Ben came out of Steph’s flat, went to the washing line, and said “I’ll just get in my Alan Whickers. I think I may have used one of your pegs. I’ll leave Steph’s stuff out, she can get it in herself.”
Well, it isn’t going to rain.
-How d’you know that?
-The weather forecast, and the way it looks.
I was out in the sun, on my lounger, he sat on the bench. “D’you mind me using your pegs?” I told him mine were wooden ones, and he went to put the plastic one back on the line. He seemed a bit camp to start with. We started on rhyming slang. His mother- she always made me laugh, she did- saying “Up them apples and pears”, and Coronation Street had just finished and I went Oh Mu-um-
I said my granddad had told me to go up the apples and pears and into Uncle Ned. He told me names for amounts of money.
-How much is a pony?
-25. 25, it is.
-Oh, I thought it was more than that.
-Are you taking the piss?
-No, no disrespect intended, I assure you.
-You’re highly intelligent, I can see that. I like talking to highly intelligent people.
He was in rehab, for alcohol and cocaine, from January to May this year. He is off the cocaine, because his children need him, but he needs a couple of beers in the morning. You wouldn’t like to see him in the morning.
-Well, you know how much Winston Churchill drank.
-Would you like a Winston Churchill story?
-I would like to hear a Winston Churchill story. [What is it, I wondered, with the word “Yes”? Why do I repeat the sentence to agree? Probably because others do.]
Winston Churchill was at this party, and this woman said to him-
[Is it “Winston, you’re drunk”? I am half bored, half fascinated.] And he said to her, “You know, love, if you were my wife, yeah, I would eat it.” I laugh, glad he did not try to do the voice.
More words. He was in the Crown Court, yeah, don’t judge me, the Barrister got me a Not Guilty verdict
-Thank you, and he said the case was “Gilding the lily”. You know what that means?
-Well, gilding the lily is taking something which is beautiful already, like a lily, and doing something which does not really make it more beautiful; just as people exaggerate evidence, to make it sound better, and thereby make it worthless. [I am being patronising, though I insist I am not. Why are we fencing like this?]
-You are highly intelligent, you know that, he says for the fourth time.
-Yes, I know.
He likes reading. He doesn’t read enough.
-What would be enough?
-Very good, you’re highly intelligent, you are. He likes talking to intelligent people. His father got him reading history. If you read more than one account, you can make your own decision.
His father abandoned him when he was eighteen months old, and his step-father beat his mother up until he was ten and she went to a battered wives’ home. Then another man provoked her and she stabbed him, stab stab stab stab stab, and got done for Attempted Murder. And he saved the man’s life. “I will always remember the smell of blood, you know, the iron.”
-I’ve told you my story, you tell me yours.
-Well, I found my last two jobs too stressful, and so I am on the sick. I see a psychiatrist occasionally.
-Do you find that helpful?
-I do actually. He doubts that, I think.
Come on, I’ve told you my story, you tell me yours.
-Well, what do you want? I could start at the age of five, and go on for two hours. Ask me a question.
I don’t know what he was driving at. I’m TS, I wear a wig, something completely off beam.
He would never hit a woman.
-Good on you, I say. I hate that line, it seems a threat to hit a man, and I don’t know if he thinks me a man.
His 18 year old and 15 year old he had with an Italian woman, and his 20 month old son, whom he loves and misses, with this beautiful black woman. She broke four of his ribs, he was leaving the house, she was pregnant, she pulled him back and they fell over and her knee broke four of his ribs.
We hear a light engine overhead, and look up to see a parascending sail. We look up together in wonder and delight. He has borrowed my bicycle pump, I hope I get it back.