Friday, September 29, 2006

Entirely Innocent People Part 1

I realise that I am actually looking around me for something that could be used as an offensive weapon. This cannot be good.

I am In The Pub. I have a twenty-minute window between underground-mini-train-thing that stinks of piss and poorly maintained bus that stinks of unwashed-humanity in general. Of course, the sensible thing for me to do is spend this time in a hideous bar full of buffoons braying about the ‘big accounts they will land next week’ (it’s always next week) and that stinks of fag smoke, booze and a barely-disguised sense of worthlessness.

But not these two. They are in a world of their own. There seems to be a halo of innocence and hope around them.

Young. Early twenties, quite well turned out. My God, they only have eyes for each other these two. The rest of the world need not exist, because this boy and this girl are drowning in The Wonder of Each Other. It’s So Amazing, their wide eyes seem to be saying to each other. We even think the same.

They giggle now and then and when they do, they do that not-really-innocuous-it-doesn’t-really-mean-anything touching. You know, briefly touching a forearm in an oh-stop-you-are-so-funny manner. Or letting your hand fall onto someone else’s ‘accidentally’ and pretending to be a bit embarrassed about it.


But I can’t look away.

She asks him something. He makes a face.

She then gives him that up-from-under sad girl face. Her mouth even does that upside-down smile thing. Oooh. I only a ickle gurl.

He sighs, and with mock-weariness begins trudging to the bar, shaking his head as if to say ‘oh the things I do’.

When he’s out of sight, she allows herself a small contented smile. Whatever it was, she didn’t really want it. She wanted to see if he would get it for her.

He comes back. The conquering hero. Look. I have done a THING for you. You must remember this. Me being so great and cool and that.

He thinks to himself, We both know this is a bullshit ritual, but perhaps I may have a chance of touching her lady-parts.

She thinks to herself, Dear God, what a sap. Oh. But he did go and do it. Maybe I’ll ask my friends what they think. I wonder if he has a weird cock?

I’m still looking around. There are no spare housebricks. The ashtrays are of that flimsy tin variety designed to do no physical harm.

I finish my drink and leave.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Jesus, I think. What have I done to offend this bastard?

I am at the barbers. The Barbers, mind. Not the hairdressers.

It has been a long time coming, in two ways.

The first: I will leave it and leave it until at least three people during one single day will inform me that I look like ‘a twat’. This is because I look in the mirror once each day, mainly just to check that everything is where it should be, and sometimes to shave. Latterly, I do not look at the hair on my head.

The second: I have made a decision to have my hair cut, and am lurking outside my usual barbers, pretending to be walking past it in an unconcerned manner. It is heaving. It is one of those no-nonsense-wait-on-the-bench-no-appointment establishments. The bench has been full each time I walk past. I have walked past every 15 minutes for an hour and a half now. Of course, each time I walk away, a space at the bench becomes free and I miss it.

It occurs to me that my behaviour is verging on the OCD, so I make the brave decision to go to the Barbers (not Hairdressers mind) Round the Corner that I Have Never Been To Before.

This is a big step.

I don’t like being touched. Generally. There are situations in which it can be the best thing ever, but to my mind these situations do not take place in commercial premises. My own mother is given to hugging me on occasion; frankly, I rather wish she would not. To have people I do not know touching me in a semi-intimate manner (and let us not ignore the whiff of perfume and tit-in-the-face that usually have to be tolerated during the haircut experience) is one thing. To have it happen in a Barber Shop (not a Hairdressers mind) that I am also quite unfamiliar with is another matter.

I step inside, with the confident manner of someone who is not a bit weird about strange people touching them.

There is a space on the bench. I take it, despite the fact that a moment’s lack of concentration and thence relaxation of muscles will result in my touching thighs with the person sat next to me.

I wait my turn. Grinding my teeth. I expect the usual. Going anywhere nice on your holidays? No. I’m of to Greece next week. Amazing. Day off work is it? No, I’m actually at work and you are dreaming. Ooooh, we had a lad in here with terrible nits. Get fucking off me now.

It is my turn. I step up to the chair. A Swarthy Guy with obvious upper-body strength and an awful lot of body hair wordlessly motions me to sit.

He slings one of those black-sheet things around me.

Swarthy Guy: Whaddya wan?
Me: Shorter.

He shrugs in a contemptuous manner and grabs a pair of clippers. Having exhausted all of my best lines, I fall silent and take my usual stance of staring at a random section of wall and trying to disassociate myself from the whole experience.

He begins JABBING at the side of my head with the clippers. Like he has seen something there that has annoyed him.

It fucking hurts. And he is wasting no time either. JAB JAB JAB JAB.

Looking back, I do not remember the buzzing sound these devices usually make. I suspect he had not even turned them on, and was relying on brute force and friction to remove hair from my head. Who needs electricity?

He gets to a point where he seems satisfied with this section of my head. At which point I would expect to feel a number of gentle fingers on the back of my head along with some murmured instruction.

Not this good man.

He SHOVES a big meaty Mediterranean FIST under my chin and forcefully JERKS my head to his desired position.

And begins STABBING my head with his clippers. He finishes, and then with heel of his palm, SLAPS the back of my head so my chin near touches my chest, and sets to work STABBING the back of my head.

He shoves his FIST under my chin, jerks my head upright and grabs a random pair of scissors. There is usually some discussion regarding what should be done at this point. He delves right in without a word. I notice my heart rate is not exactly at ‘resting’. I drag my eyes away from their usual space of disassociation and look at his face. He does not look friendly. I look away. He has access to sharp things, is standing, and I am sat with my arms under a sheet.

He JABS at my hair for some time, repeating the fist-chin-thing as he sees fit.

This entire process has been wordless.

He steps back, and wordlessly looks in the mirror. I consider this ordeal near an end.

From NOWHERE he produces a CUTTHROAT RAZOR. I was not aware they even existed anymore.

He flicks it open, and twirls it in a manner reminiscent of Mexican villains in old B-movies (they were always Mexican). More of the fist-chin stuff whilst he tackles the nape of my neck and the side of my hairline. A new technique, and one I did not welcome. Perhaps would have been better if the razor had been sharpened this century, and something resembling soap/foam had been employed. It also hurt, is my point.
He whips the sheet-thing off. At this point, there is usually some nonsense with an additional mirror, some blow-dryer action to get rid of the loose hairs, or sometimes some rather inappropriate action with a soft brush and some talcum powder.

Again, not this man.

He tosses a single man-size tissue in my general direction. Very much with the air of somebody who would think me to be the ‘queer’ they had barely disguised their suspicion of my being should I decide to use it.

He tells me the price, and gives me a look that suggests I would be unwise to barter at this stage.

Less than ten minutes after first sitting in the chair, I am on the street.

I see my reflection in a shop window. I look Alright.

I shall probably use him again.

NEXT: Some entirely innocent people going about their blameless daily lives make me so cross I consider 'doing time for them'.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Is He Still Shouting It?

Pants, I think to myself.

I use one of those underground-railway-type things to get from the very glamorous trading estate that is home to my office building to the centre of the city - the part that is populated by real people.

As I get to my tube station platform my mini-underground-train-thing-that-doesn’t-to-my-knowledge-have-a-proper-name departs seconds before I arrive.


No matter. They are very good. Only a couple of minutes waiting time normally. And it’s not so bad. This is one of the stations that aren’t actually underground. So. You know. That’s a bonus. I suppose.

There is a fellow staring intently into one of the rubbish bins that are strangely allowed on our city’s tube stations despite the fact that they vanished from real train stations in 1978 so the IRA could not put bombs in them. That scuppered them. I understand that the al-qaeda are also a bit stuck for ideas as a result. Don’t tell them about our underground for Christ’s sake.

This fellow then emits a long trail of saliva into said bin and stares at that intently. He is about 45, wearing a shell-suit (A SHELL SUIT) that does not reach his ankles and appears to be slightly cross-eyed.

Oh No, I think. It is a Mental.

I adopt Mental Alert standard procedure and pretend not to notice him and think to myself Do Not Look Him In The Eye.

I look at the timetable board. I have a few minutes. Hmm. Perhaps a cigarette.

As I take the packet from my pocket he begins RUNNING directly at me, skidding to a halt less than one foot in front of me in a Wyle E Coyote manner.

Mental Bloke: [Very excitable] How. Gie ayes one a theyme.

Me: [Calm] No.

MB: What?

Me: No.

MB: [Forcefully] Gie ayes one a theym. Please.

Me: No.

MB: [Looking quite perplexed at the injustice of it all] I sayed please.

Me: And I said no.

At this point he takes a step toward me.

(The rank amateur would feel this invasion of space and instinctively take a step back to retain their comfort zone. THIS IS A SCHOOLBOY ERROR. Never step back. They’ve got you on the fucking ropes then.)

I too step forward. He blinks. It slowly dawns on me that I am squaring-up to an obvious mental at a tube station. Perhaps not one of my more considered moves.

MB: [Actually very aggressive now, and still pursuing his God-given right to cigarettes from strangers] I’m in the middle of nowhere here.

He is not.

Me: That’s neither my concern nor responsibility.

The combination of foolishly aggressive body-language and use of words unique to non-mental people is successful.

He steps back.

MB: Aye well. [With menace] I’ll see you LATER.

Heads toward the stairs out of the station. On his way, he looks over his shoulder and delivers what would be his parting shot.

MB: If you’re lucky.

I take a drag on my cigarette. MB’s pace slows a little.

He is obviously mulling-over the impact of his parting shot and the relative logic thereof. I get the feeling he does not think it was as strong as it could have been.

MB reaches the stairs, and also some sort of decision.

He turns, and looks me right in the eye. He takes a very deep breath. And opens his mouth.


It goes on for about 10 seconds. It is actually rather impressive.

He walks up the stairs and vanishes. I consider the incident closed. A moment later I hear a disembodied voice:


I smoke some more of my cigarette. Several minutes pass. The tracks start to hum, indicating the arrival of my mini-train-underground-thing.

From far off, like the lament of a lost love, carried on the breeze, I hear:


I am now properly pissing myself laughing. Stood on my own.

There are many people on the platform that did not witness the earlier exchange.

They pretend not to notice me. They make a point of not looking me in the eye.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Not Really a Tale From the Pub

Not really because on this occasion I am not sat on my own, staring intensely at the wall and brooding about things that will never have a happy ending.

I am In The Pub.

More accurately The Pub garden. The sun is shining. I can see the river from where I sit.

Unusually, I am surrounded by people. People I know fairly well. And actually quite like.

This is a strange situation for me. It is the middle of the day.

I have been laughing. Not something normally worthy of comment, but it has been some time. Proper laughing mind. The aching-ribs variety. The totally infectious sort. That continues for far longer than it should purely because of the very fact that several people are uncontrollably laughing for no reason anyone can remember.

Pub garden. River. Woodland very close.

Suddenly a Vauxhall Cavalier screams to a halt. We stare. It is not a place where 'The Sweeney' -style driving is expected.

All three occupants are well muscled, heavily tattooed, are wearing vests, and have expressions that suggest it would not be wise to meet their gaze.

Immediately upon the car stopping, two of the occupants leap out and run into the woods.

We look at each other for a bit.

Less than one minute later, both occupants emerge from the woods. Running. Each holding one handle of a wheel-barrow. As they approach, the driver pops the boot.

We are rather surprised by the sight of a wheelbarrow at this stage.

They reach the car, and from the wheelbarrow begin dragging four rather heavy (judging by the grunting) plastic bags - all of which make an alarming clanking noise - from the wheelbarrow into the boot of the car.

The two gentlemen then leap into the car. None of them says 'Go go go' but they really didn't have to.

A squeal of tyres, gravel and gears and they are gone.

There is a short silence.

I light a cigarette.

Someone scratches their ear.

After a while someone else says:

'That was a bit odd'

There is a general murmur of concurrence.
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