The conversation at the former Coffee Republic is in full flow, but it’s about to be killed stone dead.
I should point out that I’m in very unusual company: I’m having coffee (or, in this case, tea) with seven of the area’s leading occult magicians. Before you get all judgmental with me, please try to remember this: a billion people can believe in something, and it can still be nuts. Occultists are just like us, but they tend to dress a bit differently. This particular group are wearing open-necked shirts and ripped jeans with sigils on them. The only people I love hanging around with more than occultists are LARPers…but that’s a whole other story.
Anyway……the conversation. Get ready for it, and try hard not to be offended. My bits are in bold, and Kev’s are in italics.
“I can’t believe the gang’s all here!”
“How is everyone? The force is strong with us!”
“Everyone say Hi to Dave! Dave does the blog I’m always telling you about. He took the piss out of witches: that’s why he’s ginger now. Dave, as you know I’m Paul – we spoke on the phone – and this is Mike, Rich, Tom, Kev, Ed and Tom B.”
“Haha! Hey Dave.”
“Hey, guys: thanks for inviting me.”
“Before we get all hung up on Dave, though, we should point out that Kev is our other noob!”
There’s a bit of a chorus of the word ‘noob’ at this point. I’ve heard it before: it means ‘newbie’.
Kev shrugs, nods….but he seems a bit offish, so I decide to start the conversation.
“As this is my first time, I’ll be honest: I thought there might be more girls….”
“Ha! We’re having a nightmare getting girls, these days: they stick to Wicca.”
“Yeah! They love those circles.”
“We don’t really do circles anymore.”
“That’s right: we still use wands, but-”
“I used to use a wand, but since I’ve been doing the advanced masturbation stuff, I mainly use my dick.”
Just like that, time freezes.
The only person still moving – and drinking – is me, because I naturally assume ‘Kev’ has made a sort of ‘inside joke’ that most of the other guys will get.
It’s then that I realise nobody else is laughing.
Paul is half frowning, half smiling…as if he doesn’t quite understand. The others are like waxwork statues at Madam Tussaud’s….but geekier.
To make matters worse, Kev is looking at the rest of the group with a pained but confident expression, and unbelievably he doesn’t wait for a reply. He just carries right ON:
“It’s not a joke. I have, on my travels, discovered a book on a special sort of advanced ‘magick’ that has a dedicated section on masturbation rituals. In fact-”
“Hold on there, Kev-” I interrupt, reasoning that I absolutely have to lighten the mood. “This obviously isn’t public knowledge. I mean, let’s face it: if every wa*ker in the world decided to become a wizard, it would be worse than Mordor out there.”
The regular occultists are all still staring at Kev, who suddenly – while maintaining eye-contact with me – bites into a fruit flapjack so hard that he almost takes his knuckle off. He chews up every last bit of it, crumbs spilling over his chin as he waits for me to say something else. When I don’t, he continues:
“Nevertheless, Dave: the book exists. It’s on amazon and it has a hand-grenade on the cover.”
I don’t really know what to say to Kevin: he’s obviously a very unique guy, a bit wiry with dark curly hair that has sort of exploded as if he once had a man-bun and used it to store a hand-grenade that went off. I immediately decide that he’s never had a girlfriend, and suddenly feel so sorry for him that I want to give him a hug…but I’m worried that he might be a bit, well, damp.
The others aren’t so accommodating: they’ve been exchanging meaningful glances and have become a bit….serious. Suddenly, Paul says:
“Kevin….are you a chaos magician?”
Kev looks up like a rat caught in a trap. Folding his arms defiantly, he sits up his chair and says. “Yeah. AND?”
Paul sighs, but the others are shaking their heads. I have no idea what’s going on.
Tom B leans forward and puts both hands on the table. “Um….well, I personally don’t have a problem with your sort, but this is a High Magic group, Kevin.”
Kev shrugs. “I know, but there aren’t any chaos magicians round here, so I just thought-”
“Would you please leave?” Paul says, very sharply. “We’re not here to discuss that stuff.”
“Fine. WHATEVER.” Kev jumps up, grabs his rucksack. “You dicks,” he says, heading for the stairs. At the top of the flight, he looks back over towards the table, makes eye contact with me and says: “Look up the book!” Then he’s gone. Well, not exactly gone: I think he shouted ‘ginger’ a few times on his way to the front door, but it might have been my imagination.
The rest of the meeting was dull as all hell, but when I got home I looked for the book…
…and I found it. Unbelievably, Kev wasn’t lying.
On the day the little paperback arrived, I immediately called up my best mate to stand guard outside my bathroom while I conjure up a tornado of awesome power, but when he arrived he wasn’t keen on the idea.
In fact, he just stood there in my hallway, his face a rictus of horror. “Are you nuts? I’m not running sentry duty while you wan-”
“I’d advise you to stop RIGHT THERE,” I reply, pointing down at my crotch. “THIS is where the power lies, man…and I’m packing. Right. Now.”
“Dave – this is sick.”
“Listen, if I don’t do this….then that scrawny kid will have made a complete wan*er out of me.”
“I think he’s done that anyway.”
“Shut up. Just guard the door.”
Obviously, I will have to draw a discreet veil over the rest of the experiment, but it was a resounding success. I’ve never really enjoyed magic before, but I’m getting a handle on it now. Oh, and if you think I’m making any of this up….
….absolutely any of it….
….go onto Amazon, get the book, have a read and then come back here: leave a comment that says ‘Bloke Called Dave: it’s all true.’
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you can’t make this stuff up.
Sometimes, I make big mistakes…..but they’re never my fault: not really. Here’s an example, so you can judge for yourself
Today, I’m up early. This is because it’s Easter Monday, and we’re taking the kids to Leeds Castle for the day. Leeds Castle is about an hour away, and my wife has agreed to drive if I get the kids breakfast and make us all a packed lunch for our picnic. So….what could possibly go wrong?
So…I’m at the breakfast table, along with Evie (aged 2) and I’m trying to get my head straight over a cup of coffee: I put away a small can of Jack Daniels last night and, as has been noted before, I’m such a lightweight that I once got tipsy sniffing a vodka icepop.
I feel pretty hung over. Anyway…
I’ve made three bowls of cereal and I’ve taken the lunch boxes down from the top of the kitchen cupboard (since my son has been eating school dinners, we’ve been using his old lunch boxes to store batteries, small tools, medicine, you name it). I’ve emptied the first one, wrapped a rubber band around all the headache pills and thrown half the batteries into the rubbish bin. Having stacked all the little screwdrivers inside a drawer, I’m now making a start on the lunch and I’m carefully buttering some of those scrawny thins when my son, Bast, walks into the room, cradling something in his arms.
At first, I think he has one of his little sister’s dolls, but then I see that he isn’t actually holding anything: he’s just looping his arms and making kissy sounds with his lips.
I frown at him: so does Evie.
‘Morning, Bast!’ I say, giving him the cool dad pat on the back I regularly employ when he’s acting a bit weird. ‘How’s it going? Did you do any more of that game-book? I saw you cracked that detective app on the iPad-‘
‘Shhhhh! Dad, be quiet! You’ll wake Nipple.’
Suddenly, the only sound in the room is Evie chewing her cookie crunch, because Bast isn’t moving and I’m sitting in my seat with the blood draining out of my face. Still, I think I rally pretty fast, considering:
‘Who’s Nipple, son?’
‘Shhh! Firstly, he’s imaginary: secondly, he’s a tiny baby and he’s fast asleep. Please DO NOT WAKE HIM UP.’
I shake my head.
‘Bast, you’re six years old. I’d like you to stop being silly and eat your breakfast.’
He looks at me for a few seconds, mildly annoyed, before carefully depositing his invisible load next to where I’m sitting at the dining room table and taking his seat.
‘You can watch him, then.’
I continue to prepare the breakfast, but I’m glancing sideways at the space next to the table. There’s something a bit odd about it: the sun doesn’t get to us until mid-afternoon, but there’s a bit of a shadow on the wood. I can’t pretend that it’s not freaking me out, but – like Taylor Swift – I just shake it off.
‘Aren’t you a bit old for imaginary friends, mate?’
‘I never said he was my friend, dad. I just said he was imaginary.’
‘But you’re his daddy, right?’
Bast looks at me, rather sadly and sighs. Then he begins to eat his cereal, and I start to feel bad. He is only six, and I love that he’s such an individual: I should be joining in with this stuff, not begrudging it.
I lean over the table and, smiling kindly, I pat the pretend baby gently on its head.
‘Well done, dad: you just poked Nipple right in the eye: now he’s awake, and he isn’t happy.’
‘I was trying to be nice to him.’
‘Why? Because he’s part of the family!’
‘Are you crazy! Dad, you just don’t understand at ALL. Nipple is evil. He’s really, really evil. Shall I tell you something? Nipple is the reason we’re having a tough year. Remember those noises in the car you said were bad? Nipple did that. When you locked us all out of the house that time? That was Nipple.’
When Bast finishes his breakfast, he leaves the room and wanders into the garden. Evie follows him, but I’m just staring at the wall. After a few minutes, I get up and close the garden door behind them.
Then I look at the place on the table where Bast left Nipple.
I think about stuff. You know, just stuff. This year has been a bit sucky: lots of cool people have died, and the world isn’t looking too good…..you know…..overall.
The shadow on the wood suddenly seems to get a bit darker: it might be a Weetabix stain, but I’m not entirely sure that Nipple hasn’t just wet himself….and with good reason.
I punch the table once, really hard, just in case. There’s a loud bang as the flat of my fist connects with the wood.
My wife shouts from upstairs: ‘Is everything okay?’
‘Yeah,’ I call back. ‘No worries: I just hit my knee!’
Checking that the kids are still playing in the garden, I get a big hardback book and slam it down onto the tabletop.
‘I hit my other knee, love! Everything’s fine!’
‘You’re so bloody clumsy!’
‘I know! Thanks!’
I lift the book carefully, and check underneath…but there’s still just more table there. I realise that I’m being ridiculous.
Instead, I focus on tidying the table and getting on with our day. I dump the rest of the batteries in a drawer, stuff all the medicine into a box, finish making the sandwiches and pack up the car.
Then we’re off.
We have a thoroughly brilliant morning at Leeds Castle, and I just know it’s because I gave Nipple a damn good hiding. Sure, I don’t believe in all that malign spirit stuff, but metaphorically laying the ‘smackdown’ on a nasty little shade who may or may not have been screwing with our family has just left me feeling on top of the world.
If there IS a Nipple out there, he’s obviously licking his wounds and it’s going to be a long time before the gurgling snotball darkens our door again.
Leeds Castle is packed at lunchtime, and I’m one step ahead of the game: as hundreds of stressed dads queue up while their wives scream at naughty, impatient children, we’re smugly laying out our picnic blanket and planning the afternoon’s second batch of adventures. My wife sits down and claps her hands, the kids do little high-fives, and I open the lunchbox.
It’s full of ibuprofen.
Occasionally, I call my wife in the toilet….just to see how she’s doing.
I wish this was an exaggeration, but it isn’t.
My wife used to go in there to actually use the toilet. Then it became a place to check her phone in the morning before developing into a tiny space where she could play the odd game of Pet Rescue, chat to friends on Whatsapp and, eventually, conduct some of her business transactions.
I don’t begrudge her the toilet time, but what I do find increasingly irritating is the way she looks up in surprise when I check on her after, say, twenty minutes….as if I’ve walked in an important meeting. Sometimes, she even goes: ‘Yes? Can I help you?’
That’s why I call her, instead.
I should point out that she started going into the toilet because of the children. Chi and I worship our smurfs, but they are, I have to admit, two of the most intense little monsters you’re ever likely to encounter. The bigger male one talks constantly: even when you lose your temper and shout at him, he simply waits for you to stop shouting and then carries on his conversation as if you never interrupted. The little one, in order to establish her voice against this torrent of verbal diarrhoea, screams randomly over the top of him. The resulting noise is like having a really loud radio that keeps spewing out static and deafening alarms between announcements.
Don’t get me wrong: during the day, they develop into a pair of beautifully well-rounded children and we regularly get compliments when we’re in public with them, but for some reason mornings and breakfast times are….
….pure and complete chaos.
Letting them watch TV doesn’t work: they fight over which channel they’re going to put on. The Wii Fit causes even more trouble, as they both wrestle on the board until one is thrown off and goes crying to mummy….
….but mummy is in the toilet, working. So they go to daddy, instead.
Daddy is making the breakfast, feeding the fish, emptying cans of dog food into a pet bowl and trying to find the cough medicine, but this makes no difference. Off they go, telling tales, fighting, screaming, grabbing daddy’s leg, running up and down, throwing balls at each other and knocking over random pieces of furniture in remote rooms that I then have to run to in order to check that they haven’t killed each other: I end up taking ten minutes to make a single bowl of Weetabix.
Then, one day, I snap.
I put down all the breakfast stuff, and decide to retire to the toilet. I actually need to go, and the thought of relaxing into a half decent bowel movement makes me quite excited (I used to get excited by women, but now toilet time does it for me: ageing sucks).
Now, I have a choice of toilets. There are four toilets in our house. As we don’t live in a country mansion, I can only assume that the architect who designed the place had IBS, because the poor bastard couldn’t lay out a room without sticking a toilet next to it: working with him must have been a complete nightmare.
‘Should we put in another toilet over there, do you think?’
‘There’s one here, Ted.’
‘Yeah, but even so….I was actually wondering if we could get one between those two walls over THERE.’
I decide to head to the one toilet I know will definitely be unoccupied: the one that sits directly between the kids’ rooms. It has two doors, but I can lock them both. If I do this, the kids will naturally go moaning to mummy and I can just sit, relax and drop my other kids off at the pool.
I even decide to take Paul McKenna in with me, as he’s on my iPod. Paul has tried to lift my depression and change my life several times, but thusfar he’s only succeeded in changing me into a man who is ten quid poorer. To be fair to Paul, I haven’t really given him the chance…as I never get to actually finish one of his self-help courses.
This time, he’s talking through a guided trance. Have you ever tried following a guided trance while going to the toilet? It’s a bit counter productive, but I’m making the effort.
I’m halfway through my toilet time when I hear a distant noise that is slowly but steadily coming closer. I can even hear it over Paul, who saying things like ‘Just relax’ and ‘You’re now drifting away.’
Both locks on the toilet door go at the same time: both of them. They move so fast that it’s like one of those paranormal films where the ghost has control of the house: they spin around and the kids enter through their respective doors. They’re carrying bowls of Weetabix.
I sit there with my mouth hanging open and they walk into the toilet RIGHT in front of me and starting talking to each other as if I’m not there.
Instead of shouting, screaming or reacting in any other way to this horrible intrusion, I simply close my eyes and concentrate on Paul’s melodic voice as he’s counting down from one hundred, but I can hear them OVER the top of the audio and they’re now talking about me.
‘What daddy doing?’
‘Shhh! Don’t disturb him: he’s doing a poo.’
‘Is he doing poos?’
‘Is he doing poos now?’
‘Don’t know! Do you want to see?’
‘See daddy big poos?’
Do you want to see?
I open my eyes and peer round in frank astonishment as they move around to look in the bowl while I’m still sitting on it.
I leap up, press the flush and run to another toilet. Behind me, I can hear:
‘There they go forever! Wave to them!’
‘Bye daddy big poos!’
In the other toilet, I have to sit with both feet propped against the door because they can open that lock, too.
I want to lose my temper, I want to scream, I want to shout at the world for not giving me any privacy.
Instead, I call my wife to complain.
I get her answer message.
Look at the Disney Princess in the picture above. Actually LOOK at her face. Do you know why she has that frozen, slightly startled and not entirely positive expression?
It’s because she can smell a full nappy. In fact, she can’t just smell it: the odour of festering baby pebbles is so powerful that EVERYONE can smell nothing but cloying, choking, unimaginably foul turds. It’s worth pointing out that all of us: the family, the princesses and the rest of the crowd, are trapped inside a tower in sweltering heat in the middle of the summertime at Disneyland Paris.
Well, not all of us.
Daddy isn’t there…
…which brings me to the subject of today’s blog post.
I have a confession to make: it’s not good.
You know how, in life, there are things you’re proud of and things you’re not proud of? You might be proud of your family, your kids and your scholastic or business achievements….but know, deep down, that you’re actually a bit of a tit. You might be proud of your looks, but secretly suspect that from the wrong angle your face actually resembles a penis with teeth.
Well, I’m extremely proud of lots of stuff, but there is one thing I’m not very proud of. It’s something I don’t do very often, but – boy – do I ever pick my moments. Quite simply, it’s this: when the going gets tough, I tend to run away from stuff…and I mean that quite literally.
I’m like a spineless, cowardly version of Forrest Gump.
Occasionally, I use this is as a weapon. If I see someone I don’t like (which is usually either a bigot, an intellectual snob or some other form of odious, smarmy biped), I wave at them and wait until they’re really close…and then I RUN THE HELL AWAY.
Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. The next time you see that guy from the office who only ever talks about his car or his sexual conquests or that girl who always pays you compliments in a way that actually puts you down, walk towards that person and then run away. It will completely astonish them, and there’s quite honestly nothing they can do but watch. This is fantastic fun at Tesco, because it adds the thrill that, at any moment, you might have to do it again when you round the end of an aisle.
There are, however, two times that I have run away from a situation where I really should have been a man and stuck it out.
The first was when I was sixteen, and driving to work with my poor mum. In my defence, she’d bought a really crappy Vauxhall Cavalier which had spent more time in the garage than it had in the road outside our house. This lumbering hulk of a mechanical paperweight was about as useful as a condom machine in the Vatican, and it broke down so many times that I was sick – utterly sick – of it. So when my mum pulled up at a busy traffic crossing in Broadstairs at the head of a line of traffic and the engine suddenly sputtered and died on her….
….I got out of the car and ran.
I ran and ran and ran.
Then I went shopping.
I didn’t see mum again until three o’clock in the afternoon, when she came and got me in a taxi when I called her from Birchington….
…and that lovely story brings us to the event in the picture.
It’s the height of a high, sweaty summer at Disneyland Paris and I’m in the worst mood imaginable. This is because we’ve had to buy a ticket to get into a queue, and we’ve been waiting ages. AGES.
Nowhere else on the planet Earth do you buy a ticket in order to start waiting for hours, unless you happen to be attending a book signing by some ridiculously popular celebrity or you’re one of those unfortunate people who use British Rail in order to get to work.
So, for a meet and greet with the Princess, you buy your ticket at – say – ten o’clock in the morning and then you come back at three o’clock and wait for a few hours in a killer queue. Only, in this case, the queue is extra massive because Frozen is still at cinemas worldwide, every kid in the world wants to meet Elsa and they’ve chosen to house the Princess inside a tower that basically consists of a spiral corridor that just winds round and round and round and round like you’re trapped inside one of Willy Wonka’s demented creations.
There’s only ONE way out: you quit the entire experience, leaving your tiny children heartbroken and whining like safari park chimps when all the bananas are taken away.
There are no toilet facilities inside the tower, and if you move from your space in the queue, then you’re basically saying – in the words of Duncan Bannatyne – ‘I’m ooot’.
It is in this exact situation that my wife and I begin to get a tiny and very faint whiff of turdlings.
We look at each other.
Then we look at our six-year-old son, just in case.
Finally, our eyes alight on the usual suspect: our tiny daughter.
She’s smiling up at us, but it’s the sort of smile a body builder would give when they’re pushing five hundred pounds…so we both know she’s filling her shorts.
We look at each other again.
The horror creeps in.
It’s the worst situation imaginable because we know we’re in the middle of the tower and that there’s no way out….
…and that we have around twenty seconds before the families around us begin to notice the smell.
Boy, do they ever notice the smell.
A sort of ‘Whodunnit’ live action show begins, with a burly greek guy grabbing his nose and two women behind him saying, quite loudly: ‘Oh! What’s that smell? God, it’s awful!’
The heat in the tower intensifies as more and more people start to gag: an old man leans against the wall while his wife wretches a couple of times and two little girls start crying.
My wife is refusing to move. She’s saying it with her eyes, but the lack of intention is clear. We are at Disneyland for a BIRTHDAY….and they’re going to meet Elsa no matter what. She’s not going to Let It Go.
….not for anything.
It’s at this point that I lock eyes with my wife and she knows, she just knows, that I’m going to run.
I smile lovingly at her.
I look down at my two beautiful children.
I reflect on what an incredibly lucky guy I am to have such a perfect family.
Then I run.
I run and run and run.
I’m back at the hotel in just under an hour. Thankfully, the room service is incredible, so I have a pretty good afternoon. That Johnny Depp film is on: the one where’s he a lazy writer who hangs around in his pyjamas.
My wife gets back to the hotel just after 6pm. It turns out that Elsa wasn’t available for the Meet and Greet, so they met Cinderella instead.
The picture says it all.
I hate waiting for people, and this guy is over an hour late.
An hour late.
It makes me wonder at what point you stop being late and start being dead. I know it’s morbid, and I know I’m a depressing b*stard, but there’s a certain point whenever I’m left waiting for somebody that I naturally assume they’re dead.
You see, I have that level of misguided self-importance: I am, in fact, telling myself that the only reason someone would no-show at a meeting with me is naturally because they’ve died.
Weirdly, I start to miss him….and I’ve only met him twice.
I even get a bit tearful, but that could be my abandonment issues: I need to be cuddled a lot, and told that everything’s going to be okay. Sadly, that level of intimate kindness from strangers just isn’t going to happen in a coffee shop. You can get in trouble for that sort of thing, and I’m not in the right mood to get arrested again. I don’t think my wife would be so quick to collect me, this time.
An hour, though: COME ON.
This guy better have died, because if he hasn’t and he’s kept me waiting for an hour, I may well kill him myself.
I’m only angry because I’m excited…and I’m excited because somebody has told me something absolutely incredible is going on not far from where I live, and I desperately want to know if it’s true.
I’m waiting on the proof, which – in this case – is going to come in the form of fifty pounds inside an envelope. You might be surprised to know that it’s the envelope I’m interested in.I’m looking out at the car park when he gets off the bus, spots me and starts waving the envelope over his head: he’s way over enthusiastic and he’s grinning right at me.
Suddenly, I’m conscious of the fact that I’m wearing a flowery shirt with a tie. A few seconds ago, I was just another customer, but now I’m a really obvious drug dealer with bright ginger hair in a coffee shop full of people who can see that I’m a bit tearful, a little frantic and might firmly believe that I’m sitting next to a massive blue donkey.
He’s STILL waving the envelope when he runs, out of breath, to the door of the shop.
Five seconds later, he’s at the table. I didn’t expect him to buy his own coffee, but simply running up to me and making a scene by slapping the envelope down on the table and going ‘TOLD YOU’ was not exactly a good start to the subtle chat I was hoping for.
I mutter: ‘Could you please sit down? People know me in here.’
I look at the envelope as he takes a seat.
It’s a plain white foolscap one with a few numbers scrawled on the front of it. The numbers mean nothing to me, so I turn the envelope over.
The word ‘PAYMENT’ is printed on the back in bold, stamped lettering. Underneath, in smaller print, is: ‘Thank you for contributing to The Fetish House. We value your discretion.’
I can’t believe it’s true.
I know it’s true because I was with the guy sitting opposite me when he first came back from the place, and because I know he doesn’t have the initiative to get a bespoke stamp made in the time constraints I placed upon him.
…but I still can’t believe it’s true.
I rip open the envelope, and take out one ten pound note and two twenties.
Then I slide the money back to him, pocket the envelope and lean back in my chair.
‘WHERE is the house? Exactly?’
‘I can’t tell you.’
‘Tell me roughly.’
‘Over near Birchington.’
‘Who runs it?’
‘Not sure. I’ve only ever met the old woman, and I think she just lets you in and then gives you the money at the end. I don’t think she’s actually in charge: I passed a big file server in the hall, and there’s no way she could set up all the tech stuff.’
‘Have you ever looked AROUND the rest of the house?’
‘No! You’re not allowed. You just go straight to the room, close the door and start. The cameras are on all the time: they rotate and stuff. After an hour, the alarm goes off and you’re done: you collect your money on the way out! Fifty SQUIDLINGS! Easiest money I’ve ever made.’
‘What was in the room, this time?’
‘Did you eat it?’
‘Yeah…right. I’m not STUPID.’
I take a deep breath.
‘You’re kind of stupid, dude. You’re going to a house every week and being paid to stand in a room for an hour without knowing why. I can’t imagine Stephen Fry getting caught out like that.’
‘He doesn’t need the money. Besides, I told you when I first did it: there’s nothing sexual going on.’
‘What did you do with the banana?’
‘Nothing, at first. I think they make it an hour so you get bored, though: I started messing around with it, eventually.’
‘Oh, just tossing it around, throwing it, catching it. You know: crap. I just sat in a corner at one point, scratching my knee.’
‘What was it last time, again? The thing?’
‘A table lamp.’
‘No. I switched it on and off a lot, though. They probably liked that.’
I scratch my head and squint at him. ‘You said it was a straw the first time: right?’
‘A drinking straw?’
‘Yeah: one of those twisty ones.’
I frown. ‘What the hell did you do with that for an hour?’
‘Blew through it, stretched it. I think I stuck it in the wall a few times. Look, it’s really bloody boring, but fifty pound an hour is mental: I know solicitors who don’t earn that.’
‘You know solicitors?’
‘Well, I know the one the police gave me.’
‘Yeah: I’m not sure that counts. You do realise that this is going to turn out to be a sexual thing, surely?’
‘People always think everything is about sex. How can THIS be in any way sexual?’
I can’t really answer him, but I’m picturing certain types of people all over the country, sitting at computer monitors or iPads and watching people messing around with fruit and plastic in tiny rooms with bare walls. I look over at the woman on the opposite table in the coffee shop: she has an iPad, but she also has all of her own teeth and doesn’t look the type. The type I have in mind is probably a guy in his mid fifties called Gus who still lives at home with him mum and has a collection of stuffed animals in the attic. In my head, Gus wears a string vest and socks, but nothing else. Gus loves Maltesers.
I am very disturbed by the image of Gus.
It makes me want to go home and wash a lot.
I thank my friend for his time, I buy him the coffee I promised him and give him a tenner for the information. I make all the usual promises about not using his name, not describing him, not writing the post for a week or so, etc.
When I get home, I look up ‘Fetish’ and ‘Fetish House Birchington’ on the internet. I don’t find anything.
Keep yours eyes open for those envelopes: I’m collecting them, and I want to know what the numbers on the front actually mean. Like Hurley from LOST, I have a feeling that the numbers might be…
It happens for the first time, today. I’ve dropped my mum and daughter off at a playgroup, and I’m about to head to the car when I suddenly think….
I’ll go see nan, first.
I get halfway up the road before I remember that I can’t go see my nan.
The truth of this hits me so hard that I just stand there, looking at the pavement. I’m not upset: I’m totally in shock over the fact that, for just a few seconds there, my nan was back in the front room at Bellevue Road, drinking her morning tea, smoking cigarettes and watching Jeremy Kyle….and I forgot.
I actually forgot she was gone.
I just wanted a fight about Jeremy Kyle.
I was looking forward to it.
Immediately, I’m determined not to go home. I’m obviously in some sort of turmoil, so I need to go and find some sort of distraction: urgently. The problem is, all my friends are working today and my wife is desperately ironing out a new design for her jewellery company.
There’s nowhere for me to go.
I look up at the rooftops, and down the street towards Ramsgate town.
That’s when I see John Farmer.
I’ve known John for many years: he’s older than me, has a lopsided walk that he swears he inherited from his father and travels around Ramsgate using a hiking stick in a way that strongly suggests he should be claiming some sort of disability benefit instead of operating a forklift truck at an industrial warehouse, which is actually his regular occupation.
I shout ‘Hey, John!’ and I immediately see a look of complete dread on his face, a face that – I should probably point out – largely consists of a nose. I’m a member of the Big Nose Club, myself…but, unlike John, mine hasn’t yet earned me the nickname ‘Gonzo’.
He looks horrified.
Now, here’s the thing: I hate taking up people’s time. I have this really observant friend who once pointed out that, when I’m stopped in the street, I actually walk past people while I’m talking to them, turning and continuing the conversation as I back away.
I don’t like to be a burden, except maybe during sex.
So, there’s John….and suddenly I don’t care that he’s obviously horrified to see me: I need to kill time with someone a bit special.
John is very special, and when I approach him he’s already screwing up his face and looking at the sky with the sort of expression that suggests he’s trying to think of an excuse not to hang around. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have time: I’m on him in seconds.
‘Hi Dave. Sorry about your nan, mate.’
‘Didn’t go to the funeral, because – you know – hate them.’
‘Me too. Seriously: no worries. How’s it going?’
‘Yeah, same old. Loving your blog, by the way. How much of that weird shit do you make up?’
‘None of it. Listen: what are you up to now?’
He takes a second to answer, so I know he’s either meeting someone else or he just isn’t up for company.
‘I’m going for breakfast.’
‘That little cafe by the steps, opposite Madeira Walk.’
‘Fancy some company?’
‘Er…yeah, sure. Great.’
John is quite a serious spiritualist, and he isn’t hedging his bets. He worships a wide variety of gods, practises a few pretty strange religions and travels around the country taking photographs of rural churches and making grave rubbings to put with his increasingly strange collection of religious memorabilia. He’s quite a solitary guy, but – boy – does he love the unusual. It was John who first asked me to try out a Ouija Board, and John who didn’t talk to me for two months after I spelled out ‘The Hip Bone’s Connected To The Thigh Bone’ when he genuinely thought he was getting a message from his Great Aunt.
I think John is awesome, but I know he really doesn’t feel the same way about me. We were introduced by a mutual friend who we both really loved spending time with before he went off to live in Ellesmere Port. Now, we just sort of drift together occasionally.
But John is in a very strange mood today.
I’m asking him about his hobbies, what he’s up to, enquiring if he’s done anything off the wall recently…and he’s being really guarded and defensive, almost as if I don’t know him and we’ve never done all the crazy stuff we used to do together.
However, he lightens up at breakfast and it soon becomes clear that he’s got a day off and is quite excited about something.
‘It’s a woman, isn’t it?’
‘Well, yes. No. Sort of. She is a woman, but it’s not a date or anything and she’s married with kids, so no go there.’
‘Is she attractive?’
‘I’m only trying to work out why you’re acting so shifty: you’ve gone all red. She must be attractive.’
‘She’s quite attractive, but – seriously, mate – there’s nothing going on.’
‘Yeah yeah. So why are you meeting up?’
‘It’s not like that: it’s a professional thing. It’s costing me £20.’
‘She’s a prostitute!’
‘No, you d*ck! For £20?’
‘I don’t know the going rate.’
‘It’s not £20.’
‘How do you know?’
‘I just do.’
‘Whatever. Why are you paying this married woman £20 to spend time with you?’
‘I’m not paying her for that. I’m paying her to-‘
He doesn’t say anything else, just shovels in a load of bacon and eggs. Then he looks around the cafe as if someone is about to assassinate him, leans in close to me and whispers:
‘I’m going to get my fortune read.’
‘So what’s the big deal? You always do that stuff. Mind you, I remember you saying you weren’t going back after that last guy-‘
‘He was a palm reader. This is what you never understand, Dave: they’re all different. The bloke in Margate did tarot and the old girl in Cliftonville used tealeaves, but this woman is off on a new wave that loads of people are talking about. It’s more intimate, and gives you a better idea of-‘
Now I’m staring at him, and I know he’s seriously uncomfortable…but that’s it: I’m in the zone.
‘How intimate? What exactly is she reading?’
He stands up, cranes right over the table and whispers into my ear.
I look at him.
I frown a bit.
Then I say, out loud: ‘You just made that up.’
He shakes his head. ‘I didn’t.’
‘There’s no such thing as an arse reader.’
‘Look, I didn’t want any company today.’
‘She reads bum cheeks? For a living?’
‘It’s only £20.’
‘Yan can go to the doctor for free: he’ll stick a finger up there and give you a full reading.’
‘You think you’re so funny-‘
‘No, mate: I’m actually in shock. What is this woman going to tell you about yourself that you don’t already know by checking out your arse?’
‘Got enough for another blog, have you?’
‘I’m just trying to understand, John.’
‘Do you have to take your underpants off?’
‘Of COURSE. What kind of a reading would I get if I didn’t?’
‘Funny guy. Actually, she can pick up stuff from your underwear…but it’s better if she looks at your body for the best result. I’m not messing around, Dave: you can think what you like. A mate of mine had it done a few weeks back: he got told some incredible stuff.’
‘Like what: you’ve got piles?’
‘No, dickhead. Stuff about his past.’
‘His past? Are you SERIOUSLY buying this? I mean, apart from a possible guess about what you might have eaten for lunch if you happen to fart….’
‘I’m not talking to you about this any more.’
‘Does she touch you?’
He just looks at me, and sips his tea.
‘Did your mate say she touched him?’
‘Sort of. He said he felt…something, but it might have been just the cold.’
‘I’m making an appointment.’
‘Don’t YOU DARE.’
‘This is why people don’t tell you stuff.’
‘Oh, come on, John. You’re taking the day off to get your arse read for £20. What if she make contact with an old relative while she’s rooting around up there? You’re going to be terrified every time you go to the toilet in case you hear voices.’
‘Yeah? Well YOU talk out of YOUR arse….Bloke. Called. Dave. Dick.’
John finishes his breakfast, and leaves the cafe. I can’t deny the fact that this man has done an awful lot to brighten up my day, but the idea of a bum reading is just too hilarious to leave alone: when I get home, I’m going to find some underwear and test out my psychic powers.
You see, it’s basically the Rear View I’m after.