Cleaned myself: 0
Monkey see, monkey do: 0
Believe in God? Y
I need to talk about how I experience God through the medium of gambling, but it’s too boring, and too self-indulgent. I’ll save it and say it in a different way sometime later. I went to the pub today. One that nobody goes in, on the far side of the harbour. It’s still the same, and you get the impression it’s been open since March. It has no tele, there are no newspapers, and as I take it all in, I wonder whether the old lady that owns it, and the few old salts that frequent it, have any idea about what has just happened.
On the way there I saw an ocean-going cruiser moored a short way out to sea. It was a shocking sight really: so big and alien and close. It’s probably to spare mooring fees while it languishes empty, waiting for its disease hungry clientele to return, but no one has explained it. It’s just there. Perhaps it’s in quarantine, or being deeply cleaned. I mean, some of us said that about cruises even before Covid … That I am displacing and resisting, I know.
The old girl in the far corner with whom I’m on nodding terms for some reason, caught my attention as soon as I walked in, and, as I buy my drink, she shouted over that her dog had been down town earlier, then, nodding conspiratorially towards me, said ‘the word is they’ve set up a Huawei coding centre below decks.’ For some reason it was the way she said, ‘a Huawei’ that was odd.
‘If you look from shore,’ she adds, ‘all you can see is the odd human bee (sic) and their dogs patrolling the decks, but down below,’ and she points towards the cellar, ‘there are dozens of monkeys working on computers.’
‘They’re all wearing baseball caps and T-Shirts,’ she adds, ‘so if you catch a glimpse of one, you wouldn’t know that they’re not all idiots on the minimum wage.’ Then she laughed her head off for ages. Apparently, the T-shirts have something about China written on them, and I think she said that the hats had a slogan about Kanye West. I didn’t catch it all. I was doing that smiling, nodding thing whilst trying to edge out of her eyeline. But I was scared of making a non-compliant bump as I edged backwards and so kept stopping, to give her story an audience.
She dabbed each of her four fingers at the air as she dripped out the word ‘speculation,’ as if she was going to include me in some great secret story. ‘Spec-u-la-tion has it, that they’re going to keep Europe under siege …’ she takes a long draught of an old beer, ‘… by stealing everyone’s telephone number.’ She looked around quickly to see if there were any spies listening in. ‘They’re going to set it all up on reclaimed land just off of Hemsby.’ Then she adds, as if it’s a mere aside, ‘And they’re just biding their time, waiting for America to get whittled down to a few hundred people.’
She has another long drink. I nod as if it’s the end of the story but she stops, wipes her mouth on her sleeve, and starts again, ‘Then, they’re going to buy it off them for a few crates of tea.’ I think she winks as she picks up her drink again.
She slams the empty glass down on the table as if to say, ‘what do you make of that then?’
I say ‘wow’. She nods. There’s more, I can tell, but to get that there’s a price – one pint, to be paid. I’ve not fallen for it, not in the way she means, but nevertheless I fall for it, because life’s easier that way. I hand her the fresh pint, and as soon as she’s tested it, she says, ‘that dog is a direct descendant of the famous dog belonging my grandfather – the one that predicted the moon landings.’ She nods again, and for some reason I say, ‘oh him, yes I’ve heard of him.’
Satisfied, she continues, ‘and my lad was the first one to bring news from the old Red Lion, you know, on the Green, that night when Nobber Doie got Shanghai on two’s and ended up on free beer for the year.’ She laughs her head off again, then wipes the tears from her eyes with the opposite sleeve, and plonks her glass down decisively again. She’s had enough of me now.
‘So it’s worth listening when he’s got something important to say.’ She points as she says it, rather aggressively actually, and I feel that I need to make a gesture to show that I recognise that I am close to greatness.
‘That’s great,’ would have done, but instead I said, ‘What’s his name?’ so that I might spend the rest of the evening in unwanted company, giving away more of the dwindling, and probably final, retainer from Roger. At least I am recognising an old tradition, and I am paying for my entertainment.