Or, “The people is strange”, as most of my students would say, but that’s not important right now. Until recently, you see, I’d always believed that I was the last normal person left on this planet. And yet, yesterday, as I sneaked out onto our balcony in midday sunshine and Monday underpants, desperately in search of a suitable clothes peg for the ‘easy open’ packet of macaroni that I’d just opened – and destroyed – with great dexterity, it suddenly dawned on me that even I, Mike Church, the most balanced person you could ever hope to meet, was behaving, or at the very least looking, like a total prat.
Well, you’ll have to take my word for it because I don’t have any photos of me in my underpants; and, besides, this isn’t that kind of blog. [Try Reggie’s if you’re into that sort of stuff.] So, anyway, here's a photo that I took with my mobile to show how we use clothes pegs down our way:
Not the greatest photo, is it? I didn’t have a camera to hand, but who needs cameras when we’ve got our mobiles, right? And that’s what set me thinking...
Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that we are not using things for the purpose for which they were intended, are we? For example, we use clothes pegs to keep food fresh, decorate kitchen cupboards, pinch our nostrils... and occasionally hang clothes out to dry; and we use mobiles to take silly photos, play crappy video games, check our hair... and occasionally call home to ask what time dinner will be ready.
Do you see the point I’m trying to make? Probably not, so here are a couple more questions for you to think about:
Q1. What do you use your car for?
Q2. And what about your bed?
If you replied, “For getting around” and “Mind your own business!” respectively, I’m sorry but I simply don’t believe you. Just to clarify, I can believe you replied, “For getting around” and “Mind your own business!”, but I can’t believe that’s what you really use them for. After all, everybody knows that the whole point of having a car is to be able to listen to your music, as loud as you like, as often as you please, and without being publically and mercilessly ridiculed for your lousy musical taste. To prove my point, I just texted my wife to offer to pick her up. Did I do this because I am a good husband? Certainly not! No, the point is, I am enjoying my Pavarotti CD so much, I need a good excuse to return to the car. (In case any of you are interested in whether my wife took me up on my generous offer, well, watch this space, and I’ll let you know if she ever answers my text. My wife is one of a dying breed, namely, people who only ever reach for their phone when they need to call someone. In the meantime, poor Luciano will have to wait.)
When I’m not using my car as a portable mp3 player, I use it as a portable recording studio and/or portable library...
And when I’m weary and/or feeling small, I drive to the end of town and use my car as a portable park bench. I wish I could say, like Brucie, that I drove all night, but the truth is, it’s just a three-minute drive. So much for romance.
They say a dog is a man’s best friend but, in the absence of a dog, I’d say a car comes a pretty close second.
As for my bed... Well, as you’ll doubtless have guessed by now, I use it purely for professional purposes: to pile papers, dump books, prepare classes, write reports, answer emails... and, OK, I’ll admit it, I have the occasional forty winks. Mum’s the word!
In brief, then, I use my car to relax in and my bed to get stressed in. I suspect, however, that I’m not the only one here. People are strange, aren’t we?
‘Tell me about the Stairway to Heaven, Nick,’ said Colin, desperately trying to sidetrack him.
‘Are you desperately trying to sidetrack me, Colin?’
‘Of course I am. So how many steps has it got?’
‘Quite a few. That’s a very strange question, you know. They warned me to expect a weirdo, but I must admit I’m impressed.’
‘Any normal person would ask, Where’s Heaven exactly? What’s it like up there? Will I be reunited with my loved ones? et cetera, but you’re not “any normal person” are you, Colin?’
‘You still haven’t answered my question,’ said Colin, trying to commit to memory the other questions. They might come in useful later if Nick had another poker fit.
‘Have a guess.’
‘Half a million.’
‘Eight hundred and twenty-three thousand, five hundred and forty-three?’
‘You jammy bastard!’
You stupid man! Of all the numbers to choose between 500,001 and 999,999, he only had to go and choose 823,543. Seven to the power of seven. It was so obvious, he hadn’t been able to resist showing off. Now, then, what were those other questions that Nick said “normal” people always asked?
‘So where is Heaven exactly?’
‘Are you asking me that because you’re really interested or because you don’t want me poking your eyes out?’
‘Because I’m really interested.’
‘So you don’t mind my poking your eyes out?’
‘No, er, yes. Er, what was the question again?’
‘Nice try, Colin. Look, I’ll tell you what. I’m a reasonable bastard, so I’ll let you have one more question before I gouge your eyes out and rip your burning body to shreds. Can’t say fairer than that, can we?’
‘Well, it doesn’t sound very fair to me.’
‘Feel free to forfeit your last question if you’d rather get this over with. I’m beginning to tire of this conversation myself.’
‘Er, where does Henley fit into all of this?’ said Colin, blurting out the first question that came to his rapidly diminishing mind. Little could he know that his question was a stroke of genius; that, in years to come, he would look back on this defining moment proudly, boring his poor grandchildren stiff with stories of the day he saved his skin – and, by extrapolation, their skin – by asking the Devil how Henley fitted into the universal scheme of things. Assuming a) he had grandchildren and b) he lived to tell the tale.
dayrealing, chapter 43, “Sympathy For The Devil”