Cleaned myself: all that’s behind me.
Monkey see, monkey do: new pastures lie in front of me.
Tics: schtick not tic.
Believe in God? Someone’s got to be to blame.
YTLH: Virus checked for hackers
Ah, so, I have been ejected from Germany. No, not Brexit, nor vagrancy, but as a suspected carrier of a new and virulent strain of disease. It couldn’t have worked out any worse, for at the point I was rumbled I hadn’t yet checked into the woodland retreat. That meant four consecutive nights without sleep with only a few cups of glühwein for sustenance.
All that put me at something of a disadvantage as I was apprehended on descending at Kings Cross by the rozzers. I’ve got to say that I found their line of questioning on the robust side, and I began to worry all over again about the misdemeanours I’d committed before leaving Camford.
Did I know that the police were looking for me here and on the continent?
‘No,’ I told them, ‘are you saying Big Eggo’s cracked or something?’
They looked at each other. ‘Not him exactly.’ Then, as if they were deliberately trying to wind me up, they put a photograph of Eggo on the table between us, and said, ‘do you know this man?’ I nodded like they do in crime capers on the tele, fearful that the emotion in my voice would betray me. They wanted to know the last time I’d seen him, where I’d been standing, and had there been anyone else about at the time that I hadn’t expected to see.
‘Why? What’s happened to him?’ I couldn’t hold myself back from asking; and the two officers looked at each other again. I wondered whether they were stifling a laugh, then one of them gestured down towards the photograph again. Suddenly I realised that it was an up-to-date image of Eggo and you could see that his ears had been sewn back on. As soon as it dawned on me I started laughing my head off. I suppose you’d choose Wurzel Gummidge over John Paul Getty Jr if you had the choice, but you couldn’t say they were good. Mind you, they’d been second row forward’s ears to begin with, so the new ones didn’t exactly decrease the total sum of human happiness. The rozzers seemed not to find it as funny as me, so I put the brakes on the laughter and said, ‘he looks like that retarded bloke who’s been stealing things out of my dad’s shed.’ Then I tell them about the time that he did a really intense diarrhoea all over the place and left us to clean it up. Shortly afterwards they stopped their questions and made me drink a bowl of soup and have a sleep.
A few hours later I was being driven home by them, more to prove that my actual address was c/o the Village Hall as anything else I suspected, but we couldn’t park close to the hall, and they had to let me out down the lane. The small car park was taken up with an enormous lorry with a satellite dish on top, anything else that resembled a parking place had been taken, and there was a sort of throbbing light coming out through the windows in the hall. A few familiar faces nodded hello as I went towards the main doors; but once inside the intensity of the lights dazzled me and prevented me from taking it in properly, though I sensed an impatient, if non-compliant, crowd was waiting.
Emerging from a group of people in one of the two camera crews, the first to greet me was the main man from Dog’s Bowl. ‘You crazy man,’ he said, ‘you are an absolute star,’ then he started working on me to go up and say a few words to ‘everyone’ during the scene change for the final act. I was tempted to ask more about it, but with rest and nourishment behind me I was more composed and I settled for a straight refusal. He tried to push the issue, and I had to remind him that I’d given him my answer.
‘They’re all here to see you, you know,’ says Roger, who appeared from his shadow, then started to push his own case. I was about to walk away from him without responding, but was stopped from doing so by my mother who was waiting in line to talk to me. Perhaps I am genetically disposed to deference after all? She told me that they were very proud. ‘Your father had no idea that you had so much talent,’ she says, and she was about to add something to the statement but I talk over her, to tell her that he should have been the first person to have known.
‘We do love you, and worry about you,’ she said to fill the ensuing silence. And I said, ‘I know you do, mum,’ trying to stress the you, but it didn’t come over, so I added, ‘but it’s too little too late for him.’
She looked like she was either going to throw her arms around me, or start crying, so to save her the choice I called over to the chief Dog’s Bowler and told him that I would go on before the last act. He quite liderally looked like a dog with two dicks.
When the moment came I climbed the stage to a hushed expectation. No disguises now. I knew that I possessed some sort of local notoriety, but the audience told me that they weren’t quite finally decided yet; that the old me was still their freshest memory.
As I came to centre stage, there was the odd whoop and holler from different parts of the hall, then the whole place burst out into a sustained round of applause, which gave way to cheering. I thanked them, then did no more than tell the few jokes that I’d tried to teach Big Eggo a couple of weeks or so ago. There was the one about the man who persuaded his wife to put a skunk down her knickers to smuggle it through customs, and when she objected, saying, ‘what about the smell?’ he replied, ‘if it dies, it dies.’ A good old faithful that, and then the one about a man and woman who had been lost in the desert, then finally turned up one day, him riding a donkey, her walking behind; and when asked why he was riding a donkey while his wife walked, he replied, ‘that’s easy, she hasn’t got a donkey.’ And finally, that one about a drunk, who is given his last chance by his wife not to come home tanked-up; and who is advised by his friend to say that someone else that had vomited down his suit, and to prove it by having a £20 note in his pocket which he’s to say the other person put there to cover the dry-cleaning bill. Then when the wife says, ‘that’s £40, what’s the other £20 for?’ he says, ‘That’s from the bloke who shat in my pants.’
It brought the house down, but the great thing about it was, I made Roger the butt of all of them.
It’s funny isn’t it, when you’re famous or perceived to have money, or to be favoured in some way, people are very generous towards you, and moments such as these are funny, and are appreciated as an opportunity to enjoy your talent. When you’re thought of as the sort of person I was perceived to be a few weeks ago, they are taken as but another episode of out of control psychotic behaviour.
Oh yes, in the land of idiots, reason is madness.
I descended the stage by the steps at the edge and stood at the side of the hall to watch the final act. To say that the reaction was tumultuous as it ended would be an understatement to rival Peccavi.
As the pageo ended, out of the brilliant stage lights came first a wise man from Dog’s Bowl Beer, ‘Come and meet our brand ambassador,’ he said and beckoned me towards him so that he could put his arm round my shoulder as we walked.
‘No’ I said, resisting his efforts to pull me forward. ‘First you’re going to give me a good deal, then I won’t have to mention it to my agent tomorrow.’ Who knows? I could have appointed an agent the next day.
Dog’s Bowl looked puzzled.
‘You took advantage of me because you’d decided I was a loser,’ I remind him. The old me would have appended something to that sentence, but the new me knows that even if you nail the follow up all qualifiers weaken the case, so I just stared at him until he went away to talk to his colleagues.
Then Frances came out of white glow and I switched my attention to her.
‘Redeemed yourself, I see.’ She still had that funny side to side grin as if her mouth was too wide for her face.
‘If there was no redemption there wouldn’t have been a story, so we wouldn’t have told it in the first place,’ I tell her.
‘You’re cleverer than you look, aren’t you?’
‘Whereas you are less so,’ I tell her. She frowns. She was no Julia Louis-Dreyfus but she was OK, ‘well have you realised that Johnny’s a prick yet?’ I ask.
She increases her frown in a theatrical way, like it’s bad taste to say something like that. I hold her in my stare, it’s still a valid question whether or not he’s the proud new owner of ersatz ears.
‘I always did, that’s why I liked you.’
I smile at her to encourage it back on to her face too, then she says, ‘hold on a minute, what do you mean, a story?’
‘I thought this was your diary, not a story?’
I tell her that a diary is a dramatic device used by writers with insufficient imagination to write a proper novel, and insufficient technique to write in anything but the first person.
‘So it’s …’
‘Bridget Jones with knobs on? Kinda,’ I say.
‘Oh,’ she says, ‘that’s what all those stupid check lists are at the top of every page?’
I tell her that’s true, ‘it wasn’t plagiarism,’ I say, ‘I started as an attempt to ridicule the form, then I just got stuck with it.’
‘If that’s right, it means that there’ll be another adventure running from this Christmas to next I suppose?’
‘Oh, yes,’ I tell her, ‘especially now that I’ve changed personality.’
‘Aren’t you worried that someone will complain?’ she asks.
To which I reply, ‘peccavinnit,’ and laugh my head off.
Don’t make that your last line all mad, and difficult, and solitary, we’ve had enough of that. Show me you’ve changed. Say something nice about Christmas … or is it going to be always winter without Christmas for you?
So I say, ‘This is the time of year to exalt all those who aren’t born in, or don’t live in houses. Starting with me.’
‘I suppose that’s almost a nice Christian message to end with,’ she says.
And I reply, ‘No it isn’t, I just prefer animals that’s all.’
‘God, you’re dragging this out, aren’t you?’
‘What?’ I ask.
‘The last line, I thought it was going to end at peccadillo or whatever it was.’
‘It was, but now it’s that thing about animals.’
‘Right. Is that finally it then?’
‘No. It can’t be.’
‘Because, though I am genetically programmed to deference; through the paternal side I have also inherited an obsession to have the last line.’ She knew that meant that she wasn’t allowed to say anything else, so she put her finger to her too wide mouth, but it still spoiled it.