Short only a locust
November 8, 2013

Thunder in the evening. Lulu cowered on, and then behind, the sofa. I fought my  way through the Holloway Gazette, a weekly distillation of the darker canticles of Job.

The elderly of Nib’s Acre face winter without insulation. A pool of blood appears on Filrose Crescent. A man stabbed in the ear on a Tube platform is hit by his own ambulance, breaking both collarbones and an urn of his mother’s ashes. “She wanted scattering,” he reports, as her ground remnants coat a ring of chip-huffing onlookers, “but not here.”

I am waiting for Cliff Richard to announce his Christmas single on the One Show when an unexpected fist pounds at the window. What I assume to be a meth-crazed local barbarian yawps out a murderous vowel-string. In seconds Lulu is under the sofa. I fancy I can feel her ridged back through the upholstery. By the time I lure her out with warmed Nutella and throw open the door, the street outside is deserted. Even the lights of Sew Over It Suit Repair are dim.

Later, a text from Danny. “WR R U LOL??!” I fail to share his amusement. I angrily text him a picture of a doorbell, feel instant guilt for my harshness, and realise I have missed Cliff entirely. I turn to the cruel comforts of the Holloway Gazette. They have mutilated my letter about the rats. It seems I shall be forced to write to them again.

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Lulu falls
October 25, 2013

Thunderous rain. Sheets of lighting. The piercing ululation of a distant car alarm.  I have been watching Eastenders in an attempt to master the local patois and as a gesture of support for dear Danny, but even its awoightiest shoutfest could not match nature’s hysterical scene-setting at The Vapours last night. 

The One Show had hosted a comedian lately delivered of spawn. Apparently the greatest duty of the new parent is never to be funny again. But as the festivities petered out to forced chuckles and the sound of a cameraman slitting his throat with a lens-cap, a tremulous joy rose in my heart. A half hour of soap would soothe my cares. I shouted up for Lulu. No response. I wafted from the stairwell the curlicued mist of a nutty aubergine bake, usually enough to set Lulu salivating like Pavlov’s dog on a campanology retreat. Not a floorboard thumped. 

Retreating to the kitchen, my eye was caught by some movement in the garden. From beneath the door of the woodshed came a thin sliver of light. It wavered on the storm-flattened grass.  

An awful suspicion arose. In seconds I was out there, ear cupped to the door, obese raindrops caroming off the upper slope of my forehead. From inside the shed I was assailed by the unmistakeable sound of gnawing. 

It was the work of a manly second to shoulder-charge the door. It was the work of a slightly more cerebral second to nurse my shoulder and remember that shed doors open outward. I pulled it wide. There, hunched on the floor, was a monstrous shape. My heart faltered. Lulu’s face rose, pained with guilt and plastered, on its lowed portions, with the slabbered juices of our moon-faced butcher’s mutton.

Rain pounded. The siren croaked and stopped. A lightning flash whitened the back roof of Paradise Discount and Luxury Household Goods.

Should I be angry? Of course I should. Should I bewail the daily holocaust of sheep, the grinning murder of innumerable beeves? Yes, emphatically yes.

Instead I held my hand out. Lulu stood. I beckoned. Lulu came. The mutton was quite forgotten. From the house, the familiar clarion of Simon May’s syn-drums (his best work, in my opinion, since Holiday ’86) opened the curtain on a new day’s catastrophes in Walford, but in the garden the drama had a calmer, nobler hue. So much can be said with an embrace. In those few rainswept seconds, as Lulu’s hug brought my wet shirt and my back into icy contact, I felt I had truly moved. The Vapours was no longer a project. The house had become a home. 

In which my nature is subdued to what it works in
October 21, 2013

Like a svelte Northern Proust, I am always in of an evening.  What’s the good of a home if you are never in it?  “Home, Sweet Home,” that’s my motto, embroidered on the dusty brocade of my heart. Our dear friend Danny may drop in without ceremony; so may Alan, who lives in Hampstead.  Poor Lulu and I are as pleased to see them as we are to see anyone, which is hardly at all. They pass the time, however.

But Lulu and I can manage to pass our evenings together without friends.  There is always something to be done: a tin-tack here, a Venetian blind to put straight, a fan letter to pin up, the precise particular idiocy of an NME hack to pin down. Lulu is not above scrubbing a boot or two.

Dear friend Danny dropped in, greeting me with a hearty “Wotcher, cock.” Taking this at first for an instruction, I uttered a strangled cry and protected my infernal regions with a rare Billy Fury Parlophone. I was still vibrating with genital alarm when Danny took his leave, citing the terrible pen of paint.

“Pen?” I ventured.

“Pen and ink, mate. It stinks, dunnit?”

And with that he was gone, vanished like a wisp of hope, albeit a beefy one.