July 30: what time does the clock say?

In summer I let time drift. A few weeks ago the battery in my alarm clock ran out. On a number of occasions I have passed batteries in shops and neglected to purchase the replacement. On my bedside table there are two alarm clocks now; neither of them have functioning batteries in. When I wake up I have no idea what time it is. I switch my mobile phone off at night and it is laid on the kitchen table. In the kitchen is the only source of time. This is a digital clock on the cooker. To get the time I have to get up, traipse through the corridor and the living room and through the kitchen. I have to approach the cooker clock because my eyes are not in. I bend down to see the figures. It is, say, 6.13. Quick calculation. That means that the actual time is 6.01. I am of the breed that do not like clocks to tell the real time. I know the cooker clock is twelve earth minutes fast.  Now I can traipse back to bed. Traipsing figures greatly in the morning in my house. I even translate this state of affairs into my speech. I say ‘What time does the clock say?’ rather than ‘What time is it?’ You see, exactitude at all times in this household. We do not brook infelicities of expression. On August 10th I have to get up early for a train. A clock with an alarm will be required by then. Use the phone alarm, I hear you say. No, sir! The requirements of the homestead dictate that the mobile phone is turned off after ten o’clock. These are the rules that enfold me.


July 28: oval tesco

My local Tesco has closed down and been replaced with a temporary store. They are going to knock down the old Tesco because they want to build a higher-rise block there and make a lot of money from apartments in what they are terming the new Oval quarter. They had to choose this name because Oval village had been taken by an area not that close to Oval. But oval makes a good word to have on the front of your new residential area. I walked past the old Tesco the other day and looked in through the glass. Inside, it is empty now; aisles still subsist, but there are no reasons for them; shelves are gathering dust. It is a ghost store now. All the familar faces gone. My old complaints about the old Tesco seem trivial. They don’t stack up against the facts, the facts being that I was always in there picking up stuff, a wodge of cheese, milk, carrots, disposable razors. Tesco was actually my best friend. Now the criticims seem churlish. Now that Teso has been terminated, its life system unplugged. Soon the demolition will begin and the world can get on with the job of building the Oval quarter and producing more of those executive flats that nobody can afford.


July 18: rafaello and me

I am chatting with Rafaello on the computer. Rafaello is representing Shell Energy and I am questioning the hike in my monthly direct debit energy bill. I don’t know if Rafaello is his/her real name. Maybe it is Reg or Darren or Megan. Rafaello spells well. In a moment of weakness I decided to use the word ‘query’ (their type of word) instead of the word ‘question’ and spelt it ‘querie’ for some reason (as I say, it is not one of my words; why should I know how to spell it?). Rafaello also used the word but correctly spelt. So he can spell. Though I suppose it is one of the top three or four words when you are fielding questions on line. What disappointed me in Rafaello’s responses to me, other than his triumph over me in spelling, was the fact that, before I had even stated the issue that was troubling me, he said that he could understand and relate to my feelings about the concern I was bringing up. This, of course, will be a stock phrase that they select from their copy-and-paste data base. Rafaello, or Reg, or Darren, or Megan just clicks it out as a matter of course, not knowing how irritating it is for me to have my so-called feelings intuited. I would like to ask Rafaello, or Reg, or Darren, or Megan or Shell Energy what feelings they think they have on me. I don’t like anyone thinking they know what’s going on in my head; other people’s woolly empathy gets my goat and gives rise to other feelings which Rafaello can probably not sense from where he is in Hartlepool or Delhi.  We left it on a good note, Rafaello and me. Turns out they were wrong to hike my monthly payment; I am actually in good credit; they are just trying it on to get more money in their coffers for interest purposes but I am too wily for them. I went back to my egg on toast preparatives and Rafaello to his endless queue of queries (am I spelling the plural right at least?) and his overflowing chalice of empathy.


July 3: they don’t use cadaver at my dentists

The site is clean, said Gareth, my dentist. He was looking at the x-ray of the area around the extraction he had just made. My crown had severed as I was walking down Kensington High street, leaving just the roots of the tooth still anchored in my gum. The best solution, if not the cheapest, was an implant. First he had to extract the roots. He had done this. It was painless. I had asked , how do you extract roots when you have nothing to get a grip of? Apparently you don’t pull, you push. The bone is an elastic material and when you push the roots in they spring back and you pull them out. Anyway, it was a smooth operation. Now he was talking me through the remainder of the procedure. The gum would heal over a couple of months. Then he would put the titanium implant in. Unfortunately, looking at the x-ray, it looked as if my sinus was in the way, so I might need a bone graft to give me more leeway. As far as bone implants were concerned, most dentists use pig bone or cadaver ( I presumed he meant dead human), but he preferred to get the bone from me,  straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Don’t worry, he said, it’s done in the same session though it does entail a little more cost. I’ve done worrying about cost and dentists. It is the one realm of life where, because of anxiety about my teeth, I overspend. The other day at W.H.Smith’s in Marylebone station, I refused to spend £2.15 on a coca cola and stormed out. I had thought it was £1.99. That 16p was too much for me, whereas the three or four thousand pounds I’ll be handing over to Gareth in the next couple of months is water off a duck’s back.


July 1: the nuclear half-life of your personality

In my dream I was in Stockport library of the 1970s where I used to go as a child. There was an enormous six-foot high book and there was a photograph of me in black and white on the cover wearing a kind of Soviet uniform looking very upright. I flipped through the massive pages and there were other pictures of me there. I tried to read the text that accompanied them but it was somehow impossible to understand.

It was probably a dream that reconfigured a moment in the day when I had looked at books in a second-hand bookshop and for an instant imagined finding one of my books in there amongst the trove.

When I was younger I was annoyed not to be able to say to people honestly that my job was being a writer. Instead, I had to say I was doing other stuff, some of it glamorous to them though not to me. Working in the cinema was my most glamorous-sounding job, though actually the least glamorous job I have ever had. But over the years the desire to depict myself as such and such has diminished. Nowadays I like the little bullet of anonymity that I can expose in a conversation with strangers.  The pleasures of  anonymity get greater with age. When people get to know you they realise there is more complex stuff but, like the nuclear half- life of radioactive decay, the subterranean material emerges slowly.