Today, as special treat, I spare me, and you, the pain of bad Russian. Thinking especially of Jazzy-D, Peter-P, and Jenny-B, in making this gesture.
It’s light, and I’m awake but there’s been no sensation of coming round, so I wonder whether I’ve been asleep at all. I haven’t been through that no man’s land between light and dark where every poor decision is re-run, so I think perhaps that I’ve gone straight from wishing for sleep into accepting that I won’t with the arrival of the sun. I wasn’t conscious the moment before these thoughts, so maybe I have been asleep.
Perhaps there is an aspect of fatigue that is not sleep but where the body lacks the energy to sustain conscious thought? – where thinking relents for a moment. My body may be drained, but my brain may have had a rest. That thought alone is invigorating. Almost enough for me to raise myself to my feet.
But I can’t. Inertia has its grip on me still and I sense that trying to move from my sitting position is wrong, so I allow the energy to come back to my body on its own terms. I’ll fill up from the bottom. I think that perhaps I should eat but I can’t raise my hand up high enough to reach into my pocket, so I leave it where it hangs. Eggless.
Two more hours slip by and I think this time that I have been asleep.
It is too difficult to take off the stinking slacks, so I pull the crispy jogging pants straight over the top of them. Il faut poursuivre le poursuivance. We all get that don’t we? Besides, I like being in control of my entire wardrobe. I begin to run my fingers through my hair as I think these things, but they get stuck in the greasy matted tresses, and I stay in that position, thinking, classically, as if I’m waiting for a photographer, or sculptor.
Baden Powell writes sparingly on the subject, but any manual of tramping/destitution worthy of the name must not mince its words on the subject of the coiffe. My personal solution was to get a severe short back and sides as often as I could raise the tariff and to manage the inter-cut period by liberal use of washing up liquid and a brillo pad, then keeping everything slick and in order by the application of Vicks Vapour Rub – not just to provide hold, but to deliver a bonus menthol aroma, thus leaving you with the lasting impression that someone close by cares. Sure, towards the end of the term the long greasy hair was not becoming, but at least it looked like an attempt at order – like Elvis in the Vegas years and the men with hard to maintain Brylcreemed quiffs who went in the Dolphin Tavern. Dick Windall was one of us, not one of them, despite the haircut, apart from Sundays, when he took them a bucket of cockles on the way back from the shore, lured in by the fruity beery aroma as he passed the door. On those days, he still called in the back way to see us on his way home and told Polk a new joke through the open sash window. He used to take his false teeth out to go to the pub, unless perhaps he lost them in his beer, because I see clearly now his delighted, gummy, beer-flushed face as he delivered the punchline – “Matey says I’ve got one of them buggers at home already.” Polk never laughed in the same way as he did at our jokes, and Dolly always said of him, as soon as the joke was delivered, and she’d barred-up behind him, ‘he’s a boyo is Dick.’
Perhaps I can make a new song out of the alliterative resonance between Dickie – hobo and Dick – a boyo. See the distribution of syllables? Clever eh? It’s beyond me now. I’ll save it ‘til tea-time. Sometimes he brought a bottle of Sass with him for us, but if he didn’t, just before we got the table out of the under stairs cupboard, we were sent to the Tavern ourselves to buy one through the little serving hatch in the cold lobby that looked like it went in to the pub but didn’t. The doorway of any pub could turn the most temperate, but the little lobby of the Dolphin Tavern had a special aroma that told you everything was right. With a song in my heart, I behold your adorable face. We eat cold beef and warmed up roast potatoes that are nowhere near as nice as they were the night before fresh from the oven when we were watching the classified football results, and getting ourselves ready for Ken Dodd.
All during lunch they read out postcards from soldiers overseas wishing they were at home. Dolly had an enormous picture of a Polynesian paradise pasted like wallpaper above the fireplace, and in my imagination that was where all these poor valiant people who were forsaking family life to keep us safe were stationed. Sometimes Polk joined in on a really old song and sang it funny to make us laugh. The only time the mood came down was when a song came up about the sea, which always prompted another story of unsupervised swimming, and how cunning was the sea.
Sweet and Sour came in and something in his manner told me it was the weekend. If it was, I was running fast by about two days. Instinctively I put a hand to my hair again and thought perhaps after all that there was still a week or too left before it inclined too far to the Doddy.
‘Is special day. You may choose good drink tonight,’ he said, unable to surrender his smile, like the village idiot who’d been the first to spot that the carnival was coming.
‘Thank you Sweet, I’ll have a glass of pomade if that’s all right.’
‘Is good feast tonight. Later but better.’ He nodded and left. Maybe I’d become one of the boys? Maybe he’d heard me crying for help? Had I externalised? A life on the ocean wave. He seemed jaunty now that I think about it.
How come Dick’s hair never grew out into a greasy mullet? It seemed only to stand higher and higher on his head whereas mine went long and lank. Maybe I over-greased? Maybe the post-Beatles generation were destined to bear such indignities until death. Unfit for purpose. Untrained. We knew only the rules of permissive liberalism, and they required that hair grew straight down your back like a girl’s. I would have asked Sweet and Sour for a pair of scissors, but I knew the answer without having to – I clung to the meagre concessions I’d been given and didn’t want to risk their withdrawal. I thought perhaps there’d be some Quranic impediment which would prevent him from cutting my hair too, so I didn’t ask for that either for fear of a sudden ferocious beating. Like that time Barnie Henderson hit me across the head with a cricket bat for not going through with my promise to get a Ziggy Stardust haircut.