I was dreading the clocks going back a few weeks ago. I know I’m lucky enough to work (or not work) for myself, and I don’t have to worry about rush hour, or actually having to get up at a certain time, or do any of the things I used to have to do back when I had a proper job, like eat breakfast, get washed, that kind of thing. But the extra hour in bed means little, because everything else is so gloomy. The clocks going back heralds the mental arrival of winter. Darker evenings make everything seem miserable, and I physically feel my mood changing as the nights start drawing in and it all feels a bit hopeless and despondent. Disappointments seem heightened, general optimism shrivels and dies, and the world just seems uglier. I seem to get more attuned to the unsavoury things around me, stuff that’s always there, but just seems more obvious when it’s dark and cold.
The other morning, I was coming home from a weekend at the folks’ in Mossley Hill, and true to form, it was murky and drizzly and chilly and just, well, very first-Monday-after-the-clocks-went-back, and I hopped on the 86, wanting to get home as soon as possible. Getting off the bus was a fella, around my age, casually dressed, new haircut, nice looking bloke, I thought…right up until the point where he gobbed on the pavement in front of me, for absolutely no reason other than it must be some kind of “bus alighting ritual” necessary to his survival. I glared after him, and he did it again, just spat onto the pavement in mid-walk, narrowly missing some old dear’s shiny new boots. Most sane people hate spitting, I would hope, but I really, properly loathe it. Even on the football field it makes me cringe, especially when it’s a sub, stood on the touchline, who hasn’t even done anything yet, and there he is, gobbing onto the grass like he’s just run the whole ninety. I mean, why?
But Spitting Bloke was just the beginning. For the next hour, it was like the Fate Master of the Universe had decided to treat me to a rundown of the “Things That Piss You Off” list (it’s a long one), because Monday mornings just aren’t horrible enough. On the bus, I inevitably ended up sitting next to the iPod Fascist, that guy who just can’t believe that the whole vehicle doesn’t want to listen to the same bass-thumping shite that’s currently pummelling his own ear channels. They were called “personal stereos” in my day, but there’s nothing personal about them. And it’s never anything good, is it, the kind of crap they bang out into the bus or the train carriage? It’s never anything you can identify, it’s just white noise. No discernible tune, or lyrics, it’s just that bass-tinny-bass-bass-thump-thumpy-tinny-squeaky BOLLOCKS, that the CIA should maybe be using in Guantanamo. Not that I’m not musical. I have an iPod myself, and I never leave home without it. I just don’t think it’s fair to inflict my carefully-selected tunes of choice onto the rest of the world and, if you saw the titles on my dodgy 80s playlist, you’d realise why.
So, I’m indulging in my second glaring session of the day, with the spotty, arsewipe student who’s sitting, totally zombified, next to me, but luckily he gets off at Penny Lane, only to be replaced by two teenage WAG-ettes, done up to the nines (it’s ten in the morning…), with their beehives, thick Kohl eyeliner, pearly lippy, pyjama bottoms, and a complete lack of social awareness. And they had to shout to each other because, just like the iPod Fascist, it just wouldn’t have been fair to keep their conversation to themselves when the rest of the bus was obviously so desperate to listen in. Well, when I say “conversation”….
“Trey is gonna fuckin’ LUV what I’ve got him for his fuckin’ BURF-DAY! Can’t wait to see his fuckin’ FAAYYYYCEEE! Oh. Em. Jeeee.!!”
“Sha’ Ahhp, Fuckin’ Sha’ AHHPPP!!!”
“Is fuckin’ right, yeah?”
They profaned their way up Smithdown Road and onto Upper Parliament Street, finally buggering off the bus at the Women’s, by which time the other twenty three of us were struggling for oxygen and sanity. I finally reached Lewis’s around ten-fifteen, to find town was already quite busy with Christmas shoppers, who all looked understandably panicked, because it was nearly November already. I mean, talk about leaving things to the last minute. What recession, right? No matter, I was only skipping across to St John’s anyway, to cut through to Queen Square, but it still seemed to take me ages to do this because, that same morning, unbeknownst to me, the National Association of Fuckwit Dawdlers had decided to bring ten coachloads of their most dedicated members to Liverpool and drop them all off on Elliot Street for some big Dawdle-A-Thon. I swear it took me three days to get past McDonalds and down the steps to the Aldi, dozens of people just ambling about, stargazing at the new Monday gloom or, even worse, STANDING STILL, me trying to dodge around them like some wanky contestant on a Saturday night game show.
Outside St John’s, there was a woman bent over a pram, cooing away at the baby within, a fag hanging from her gob, mummy puffing a huge cloud of smoke over the poor kid every five seconds. Not only was she giving her little angel some quality time and attention as they waited for a bus, but also free cancer. The baby was actually coughing the smoke away, and though I’m no expert in baby language, I’m pretty sure that, had it been able to utter it’s first words a year early, they’d have been something along the lines of “for god’s sake, mum, please put me up for adoption.” Harsh? Maybe. But if a mother has no problem blowing poisonous fumes up the nose of a defenceless child, then I’m guessing there are other things she’s not going to be arsed about as the kid grows up, either. Childline is still on 0800 1111, if anybody needs it.
Into St Johns, and I popped into the new Home Bargains, ostensibly to pick up some basics like shampoo, shower gel, loo roll etc, but which inevitably turned into ten bottles of Kopparberg, instead. The cashier throws me one of ‘those’ looks that they reserve for tramps and people who buy meals-for-one (me, again, then…), and I’m expecting Betty Ford to pop out of the back room to lead me out to a waiting ambulance. But, here’s the thing, Mr Home Bargains, if you’re reading this. If you’re going to pile your shelves high with 99p bottles of nice, fruity cider-type stuff that costs four quid a pop in the pub, then PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BUY IT. In bulk. It doesn’t make me an alcoholic. It makes me thrifty, and forward thinking.
Getting out of Home Bargains is a bit more difficult than going in, but I only have to hop across the bus station to jump the 21 and I’m home, so naturally I’m thrilled when I see a 21 approaching the stop, just as I’m waiting to cross by the Royal Court. Brilliant timing. Only, when I get to the bus, its doors are closed and the driver won’t let anyone else on. The bus isn’t full, and it isn’t moving. All it’s doing, is waiting for the lights in front of him to change, so he can move off, but until then, he’s stood in exactly the same spot as when the last passenger just got on three seconds ago, but will be open the doors for me? Will he bollocks. Just to be clear, here, in case the picture isn’t vivid enough. The bus is still in the bay. It hasn’t moved. All the driver has to do is open the door. One button. One little burst of kinetic energy in his pinkie, and he can make someone’s day. But he won’t. Because he’s a bastard. And he actually shouts through the glass “Too late, love. Can’t let you on now. Health and Safety.” Health and safety? Whose, his or mine?
Everyone else on the bus is staring out at me like I’m some mad woman trying to hijack the bloody thing, and I stand there for 45 seconds, which might not sound like a long time, but it’s frigging AGES when there’s fuck all else going on around you. I even had the exact change for him. Bastard. As the bus eventually pulled away, nearly a full minute later, the driver casually turned his head in my direction and smirked, as though he’d just got away with the best practical joke EVER, when all he’d actually done was be a complete arse. And a bastard.
Twenty minutes later and I was finally home. Safety, surely. But, inside the lobby of my apartment building, the postie was doing his usual gag of putting random envelopes in random mailboxes as quickly as possible, like another wanky game on another wanky game show, when he held up his hand to signal he had something I needed to sign for. I’ve had the same postie for the whole seven years I’ve been in this place, and we have a little game we like to play now and again, where he tries to give me ‘special’ envelopes which require my signature, and I tell him to fuck off. Years ago, getting special envelopes usually meant something nice like a loved one sending you a gift voucher, or the bank delivering you a shiny new credit card. These days, they were repossession orders, court summonses and bailiffs’ letters. Whatever was in this special envelope, I didn’t want it, and I’d learnt long ago that, if I didn’t accept them, then they didn’t exist. But postie was getting tired of the game, and didn’t want to play.
“Ah, come on, Deano, don’t make me take another one back, they’ll only send it out again.”
“Sorry Mikey, but I’m not here, I’m in Barbados, remember?”
“I could get the caretaker to sign for it.”
“You could get Mickey Mouse to sign for it, but it’s not coming anywhere near me, sorry.”
“Well can you at least take the rest of the crap from your letterbox, ‘cos there’s no room to put anything else in.”
And I ran to the lift before he could protest any further, but of course, the lift wasn’t working. Why should it be working? It only works when I’m going down four floors, never up four floors. The clocks had gone back, everything felt gloomy and drizzly, the world was full of arsewipes and I just wanted to get inside, get under the duvet and wait for Tuesday. Ten minutes later, and I’d managed to wheeze myself up to my little penthouse pied a terre, and switched on the light to try and make the place seem a little brighter. No light. It was then I heard the distinct beep-beep-beep of the leccy meter, telling me I was juice-less, and that I’d have to venture out into that evil Monday morning again if I wanted to top up the key. Opening the fridge, I saw that I had enough milk for ten cups of coffee and a couple of bowls of Fruit’n’Fibre, plus a bonus can of Red Bullhiding behind the half-eaten tin of baked beans with mini sausages, and, obviously, ten bottles of Kopparberg, so I thought “ah, fuck it, I’m staying in.” Which I did, in the dark. I’d only been up two hours, but I knew the rest of the day would be doomed if I attempted to participate in it in any way, so I spent the rest of Monday under the duvet, doing what I usually do to cheer myself up ….. reading one of my serial killer books.
There is no moral to any story, here, I’m just rambling. Suffice to say that, if any of you keep diaries, then go back to those first Mondays after the clocks went back, and I’ll bet you another ten bottles of Kopparberg that they were all shite. Tell me I’m wrong. Go on, I dare you.