It is fairly unusual for Philip to call me these days. He has always preferred conversations with those whom he can intimidate, and he knows that I am a match for him when it comes to trading pleasantries. I am not particularly proud of my comment “Fuck off, you lanky streak of camel piss”. It does not exactly fit into my literary standards – I prefer to think of myself as W.S.Gilbert rather than Vinnie Jones, but it was effective, and I think has led to our understanding each other.
I was therefore initially surprised when he called. I was also fairly displeased, he knows that there is a busy sporting schedule at the moment, and that I have been out of town. After all, I never telephoned him during the chariot racing, or whatever the fuck his silly sport was called, season.
“I’ve got this god-awful anniversary coming up, you know,” he whined, “60 years and I’m still meant to buy her a present. It was OK the first couple of years …”.
I interrupted at this point, I couldn’t let him get away with that one. “It was OK the first couple of years?” I exclaimed, “It was OK the first couple of fucking years? You seem to be forgetting the tiara, which looked very pleasant at first glance, but on closer inspection was decorated with erect phalluses.” I reminded him, “The fucking archbishop of
“Don’t you have people there to advise you on this sort of thing?” I asked. “What happened to that chap who used to nip out to Pizza Express for you, is he still around? He was always full of good ideas”. “No, I think I had him shot.” I let this one pass. He is getting on a bit and doesn’t always separate reality from wishful thinking these days. (I hope that never happens to me). “They’re a real bunch of dull bastards here these days,” he moans, “ what with that daft tart Camelia around, we have to keep the entire staff on medication. Costs a fucking fortune. The whole household behave as if they are on valium, and it takes about three hours to get dinner served. I tell you, if my swan’s scrotum is cold again tomorrow, I’m going to fucking kick someone”.
“Zoe’s book is available at Amazon,” I said, without really thinking it through. “Piss off!” came the reply, “buy the head of the commonwealth a Belgian self help book that focuses on how to oppress the male of species? You must be bleeding joking”.
“I bought her a 6000 piece jigsaw a few years ago” he goes on – I am losing track of the score in the rugby – “ but the daft old trout found it too difficult and got some of the staff to do it, all very well you might think, but she uses my people too. Ever tried shaving your own back?”
I don’t know why he worries. She loses track of all of the gifts, can never remember who gave them to her, can never work out how to use anything utilitarian, and is virtually colour blind. I think he just likes to be under the impression that he has something to do. It comes with age. Most of us would have realised after the first five weeks that trotting about after the missus, shaking hands with dull people and visiting the most boring places on the planet was not much of a career. I have never had the heart to tell him that most of the people he meets are “resting” actors, because the rest of us find him more boring than he finds us and can’t be bothered to turn up. It nearly went wrong once when Jim Broadbent was a foreman in a gusset factory one day and the next was introduced as the winner of the ludo world championships.
I suppose I’ll have to go through the whole fucking episode again at Christmas.