‘My Christmas was shit.’
‘Thanks for telling me that, Reg.’
‘How was your Christmas?’
‘Rather irksome. Not shit.’
‘I bet you had as bad a time as me. Go on, you did didn’t you?’
‘What did you do that was so awful, Reg?’
‘I spent about ten days getting totally rat-arsed with Nigel.’
‘What did you do, Davy-me-lad?’
‘Pretty much the same as you, Reg, but with Nelson and with plenty of good music and sparkling conversation.’
‘You go out much?’
‘Once or twice.’
‘Any sex action?’
‘Cough! Did er . . . did you go out at all?’
‘I spent New Years Eve in the Miners’ Welfare with Nigel. We played pool all night.’
‘Did you win?’
‘He thrashed me. Beat me ten-nil. I was lucky to get the nil, actually.’
‘Ha! Fancy you being beaten at pool by a man who is only five feet tall.’
‘Stop laughing. You know what?’
‘If Nigel were two inches shorter he’d be illegal on the Isle of Man.’
Why am I not surprised Nigel is good at playing pool?
Too much work here at Enormous Towers to even begin thinking about kicking back and celebrating the birth of the Baby Jesus.
Okay, maybe I’ll take a couple of hours off on Christmas Day.
And of course, Nelson Galaxy will be ‘taking me out’ on Boxing Day.
But apart from that, it’s just work, work, work for yours truly and his furry companion.
Okay, maybe I’ll accompany Nelson again around the local hostelries on New Years Eve to help him drink himself into Bolivia. (Again.)
Then again, maybe I won’t. That’s just the way I am, me. Unpredictable. Women love it.
Or something. Probably.
Anyhoo, Merry Christmas! See you in the New Year.
If I were being honest with you, walking around the village and talking to fellow dog-walkers is usually not too disagreeable an experience – providing one has a high tolerance for mundanity and repetition. (You also get to hear an awful lot about people’s illnesses.) But I was talking to an rather exasperating old chap this morning with a King Charles Cavalier who was so boring – the man, not the spaniel – that I was almost impelled to commit an act of public strangulation.
I had to listen for at least fifteen minutes while he droned on and on about his malfunctioning central-heating boiler and much trouble he has been having trying to get ‘some jumped-up Johnny’ from the district council to come out and fix it for him. ‘I’d do it myself,’ he kept telling me, ‘But those things are dangerous, you know. Health and Safety.’
‘H’m. Sounds like you’re having quite a – ‘
‘Arseholes, them council Johnnies are. Don’t know they’ve ever been born. Get ‘em in the army, that’s what I say. Afghanistan. That would sort ‘em out. Get ‘em out there givin’ the Taliban what-for. Show ‘em who’s the boss. Teach ‘em a thing or two about respect. Queen and Country.’
I stepped back slightly in case he wanted to salute.
‘What’s wrong with your boiler, anyway? Have you tried – ‘
‘I’m not fixing it myself, man. Are you mad? Health and Safety. It’s very easy for a man’s shirt sleeve to just catch fire, you know, and for him to go up in flames.’
‘Yes, it is,’ I agreed, feeling somewhat disappointed with the world.
I saw Nigel in the village yesterday about to cross the road in front of an oncoming double-decker school bus.
I quickly grabbed his arm and manhandled him back on to the pavement.
‘Careful, Ian. We nearly lost you there.’
‘Sorry, Nigel. I don’t know why I called you Ian.’
‘People often call me Ian, for some reason,’ he said, taking out the earplugs to his iPod. ‘And I can tell you, if ever I am in a room with someone called Ian, it literally causes chaos.’
‘Crikey. Anyway, what are you listening to that nearly made you step in front of a bus?’
‘He’s brilliant, isn’t he.’
‘Actually, I don’t really like him, Nigel. Not really. At all.’
‘You’re just envious of him, Davy. It’s obvious.’ He was grinning now as if he had discovered my deepest dark secret.
‘It’s not that, Nigel,’ I told him. ‘I don’t enjoy listening to music that sounds like it means me harm.’
‘He’s had a lot more success than you.’
‘True. He’s just been dropped by his record company, hasn’t he?’
‘No.’ (He has.)
‘Anyway, I must dash, Ian – sorry, Nigel. Once again, talking to you has left me feeling a little overexcited. I need a cup of tea and a nice sit-down.’
‘Whatever.’ He looked me in the eye. ‘And, erm . . . well, I’d like to say thank you. You saved my life there, you know.’
‘Well, nobody’s perfect, Ian.’
You will spill a pint of lager over someone you are trying to chat up.
Later, she will tell you that she thinks you are ‘really sweet’ but that she doesn’t want a ‘serious-type of relationship kind-of-thing.’
This is what you will tell her: ‘So do I, neither. How about a quick shag?’
You will be slapped hard in the face for the first time in your life. It will hurt.
You will begin to doubt the credibility of the ironic comment. (Especially where women are concerned.)
Audrey and I have not been verbally abused too much by the local idiots or their hideous offspring in the past few days, and I must say I’m rather pleased about it. It makes wandering around the phlegm and dogshit covered streets of the village slightly less nauseating than usual.
We did have to endure the misfortune of bumping into Nigel and Reg this morning, however.
Carrying on our tedious conversation of the previous week about rams and the local football team, for some unfathomable reason Nigel took it upon himself to begin explaining to me the offside rule.
He was getting rather excited about it all. Of course, I wasn’t paying any attention to him; my eyes kept wandering up to his greasy head. His hair always looks like it has been washed only once in a previous life.
‘Do you know what shampoo is, Nige?’ I interrupted him.
‘It doesn’t matter. Look, as interesting as your account is, I shall have to take my leave as I seem to have suddenly lost the will to live.’
‘Are you being sarcastic?’ he asked.
‘Sarcastic? Me? Never.’
He thought for a second and then said, ‘Football has a lot of sexual energy, you know.’
After years of loving neglect, I decided yesterday to re-energise my powers of detection and set about trying to determine the meaning of ram when it is used – as it often is in this vicinity, especially by the committed teenage swearers who feel compelled to hurl abuse at Audrey and I whenever we wander into their territory – as a term of abuse.
It was Reg who enlightened me. Apparently, in this particular instance, ram is meant to signify someone who is utterly useless and universally despised.
According to Reg, it refers either to the local football team or to bestiality. Or both.
These are subjects that are discussed (and in the case of the latter, ostensibly practiced with alarming regularity) very often in the living-rooms, snooker halls and gin-joints of Derbyshire and its outlying areas.