A visit to the mysterious 'Marie Stopes Clinic' was the beginning of an amazing journey…

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If men can take their own Snooker cue

I feel a bit embarrassed today, as last night I dreamt I’d been walking around with my jumper on inside out, but woke up before I’d had time to put that right. The only way I can save face is to have a dream set the day before in which I write BE CAREFUL WITH JUMPER on the back of my hand.

I’d decided to buy a wooden toilet seat so I headed off to Wilkinsons. On the way a woman coming toward me on the pavement asked me the time. But she was still about 60 feet away, barely a dot on the horizon. I’m sure there are EEC guidelines on this – isn’t the maximum distance for time enquiries 8 feet? I think I remember reading that. Maybe she’d forgotten to brush her teeth. Good to know that even in Gravesend communitarian spirit isn’t dead. Or perhaps she’d been rehearsing her enquiry the length of the street and nervously mistimed the actual performance. We’ve all done it. I’ve made similar faux pas myself out of nervousness, like once when I was a student I held a door open for a similarly distant woman who I’d also forgotten was a feminist. I didn’t see her again for seven years, but when I did I explained that I’d merely held the door open to be ironic. That night, for the first time in seven years, I slept like a baby.

They had plenty of toilet seats in Wilkinsons – some black, some white, one with a mirrored surface.  Quite the cornucopia.  I was intrigued by the possible emboldening benefits of the convex mirrored surface but still plumped for the wooden one. It’s a pine effect toilet seat. I will feel like such a charlatan when I’m having a shit later.

I then left Wilkinsons and used a public lavatory. A bloke, pointing at my toilet seat – the pine effect one I had bought; he wasn’t in the cubicle with me, initially – said, “You’re a bit fussy aren’t you?” I explained that if men can take their own snooker cue to a pub I can take my own toilet seat to a public lavatory to enjoy the sport of my preference. I hadn’t intended this to sound flirtatious, but we soon had some explaining to do as the St George’s Centre security staff began to pile in. I had previously had a rigid policy of not talking in public lavatories, which I intend to return to as of tomorrow.

On the way to the bus stop I couldn’t help smile at the toilet seat. I felt excited about the later fitting. It’s good to have something to look forward to.

Blog Post #24

You know how dogs sometimes sound like they’re saying something? Well, this morning I definitely heard a dog saying both “Aggro!” and “Messerschmidt!” I opened the curtain and looked over – the dog was asleep.

So, not only a talking dog but one having a nightmare about World War II.

The Dippers

Went for a curry with me friend yesterday, up that London. The restaurant was completely empty, but we were still shown to the smallest table. In fact to fit at it we had to be shrunk down by the same ray they used in the film Fantastic Voyage. They took us off briefly into a little side room for this. I expect they have to do that, seat a pair at a small table and shrink them down with the ray used in Fantastic Voyage, in case there’s a sudden rush.

So then me, me friend and a waiter began re-arranging the table’s contents. It’s sort of like Ker-Plunk, this process, but involves more precision if anything. There’s one Indian restaurant in Brick Lane that burnt down after I put a glass three inches to the left of its optimum placing. You can imagine the chain of events. But we know now, and I’m guessing they were insured.

We were told it was okay to put some of our things on a bigger adjacent table. I was thinking, Can’t we just sit at that table, along with our things, leaving the other twenty-five tables clean as a whistle? I didn’t say it. Never question Eastern wisdom. They’re probably plain-clothes Buddhists, them waiters – the restaurant business is essentially a very elaborate stake-out for the plain-clothes Buddhist and the spread of Buddhism in general. That’s my theory. A subtle creed, theirs, they never preach unless provoked. You try and challenge the plain-clothes Buddhist with reason and their response will be swift, its consequences far-reaching. It would be like goading a swan, and we’ve all done that, round my way.

So then we asked for poppadoms. I didn’t have me first curry till I was 30, so I’m basically still calibrating the machinery. I sense we couldn’t manage six, but we might give five a try next time, just to gather data. I did feel dirty the first time we asked for three – but then I remembered that Doors song and broke on through to the other side. If I’m ever in a situation where I’ve only had one poppadom I tend to feel bad-tempered after, for anything up to six weeks, and God help me if it should happen again in the meantime, creating an overlap. With a life full of missed opportunities like mine, the last thing you want is a vivid metaphor for that regularly arising from what’s supposed to be a nice day out.

Recently I was out having a curry with seven other people, as far-fetched as that sounds, even to me – I suspect it of being an implanted memory – and I noticed that the others were using the spoons provided, spooning the dips onto the poppadoms. I had a panic then, just thinking back to all the times I’ve had a curry and just dipped the poppadoms. It was hasty, maybe, my assumption that leftovers are always just thrown away. If there were plain-clothes Buddhists in all the Indian restaurants I’ve been to I’ll be coming back as some bacteria. So anyway we started discussing this, poppadom etiquette and chutney protocol, me and me friend, flashback over, and a chain of reasoning evolved that may well have had the staff shaking their heads in dismay. At one point, to see how the other half live, I loaded me poppadom up with the spoon. I didn’t enjoy it. If it comes to it, if I have to stop dipping, I’ll defect to Wetherspoons. But I couldn’t sleep last night, just turning it over and over in me mind. I just imagined the waiters talking after we left.

WAITER 1: Dippers. They were dippers. Ugh…
WAITER 2: I know. I nearly pushed the button for the trap door.
WAITER 1: Is that what that button does?!?
WAITER 2: Yeah.
WAITER 1: (rubbing hands, eyes narrowed) Excellent…

What I don’t get is, if we say Mumbai now instead of Bombay, why is it still Bombay Potato? Let’s change it, as of now – it’s Mumbai Potato now. And Beijing Duck. It all starts here.

We had Sag Aloo. I love Sag Aloo, me. I said to me friend, “I bet we have a saga on the loo later.” We was laughing and laughing.

Darth Vader and the Beautiful Buttons

One morning Darth Vader returned from the shops with a new cloak, the old one just about had the arse worn out of it. He went up to The Emperor and showed him the cloak. “Look at this, my master. They’ve sewn some spare buttons into the inside, isn’t that considerate?” The Emperor looked concerned. At that moment Vader began to weep. “When I was little we never had decent clothes, everything was the wrong size. Look, they’re even in a little cellophane bag.”

The Emperor went to stand at the window. “Be mindful, my friend, of being lured by these gimmicks, lured away from the dark side.”

“Dark side? Dark side of what?” said Vader.

“Of the force. Dark side of the force. How many times have you heard me say the phrase ‘dark side of the force’ now? I’m just abbreviating it because it’s bloody obvious.”

“So whenever you say ‘dark side’, that means ‘dark side of the force’. Every time.”

“I can’t at present imagine a context we might find ourselves in where I’d be using the phrase ‘dark side’ differently, no.”

The two stood and looked together from the window.

“You are right, my master. When I saw these buttons and thought of the kindness I was tempted to turn away from the dark side. Actually what if we just say ‘the dark’? Or the d.s.?”

“That will be okay in a text, but not in front of the men.”

“Or ‘it’?”

The Emperor spun round to face his apprentice. “Okay, that fucking does it!” he shouted. “Give me those poxy buttons!”

“What?” said Vader.

But before he could act, the buttons had been tipped into a vent – gone forever!

That night in bed Lord Vader again wept, now for the loss of the beautiful buttons. He had come to accept that his attachment to them had been a best beaten one, but thought the package nevertheless an effing brilliant idea.

Revenge

This blog, finances being what they are, is done entirely by carrier pigeon. For now, that’s how I have to use the internet. It can be annoying if I have to fill in one a them Captcha boxes – moreso for the pigeon, to be fair. Why I bring this up is, I was in Rumbelows earlier, over by the laptops. The sales bloke comes up, and he’s like, “Can I help you, Sir?” I’m going, “What’s the difference between Windows 95 and Windows 98?” He’s all, “What’s that on your shirt, Sir, is it egg?” There’s a bit of egg on me shirt, I start scratching at it. The assistant’s going, “I don’t think we sell anything you can afford, you should try Loot, or a church fete,” and he starts pushing me toward the door.

“I need some batteries!” I’m going. Another assistant comes across.  He gets me in a head-lock first and then the first one grabs my legs, they lift me up, they’re dragging me to the door. They’re all like, “We’re sold out. Not expecting a new delivery until 2025.”

When I come to on the pavement I feel a bit peckish, so I decide to go to a cafe for a Full English. The woman takes my order. “I’ll have two eggs, two sausages, mushrooms, bacon, tomatoes and toast.”

“Don’t you want–” she starts, but I interrupt her.

“No, no beans, ta.” So I start texting me friend Gill. I can’t think of anything worth saying but the wait can be terrible. Anyway, the four minutes are eventually done and they’ve gone and put me plate down and that. “Enjoy,” they say. It’s good to be reminded. I usually write that on the back a me right hand – ‘ENJOY’ – but it’s so easy to forget where you’ve written these things. So I generally write ‘LOOK AT OTHER HAND’ on me left hand at the start a the week with one a them DVD pens, they don’t rub off, do they. I draw a dotted line around me waist and one round the middle a me thighs and write between the two dotted lines ‘NO LOOFER’. What was I saying? The beans! When the waitress has gone, I’m looking about, careful like. There’s not many customers, and I’ve been careful with the seat I went to.

So what I do then is, I get this silver whiskey flask out me pocket. What’s it got in it?

Beans.

The way I think is, after about five years a doing this – I’m one year and four months in – me and the world will be even stevens.

The Set Breakfast

A few years ago me, Pol Pot and Ray Clemence the ’80s Liverpool goalie met up for a cafe breakfast. We had the menus there in front of us, and the chef comes up to us with his pad, and he goes, “Well gentlemen, do you know what you are having?”

Just then a crow cawed ominously. The door was shut, so I’m assuming it was a ring tone.

Pol Pot goes, “Yeah, can I have the number 3 set breakfast there… but… can I skip the hash browns and have an extra egg. So two eggs.”

And Ray Clemence goes, “Yeah, I’ll have the number three breakfast as well, but stead a the bacon can I have an extra sausage, and can I have tomatoes stead a the beans.”

And I goes, “And can I have the number two set breakfast, but can I have just the one sausage and no tomatoes. And stead a the egg can I have an omelette – cheese and mushroom.”

So Ray Clemence goes, “Oh that’s… yeah… Can I also stead a the egg have an omelette, just plain though.”

And Pol Pot goes, “Well yeah, stead a the bacon can I have a pork chop, and stead a the bubble can it be boiled potatoes. And peas instead of egg and the other stuff. Forty-two peas.”

The chef lets out quite a sigh. “Gentlemen,” he says. “You cannot have these things. You cannot have the breakfast that mutates into a chop and mash combo. You cannot have the order that makes my day about mathematics when I specifically trained to be a chef to get away from my father’s number mania. You cannot have these things. I suggest you leave, you with your dictatorship, your 1980s soccer success and your poorly selling book of poetry, leave and go eat somewhere else.”

And lo, a deadly silence did hang in the air, the same type of silence that precedes a Mafia Don’s deadly kiss, that type.

Then me, Pol Pot and Ray Clemence the ’80s Liverpool goalie went to the garage and got three bags of crisps, Golden Wonder if I remember rightly. I think Pol Pot was crying a bit.

A Postcard from Venus

Today I bought my first electric drill. I’m not happy about it, I wanted a hand drill. Or, a ‘manual drill’, as I’d been saying to the shop staff, in the spirit of someone asking in the 89th minute of a World Cup game, “So is that England in the red then?” That’s just a hypothetical person there, I didn’t do that, if anyone with a Plymouth accent says otherwise they’re lying. Anyway, I could see the shop assistant trying to keep a straight face, although I was tempted to point out that given that he merely sells the tools and doesn’t use them eight hours a day means he has scarcely got anything over me.

That was in one particular shop in town. I went to Wickes, B&Q and Wilkinsons – who still haven’t implemented the new jingle I sent them, “Wil-kin-sons… we keep our aisle re-shuff-les to a min-i-mum…” – and yet nowhere could I a hand drill find. I think possibly the bloke in the first shop was in touch with the blokes in the other shops via walkie-talkie:

Assistant 1: Got a numpty heading your way, wants a ‘manual drill’, that’s a man-u-al drill. I’ve managed to let him know that they’re called hand drills, I sort of looked at the wall to give the impression that I felt calm.

Assistant 2: I’ve got an idea. What if when he asks for a hand drill I say that they’re called manual drills?

Assistant 1: That… is so excellent. Can you get that on your camera phone? Just blu-tac it to a shelf, he won’t notice.

Assistant 2: It’ll be on YouTube by 9, with the others. Should we ring Barry at Wickes to get him to say they’re called hand drills?

Assistant 1: I’m already on it…

So in the end, as I say, I bought an electric drill, I think they’re called. It says 500w on the box, which is tidy as there is a five in the size of me cock as well. Speaking of tidiness, my OCD need for tidiness in the world makes me think about the Millennium Wheel and the Gherkin. Why not call the Gherkin the Millennium Dildo – then you’ve got the Millennium Wheel on your left as you approach Charing Cross and the Millennium Dildo on your right. It’s just tidier, that’s all I’m saying.

I very nearly crapped meself using the drill. It was £9.99, it’s from the Argos Value range. A death-trap, by the shop’s own euphemistic admission. Drills, they’re very noisy, aren’t they, and fast – even the memory is making me heart go mental. As I was drilling I was holding Robert Bly’s Iron John in me other hand, to absorb its reputed talisman-like powers, but I can’t say it helped much, maybe I’ve got that wrong about the talisman-like powers or maybe it’s just because my copy only cost a quid. Maybe the original owner used up the talisman energy. Maybe it’s that. Maybe it’s that.