I don’t know what it is with me lately.
I have started to help racist little old ladies across the road; pick snails up from the pavement and safely deposit them on the grass verge or in a hedge bottom; say hello to the ugly and obnoxious postman; smile at teenagers; calmly tip my hat to people who block my path in the street; refrain from quietly seething at my next-door-neighbour of an evening when he has his mates round to play barbeque and listen to loud dance music – lots of things, actually.
Maybe it’s the warm weather or perhaps it is something to do with my glands, but I honestly believe that in my middle-age I am becoming more of an easygoing and tolerant individual. Sociable, even.
Wonders will never cease.
I am really growing to hate the mirror in my bathroom.
I stare into it every morning, preparing for my shave, and the things I notice most are the lines around my eyes. I am not very old, but it seems as if my flesh is dying on me. Every day there is another unwelcome wrinkle on my face; and all the bloody mirror does is sit there on the wall in mute contempt, staring back, silently mocking me with its silvered glass and antique pine frame – while I suffer the devastation of growing older day by day, week by week, year by year.
To make matters worse, my Sunday morning ablutions today were accompanied by the soundtrack of McFly’s new album, the bland and saccharine strains of which were drifting in through the open studio window. Their new album has been given away free today in the Mail On Sunday newspaper and some eager young fan was playing it at full volume a few doors down the street for the benefit of neighbours who had not yet had the chance to acquire a copy.
It is something of a fortunate detail that I use Bic safety razors and do not possess any of the old-fashioned, cut-throat variety of shaving implements, because I felt like slashing my wrists – and probably would have done had I not had the good sense to go immediately downstairs and turn on the hi-fi.
I sat for a few happy moments listening to several songs by The Buzzcocks, Teenage Kicks by The Undertones and Into the Valley by The Skids and felt considerably relieved afterwards.
After being dive-bombed by an angry crow on the rec’ for ten minutes earlier today, Audrey and I took a different route home, along Landsbury Avenue and past the sewage works on the other side of the village. We regretted it.
Just before we reached the junction with the main road that leads to Mansfield, we passed an elderly woman who was standing outside a rough-looking house with an outdoor refrigerator and an unkempt garden that resembled a building site.
Trembling and swaying dangerously from side to side, the old dear seemed to be in some distress. I thought at first that she was weeping; but as we drew near, it was obvious from the trebly strains of Madonna’s hit song Like A Virgin that were emanating from a tiny speaker in a mobile phone the woman was holding, she was singing. ‘Like a vir-ir-ir-ir-gin.’ She could have been singing. She could have been speaking in ancient Celtic tongues – it was difficult to tell. She also stank, and from the way she was dressed, she was – well, suffice it to say, her appearance had something of an earthy charm.
A burly young man opened the bay window of the house. ‘Alright, Mam?’ he asked the woman. And then to me: ‘On yer way, mate.’
‘I’m sorry, I thought for a moment your mother was in trouble.’
‘Seen enough, ‘ave yer? Wanna come in ‘ere an’ ‘elp me wiv me beer do yer? It’s lovely beer, this is.’ He made his sarcastic questions sound like a threat of violence. But even so, for a moment there, I wondered if Audrey and I were being matriculated into a local cult. ‘Mind yer fookin’ business.’ He spat. ‘There’s no trouble ‘ere. When there is, I’ll come and get yer. I know where you live.’
My dog and I showed all the fighting spirit of the French by turning quickly on our heels and making for home. ‘It’s no wonder I’m paranoid,’ I reminded her as we reached the safety of our front door.
Later, when I was at the mixing desk positioning microphones on my acoustic guitar, I looked at Audrey who was snoozing on the sofa by the window, and the image of something wonderful flashed across my mind. I couldn’t quite grasp it, its meaning or its nature. But it had been there, and I knew it would be back.
‘What do you reckon about that Kylie Mine-agog getting the OBE, then, eh?’ I was collared in the street this morning by the moronic fellow from number 16 who loves to share the sound of his car alarm with the neighbourhood. ‘She only got it ‘cos Prince Charles fancies her.’
I humoured him: ‘The whole affair invites speculation to some extent, doesn’t it.’ For once, I tried to make my point with a measured neutrality.
‘Makes me bloody sick,’ he opined, spittle foaming white in the corners of his mouth. ‘All these honest people like you and me grafting day after day with no thanks, and who gets honoured? Eh? Who?’ – I was worried for a moment that he was about to have an epileptic fit – ‘Some bloody Aussie tart who can’t sing – that’s who!’
My only thoughts were of escape. ‘Ha ha, yes. I would love to stand and chat but I must deliver myself of your leave. I need to lie down – I’m afraid I might be about to have a brain aneurism.’
‘Never mind – Star Trek’s on t’telly later,’ he helpfully informed me, suddenly full of joy.
This is what I said in reply: ‘That’s great.’ This is what I was actually thinking: ‘Beam me up, Scotty.’
I was already in angry bear mode when I woke up this morning but the fact that my next-door-neighbour keeps throwing his empty cans of Foster’s lager on to my back garden made me feel even worse.
I took a moment to gird my loins and stormed round there. I banged on his door ready to murder the moron. ‘Are you mentally ill?’ I asked him.
Apart form a smile without promise, the only reaction I got from him was this: ‘It’s not me, buddy.’ Buddy!
My anger was reaching nuclear meltdown levels; I was ready to explode, to hurt, to maim and kill. To be honest, I was actually looking forward to something else going wrong so that I might vent my spleen further – anything from running out of milk to actual Armageddon would have been welcome.
In an effort to calm down, I took Audrey – who was seething in sympathy under the sofa – for an early lunchtime walk.
We went down by the old colliery railway tracks and explored some of the disused industrial buildings that no one has yet been bothered to demolish. They are fascinating places: derelict warehouses and abandoned depots of crumbling red brick, full of redundant machines, rotting cardboard, broken glass and garlands of twisted steel.
The damp smell of chaos and decay made me feel much better.
I am haunted by stupidity.
The moron who lives a few doors down from me delights the residents of our street by allowing his car alarm to go off every hour or so. This has been going on for weeks now; he seems not to care that he is annoying people – especially me – beyond normal limits. In fact, he actually seems to be rather proud of his nuisance car and its dysfunctional protection system. Worst of all, for the past few days, he has been parking his ugly Volvo directly outside my house.
‘This has got to stop,’ I told him. ‘Today.’
His reaction? He tucked a smile into his beard and said under his malty breath: ‘It’s a laugh, innit.’
I tried to explain to him that no one is finding the situation even remotely funny. I told him how close I am to smashing his car’s windscreen or smashing him in his teeth. This made him roar with laughter – so much so, in fact, that tears began streaming down his cheeks. He had assumed my threat to be an idle one or that I was perhaps joking with him.
Time stood still for me at that point. All I could hear was my heart beating like a piston-engine inside my chest and Audrey panting softly at my feet. It took all my strength not to physically attack him, not to kick him in his tiny testicles. This is what I told him: ‘You’ll be hearing from my solicitor.’
When I was sitting in front of the TV with a hot cup of tea a few minutes later, trying to calm down, I realised how ridiculous I must have sounded. I wept.
Now I feel even worse: angry, ashamed, embarrassed, pathetic and feeble.
Car alarms should be banned.