Well, this is a bit more like it. The start of the third week of my freelance, er, career, and the sun has decided to join us. The BBC’s Rob McElwee tells me it’s gonna last all week “The summer is a-coming” he announced with less enthusiasm than you’d hope for. Rob is the longest serving of the BBC weather men, and I always think he takes sadistic glee when informing us of impending floods/hurricanes/blizzards. No, I don’t get the impression Rob’s favourite season is the summer, and he’d much rather it was a-going than a-coming.
But I can’t help liking the bloke. There’s a sort of Milliganness about him. His eyes alost merge into one, and the tuft of hair atop of his forehead is reminiscent of some character from Puckoon. I half expect, when he speaks, that his jaw will stay were it is and the top of his head will go up and down. But that’s probably just me. Long may he rain. (see what I did there?)
So here I sit, in the garden, cup of tea by my side, Norah Jones warbling in my ear and nothing to break the tranquility of it all, save the drip, drip, drip of my oxters as the temperature reaches 25 degrees, and it’s only 11 o’clock. The Incumbent asked if it was odd yet, whether I’d gotten used to being off work yet? To be honest, no I haven’t, but that’s not to say it’s all bad, or even all good. It’s just all different. Example: Isn’t Sainsbury’s empty at 9.30 on a Monday morning? I was in and out of there this morning like a French football team at a World Cup (and without the arguments).
I reckon there were about 20 shoppers in the whole supermarket, mostly mums having done the school-run, a few pensioners and me. The booze section was completely deserted, up until I arrived at least. Being without an income gives one pause, of course. With a week of England vrs Aussie cricket to watch, Tennis to avoid and then Wednesday’s soccer match to endure, I knew I’d need something to numb the pain but, at the moment, bottles of malt whisky are a bit of a luxury.
I needed something just below prescription strength but to suit the budget of the unemployed. Being the day before that bastard Osborne delivers the budget, I guessed that this time tomorrow anything except Bollinger was gonna reach gold-standard prices, so I needed to stock-up fast. Moving swiftly past the Diamond White (I do have some standards) I toyed with the idea of treating myself to a plastic ‘barrel’ of ‘draught’ Grolsch before plumping for a case of bottles of the same, for a mere ten of your english pounds. Not bad, I thought, and if I could chomp through half of them before kick-off, the match vrs Slovenia might just be bearable.
Of course, I could have bought a couple of cases, had it not been for an incident on my doorstep last Friday. No-one ever calls at my door. I don’t really know why I paid good money for a door-bell a couple of years ago. For all the use it gets I may have well bought a hang-glider or an exercise bike. Nevertheless, there I was on my sofa on Friday lunchtime, preparing myself for an evening of cheering on England and their inevitable victory against Algeria, when the bell did indeed ring.
Remembering to put some trousers on first, I went and opened the door. On my doorstep was a fella of about 50, with a cigarette hanging at a jaunty angle from his bottom lip, a mobile phone in one hand, and a spiral-bound notepad in the other, leaning against the door frame.
“Oh ! You’re in !” exclaimed the stranger.
“No, it’s just that you’re never normally in when I call” he said by way of explanation for his opening gambit.
Still not knowing who this bloke was, I nonetheless found myself justifying why I was at home.
“Well I’m usually at work, I suppose”. Even as I said it I wondered why I was having this conversation at all.
“Ah, day off for the footy, is it?” He said in that nudge-nudge, wink-wink, you-lazy-bastard sort of tone.
“NO” I barked, “I’m out of work”
“Oh sorry, pal, I didn’t know”
“It’s ok, why would you?” I said with mock grief. Was this bloke a door-to-door counsellor, a freelance gloater, or just some nosy neighbour whom I’d been, up to then, blissfully unaware of.
“You want your windows done?”
“Pardon?” his change of tack had caught me flat-footed.
“Want your windows cleaned? We do all the others around here and I wondered if you want yours done? A fiver for the front, a tenner for front and back.”
“did you get our card through your door ?”
“Er, no” I was struggling to keep up with the pace of this dialogue.
“oh fuckin’ ‘ell !. He told me he’d done this road.” With a slight shake of his head, my new acquaintance wrote something in his notepad.
“So what do reckon about tonight then?” We were back to the football.
“Oh they should be alright, don’t you think?” I offered, pretending I knew about football.
“Those Algerians ain’t as bad as people think, you know” he retorted
“Well, no..no, you could be right” I said, not wanting to start an argument.
“So do you want your windows done or not, mate?” he asked, clearly having had enough of footy-talk.
“Oh yes..why not? Er, hang on, I’ll get some money”
“Tenner mate, please” he called after me as I retreated to the sanctuary of my house.
I only had a 20 quid note in my wallet.
“Have you got a tenner?” I asked
“I’ve got bundles, mate”. I knew he would have. “Here you are then”
The financial exchange completed, he told me I was paid-up til August- something I didn’t quite understand but ignored.
“Right, we should be back here about 4 o’clock. If you’re not in, just make sure your windows are shut and locked.”
I knew I wouldn’t be in at 4 o’clock as I’d be nestled somewhere in front of a pub TV ready for the big match (well, you can never get there too early). As he turned on his heels, my tenner in his pocket and his mobile in his ear, I knew it was a bit extravagant doshing out tenners to unknown men to do I job I should be doing myself. I was also fully aware (and slightly ashamed) I’d been bullied into having my windows washed against my will, and that I’d panicked and crumbled in the face of stronger and faster opposition. But, hey, it keeps the local economy going and, anyway, my mum would be pleased with me having sparkly-clean windies. I started to muse about becoming a window cleaner knowing that, for a nosey parker it’s an interesting job. But I soon decided that that way a plagiarism suit lies.
So that was Friday. It’s Monday afternoon now. Haven’t seen him again. No ladder has been parked up against my wall, no soapy waters or squeegee has touched my glass. My tenner, like Nicolas Anelka, has buggered off, never to be seen again. I’ve been deficient in the chamois leather department to the tune of one. Like one of those old biddies on the local news, I’ve been had over by a local ‘rogue trader’. I’m ten pounds lighter, but not in the way I’d prefer. I should put it all behind me and clean them myself. But, true to Rob McElwee’s word, it’s about to rain. That’ll keep him happy.