Tuesday, December 16, 2008

45 minutes in my life

Walking up through Danescourt's cookie-cutter 70s white and brown Tuesday afternoon I picked up the strong and distinctively skunk-smelling odour of a certain kind of smoke. I am a boring person that I have never actually partaken in the aforementioned activity, but I can identify its aroma easily thanks in part to my years of living in Southern California. Rounding onto Matthew Walk, I saw a man in his 70s or 80s drawing on a hand-rolled cigarette.

Well, as you do, I thought.

"Hello!" he shouted at me with a perhaps understandably hearty cheerfulness.


"Miserable, this weather," he said. "Ah, but there you are. Not going to change for my complaining. Here, have you got any proper fags (a) on you?"

"'Fraid not, sir, no," I said.

"Ah, well. This young chap just gave me one of his. But," he said, pausing to check if perhaps the chap in question might still be within earshot, "I have to say, it's bloody awful."

He paused, looked at the cigarette suspiciously and, resigned, took another long drag. I made a guess as to who had given him the cigarette; probably that dude who looks like Eggsy off Goldie Lookin Chain (b). I debated telling the man what he was smoking but decided against it.

"Something tells me you'll warm to it," I said.

"Yeah, well. Sure you haven't got any proper fags on you?" he asked. "I'm happy to pay for them."

"No, I don't smoke."

"Ah, one of those sort. Healthy bastard," he smiled, swatting my shoulder lightly with his copy of the Echo.

"Unfortunately. But the shop's just by there," I said, pointing my thumb in the direction of the Somerfield.

"Nah. Wife'd catch me, you see. Having tea with the ladies," he said nodding across the green toward the 750-year-old parish church that sits so inconspicuously in centre of Danescourt's seemingly un-historic housing estates, across from a pub that looks so terribly unexceptional that I have never set foot in it, despite the fact that the building dates back to the 1300s. "I'm not supposed to be smoking. If she spotted me up there buying fags she'd have me head. But, there you are. I'm alright with this."

He took another drag of the cigarette and coughed.

I carried on across the green, up to buy stamps from Danescourt's perpetually miserable post mistress. Then to the chemists, ostensibly to get something for this stupid cold but also because I have a kind of crush on the young pharmacist and her Northern Irish accent. Walking back toward home, I passed the Parish Hall; I peaked through the windows and saw several tables of old ladies sipping tea at festively decorated tables. All of the ladies looking particularly dour.

I wondered which was the wife of our man on Matthew Walk. I wondered what her face would look like if she knew what her husband had been up to.

(a) FTYPAH: cigarettes. One of the great etymological mysteries is how Americans and Britons ended up with such different definitions of that word

(b) Hell, it may actually be Eggsy. What else is he doing these days?


Huw said...

If the Parish Hall offers biscuits or cake with their tea, I dare say she soon found out.

Pearl said...

Eggsy mean little to me, and frankly I'm too high to care, but 'twas a great bit of story tellin'!
Yer all right!
Merry Christmas, bloggy friend o'mine,