
The apogee of such tournaments is (was) the Hong Kong Sevens, which is a sort of Davos for rugger-buggers, but all sorts of clubs take part in all sorts of similar tournaments once the regular season is over, right down to clubs and communities like ours, which, unlike the Hong Kong Sevens, will be even worse.
Roger seems to want to organise it all, and I have a job to leverage any of my own work into the project. Finally, I win him over to the idea of a bouncy castle by convincing him that I will personally be on hand to supervise and prevent any children floating off on it. I also offer to ring round all the nearby clubs to rustle up fifteen or so other participants, knowing that if I don’t, it may not happen, and I’ll be culpable, and he just says, ‘Don’t bother. I’ll get Brian at the club to do all that.’
As I end the call, I notice that I have this fixed grimace on my face as if I’ve been practicing for something important. Then I go back to the camp I’m making in my bedroom, which, if the weather continues to improve will become a permanent base in the extension I’ve added to the shed, under the flag of social distancing, if not bubbling.