Thursday, May 31, 2007

The day goes further downhill the moment he hits me in the face with a hammer.

Even under such circumstances, one has time to reflect. So far in the day I have discovered rainwater dripping through the bedroom ceiling, and been subjected to the new self-service till machine at Tesco, which appears to be about as much use to mankind as a budgerigar with a degree in Media Studies.

He hits me in the face again.

At some point, I tell myself, I should say something. He seems pretty competent, and I get on with the chap reasonably well (although perhaps less so now, seeing that he is hitting me in the face with a hammer), but truth be told it is an unpleasant experience and I would like him to stop.

“Diss crown is priddy impossible to shift,” he explains (note I have used the words ‘diss’ and ‘priddy’ to represent the fact that my dentist is South African and speaks in a South African voice – this is a technique used by us writers to avoid unnecessary explanations that would spoil the flow of the text). “I hev tried wiggling it. Now I am hitting it with diss hemmer.”

He hits my tooth with his hammer once more, to emphasise the point.

Randy Newman wails from my MP3 player. Unfortunately I pressed the wrong button just before he started in my mouth and instead of uplifting and distracting cheerful pop music my head is filled with mournful minor-key reflections on losers and low-life tragedies in the medium of the blues, whilst I am being hit in the face with a hammer.

Meanwhile the anaesthetic seems to have made my face swell up, as if somebody has pushed a marble into my mouth and under my top lip. They may well have done. Or perhaps it is a snooker ball. It could be a penis, for all I know. I have my eyes firmly shut. I do not wish to open them as the hammer is unpleasant enough as it is. I do not think it is a penis, as he would not be hammering it so hard if so.

The only really good thing about a dentist putting his penis in your mouth and starting to hit it wildly with a hammer whilst you are under local anaesthetic and have your eyes firmly shut and are listening to mournful Randy Newman songs is at least you know that you will get offered some mouthwash afterwards.

“It’s coming,” he explains, not entirely reassuringly.

A few more goes with the pliers and my old artificial tooth thing is no more, and I have a huge gap in my mouth that is dripping pus and blood along with an unidentified fragment of metal that appears to have been left in there by the other dentist. We take a two minute break before he starts to clean out the abscess. Randy croons dolefully in my ears.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I expect an important telephone call.

I gaze at the telephone in anticipation. It sits there, not ringing. This is frustrating, as I don’t really want to do anything until I receive my important telephone call.

I check my watch. It is 7.20am. It strikes me that businesses in London might not yet be open. But I do not want to go out, as if I go out then the important telephone call will happen just after that point. I make myself some toast instead, ensuring that I remain within hearing distance of the phone.

The phone does not ring.

9.01am. The phone is still dead and silent. There was some talk of a meeting, before the telephone call. I would imagine that this might have started at, say, eight. Allowing for a few wafflings and goings off at tangents and wonderings what the HR implications are ect ect ect then surely it should be time for them to call. I wonder if 9.01am is too early for me to call them and demand to know why they haven’t called me.

I make a cup of tea. The telephone sits there, smirking. I drink my tea. I decide that I need to go to the toilet, but I know that if I go to the toilet then the call will immediately arrive and I will have to rush out mid-stream and talk to them covered in wee. I take the cordless phone into the toilet with me.

The phone does not ring.

10.30. I am now worried. The meeting has clearly over-run, or did not start until late. Or London is on a different time to the Village.

Noon. If the meeting has gone on until now, then they will probably go for lunch directly afterwards, being in London and all that. I should rush out and get some milk. Except if I do that then they will decide to eat at their desks with take-away pasta salads and cappuccinos, being in London and all that. That would be an ideal time for them to make important calls.

I stay in and stare at the phone. It remains stubbornly devoid of trill.

3pm. Lunch must be over. The Industrious Builder asks for my opinion on some paving slab work. I take the cordless phone with me, explaining that I am awaiting an important call. He is impressed.

The telephone ri – I answer the telephone.

Booooooo. It is not my important callee. It is only my mother. I explain that I am awaiting an important telephone call. She is not at all impressed. I ring off anyway.

3.30pm. I realise with alarm that the important call probably arrived whilst I was on the phone to my mother. I hurriedly dial 1571, to see if this is the case and if they have left a message. There are no messages. Boooooo again.

3.32pm. I realise with alarm that the important call probably arrived whilst I was on the phone to the 1571 service. I hurriedly dial 1571 again, to see if this was the case. There are still no messages. I am downhearted, especially given that I am now locked into a Sisyphean nightmare of recurrent 1571 consultations.

5pm. I give up, and send a stroppy email. I have no important call. I have no milk.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

“Well played, Skip,” I offered, strolling down the green to shake his hand.

“Loserloserloserloserloserloser,” I continued smugly, in my head. Although I have been known to think that I am saying something in my head when actually I am speaking out loud. I am fairly sure I did not say this out loud, as he did not hit me in the face with his stick.

We retired to the Village Pub for a celebration.

“The thing is,” I explained to Nigel after my initial euphoria had gone down like an erection, “the winning and losing thing just doesn’t seem to balance out.”

Victory or defeat – it is like splitting up with a beautiful woman. Dumping should give you a better feeling than being dumped gives you a bad one, but it rarely works like that in my experience. Which, thinking about it, is non-existent in this particular analogy. At this point I realised I needed to ask somebody if this was indeed the case, but I was still trying to work it out in my mind whilst talking to Nigel. He looked at me as if I were barking mad.

Big A offered some additional encouragement. “You were only fifty percent consistently bad tonight,” he said, which was high praise indeed from the master. It is but May and a whole bowls season lies ahead – I shall aim to get it down to thirty or twenty percent.

An hour later I realised that I had already got through four pints, and so insisted that I needed to go home for reasons of self-preservation. I walked down the hill with Big A; unlike last time I did not fall face first into the grass verge outside Len the Fish’s. Improvement is possible, if one strives for it; it is a weak man who accepts his own rubbishness unquestioned.

Monday, May 21, 2007

My despondent lips take a mouthful of beer.

We sit in silence for a moment. Outside, the drizzle descends on one of the prettiest village bowling greens in England; a place to which you would be honour-bound to take American tourist friends, once you had shown them Durham Cathedral and Barney’s snack bar on the A148.

“Well,” observes Big A at length.

“What I can’t work out,” I ruminate, “is how I’m so consistently bad. I mean, I’m nowhere near where I’m meant to be, but I’m consistently nowhere near.” I take another slurp. “I’m sure there’s a positive in there somewhere.”

Bowls is a cruel mistress. One evening she is fun to be with and you can do no wrong; the next you are being savagely beaten and humiliated and being mocked for putting in a short wood. But you keep going back for more. It is an addiction, like turkey.

Through the smoke, the jovial atmosphere in the small club is palpable. Our opponents are the cream of local bowls; we sense that we are already heading for a relegation battle. I carry the glasses back to the bar; Big A takes the wheel and we drive home in the rain.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I write a notice.

It is on lined paper, using big black felt-tip pen.


But I hesitate and do not take it outside to sellotape up in front of the crowd. They are entitled to their ghoulish excitement at my misery. Not much else has been going on here recently aside from the new retaining wall at the bowling green.

The van driver waits in silence for his boss to arrive to assess his handywork. Hopefully his boss is Sir Alan Sugar or Nicholas van Hoogstraten etc. I do not offer him another coffee. That will show him!!! Stan drives past, slowing as he catches sight of the scene. I shoo him away.

I meander round to Short Tony’s. It transpires that he was on the telephone so did not hear the accident. I invite him to have a look; instead of gawping he gives me some reassuring words. Good karma will surely come his way.

Hours later he appears at the front door. A bus has driven into the back of his car. Mrs Short Tony is shaken. I consider establishing a support group.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I gaze in distress at my flat car.

It will clearly require some work at the Kwik-Fit place. Bits of it are strewn in the street, and the front wheels don’t seem to be facing in the same direction. It is probably my fault for parking it directly above the bit where ‘SLOW’ is painted in the road.

A crowd gathers.

From the cab of the delivery van that is embedded in my neighbour’s verge, emerges a sheepish-looking man.

“Are you all right?” I ask him gently.

In situations like this, it is always important to ascertain immediately whether the other party is injured or is suffering from shock, as it is considered unsporting to take somebody with such a condition and administer a savage beating.

“Fffffftthhhggg,” he replies.

This does not get me anywhere. I pick up a few pieces of car from the road. “Are you OK?” I repeat. He is staring at the front of his van, which is now the middle of his van.

“Hbbbblllllbbb,” he continues.

I sigh and disappear indoors to make strong coffee. The younger Industrious Builder wanders out with his cameraphone thing in order to perform citizen journalism. Kettle boiled, I leap into action by telephoning the police and emailing a barrister friend who advises me that I am unlikely to have whiplash simply from turning my head sharply to watch my car sail through the air.

“Here you go,” I say to the man, who has a suspiciously Lincolnshire air about him.

“Sorry ‘bout that,” he mutters softly.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I settle down to get things done.

Despite my recent general state of non-workingness, I still have odd bits and pieces floating around that I absolutely totally really really must get on with and finish. My vantage point at the PC in my new private secret office lair looks out across the garden; the Industrious Builders beaver away before me.

I like the Industrious Builders. Requested to sort out the drainage and build some walls and level some ground and generally Make Things Nice, they have turned up and sorted out the drainage, built some walls, levelled some ground and Made Things Nice.

I am sure there must be a catch somewhere, as in my recent experience builders do not behave like this. But in the meantime things are hunky dory and the LTLP returns home each night and smiles broadly and does not shout at me, unlike when we had the Methodical Builder who will burn in hell with forks in his eyes. Big forks, that I have previously dipped in lemon juice.

Something is amiss.

The elder Industrious Builder is leaping up and down and waving at me in some agitation, like a nuclear Michael Flatley signalling a four. I can’t make out the point of his shouts through the double glazing, so I leave Spider Solitaire and wander outside to ascertain the cause of his distress. I hope that I have not hung the washing in front of his cement mixer again.

“…the fuck at that!!!” he roars.

My eyes follow the direction of his gestures. On the road at the end of the drive, a full fifteen yards from where it had previously been sitting doing nobody any harm, lies the mangled and squashed remains of my car.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I go to the big city.

Feeling low, in the later stages of tooth abscess, I decide to do some shopping. I park my car in the heart of Norwich and go hit the boutiques.

I find clothes shopping alternately fun and traumatic. The shops bit I like, the shoppers bit I am less keen on. I flit from store to store like a butterfly with a credit card who needs new trousers.

Many of the stores I leave immediately. I have an absolute hard and fast rule that I will never give my custom to a shop in which one is not quite sure whether one is looking at the men’s or the women’s items. So I tend to stick to large department stores, where the floors are clearly labelled.

It is a beautiful day – hot and sunny. I need to purchase some sunglasses. Every year, I buy a pair of cheap sunglasses, knowing that by about September I will have sat on them/scratched them/broken one of the arms off, etc. I find a pair that I like and pay the assistant. “You’ll need those outside today,” she flirts, as I hand over the money. The whore. I shall report her to Head Office. But she is right. Spring is in the air!!! Outside the shop I take the sunglasses out of their case and don them, increasing my cool factor by about 100000000.

I wander around town for a bit more, doing nothing in particular, enjoying my new sunglasses, strutting my funky stuff. People look at me, impressed.

More people are arriving and I decide to head for home. In the car-park I decide that I will take the roof off the car. It is that nice a day, plus I have new sunglasses. I zoosh out onto the dual carriageway, weaving around in my sunglasses in my open-topped car. I put some music on.

After a while, I realise that I should have cleaned the sunglasses before putting them on – they are slightly blurry. I reach a set of traffic lights and pull up in one of the lanes, smiling at the cars beside me and their non-sunglassed occupants. I take off my sunglasses to give them a wipe.

From the middle of the left-hand lens I remove a big sticker that says ‘protection level: medium’.

The lights turn green. I drive off.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

There is a knock at the door!!!

Even with my tooth abscess and associated medication I am determined to lead as normal a life as possible, so I hurry downstairs to investigate.

It is Short Tony!!!

“Hello!” he says.

“Hullo,” I say.

The Chipper Barman pokes his head out from around the corner. “Hello!” he says.

“Hullo,” I say.

With all my strong antibiotic treatments it is an effort to hold down a complex conversation like this, but I persevere.

“We’ve been to the pub,” offers Short Tony. His eyes are so glazed that I half expect Ted Moult to turn up with his feather.

The Chipper Barman ducks behind Short Tony, then pokes his head out again. “Hello!” he says.

“And we were just headed next door to play darts.”

I am a bit cross at this tactlessness in the face of my brave struggle. “I…” I begin.

“And wondered if you fancied a game?”

“It would be nice, but because I am on these STRONG ANTIBIOTICS I am not allowed to DRINK ANYTHING,” I explain, as if to a small child but without the hitting.

“Ah. Yes.”

The Chipper Barman grins wildly at me. “Can I use your toilet?” he suddenly begs.

I am a bit nonplussed that in a journey from the Village Pub (distance from my house: 500 yards) to Short Tony’s house (distance from my house: 10 yards) it should be necessary to divert to mine for a toilet break. But it seems simpler to agree. Short Tony stands awkwardly in my kitchen whilst the Chipper Barman performs a noisy toilet.

“Now shoo,” I tell them, when he has re-emerged.

They leave without fuss. I lock the front door and disappear upstairs to resume my suffering.

Friday, May 04, 2007

I stumble out of the surgery in some dull state of shock, his words ringing in my ears.

The road outside is noisy; traffic passing each way, a brewery lorry unloading. But I hear nothing. I just walk, my eyes fixed to some random point in the far distance, my mind blanker than it has ever been. I wonder how to tell the LTLP.

Granddad was a double amputee; Uncle Ernie had polio. Great Uncle Ray was a prisoner of the Japanese. Now I have been diagnosed with tooth abscess.

I cross the mini roundabout and lurch towards the pharmacy. The Baby will not understand – will she ever understand? I am fortunate in that I have friends, family and virtual internet readers who I know will support me in my brave fight against tooth abscess, but sometimes you can have hundreds of people around you yet still be alone. With shock I realise that I am already sinking into negative thoughts just ten minutes into my battle.

I resolve to write to the Observer. If I can face tooth abscess with wit, good-humour and poignant humanity then they will probably give me a column in their magazine. Being the person who brings the ‘TA’ word out of the dark and into an environment where people are not afraid to talk might be my crowning achievement in life, aside from once starting a conversation with Tony Hadley in a lavatory.

The pharmacist takes ages. It transpires that the antibiotics prescribed are the ones with which you absolutely totally and utterly must not touch alcohol. A new blow. It is too early to let it go and take the inevitable decision that the cure is worse than the disease itself; I will bear the treatment for now and know I can rely on the support of my neighbours to help me through this.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

“Chicken gizzards?”

There is a pause.

“They’re very popular in Norwich,” offers the Duck Lady hopefully.

I pass on the opportunity. I don’t think anybody could call me greatly squeamish in the matter of what I put in my mouth, but I can’t imagine that the LTLP would thank me for this particular purchase. I settle for a boring old duck; the Baby and I move on to the next stall.

There is the sound of a commotion!!!

It takes me a minute to ascertain what is going on. Politicians are pouring into the town square, like daleks springing a trap. They wear suits and brandish big rosettes. Not just politicians. Cliched politicians.

I gaze around, wildly, clutching my Baby to my bosom. She has got over teething, temperatures, nappy rash, vomiting, pneumonia, licking the toilet and having her fingers shut in the door – I am damned if I will allow her to be traumatised for life by some kissing politician. Especially one with a moustache, who is hastening in our direction.

I get on with our local MP reasonably well, or have done in the times we’ve met anyway. He seems to be harmless enough and not want to cause trouble by actually doing anything, which is all one can ask for in a politician. Granted, if he thought a photographer from the local paper would be there then he’d be happy to attend the opening of a new browser window, but it keeps him out of trouble and that is important in this day and age. These politicians are different. They are scuttling around the market, attempting to engage with people.

Hurrying across the street, I resolve to pretend to be a non-voting Estonian illegal immigrant should we be cornered. The worst that can happen is that I get deported or sold into illegal sex slavery, and at least I will get to see a bit of the world and get lots of shags. I tell the Baby to say nothing if approached.