Excerpt from The Stardust Diaries January to May 2006

 13th January 2006: A Budgie Amongst Sparrows



There was rubbish strewn all over the front garden again this morning, and even worse someone had smeared chicken curry over the windscreen and bonnet of my car. It was disgusting. It took ages to clear everything up. I managed to get curry sauce on my tie and shirt so I had to change. We both ended up late for work. I am so sick and tired of being harassed in this petty unpleasant way.

To be fair we weren't the only ones singled out to suffer fast food abuse. Several cars in the close had components of takeaway meals splattered all over them. It was done courtesy of cretinous yobs on the way home from the pub after a heavy drinking session. It makes you wonder what they get out of performing such deeds. Do they wake up next morning feeling proud because they've upset people? They must, why else would they pay for the privilege of doing it, because when you think about it, that's exactly what they do. They pay out pounds for expensive food they have no intention of eating. Twinks says they're sad losers and he hopes whatever little of the food they did eat gave them explosive diarrhoea complete with rings of fire. It wasn't exactly a sophisticated wish, but I could appreciate the annoyance that prompted it.

Curious as to what prompted my rage and made me contemplate double homo-side last Saturday night? Then let me take you for a walk down Retrospective Road. It’s a long walk so bring a drink and a packed lunch.

Saturday was never going to be a perfect day, I knew that several days in advance, but still I didn't expect it to go quite as arse up as it did. To begin with it was Dominic's first birthday and his proud parents naturally wished to celebrate this important milestone by having a bit of a do for him. Given the age of the revellers an evening celebration was out of the question. Karen's parents were flying off to Ibiza on Sunday morning and naturally wished to see their grandson celebrate his first birthday, so the party was arranged for three o clock on Saturday afternoon. Twinkles had applied for the day off so he could attend the rugrat shindig, but was refused on account of it being the opening day of the New Year Sale and the shop would be too busy, which to my mind was reasonable enough. Saturdays are busy days ordinarily in the retail business, but at Sale time customer volume increases enormously and all hands are needed on deck.

I did sympathise with Twinkles, of course I did. I knew how much he wanted to help Dominic celebrate his first birthday, but I could see his boss’s point of view too. As assistant manager it is part of Twinks' duties to be there on the front line. Twinkles was not at all suited and we had many dark mutterings about looking for a new post and then some more mutterings about how he really ought to be on the sick, as it wasn't easy working one handed all day, especially when trying to get things in and out of the window, it was twice as tiring. Dark mutterings progressed to an announcement. Seeing as he couldn't go to Dominic's party he didn't think I should go either. He said it wasn't fair of me to witness an important stage in our godson's life without him being there. It was disloyal and besides I'd be on the photos and he wouldn't. I thought it was a selfish attitude and said so, remarking that had the situation been reversed I wouldn’t expect him to miss out just because I couldn't attend.  I asked if he thought it fair to deny Dominic having at least one of his godfather's at his birthday party? He immediately said Dom wouldn't notice anyway, because he was too young. I firmly said I was still going to attend. I wanted to go and Dom was as much my godson as his and I had a right to enjoy time with him.

In an effort to compensate I suggested we visit Dominic on Friday night to give him his birthday present and help him open it, which we did and we all had a fine time. All the same, Twinks woke up with an attitude on Saturday morning, though he claimed he didn't, accusing me of faultfinding, nit picking and character damming. This from the man who then criticised the way I stacked the breakfast pots into the dishwasher saying it was shambolic and I had no organisational abilities. How I ran an entire department at work was a frigging mystery to him when I couldn't efficiently organise and stack a dishwasher. I played the authority card and told him if he didn't shut up I'd take the plug off the dishwasher and make him responsible for all washing up duties for a month. 

When I dropped him off at work he was still in a less than sparkling mood. He doesn’t really mean to be petty and begrudging, he just can’t help feeling jealous especially if he feels excluded in anyway.

The party was lovely and I videoed as much as I could so Twinks could watch it later. Dominic's face was a picture of awe and amazement when the candle on his cake was lit. He pointed at it, his mouth a round O of astonishment and then looked around his captive audience inviting us all to share his wonder. He soon got the hang of blowing and the candle was re-lit several times for his entertainment. Every time he succeeded in blowing out the flame (aided and abetted by his daddy who was standing behind his chair) he applauded himself. It was delightful. Some of the other children also wanted a turn at candle blowing and the cake was soon liberally awash with infant spit. I discreetly picked the icing off my bit before eating it while mentally blocking the echo of Twinks' voice telling me what a fusser I am.

Someone gave Dom a balloon to play with, which worried me, as he kept biting at it. I was terrified it would pop and a piece of rubber would lodge in his throat. I bribed him to give it up for a chocolate finger. Twinks voice once again chipped into my subconscious muttering about me being neurotic. I told it I didn't care and didn't it have any customers to serve? It’s a funny thing, but when you've been with someone a long time you can never really go anywhere without them. You carry them with you. Everything I enjoyed I wished Twinkles were there to share it. He's part of the fabric of my being and I wouldn't change that for anything, not even when he's seriously pissed me off over something. 

By the time the party was over my jeans and shirt were daubed with sticky icing, juice stains, sick stains, snot and all the other accoutrements that go with gatherings of small children. I also lost a wager to Paul who bet me a fiver that Karen's auntie Alma would have my arse before she had his. She did too, even though I was really careful and kept my front to her when speaking. She caught me off guard when I was filming the candle blowing ceremony, sneaking up behind me and squeezing my left buttock, and none too gently. She can't keep her hands off men's backsides. She’s an absolute menace, an elderly female pervert. She looks like Miss Marple all grey haired and demure with sensible shoes and a genteel manner, but the moment a male backside looms on the horizon she turns into a female Benny Hill and has to have a pat or a grope.

My heart sank when I picked Twinks up from work and noted that his face was sporting citrus lips. I detest it when he's got his citrus face on. He draws his lips together as if he's sucking a particularly tart lemon. His mouth was puckered tighter than a virgin anus. As well as sour he looked tired and I guessed he'd been rushed off his feet all day. I would have liked nothing better than to wrap him in a hug of love and sympathy, but experience has taught me that when he's busy sucking a lemon he tends to reject sweeter offerings.
Once we were in the car he snapped out an acidic ‘and?’ I guessed this was his way of asking how the party went, so I calmly leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek telling him it had been very nice and he would enjoy watching the video. He made a comment about really looking forward to watching footage of a party he couldn't attend and then lapsed into an arm folded, lemon lipped silence.

Before many moments had passed the silence was broken by the cryptic proclamation: 'they've got a Sale on. 70% off.' I didn’t respond because I had a good idea who had a Sale on and what had 70% off. I also had an idea he was looking to use it as an excuse to goad me and challenge my authority because he was still cross at me for attending Dominic’s party. He elaborated, confirming my theory that the Christmas reindeers he had so long lusted after were on Sale in Strickland’s, adding: ‘they're an absolute bargain they are.' I nodded and said yes they were undoubtedly a bargain for those who liked them enough and had the spare money to buy them. However I didn't like them enough. He didn't have any spare money, so the subject was closed. It was never to be re-opened again by so much as a single syllable, or there would be serious trouble. Was I making myself very plain? He narrowed his eyes, saying caustically, 'you couldn't be plainer if you tried, Tarn dear. You are the very epitome of plainness to this boy.' I smiled sweetly and said I was glad to hear it.

A sour silence took us a mile down the road and then he asked if Dominic had missed him and I said, ‘yes I think so,’ to which Twinkles responded, 'you think so? What does that mean? Dominic didn't really miss me, because he had you? You'll be on the photographs and when he's twenty-one and looking back at his life he'll see you and say, oh look there's my nice godfather, Tarn, at my first birthday party, but my other nasty godfather, Twinkles, couldn't be bothered to attend. Is that what you mean?'

Taking a steadying breath I said, SHUT UP, JONATHAN!

He was still in a huff when we got home and declared an intention to have a bath. I told him not to have it too hot (it makes him dizzy) and to be careful not to dampen his cast and he was to give me a shout if he needed a hand.

I was busily stir-frying chicken and vegetables when I heard a panicked screeching of my name. Quickly turning the cooker off I raced upstairs and burst into the bathroom, aquaplaning straight across the saturated floor and smacking hard into the shower unit door before bouncing back and falling flat on my back. 

Twinkles was stranded in the bathwater. Every time he gripped the side of the bath his hand slipped and he went back under. He was in a hell of a panic, floundering and spluttering. I tried desperately to get up to help, but my feet refused to remain in contact with the floor, skating out from under me whenever I tried. It was like that scene from Bambi when he's trying to walk on the ice. By a supreme effort I got to my feet and lunged for the bath, yanking out the plug and grabbing at Twinkles to pull him out. I couldn't get a grip on him, his skin was coated in a thick layer of oil and he kept slipping out of my grasp. Thankfully he managed to grab the front of my top with his good hand and hold on until the bath drained.

Swathing him in a big fluffy towel enabled me to get enough grip on his body to heave him out of the lubricated bath, though once out we both lost our footing on the slippery floor and crashed over several times before making it to the safety of the carpeted landing where I demanded to know what passing crude oil carrier had shed its load in our bathroom? HMS Twinkles as it transpired.

Someone had given him a bottle of very expensive bath oil for Christmas. The instruction on the bottle was clear: USE SPARINGLY, suggesting a capful to a bath of water. So of course mister-do-everything-to-excess felt obliged to tip in just over half the contents of the bottle to see if it helped the dry skin on his heels. It was lovely, until it came to getting out of the bath that is. He had taken hold of the safety rail to use as a lever, but with his skin being so oily he couldn't get enough purchase on it to push himself up one handed. He'd eventually managed to stand up in the water, only to feel his feet begin to slide from beneath him. He jammed his good hand against the tiled wall to steady himself, but of course it slipped and so did the rest of him - straight up into the air and back down into the bathwater, arm cast and all, sending oily water spraying all over the floor. He had then panicked, gasping and spluttering as he surfaced and resurfaced, fearing he was going to drown as he failed to get a grip of anything to save himself. He had the temerity to say that if Greenpeace took as long to reach an oil disaster as I took to reach him there'd be no marine life left to save. Fright made me irascible and I smacked his sleeked buttocks several times.

His cast was ruined. He had hit it hard against the side of the bath and cracked it. It was also soaked inside and out, perfumed oily water dripping from the sopping lining. A trip to casualty was called for.

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copyrighted material Tarn Swan 2011

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