17th Dec – O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, wie treu sind deine Blätter.

Cleaned myself: quite liderally
Monkey see, monkey do: emphatically no
Tics: we’re in charge now
Believe in God? I am God, you cove.
YTLH: there are no short cuts

I had not dared to switch on my phone for several days, but it was time – not least because if the messages were bad I could turn it off again and throw it out of the window before I’d let on that I was fleeing to the continent.

By the way, this was the plan: to buy a ticket to Paris, alight at Lille, buy a new ticket to Stuttgart, get on the next train to Paris, then get off at the next stop and travel back towards Stuttgart. Get off at the stop before Stuttgart, and buy a ticket to a small town in the Black Forest like Freiburg. Go past Freiburg, then travel back to it, get off and buy a ticket to a backwater stop somewhere beyond it, then get a taxi, or better still, a sleigh, to Freundstadt. Find a hotel, then thoroughly enjoy the local Christmas market. If it all went well and I felt unnoticed, then find a cheap lodging in a cabin in the hills; live there for ages until fully integrated as a woodsman so that lack of an EU passport was no longer considered an impediment to staying.

I’m passionate about wood, and believe that I can make a real difference to any wood-based community.

I’d been used to a diet of no more than ten messages per week, all of them from Big Tooth, but as the phone came back to life I could see that there were dozens to be dealt with. Though when I looked more closely, they were nearly all from Big Tooth, and most of those concerned the pageo. In my few days away thus far I’d missed one show, and there was another scheduled for round about now, then nothing until a run of them up to Christmas Eve.

She had been put out by my absence. I suppose she thought that I’d step in to take over Johnny’s role, but as I read further down the messages, she’d already talked herself into being the stand-in before I’d had a chance to do anything about it. It’s funny that isn’t it? Messaging is all about responding in the same moment, and a message with a real request for assistance that is ignored does things to the sender. Soon, the severity of silence is interpreted as an unfavourable judgment and it does not take much longer before real authority and a sort of superiority is assumed in the recipient who can’t be bothered to reply. There is a lesson in that, not just in life but in the science of management, which I will be bringing out as a self-help manual in the spring to supplement my humble woodcutter’s stipend.

The remarkable thing about her messages was that none of them mentioned Johnny’s injury/death. I broke off from her texts for a moment, and searched instead for something from an unknown number, or Johnny himself, sending news of his condition, but there was also nothing.

I felt a physical sensation of tension easing, then I went back to Big Tooth’s message chain, and my stomach turned a little somersault as I saw the words, ‘daddy furious’. Oh God, Raggerty’s acid. It was still there in the bottom of my bag. I left the message unread and rushed to the toilet with my bag. As soon as I was in there, I dug out the container which had been double wrapped inside carrier bags, and gingerly took it out with another bag wrapped round my hand as a protective glove. I moved my stuff as far away from the toilet as I could, carefully popped the top, and put a little bit of the gloopy liquid into the bowl, scared that it would dissolve the porcelain. Nothing happened, and when I flushed just a few bubbles came up. Emboldened I poured in more, and this time, the whole toilet filled with fluffy bubbles and spilled out onto the floor. I recoiled in fear of destructive acid foam, but the smell was a familiar one, which I soon recognised as washing up liquid. I poured the rest down the sink, washed the bottle, and took it back to dispose of in a bin elsewhere on the train. Good old Raggerty, the robbing old cove.

With fresh heart I went back to the daddy furious message, expecting it now to be railing at me for causing the expense of a new polish and wax, but saw that it relayed no more than a row that had taken place between Dog’s Bowl and Roger, regarding, get this, my image rights. He seems to have been sent home with a flea in his ear. No mention of the car, no mention of Johnny. Oh and no mention of my father, who I’d left tied up. I wonder if he’d cleaned himself [see post 4th Jan] in situ? I started laughing at the idea. I should have squirted him with Raggerty’s liquid. Maybe that’s all that happened to Eggo – he was wiped down with a magic sponge and sent home again? I don’t know, all that wasted energy spent fretting and fearing the worst. I continued to laugh my head off and found that I was really enjoying it, so I carried on for a while. That new book is going to be called The science of management – how to clean up your act.

It all meant that I no longer had to run away of course, although I wouldn’t put it past mother to have gone straight to the police with her concerns without messaging me first, so I was cautious in my celebrations, and stopped laughing for a bit. But it’s funded now, so I’m going through with it anyway. I mean, it’s not as if there’s anyone back there that likes me.

The front elevation cladding – could we make it more gingerbready?

But what sort of offence is it I might have committed? Your honour, he tied up his father for being an overbearing tyrant, which resulted in him going to the toilet in his slacks. You can’t go to prison for that can you? And by the way, my coercive control lasted for over twenty years; his social embarrassment, one hour. They let people off for whacking their gaslighter over the head with a candlestick these days, surely there’s scope for leniency in a shed-based toilet denial? I’ll say I was off me head with worry and act like I can’t remember what I did. Oh, I know, I’ll say he swung an axe at me, and I tied him up in a spontaneous act of self-defence.

No, I must be here alone. I’ve got to hammer home the early advantage in the project to become the master of my mind. Where better to release your demons than the Black Forest? It’s absolutely full of hobgoblins and that sort of thing; no one will notice.

The premise? I have lived my life expecting every new person I ever meet to like me, and then to do my best to make them pleased with me. This approach has palpably failed.

It seems clear now that the opposite is true in both cases.

This is how it should be: always act like new people are a bother to you, and that it’s beneath your dignity to deal with them, and then make no effort to sell yourself to them. The last few days have borne out the success of this approach, although it will take a lifetime to master it, as it has a lifetime to become the biddable apologist that stands before you today.

So, this is not the end, it is to begin the beguining, which will bring back memory evergreen. But all that is a hundred year’s dream from which I need to wake. In the forested princely demesne to which I’m headed in this time of plague, I will clean myself of the poisoned apple.

many thanks to Sven Vee for the top image
and to Waldemar Brandt for the bottom image.