The Diary of a Nobody
Being the modern day record of Charles
Pooter VI -
Thursday, July 08, 2010I’m overcome with emotion looking at my notes on the meeting I had this morning with Barry. He said to me, “Charles, my friend, I won’t dwell on the immense service you’ve done this business. I can’t thank you enough. Let’s change the subject. Tell me, do you like your house? Are you happy there?”
I replied, “Barry, I love my house, I love the area, and I couldn’t bear to leave it”.
I was utterly shocked when Barry said, “Charles, the company will pay off the rest of your mortgage, as recognition for what you’ve done and as acknowledgement of your absolute integrity. You’re the most honest, straightforward guy it’s ever been my privilege to work with”.
He shook my hand, and said he hoped Carrie and I would be blessed with good health and many years’ enjoyment of the property. I was too overcome to thank him and, seeing my embarrassment, he said, “No worries. You don’t need to say anything at all” and left the office.
I texted and e-mailed Carrie, Gowing and Cummings (I’ve never done that before) and asked Gowing and Cummings to come round for a meal.
When I got back, there was Carrie all tearful. I went down to Oddbins and got a couple of bottles of Laurent Perrier Rosé champagne.
My two dear old friends came round, and before I shut down the computer, I caught sight of an e-mail from Lupin. I read it out loud.
Listen buddy, keep your hair on.
You’re way off beam, as usual. I’m engaged to be married to “Lilly Girl”. I didn’t mention it last Thursday, because it wasn’t finally sorted. We’re going to get married in August, and amongst our guests we really really hope to see your old mates Gowing and Cummings.
Much love to you all,
Good old Lupin
Wednesday, July 07, 2010The excitement and anxiety of the past few days has all but made my hair turn grey. It’s all nearly settled. Tomorrow, the deal will be sealed. I sent a long e-mail to Lupin (I thought it was my duty to do it) advising him to take care over spending too much time with Daisy: they drove up to our place together again last night.
Monday, July 05, 2010Lupin’s flat looked very chic. The food was a bit over the top, especially as the whole thing kicked off with loads of Cristal champagne. Lupin might have told us that Daisy, Murray and Lillie were going to get dressed up all smart for the evening. Since it was only the six of us, we’d thought it’d be fairly casual. I wasn’t hungry. It must have been twenty past eight before we sat down to eat. I could have eaten a full meal at six, but I made do with a bit of bread and butter because I was ravenous, and I expect that partly spoiled my appetite.
We were introduced to Murray’s sister. Lupin called her “Lilly” as if he’d known her for ever. She was very tall, plain (I thought) and had unnaturally plump lips. She looked about thirty. I didn’t like the way she kept giggling, and poking and pinching Lupin. When she laughed, it was a kind of high-pitched shriek which went right through my ears, and it was all the more irritating because most of the time no one had said anything funny. In fact, neither Carrie nor I thought much of her. They all lit up after the meal. Lilly offered Carrie one. I answered for her, saying “No, she doesn’t smoke. She’s got more sense”, which made Lilly give one of her piercing laughs again.
Daisy (“Daze”) sang along to some of the music they insisted on playing. Like I said before, she can’t sing in tune, but Lupin kept smiling at her, nodding, and looking into her eyes all the time. If I’d been Murray, I’d have had something to say about it.
Murray was very sociable and polite, and eventually ordered us a car on account to take us home. He’s clearly very rich, because Daisy was wearing some beautiful jewellery. She told Carrie that the necklace which Murray had given her for her birthday cost over seven grand.
Murray said he’d got great faith in Lupin’s abilities, and thought he’d got a great future.
I couldn’t help thinking about the £20,000 Murray had lost on the Langella shares, thanks to Lupin’s advice.
During the evening, I had a chance to chat to Lupin and said I hoped Murray wasn’t living beyond his means. Lupin looked pityingly at me and said Murray was worth millions. He’d sold a minority interest in LowPricePosh.com to some eBay subsidiary.
I said I was glad to hear it.
Lupin said, “He’s put a couple of million in trust for both Daisy and “Lilly Girl”. Any time I need any capital, he’d have no problem handing over a couple of hundred thousand, and he could buy your firm up tomorrow. For cash”.
On the way back, for the first time ever, I considered the fairly radical proposition that perhaps wealth is not evenly divided.
When we got back just after eleven, we found a silver Jag waiting outside the house. The driver got out and said he’d been trying to get hold of me all evening but my mobile was turned off. Apparently, he’d been there a couple of hours. He said he was under instructions to pick me up and take me to the May Fair Hotel to meet with Mr Frank Huttle “ASAP”.
I asked the driver if it was too late. He said no - he’d been told that if I was out, he should wait ’til I came home. I felt very tired, and really wanted to go to bed. I reached the hotel at about quarter to twelve. I apologised for being so late, but Frank said, “No worries. Come and have some vodka and caviar”. My heart’s beating a bit fast, even as I write this down. To be brief, Frank said he’d got a rich American friend who wanted to do something big in our line of business, and Jim (Franching) had mentioned my name to him. We discussed it. If it pans out, I’ll be able to more than compensate the company for the loss of Crowbillon’s account. Frank said, “The glorious fourth is a lucky day for America. Since it’s not yet struck midnight, let’s celebrate with a glass of the best wine in the house, and raise a toast for good luck in our negotiations”.
I sincerely hope it’ll mean good luck for us all.
I didn’t get back ‘til two. I was completely whacked, but I couldn’t sleep except for brief intervals, and then it was only to dream.
I kept dreaming of Barry and Frank. Frank was in a beautiful palace, wearing a crown. Barry was acting as waiter. Frank kept taking the crown off. He handed it to me, and kept calling me “President”. He didn’t appear to take any notice of Barry, and I kept asking him to give the crown to my boss. Frank said, “No, this is the White House, and you must take the crown, Mr President”.
We all laughed heartily, for a long time, ’til I got parched, and then I woke up. I dropped off, only to dream the same thing over and over again.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010Cummings called, looking very washed out, and said he’d been very ill again, and (of course) not a single friend had been in touch. Carrie said she hadn’t heard anything from him, but he threw down a copy of the local paper which had a report on page nine about how a Mr Cummings had had a serious accident in Rye Lane when a youth had stuck a stick between his spokes, causing him to crash heavily. The report was headed Asbo Brute Causes Crash, with the sub-heading “Cyclist says it was “frightening, not fatal””.
We all said we were very very sorry, and pressed Cummings to stay for supper. He said that with Lupin gone, it was just like old times, and all the better for it.
Monday, June 28, 2010On scanning back over my diary, I see nothing of any interest has taken place during the past month. Lupin’s off today. He’s renting an apartment in Notting Hill, near Murray and Daisy’s place. It’s costing £450 a week, which seems very extravagant. Lupin says it’s good to have a classy address, and ours is a bit “skanky”. I’ve no idea what “skanky” means, and I’ve long since given up trying to penetrate the slang he uses. I said the area had always been good enough for us. He said, “It’s not a question of being good or bad. There’s no money here, and I for one don’t want to spend my life rotting in the suburbs”.
We’re sorry he’s going, but perhaps he’ll get on better by himself, and there may be some truth in what he said about older people holding back the young.
Gowing called and said the house seemed quite peaceful, just like old times. He liked Lupin well enough, but occasionally he suffered from something he couldn’t help – being young.
Friday, June 04, 2010In the afternoon, I was looking out of the living room window, when a very big black Mercedes pulled up in front of the house. A woman was driving, and there was a man beside her in the passenger seat. I didn’t want to be caught looking like a nosey neighbour, so I got out of the way quickly and bashed my head in the process. I felt really giddy. There was a very insistent ringing on the front doorbell. After a load of hiatus (Carrie thought it might be Barry Perkupp, so she went up to brush her hair, and we were both running round like headless chickens) we went to the door. I was relieved to see it was Daisy and Lupin.
Lupin greeted me by saying, “Hey, why did you run away from the window? Did we scare you?”
I foolishly said, “What window?”
Lupin said, “Oh for God’s sake. You know. It looked like some kind of Punch and Judy show”.
Carrie asked if they’d like something to drink. Lupin said, “I’m sure Daisy’ll have a cup of tea. I’ll have a vodka and tonic, if you’ve got one”.
I said, “Sorry, we haven’t got any tonic”.
Lupin said, “No dramas”. They stayed very briefly, and as they were leaving Lupin said, “I’d like you to come over for dinner with me, next Wednesday, to see the new place. Murray, Daze and Lilly (Murray’s sister) are coming. Eight o’clock sharp. Don’t bring anyone else”.
I said, “That’s a bit tricky. If you could make it a bit earlier, it’d be easier for us to get back”.
Lupin said, “Bollocks. You’re going to have to get used to it. If needs be, Daze or me can give you a lift”.
We promised we’d go. I have to say that from my pretty straightforward, traditional point of view, the familiar way Lupin and Daisy talked to each other didn’t seem right. Anyone would think they’d known each other since primary school. I don’t think I’d like someone I’d known for just six months calling my wife “Caz” or whatever, and gadding around town with her
Tuesday, June 01, 2010Quite looking forward to tonight’s séance. I was thinking about it all day at the office.
Just as we were sitting down at the table, we were annoyed at Gowing coming in uninvited.
He said, “I’m not going to stop, but I’ve bought a sealed envelope with me, which I know I can entrust to your care, Carrie. In that sealed envelope, there’s a strip of paper on which I’ve asked a simple question. If the spirits can answer it, I’ll believe in Spiritualism”.
I suggested it might be impossible.
Annie said, “No, it’s common for spirits to answer questions under these conditions. Sometimes they even write on paper which is locked away in a box. It’s well worth having a go. If “Lina”’s not playing up, she’ll definitely do it”.
Gowing said, “Right you are then. If she does, I’ll be a firm believer. I’ll pop back at around half nine or ten to hear the result”.
He then left, and we sat for a long time. Cummings wanted to know something about some business he was involved in, but couldn’t get any kind of answer at all. At which he said he was very disappointed, and was afraid he didn’t set any store by seances at all. I thought this was rather self-centred. The séance was very similar to last night’s: almost the same in fact. So we turned to the letter. “Lina” took a long time answering the question, but eventually spelt out “ROSES, LILIES AND COWS”. The table rocked a lot, and Annie said, “If that’s Captain Drinkwater, can we ask him the answer as well?"
It was indeed the Captain’s spirit, and most oddly, he gave the exact same answer: “ROSES, LILIES AND COWS”.
I can’t quite describe Carrie’s agitation on breaking the seal, or the disappointment we all felt when we read the question to which the answer was completely irrelevant. The question was “How old is Charles Pooter?”
This completely decided me on the subject.
Just as I’d put my foot down about Spiritualism some years back, I decided to do so again.
I’m pretty easy-going as a rule, but when pushed, I can be very determined.
As I switched the lights on, I said slowly, “I’m never, ever, going to let this kind of tomfoolery go on in my house again. I’m sorry I ever got drawn into this stupid nonsense. If there’s anything in it – which I seriously doubt – it’s no good to anyone, and I won’t have it going on here. That’s enough”.
Annie said, “Charles, I think you’re rather overstepping …”
I said, “Give it a rest. I determine what goes on in this house. Understand?”
Annie made a comment which I sincerely hope I misunderstood. I was so wound up I didn’t hear it properly. But if she said what I thought she said, she’s never coming back in this house again.
Monday, May 31, 2010The manager from Johnson’s called. He was very sorry about the shirts, and said he’d return £12 (the cost of the cleaning). I said as the colour was more or less gone, £12 wasn’t enough. Carrie remembered that the shirts had only cost £6, since she’d bought them at Primark, so I called Johnson’s and told them to send me £6 instead. Lupin’s gone to stay at the Posh’s place for a couple of days. I must say, I’m not happy about it. Carrie said I was being ridiculous. Murray was very fond of Lupin who, after all, was only a boy.
In the evening, we had another séance which in some respects was very remarkable, although the first part was a little doubtful. Gowing and Cummings called, and asked to join the circle. I wanted to object, but Annie, who appears to be a good medium (that is, if there is such a thing), thought there might be a little more spirit power if Gowing joined, so the five of us sat down.
The moment I turned off the lights, and almost before I could get my hands on the table, it rocked violently and tilted and began moving across the room. Gowing shouted out, “Whoa! Steady on, steady on!”. I told Gowing that if he didn’t behave himself, I’d put the lights on and stop the séance. To tell the truth, I thought Gowing was messing around, and hinted as much, but Annie said she’d often seen the table go right off the ground. The spirit Lina came again and said “WARN” three or four times but wouldn’t say why. Annie said that “Lina” could be stubborn sometimes. She often behaved this way, and the best thing to do would be to send her away.
She then hit the table sharply and said, “Go away Lina. You’re not helping. Go away!”. I reckon we then sat for nearly 45 minutes with nothing happening. My hands felt quite cold, and I suggested we should stop the séance. Carrie and Annie, along with Cummings, wouldn’t agree. About ten minutes later, there was some tilting towards me. I went through the alphabet and it spelt out SPOOF. As I’ve heard both Gowing and Lupin use the word, and as I could hear Gowing laughing to himself, I accused him, directly, of pushing the table. He denied it, but I’m sorry, I didn’t believe him.
Gowing said, “Perhaps it means SPOOK – a ghost”.
I said, “You know it doesn’t mean anything of the sort”.
Gowing said, “Oh all right then. I’m sorry I “spook””, and he got up from the table.
No one took any notice of his stupid joke, and Annie suggested he should sit out for a while. Gowing agreed, and sat in the armchair.
The table started to move again, and we could have had a great séance if Gowing hadn’t kept making stupid comments. In answer to the alphabet from Carrie, the table spelt out “NIPUL”, then the “WARN” three times. We couldn’t work out what it meant, until Cummings pointed out that “NIPUL” was Lupin spelt backwards. This was quite exciting. Carrie got particularly excited and said she hoped nothing nasty was going to happen.
Annie asked if “Lina” was the spirit. The table said, firmly, “NO”, but the spirit wouldn’t give his or her name. We then got the message “NIPUL will be very rich”.
Carrie said she was really relieved, but the word “WARN” was spelt out again. The table began to oscillate violently, and in response to Annie, who spoke very softly to the table, the spirit began to spell out its name. It first spelled “DRINK”.
At which point Gowing said, “Ah! That’s more to my taste”.
I asked him to be quiet as the name might not be complete.
The table then spelt “WATER”.
Gowing interrupted again, saying, “Ah! Definitely not to my taste. It’s OK, but not if I have to drink it”.
Carrie asked him to be quiet.
The table then spelt “DEREK”, and Annie startled us by suddenly shouting, “Derek Drinkwater, a very old friend of my father’s. He’s been dead for years”.
This was very intriguing, and I couldn’t help thinking that maybe there was something in this Spiritualism after all.
Annie asked the spirit to explain the meaning of the word “WARN” in relation to “NIPUL”. The alphabet was given again, and we got the word “TOSH”.
Gowing muttered, “And so it is”.
Annie said she didn’t think the spirit meant that, as Derek Drinkwater was a perfect gent, and wouldn’t have replied to a question from a lady with such a word. The alphabet was given again.
This time the table clearly spelt out “POSH”. We all thought of Daisy and Lupin. Carrie was getting a little distressed, and since it was late, we decided to stop the séance.
We arranged to have one more tomorrow (Annie’s last night in town). We agreed not to invite Gowing. Before he left, Cummings said it was definitely interesting stuff, but he wished the spirits would say something about him.
Saturday, May 29, 2010Reluctantly, I sat at the table in the evening, and I’m bound to admit that some strange things happened. I reckon they were coincidences, but they were curious all the same. For instance, the table kept tilting towards me, which Carrie thought meant I should ask the spirit a question. I followed the protocol and asked the spirit (who said her name was Lina) if she could tell me the name of an old aunt of mine I was thinking of, who we used to call Aunt Maggie. The table spelled out C.A.T. We couldn’t make anything of it, ‘til I suddenly remembered that her second name was Catherine, which it was evidently trying to spell. I don’t think even Carrie knew this. But if she did, she’d never cheat. I must admit, it was curious. Several other things happened, and I agreed to sit at another séance on Monday.
Friday, May 28, 2010I sent a pretty direct e-mail to Johnson’s. I was rather pleased with it, because the tone was nice and ironic. I said, “I collected two shirts, got them back home, and found they’re faded. Perhaps you’ll return either the colour, or the cost of the shirts”. I’ll be interested to see what transpires.
Another séance this evening. Carrie said last night had been successful, up to a point, so they ought to do it again. Cummings came in and seemed interested. I went upstairs to fix a bit of beading at the bottom of the skirting in the bedroom above the living room. Without really thinking about it, I gave the floor two loud raps with the hammer. I immediately regretted it: it’s the kind of stupid thing that Gowing or Lupin would have done.
Mind you, they didn’t mention it, although Carrie claimed that she’d received a message. Apparently, an incredible description of someone she and I had known years ago, who nobody else at the table could have known.
When we went to bed, Carrie asked if I’d join in with them tomorrow as a favour, just for her sake. She said I looked a bit curmudgeonly and unsociable. I immediately promised I would.
Thursday, May 27, 2010I don’t know why, exactly, but I never look forward to Annie’s visits to our place. She’s coming again for a couple of days. I said to Carrie as I was heading out in the morning, “I wish I liked Annie more”.
Carrie said, “So do I, love, but since I’ve had to put up for years with Gowing, who’s seedy, and Cummings, who’s well-meaning but dull, I’m sure you won’t mind the occasional visit from Annie, who’s got more intelligence in her little finger than that pair have in their entire bodies”.
I was speechless at this attack on my two dear old friends. I was late for the train, and I left giving Carrie a hurried kiss. A bit too hurried, because my upper lip bashed against Carrie’s teeth and got cut. It was quite painful for an hour or so afterwards. When I got back in the evening, I found Carrie buried in a book called Tricks of the Mind by Derren Brown. Needless to say she’d got it from Annie. Since Carrie was absorbed in her book and didn’t have a word to say to me, I went and fixed a couple of the wall lights which had gone wonky.
Annie arrived in the evening, and as per usual, took control of everything. On discovering that the two of them were planning a séance, I put my foot down. I’ve never had any time for that sort of rubbish, and I’d put a stop to it years ago in our old place, when Carrie used to have them every night with Mrs Fussters (who’s now dead). If I could see there was any point in it, I wouldn’t have minded. But as I’d stopped it years back, I was determined to do so again.
I said, “I’m very sorry, Annie, but I don’t approve of séances, quite apart from the fact that my two old friends are coming round this evening”.
Mrs James said, “Are you trying to tell me you haven’t read “Rebirthing: Back to the Womb, Forward to the Future”? I said, “No, and I’ve no intention of doing so”. Annie seemed surprised and said, “But everyone’s going mad about it”. I replied (rather cleverly), “Let them. There’ll be one sane person left, at least”.
Annie said she thought I was being unhelpful, and if everyone was as narrow-minded as me, there’d never have been TV or computers.
I said that was completely different.
Annie said, abruptly, “In what way is it different? What way?”
I said, “In many ways”.
Annie said, “Well, tell me one”.
I said quietly, “Sorry Annie, I’m not going to discuss it. I’m not interested”.
At that moment, the bell rang, and Carrie let Cummings in, which was a relief, since I felt it’d stop the whole séance business. But I was wrong: when the subject was raised, Cummings said he was very curious about spiritualism, though he was pretty sceptical. Still, he was prepared to be convinced.
I firmly declined to get involved, and they ignored me completely as a result. I left them sitting in the living room at the small table they’d brought in from the hall. I was opening the door to head out for a stroll, when Gowing appeared.
When he heard what was going on, he suggested that we should join in and he’d pretend to go into a trance. He added he knew a few things about Cummings and he’d make up some stuff about Annie. Since I know how reckless Gowing sometimes gets, I steered him away from the idea. Gowing and I sat in the kitchen and chatted. We talked a good deal about Lupin and Murray and Daisy. Lupin, as usual, is over there for the evening. Gowing said, “It wouldn’t be such a bad thing if old Mr Posh keeled over and died”.
I was shocked, and told Gowing that it was no laughing matter. I lay awake half the night thinking about it, and when I slept, it was only to have nightmares on the same subject.
Sunday, May 23, 2010We went across to Beckenham for a light meal with Annie James and her husband. I wasn’t hungry, since I’d had a big lunch, and the whole evening was spoilt by Keanu, their only son. I think he’s a spoilt brat.
Two or three times, he came over and deliberately kicked me in the shins. One time, it hurt so much, that it nearly bought tears to my eyes. I told him off, quite gently, but Annie said “Please don’t tell him off. I don’t believe in being too harsh with young children. It constrains their natural sense of self-expression”.
Keanu started bawling at this point, and when Carrie tried to calm him down, he whacked her across the face.
I was so annoyed, I said, “That’s no way to raise a child, Annie”.
Annie said, “Different people have different approaches. Even your Lupin has his faults, wouldn’t you say?”
A Mr Mezzini (Italian, I think), took Keanu onto his lap. The child wriggled and kicked and broke away from Mezzini, saying, “I don’t like you. Your face is dirty”.
A very nice guy, Tim Birks Spooner, took Keanu by the wrist and said, “Hey, wee man, come and listen to this”.
He got out his mobile, and played a funny ringtone which sounded like a singing frog. To our horror, Keanu snatched the phone out of his hand and threw it on the floor like it was a rubber ball.
Tim was very relaxed about it, said he could replace the cracked screen, and didn’t think the camera had been damaged.
Just to show how people’s opinions vary, Carrie said that Keanu was bad-tempered but made up for it because he looked so sweet. She said he was a really handsome boy.
I might be wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen an uglier child. That’s my opinion.
Keanu Wayne Orlando James
Thursday, May 13, 2010I told Barry about what Crowbillon had said, in a slightly modified form, but he said, “I don’t want to hear anything more about it. Your son will get his just deserts”. I went home, thinking about what a hopeless future Lupin had. He was very, very manic and looking particularly snazzy. He threw a letter on the table for me to read.
I was amazed. Gylterson plc had offered him a job at £80,000 pa, plus benefits. I read it through three times, convinced it was meant for me. But there it was in black and white – Lupin Pooter. I was silent. Lupin said, “So yeah. What about good old Barry now, eh? Take my advice, get the hell out, and get in with Gylterson, ’cos they’ve got a future. Sod Barry. That bunch are dinosaurs. They’re going backwards. I want to get ahead. Actually, I’d better get a move on, I’m off for dinner with Murray and Daisy tonight”.
He was so excited, he whacked the ceiling light with his hand, shouted “Whoo-hoo!”, somersaulted over the sofa, ruffled my hair, and bounded out of the room, giving me no chance to tell him he ought to show me a bit more respect. Gowing and Cummings called and cheered me up no end by extending lavish congratulations to Lupin.
Gowing said, “I always said he’d do well, and take it from me, he’s got more sense than the three of us put together”.
Carrie said, “He’s the next Frank Huttle”.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010A pretty stressful day, because I kept expecting an e-mail from Crowbillon. I logged on in the evening, and there it was - a message from Gilbert Crowbillon. I was shaking as I double clicked my mouse to open the message. I’d written about 2,000 words in mine. He wrote little more than twenty. It said:
Totally disagree. Your son showed more sense in 5 minutes than your whole company has in 5 years.
What the hell am I going to do? I don’t dare show this to Barry, and I definitely can’t let Lupin see it. Things only got worse. Lupin came in brandishing his iPhone, which had a message from Gylterson (the firm he recommended) asking for his sort code and account number so they could send him over a £5,000 finder’s fee. Clearly, Crowbillon’s never going to have anything to do with us again. Cummings and Gowing called, and both supported Lupin. Cummings went so far as to say Lupin might make a real name for himself. I suppose I was very low, for all I was able to say was, “Yes, but what kind of name?”
Tuesday, May 11, 2010Lupin came down late, and seeing I wasn’t in at work, asked why. Carrie and I had agreed it’d be better to say nothing about the email I was writing, so I avoided the question.
Lupin went out, saying he was ‘doing lunch’ with Murray in the city. I said I hoped Murray would get him a job. Lupin went out laughing, saying, “I don’t mind wearing a bit of lowpriceposh.com, but I’m not going to sell the stuff”. I think the lad is completely hopeless.
It took me most of the day to write to Crowbillon. A couple of times I asked Carrie for advice. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but none of her ideas were any good, whilst a few were completely ludicrous. Of course, I didn’t say so. I called Barry to ask if he wanted me to Bcc him on the e-mail, but he said he trusted me and there was no need to.
Gowing came by in the evening. I had to tell him about the Lupin and Barry business. I was surprised when Gowing sided with Lupin. Carrie too said I was getting far too wound up about it. Gowing produced a half bottle of Bailey’s he’d been given, which he said would cheer us all up, but since he helped himself to three large glasses, it didn’t leave enough to make Carrie and me feel any better at all.
Monday, May 10, 2010Something really appalling has happened. Barry’s sacked Lupin. I can hardly bring myself to write about it. I was out of the office at the end of last week, away sick for the first time in twenty one years. I think I was poisoned by some fish. Barry was also away, as fate would have it. Our most important client, Mr Crowbillon, turned up at the office in a foul temper and said he was shifting his account. Lupin not only had the gall to meet with him, but advised him to switch to Gylterson Sons plc. In my opinion (though I don’t like to say it against my own son) it was a complete betrayal.
This morning I got an e-mail from Barry before I left for work, telling me that they’d told Lupin to clear his desk, and calling me in to a meeting at eleven. I went down to the office feeling sick to the stomach, dreading the meeting with Barry. I’d not spoken to him about things. I didn’t see Lupin all morning. He wasn’t up when I left, and Carrie said it wouldn’t help to disturb him. I was really distracted and couldn’t focus on my work.
As I’d expected, Barry summoned me, and the meeting (as far as I can remember) went more or less like this...
Barry said, “Morning Charles. This is one hell of a bad business. I don’t mean about Lupin – it was pretty clear we were going to have to part company sooner or later. Look. I am the head of this division, and we’ve built a solid reputation, and a market-leading position in the industry. If the business needs to be revolutionised, I will make the decision, when I decide the time is right”.
I could see he was very agitated, and I said, “Barry, I hope you’re not suggesting that I supported Lupin’s outrageous interference in any way?" Barry got up from his chair, put his arm round my shoulder and said “Charles, I’d as soon suspect myself of supporting him”. I was so on edge, so anxious to show how grateful I was, that I almost said, “Barry, I love you”. Luckily I got control of myself, and simply said, “You’re a marvellous man, sir”. I was all over the place, and sat down suddenly, leaving him pacing round the room. I got up, but Barry asked me to sit down, and carried on. “Listen Charles, you’ll realise that we’re a major player in this business, and we can’t be seen to be overly influenced by the actions of a single client. If Crowbillon wants to get another company to handle his affairs (a company with very little in the way of track record as far as I can see), that’s up to him. I’m not going to make any concessions to get his account back”. “Absolutely not,” I said. “Precisely,” replied Barry, “I will not do it. But Charles, what I was thinking was this. Crowbillon is our most lucrative client, and completely confidentially, losing him means we’re taking a big hit. It’s not the kind of thing we can sustain, particularly with the market being the way it is. I reckon you can help us out”.
I replied, “Barry, I’ll do absolutely anything it takes. You can depend on me”.
Barry said, “I know I can. So listen, this is the plan. You, personally, need to e-mail Crowbillon. Don’t let on that I know anything about it. Tell him that your son was only taken on as a junior admin assistant because you’d got such a good record with the company. As you and I know, this is absolutely true. I’m not proposing that you should condemn Lupin’s conduct in too scathing a way, but then again, if he was my son, I’d have ripped him apart. It’s up to you. My guess is Crowbillon will respond by reviewing his position, he’ll come back to us, and the company won’t suffer any financial fallout or bad press”.
I couldn’t help thinking what a great guy Barry was. The way he looks, and the way he talks, are very impressive.
I said, “Would you like to see the e-mail before I send it?”
Barry said, “No way. I don’t know anything about it, and I trust you completely. Take a lot of care over it. Things are a bit slack right now, so focus on it, solely, for half a day, or the whole day if you need it. I’ll be around tomorrow, and the rest of the week, in case Crowbillon gets in touch”.
I went home feeling slightly cheerier, but I told Carrie that I didn’t want to see Cummings, Gowing, or anybody else in the evening.
Lupin came into the living room wearing a new jacket. He asked what I thought of it. I said that making fashion judgements wasn’t my immediate priority, and anyway, I didn’t think he had the money to buy stuff right now. Lupin said, “I didn’t buy it. It was a present”.
I’m so suspicious of Lupin these days that I don’t like to ask him anything, in case I don’t like the answers. But he saved me the bother.
He said, “I ran into a mate, an old mate. I didn’t reckon he was much of a friend at the time, but actually, he’s cool. He said “all’s fair in love and war”, and couldn’t see why we shouldn’t hang out. Actually, he’s sound. All together different to that idiot Barry”.
I said, “Cut that out, Lupin. Don’t make things any worse than they already are”.
Lupin said, “What you on about? Listen, I’ve not made anything any worse. Crowbillon’s simply sick to the back teeth of using such a prehistoric operation, and decided to make the change himself. All I did was suggest someone else. It’s just business”.
I said, quietly, “I don’t understand what you mean by saying “it’s just business”, and at my time of life, I think it’s too late to find out. Let’s change the subject. Where were we? This friend of yours and the jacket? What’s that about?”
Lupin said, “It’s nothing important. I’d not seen the guy since the wedding, and he said it was good to run into me, and hoped that things were OK between us. I got him a drink to show there were no hard feelings, and he gave me one of his jackets”.
I said, wearily, “But you’ve not told me the name of this chap”.
Lupin said, trying to sound blasé, “Didn’t I? Silly me. It was Murray... Murray Posh”.
Friday, May 07, 2010Got an e-mail from Jim Franching inviting us across for dinner tonight to meet with someone called Frank Huttle, a very witty American journalist. Jim apologised for the short notice, but said he’d been let down by two guests at the last minute, and looked on us as old friends who’d be happy to make up the numbers. Carrie was rather put out by this, but I explained that Jim was very well off and a bit of a mover and shaker, and it mightn’t be a good idea to let him down. I said, “And we’re sure to get a good dinner and some first class champagne”. “Which never agrees with you!” Carrie replied, sharply. I ignored her comment. He’d not said anything about dress code, so I mailed back saying, “Delighted to accept. What‘s the dress code?”
Got back early, in time to get suited and booted, as instructed. I’d wanted Carrie to meet me down at Jim’s, but she didn’t want to do it that way, so I had to go home to pick her up. Jim’s place is such a long way out, and there are so many changes to get there, that I allowed plenty of time for the journey. Too much, in fact. We got there at twenty two and had to wait around while he went up to get himself dressed. He was down bang on seven o’clock, which was quick.
I have to say it was pretty classy company, and though we didn’t know anyone, they all seemed very well off. Jim had got outside caterers in, and had spared no expense, with big flower arrangements and special table decorations. All in all, it looked superb. The wine was fantastic, and there was plenty of champagne: Jim said he’d never tasted better. There were ten of us, and each of us had a menu at our place setting. One lady said she always kept the menu, and got us all to sign it.
All of us did the same, bar Frank Huttle who was, of course, the guest of honour.
The guests were Jim Franching, Frank Huttle, Samuel and Chloe Hillbutter, Jemima Field, Quentin and Pamela Purdick, Andrew Pratt, Richard Kent and last, but not least, Carrie and Charles Pooter. Jim said he was sorry that I didn’t have a lady sitting either side of me (the numbers were uneven). I said I preferred it that way, but afterwards I thought maybe I’d sounded rude.
I sat next to Jemima Field. Clearly, very cultured, but also very deaf. It didn’t really matter: Frank Huttle did all the talking. He’s incredibly intellectual, and some of the things he said (if anyone else said them) would sound pretty contentious. I wish I could remember a tenth of the brilliant stuff he came out with. I put a few notes on my menu as a reminder.
He made one point which struck me as really acute (not that I agreed with it). Pamela Purdick said, “You’re very unorthodox you know, Frank”. Frank, with a peculiar expression (I can see it now) said in a slow, resonant voice, “Pamela, “orthodox” is an over-inflated euphemism for “narrow minded”. If Bill Gates and Richard Branson had been “orthodox” we wouldn’t have a personal computer in every home or affordable space travel on the horizon”. There was silence for a while. I thought that such an argument was potentially very dangerous, but at the same time I felt - as I think we all did - that there was no answer to it. A little later on Pamela, who’s Jim’s sister, and had sent out the invitations, got up and suggested the ladies take a walk around the garden. Frank said, “Ladies, you’re not going to leave us so soon, are you? Why don’t you stay while we boys chew the fat?”
“Orthodox” is an over-inflated euphemism for “narrow minded”
Their response was immediate. None of the ladies (including Carrie) wanted to miss out on Frank’s fascinating company, so they instantly sat down again, with lots of laughter and a bit of banter. Frank said, “That’s good. No one will be able to say you’re orthodox again!” Pamela, who seemed to be quite quick-witted and sharp said, “Frank: we’ll meet you half way. You boys chat ’til halfway through your Courvoisiers, then we’ll take a stroll round the garden. How’s that for a happy medium?".
I’ll not forget the effect that the words “happy medium” had on him. He gave us a dazzling definition of the term. I found it quite alarming. He said something like, “Happy medium, eh? Don’t you know those two words mean “miserable mediocrity”? I say, go business class or cattle class, marry a model or a moose. The “happy medium” stands for respectability, and respectability is utterly insipid. Don’t you agree Charles?”
I panicked at being put on the spot, and was only able to nod and say that I was afraid I really wasn’t in a position to offer any opinion on the matter. Carrie was about to say something, but was interrupted, which was a relief because she’s not very clever when it comes to debating things, and you obviously need to be particularly smart to argue anything with someone like Frank.
He carried on talking so effortlessly that it made his barmy ideas sound totally convincing. “The happy medium is just a half measure, nothing more, nothing less. Guys who like Jack Daniel’s, but haven’t the guts to drink a whole bottle and settle for a double instead – they’re not going to invent the iPod or shoot a movie like Apocalypse Now, are they? They’re half-hearted. Small Fry. Respectable. The happy medium. They’ll spend their lives festering in some mock tudor suburban semi that looks like a dolls’ house”.
We all laughed.
“That kind of life” continued Frank, “is for guys who’re soft… soft in the head… For God’s sake, they probably even wear slip on shoes!”
I thought this was pretty personal, and a couple of times I caught myself looking under the table, because I was wearing slip ons. And why not? If his comments weren’t directed personally at me, they were pretty careless, and so were some of the other things he said later on, which must have made Jim and some of the others feel rather uncomfortable as well. Actually, I don’t think Frank meant to be personal, because he added, “I’ve not run into people like that over here, but there’s plenty in America, and I can’t stand them”.
Several times, Jim suggested passing the wine round the table, but Frank didn’t take any notice. He carried on like he was giving a lecture.
“What we want in America is English-style homes. We’re always on the move. But your domestic environment is charming. There’s no display, no pretentiousness. I’m sure you don’t serve dinner any differently, whether or not you have guests. Certainly no outside caterers fussing about the place”.
I saw Jim wince at this.
Frank carried on, “Just an intimate dinner, with a few special touches, like you’ve organised tonight. You don’t embarrass your guests by shipping in a load of champagne at £60 a bottle”.
I couldn’t help thinking that the Cristal we were drinking must have cost at least that.
Frank said, “I’m talking about people who’re spineless, boring and dull. The kind who’re happy to stay at home and waste their time playing board games with their wives. We don’t want to spend time with people like that. We’re far more refined. We don’t want to waste time socialising with deaf old trouts who can’t keep up with an intelligent conversation”.
We all looked at Jemima. Luckily, since she’s deaf, she was oblivious, and just continued smiling and nodding her approval.
“There’s no one here,” said Frank, “like the kind of stupid, air-headed women who think that because they get a ticket to some C-list party, they’re suddenly celebrities. The kind Vogue has never featured, and never will”.
Frank paused for a moment, which gave the ladies an opportunity to get up from the table. I quietly asked Jim if it’d be all right for us to go, since we didn’t want to miss the last train, which we nearly did by the way, because Carrie mislaid her handbag.
We got home very late, and when we got into the living room I said, “Carrie, what did you reckon to Frank?" She just said, “Very like Lupin”. I’d thought exactly the same whilst I was on the train. The comparison kept me awake half the night. Frank was of course older and more influential, but he was like Lupin. It made me think how inflammatory Lupin might be if he were older and more influential. I’m proud to think he does resemble Frank in some respects. Like Frank, Lupin has original and sometimes amazing ideas, but they’re ideas which are dangerous. They’re the kind of ideas which can make people extremely rich, or extremely poor. They can make them, or break them. My feeling is that people who live a simple, unsophisticated life are happier. I think I’m happy because I’m not ambitious. I kind of think that Lupin, now that he’s working for Barry, may be content to settle down and follow in his father’s footsteps. It’s a comfort.
Monday, April 26, 2010I’m getting used to Lupin’s rudeness, and I don’t mind being told off by Carrie at times because she’s got a certain right to do so. But I don’t like being treated rudely by my wife, my son, and two guests all at the same time.
Gowing and Cummings had come over in the evening, and I suddenly remembered a weird dream I’d had a few nights ago. I thought I’d tell them about it. I dreamt I’d seen some huge blocks of ice in a shop window, with a bright glare behind them. I walked into the shop, and was almost knocked out by the heat. I discovered that the blocks of ice were on fire. The whole thing was so real and so surreal at the same time that I woke up in a cold sweat. Lupin said, completely dismissively, “What a load of crap”.
Before I could say anything, Gowing said there was nothing as utterly boring as hearing other people’s dreams.
I asked Cummings to back me up, but he said he agreed with the others, and said my dream was particularly incomprehensible. I said, “It seemed so real to me”. Gowing replied, “To you, maybe, but not to us”. Then they all started laughing.
Carrie, who’d not said anything up ’til this point, said, “He tells me his stupid dreams nearly every morning”. I said, “Very well, darling, I’ll make sure I never tell you, or anybody else, any of my dreams, ever again”. Lupin said, “Hear hear!” and cracked open another can of Foster’s. Luckily, the subject was changed, and Cummings told us about an interesting article he’d read on how you’d get across London quicker on a bike than in a car.
Sunday, April 25, 2010Watney Lodge took a lot longer to get to than the TomTom predicted, and we we only just made it in time. We arrived feeling hot and uncomfortable. It wasn’t helped when a large collie leapt on us as we came in. It barked loudly and jumped up at Carrie, covering her light skirt (which she was wearing for the first time) with mud. Teddy Finsworth came out, drove the dog away, and apologised. He showed us into the living room, which was beuatifully decorated. It was full of knick knacks, and a number of plates were hanging on the wall. There were several little jewellery boxes with paintings on them, and a white wooden banjo painted by one of Edgar Finsworth’s nieces – a cousin of Teddy’s.
Edgar Finsworth was a very distinguished elderly gent, and he behaved very courteously towards Carrie. There were loads of water colours hanging on the wall, mainly different views of India, and all very bright. Edgar told us they were painted by William Simpson, and whilst he hadn’t an eye for art, he’d been advised they were worth thousands, even though he’d bought them for around £10 each at a local auction.
There was also a large picture in a very ornate frame, done in coloured crayons. It looked like it was on a religious theme. I was really struck by the woman’s lace collar, which looked almost real, but unfortunately I said there was something about the face which wasn’t quite right. It looked pinched. Edgar replied, sadly, “Yes, the face was done after she died. It’s my wife’s sister”.
I felt really awkward, bowed apologetically, and said quietly that I hoped I hadn’t hurt his feelings. We both stood there looking at the picture in silence. Then Edgar took out a handkerchief, said, “She was sitting in our garden only last summer” and blew his nose violently. He seemed quite emotional, so I turned to look at something else and stood in front of a portrait of a merry looking middle-aged gent with a red face and a straw hat. I said to Edgar “Who’s this jolly looking guy? He doesn’t look like he has a care in the world”. Edgar said, “No, he hasn’t. He’s dead too. It’s my brother”.
“He’s dead too.”
I was absolutely mortified at my tactlessness. Luckily, at that point Carrie came in with Fenella Finsworth, who’d taken her upstairs to brush the mud off her skirt. Teddy said, “Short’s late” but just then the man he was referring to arrived. Teddy introduced me to him and said, “Do you know Declan Short?" Smiling, I replied that I’d not had the pleasure, but I hoped it wouldn’t be too long before I got to know Mr Short. Clearly, he didn’t get the joke, though I did repeat it twice, with a small laugh each time. I suddenly thought maybe Mr Short was some kind of fundamentalist who didn’t like joking around on a Sunday, or something.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. After dinner, he made a load of very coarse comments. I was so upset by one of the things that he said, that I took the opportunity to say to Fenella that I was concerned in case she found Declan a tad embarrassing. I was surprised when she said “Oh, we always let him have his say, you know”. I didn’t know, as a matter of fact, and I apologised. I couldn’t see why he should be free to say the kind of things he did.
Another thing that annoyed me was that the collie dog which had jumped at Carrie was allowed to sit under the table during the meal. It kept growling and snapping at my feet every time I moved. I was a bit nervous, so I spoke to Fenella about him, and she said, “He’s only playing”. She jumped up and let in an ugly looking spaniel called Bibbs, which had been scratching at the door. This dog also took a fancy to my feet, and I discovered afterwards that he’d chewed a hole in the end of my right shoe. I really didn’t want to be seen in them after that. Fenella, who obviously doesn’t much care for anyone else’s point of view said, “Oh, we’re used to Bibbs doing that to visitors”.
Edgar had some really fine port, though I’m not sure it’s a good idea to have any after drinking beer. It made me feel sleepy, but as for Declan, it encouraged him to “have his say” (as Fenella put it) all the more. Since it was cold even for April, they’d lit a fire in the living room. We sat round on the big sofas, and Teddy and I reminisced at length about school days, which sent everyone else to sleep. I was delighted that it had that effect on Declan, at least.
We stayed ’til four, and the walk back was notable only for the fact that a bunch of kids in hoodies laughed at my shoe. Sat down in the evening to watch the Antiques Roadshow and hardly managed to stay awake. I won’t drink port on top of beer again.
Saturday, April 24, 2010I was hurrying back from Tesco when a man stopped me and said “Hey! I know your face!”. Politely, I said, “Very likely: lots of people know me, though often I don’t know them”. He replied, “But you know me – Teddy Finsworth”. Which it was. He’d been at my school. I’d not seen him in years. Hardly surprising I didn’t recognise him. At school, he’d been at least a head taller than me. Now I’m a head taller than him, and he’s got a thick beard which is almost grey. He insisted we have a drink together (I never do that after work) and told me he lived in Middlesborough where he was Chief Executive on the City Council, a position as high as the head of the GLA in London. He went on to say he was down in London for a few days staying with his uncle Edgar Paul Finsworth (of Finsworth and Pultwell). He said he was sure his uncle would be pleased to see me: he had a nice house called Watney Lodge, a couple of minutes from Muswell Hill Station. I gave him my e-mail and mobile number, and we parted company.
In the evening, I got an e-mail from Mr Finsworth saying if we (Carrie and me) would come along for lunch on Sunday, at one o’clock, he’d be delighted. Carrie didn’t fancy it, but the e-mail was fairly pressing, so Carrie stuck the chicken she’d already bought for Sunday’s roast in the freezer.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010Got a letter from Susan Lupkin, telling us what train to take on Saturday, and hoping we’d visit as promised. She signed off by saying “You must come and stay at our place. It’s half the price of The Royal, and we’ve got just as good a view”. I looked at the address on the notepaper, and saw it said “Lupkin’s Family Hotel”.
I e-mailed back to tell her we were compelled to “decline her kind invitation”. Carrie appreciated the irony and said it was very much to the point. By the way, I’ll never buy a jacket by mail order again. I got myself one from Land‘s End, which looked a fairly subdued blue in the picture on the website. But when it arrived it turned out to be rather bright. I tried it on and was irritated to hear Carrie laughing. She said, “What colour did you say you thought it was?”
I said “dark blue”.
Carrie said, “Well, to tell you the truth, it looks turquoise to me”.
Monday, April 19, 2010Recently, I’ve noticed Carrie rubbing her nails a lot with some kind of instrument. When I asked her about it, she said “It’s a new manicure system that’s just been developed”. I said, “I suppose Annie James introduced you to it”. Carrie laughed and said, “Yes, and now everyone’s doing it”.
I wish Annie wouldn’t come round. Every time she does, she puts some new-fangled rubbish into Carrie’s head. One of these days, I’ll tell her she’s not welcome any more. I’m sure it was her who got Carrie to use those stupid emoticons on her phone. Pointless.
Saturday, April 17, 2010Cummings called. He was hobbling on a stick and said he’d been on his back all week. Apparently, he was trying to shut his bedroom door, which is just at the top of the staircase. Unbeknownst to him, a plastic toy the dog had been playing with had got stuck in the door jamb, and stopped the door closing properly. He’d pulled the door hard to give it an extra slam, the handle came off in his hands, and he fell backwards down the stairs.
When he heard this, Lupin jumped up from the couch and rushed out of the room, sideways. Cummings looked very indignant, and said that he couldn’t see anything funny about a man nearly breaking his back. Though I suspected Lupin was laughing at him, I told Cummings that he’d only run out to open the door to a friend who was due. Cummings said it was the second time he’d been ill, and no one had bothered to get in touch. I said I knew nothing about it.
Friday, April 16, 2010Mr Griffin, our next door neighbour, came round and accused me or “someone” of fiddling with the stop-cock and causing his cistern to overflow. He said he’d get it repaired and send us the bill.
Thursday, April 15, 2010The cistern’s OK again. Annie James called. She and Carrie shifted the furniture around the room. Something to do with Feng Shui. Annie says everyone’s doing it. It was her idea, and Carrie always does what Annie suggests. From my point of view, everything was fine the way it was. But then, I’m an ordinary chap, and I don’t pretend to keep up with this kind of thing.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010The cistern’s leaking again. I called John Putley, who said he’d get it sorted quickly, because it was probably the plastic fittings.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010The night of the East Acton Rotary Club Ball. I suggested Carrie should wear the same dress she’d looked so good in at the Civic Hall, because it occurred to me that with his Rotary connections, Barry Perkupp might well turn up. Lupin (incomprehensible as ever) said he’d heard it was a “Ball for Bell Ends”. I didn’t ask him what he meant, though I didn’t understand. I don’t know where he gets his expressions from: he certainly doesn’t learn them at home.
The invitation was for half eight, so I thought if we arrived an hour later, we’d be in good time without being “unfashionable”, as Annie puts it. It was difficult to find. The minicab driver had to stop off at various pubs to find out where the Drill Hall was. I don’t get why people put things on in places which are so off the beaten track. No one seemed to have heard of it. But after driving round a load of murky streets, we eventually got there. I had no idea it was so far away. I gave the guy a tenner. He got all surly and said it should have been twice that. He was rude enough to tell me to catch a bus next time.
Captain Welcut greeted us. He said we were a bit late, but better late than never. He was a good looking chap, but Carrie thought he was a bit short for an officer. He asked to be excused because he’d promised someone a dance, and told us to make ourselves at home. Carrie took my arm, and we wandered round the rooms a few times, watching people dancing. I couldn’t see anyone I knew. As we entered the dining area, someone slapped me on the shoulder and shook my hand. I said, “It’s Jimmy Padge, isn’t it?" He replied, “Sure thing”.
I gave Carrie a seat next to another lady, and they started chatting immediately.
They served some great food and there was loads of champagne and claret and so on. No expense seemed to have been spared. I admit, I hadn’t liked Jimmy Padge that much, but I was so relieved to find someone that I knew that I invited him to join us. For someone so short and fat, he didn’t look bad in a DJ, although the jacket was a bit baggy at the back. It was the only banqueting room I’d been in which wasn’t crowded. In fact, we were the only people there: everyone else was busy dancing.
I helped Carrie and her new friend (who said she was called Susan Lupkin) to some more champagne. I poured some for myself, and passed the bottle to Jimmy Padge telling him to look after himself. He said “No probs”, poured out a large glass, drank Carrie’s health, and the health of (as he said) her “noble lord and master”. We had some delicious duck a l’orange, and crème caramel to follow.
The waiters were very attentive and asked if we’d care for more wine. I poured some for Carrie, Susan and Jimmy, and for some people who’d just come back from dancing. They were very courteous, and because they were so polite, it occurred to me that perhaps they knew me from the City. I made myself useful and helped a number of the ladies to sorbet. As the old saying goes, “manners maketh man”.
The band started up, and they all headed back to the ballroom. Carrie and Susan were keen to see the dancing. Since I’d not quite finished my food, Jimmy Padge offered his arms to them and took them through, telling me to follow. I said to him “It’s quite a classy do” and he replied “Sure thing”.
When I’d finished my food, I started to leave. The waiter who’d been looking after us caught my attention by tapping me on the shoulder. I thought it was odd that a waiter at a private function expected a tip, but I gave him £5, since he’d been very good. He smiled and said, “I’m very sorry sir, but it’s more than this. You’ve had four meals at £15 a head, five sorbets at £6 each, three bottles of champagne at £30 each, and a glass of claret. All in all, that’s £180.
I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so flabbergasted. I just about managed to babble that I’d had a private invitation. He said he knew that, but the invitation didn’t include food and wine. A guy who was standing nearby backed him up and said yes, that was the arrangement.
The waiter said he was really sorry if I’d been labouring under any misapprehension, but it wasn’t his fault. Of course, I didn’t have any option but to pay up. I knew there was about £140 left on my card, so I paid that and then scraped the rest together, bar £7, out of the cash I had in my pocket. I offered to leave my details with the manager so that I could send the £7 on later, but he waved it aside and said “No worries”.
I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so humiliated in my life. I decided to keep it from Carrie, because I didn’t want to spoil the evening for her, which she was really enjoying. As for me, I didn’t think there was much fun to be had after this, and since it was late, I went and found Carrie and Susan. Carrie said she was ready to go, and as we were saying goodnight to Susan, she asked us if we’d ever been down to Southend. I said I’d not been there for years and she very kindly said, “Why not come down and stay at our place?" She was quite pressing, and since I saw that Carrie was up for it, we promised to visit on Saturday week and stay ’til Monday. Susan said she’d be in touch tomorrow to give us the address and so on.
When we got outside the Drill Hall, it was pouring and the streets were awash. Needless to say, it was virtually impossible to find a cab. Eventually, we found a minicab office, and a guy said he’d take us. It was really uncomfortable. He was driving an old Toyota, and rain was dripping in through the sun roof. We must have been a couple of miles from home, when I suddenly realised I hadn’t got any money. In a panic, I asked the guy to stop at a cash machine. I was praying there might be a bit left on the card, after I’d shelled out that £140. But of course I got that “insufficient funds available” thing. I explained the situation to the driver. He called me every name under the sun, grabbed me by the neck and virtually strangled me. There was a policeman nearby. He got the guy off me, but wasn’t particularly interested in pursuing a charge of GBH. He asked me what did I expect if I tried to rip off a cab driver?
We had to walk back about two miles through the pouring rain. When I got in, I wrote down the conversation I’d had with the minicab driver, word for word. I’m going to write to the Daily Mail to get a campaign going against unlicensed minicabs, to prevent other people being exposed to abuse and violence like I had to put up with.
Monday, April 12, 2010Burnt my tongue really badly on a chicken kiev that Carrie had foolishly not left to stand before serving.
Sunday, April 11, 2010Probably because the weather’s been a bit unpredictable, I woke with a feeling that my skin had been drawn over my face as tight as a drum. Nick and Liz Teane who we met whilst we were out in the park, came round. Whilst we were out in the garden, I was peeved to find a newspaper full of bones on the gravel path. Obviously, it had been chucked over the fence by the Griffin boys next door. Whenever they have friends round, they climb up a step-ladder in their conservatory and tap at the windows, making faces, whistling and belching.
Young Griffin boys making faces, whistling and belching
Tuesday, April 06, 2010Gowing called, and invited Carrie and me to the East Acton Rotary Club Ball which he reckoned would be quite a good bash given that Sir William Grime (the local MP) was going to be there. We accepted the invite, and he stayed to supper. I thought it’d be a good opportunity to try out a bottle of sparkling Algera that Annie James’ husband had sent us as a present. Gowing took a sip, saying that he’d never tried it before, and that he preferred to stick to more recognised wine varieties. I told him it was a present from a good friend, and we shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Gowing said, flippantly “Presumably, it’s ’cos he didn’t like putting it in his own mouth”.
I thought that was both rude and unfunny, but after I’d tasted the stuff, I couldn’t help thinking it was justified to some extent. The sparkling Algera is very like cider, only more sour. I wondered whether the bad weather had made it go acid, but Gowing simply said, “No, I don’t think so”. We had a good game of cards, though I lost £10, Carrie lost £2, and Gowing said he’d lost about 50p. It’s a mystery to me how he managed to lose, given that Carrie and I were the only other players.
Monday, April 05, 2010Nothing significant happened, except Gowing advised me to get a wireless mouse for work, which cost me £24.99. I might as well have stuck £24.99 in the bin. It caused me all sorts of grief and really irritated me. Half the time, no matter how much you move it around, the cursor doesn’t go anywhere. In the office, I was hitting it on my mouse-pad to get it working, when Barry (who’d just got in) said, “Hey! Can you stop that noise. Mikey, you as usual?" Michael Pitt (the cocky young guy) took great pleasure in saying, “Sorry Barry, it’s not me, it’s Charles and his wireless mouse. He’s been at it all morning”. What made it worse was I saw Lupin laughing. I thought it best not to say anything. I took it to PC World and asked them to take it back, since it wasn’t working. I didn’t expect they’d give me the money, but maybe a voucher or something. The guy said he couldn’t give me anything without a receipt, which I didn’t have. Lupin’s behaved exceptionally well in the office. I’m only worried it won’t last.
Thursday, March 18, 2010Today I’m going to end this diary. It’s one of the happiest days of my life. A great ambtion that I’ve had for ages has finally been realised. This morning I got a formal letter from Barry Perkupp, asking if I could take Lupin down to the office with me. I went to Lupin’s room. He was looking pretty sick, and said he had a bad headache. Down in Brighton yesterday he’d gone to a club, lost his coat, and had got soaked on the way back. I showed him the letter from Barry, and he got out of bed in double quick time. I insisted he should put on a sober suit – nothing too flash.
Carrie was all excited when she saw the letter. All she could say was “Oh, I do hope it’ll work out OK”. As for me, I could hardly eat any breakfast. Lupin came down looking smart and very respectable, except his face was a bit yellow. To raise his spirits, Carrie said, “You look nice, Lupin”. Lupin said “Yeah, nice costume eh? I look like a cross between an undertaker and a bouncer”. He laughed a bit bitterly.
I heard a commotion in the kitchen and found Lupin slashing at a tie with a bread knife. I said, “Lupin, what the hell are you doing? What a waste! If you don’t like it, I’m sure someone else would be happy to have it”. He said, “I wouldn’t insult anyone else with tat like this”.
He went up to find another one. I looked at the remnants of the tie. Armani. With a lowpriceposh.com price tag still dangling from it. No wonder. It seemed to take for ever to get to the office. Barry sent for Lupin. They were together nearly an hour. Lupin came back, looking a bit crestfallen, I thought. I said, “Lupin - what about Barry then?” Lupin suddenly started singing “All right now, Perkupp’s all right now”. From which I reckoned Barry had given him a job. I went up to Barry, but couldn’t work out what to say. He said, “Charles, what’s up?" I must have looked a right idiot, because all I could say was “Barry, you’re a good man”. He looked at me for a moment and said, “No Charles, you’re a good man. Let’s see if your son can follow your example”. I said, “Barry, do you mind if I head off? I don’t think I’ll be much use to anyone today”.
Barry nodded, and shook my hand. I was feeling really emotional on the train home, almost crying to tell the truth, and I would have done so if I’d not been distracted by Lupin who was arguing with a fat man whom he accused of taking up too much of the seat.
In the evening, Carrie asked Cummings and his wife round, and Gowing as well. We sat around the living room and toasted Lupin’s success with a bottle of Cava which Carrie got from the Spar. I lay awake quite a while, thinking about how things would be. Me and Lupin, in the same office, travelling into work together. Maybe Lupin’ll help out in the house: doing a bit of DIY, helping his mum with the decorating, a touch of gardening in the summer. (That reminds me, I need to get some more of that stencilling paint). I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I saw my bedside alarm clock turn four, and must have fallen asleep soon after. Dreaming of the three of us, all happy: Lupin, my lovely Carrie, and me.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010Since Daisy and Murray were getting married today, Lupin cleared off with a friend to Brighton. Lupin’s pretty cut up about it, but he makes out he’s glad nothing transpired between him and Daisy. I wish he wouldn’t go out clubbing so much, but I don’t feel I can say anything about it. Currently, he irritates me by singing the same song over and over again all round the house. He says it’s Free. I wouldn’t pay for it. It goes “Lupin’s all right now, Daisy’s one fat cow”. If he’s calling her that, I doubt he’s really all right. In the evening, Gowing called. The main item on his agenda was Daisy and Murray’s marriage. I said, “Actually, I’m glad it’s worked out the way it has. Daisy would only have made a fool of Lupin”. Gowing (tasteful as ever) said, “Lupin can make a fool of himself without any assistance, I’d say”. Carrie resented his remark, and he had the decency to apologise.
Friday, February 19, 2010Before he left for work, Lupin said, “Look, I’m really sorry about the Langella shares. If the boss had been around, it wouldn’t have happened. Actually, I suspect something’s up. No one’s seen Josh for a couple of days now, and there’s been a lot of calls from people who’re very keen to speak to him”.
In the evening, Lupin was heading out to avoid the chance of meeting Gowing and Cummings, when Gowing walked straight in doing his usual “may I come in?” routine.
Lupin and I were surprised to find he was really jolly. We avoided saying anything about Langella, but he raised the subject himself. He said, “Hey, those Langella shares completely collapsed, didn’t they. Not so smart now, eh Lupin? How much did you lose?" I was astonished when Lupin said “Nothing at all, mate. There was some cock up when the agreement was transmitted, so I never got mine. Charlie here lost £630”. I said, “What? I thought you’d invested. Otherwise I wouldn’t have got involved”. Lupin said, “Ah well, c’est la vie. You’ll more than make it back if you double up on the next tip. That’s the way it goes”. Before I had a chance to say anything, Gowing said, “Well, I didn’t lose a penny either. From some of the chat I’d heard, it was a bit too risky, so I persuaded Cummings to take my £525 of shares. He was a lot more confident about it”.
Lupin burst out laughing and said, “Alas poor Cummings! He’ll have lost over a grand”. The doorbell rang. Lupin said “If that’s Cummings, I don’t want to see him”. If Lupin had gone to the front door, he’d have run into Cummings, so he opened the French windows and ran out. Gowing stood up and said, “Me neither”, and followed suit.
I was scandalised to think that my own son, and one of my best friends could leave like a pair of criminals interrupted in the middle of a burglary. Cummings was very upset, and very angry with Lupin and Gowing. I offered him a little whisky, but he said he’d given it up. He said he’d have a glass of buckwheat beer instead, because the doctor on GMTV had said it was really healthy. I’d never heard of it. Carrie popped down to Oddbins to try and get some.
Thursday, February 18, 2010A number of times recently, Carrie’s pointed out that I’m going thin on top. This morning I was trying to check it out with a small hand mirror. I jogged my elbow against the edge of the chest of drawers and dropped the mirror, which smashed. Carrie got really het up – she’s ridiculously superstitious – and then, to make matters worse, I found that a large framed photo of me had dropped off the wall in the living room, and the glass had cracked.
Carrie said, “You mark my words. We’re going to have bad luck”.
I said, “Rubbish”.
In the evening, Lupin arrived home and seemed edgy. I said, “What’s up?" He faffed around, but eventually said “You know those Langella shares I told you to invest in?" I said, “Yes. Everything OK on that front?" He said, “Well, not really. The price collapsed. It came as a real shock to the market”.
It came as real shock to me too. I didn’t know what to say. After a while, Lupin said, “You’re lucky, actually. I was tipped off early, sold them immediately, and managed to get 10%, so at least you’ve got something”.
I was relieved. I said, “I wasn’t banking on getting six or eight times the investment, as you’d reckoned. But £70 is quite a good return in such a short time”. Lupin, a bit shirty, said, “Don’t be thick. What I meant was I sold your £700 of shares for £70, so you’ve lost £630. As for Cummings and Gowing - they’ve lost the full amount because I couldn’t shift them”.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010The first thing I saw on opening the Mail was “Thieving Fat Cat Flees” (the fat cat in question being Cleanands). I showed it to Carrie and she said, “Perhaps it’s for Lupin’s own good. I never thought it was the right kind of job for him”. I thought the whole thing was very alarming.
Lupin came down to breakfast. I could see he was pretty upset, and I said, “We’ve heard about it already. I’m really sorry”. Lupin said, “How did you know? Who told you?" I handed him the Mail. He slapped it down and said, “Oh, I don’t give a shit about that. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t seen it coming. But this – it’s come right out of left field”. He then read us a message from Frank Mutlar on his iPhone, which said quite matter-of-factly that Daisy was going to marry Murray Posh next month. I exclaimed, “Murray Posh! Isn’t that the bloke Frank had the cheek to bring round here not so long ago?” Lupin said, “Yes. The guy from lowpriceposh.com”.
We all ate our breakfast in total silence.
In fact, I couldn’t eat anything. It wasn’t just that I was worried: I can’t eat smoked back bacon. It’s got to be streaky or nothing.
When Lupin got up to go, I noticed a rather malicious smile come over his face. I asked him what it was about. He said, “Ah well, there’s some small consolation: I’ve just remembered that Murray Posh put £20K into Langella, on the back of my recommendation”.
Friday, February 12, 2010In the evening, I spoke to Lupin about his engagement to Daisy. I asked him if he’d heard from her lately. He said, “No. She promised that tit of a father that she’d not have any contact with me. I still see Frank though. In fact he might be round this evening”. Frank called, but said he wouldn’t come in because he had a friend called Murray Posh waiting outside. He added that Murray was a bit of a toff. Carrie asked Frank to invite him in.
He came in, along with Gowing who’d turned up at the same time. Murray Posh was tall and slightly heavily built and clearly rather nervous. He said he’d not go anywhere in a minicab again until he was certain of the driver’s credentials.
When Gowing was introduced, with his usual tact he said “Are you connected with lowpriceposh.com, the designer seconds thing?” Murray said “Yes, but just to be clear, I don’t wear the seconds myself. I don’t really have a hands-on role in the business”. I said, “I wish I had a business like that”. Murray seemed pleased, and gave us a long but very interesting insight into e-commerce.
Murray obviously knew Daisy very well indeed from the way he was talking about her, and Frank once said to Lupin “Better watch out, or Murray will be in there!”. When they’d gone, I referred to what Frank had said, and Lupin said sarcastically, “If you get jealous, you’ve got no self-respect. I’d have to have a pretty low opinion of myself to get jealous of a fat oaf like Murray. I’ve told you, Daisy will wait ten years for me if she has to. In fact, you can double that”.
Thursday, February 11, 2010I was feeling very concerned about Lupin, so eventually I decided to mention it to Barry Perkupp. He’s always been dependable, so I told him everything, including what had happened yesterday. He was very good. He said, “Don’t fret, Charles. It’d be well nigh impossible for Lupin to turn out badly when he’s got such good parents. Come on, he’s young, and he’ll grow older and wiser. I wish we could take him on here”. It took a load off my mind. In the evening, Lupin came in.
After supper, he said “Mum, dad: I’ve got some news which’ll probably be fairly significant for you”. I got a bad sense of foreboding, but didn’t say anything. Lupin said, “It’ll probably upset you, but today I decided to get rid of the car”. OK, it seems a bit strange, but I was so pleased that I cracked open a bottle of Jacob’s Creek. Gowing dropped in, just in time, and showed us a programme on the computer which lets you morph people’s faces into weird shapes. We did it to some of our digital shots. I laughed so much I was aching when I went to bed.
Sunday, February 07, 2010Lupin persuaded Carrie to take a drive in his RX8. I didn’t want her to go. I was concerned about her safety so I offered to go as well. Lupin said, “Good on you, buddy. You be OK squeezing in the back? There’s not much space”.
Lupin put on a pair of weird sunglasses, and a baseball cap back to front with “Jack Wills” written on it. Carrie said he looked ridiculous. Lupin said “Never heard of Aviators? I wouldn’t be seen at the wheel of this little baby in anything else”.
I don’t care what he wears in future when he’s driving. I’m never getting in a car with him again. His driving was horrendous. He went up to the M25 and started doing about 100 in the outside lane. He was tail-gating, flashing his lights, and weaving in and out of the traffic. Scandalous lack of lane discipline. Since I was squashed in the back, I had to face a bunch of guys in a metallic orange Corsa, who followed us for about a mile, leaning out of the windows, shouting, and making V signs at us.
Lupin said it was no more than Lewis Hamilton would have to put up with if he was on the motorway, which Carrie and I thought was irrelevant. Frank Mutlar came round in the evening, and Lupin went out with him.
Saturday, February 06, 2010Exactly two weeks since we were invited round to Gowing’s house, only to find he wasn’t there. I’ve not heard a word from him. In the evening, Carrie was ironing some of my shirts. I was hanging them up and Carrie told me off for not doing up the buttons. Then Cummings came in.
He was fit and well again, and told me to get some wooden hangers from Matalan where they’re really cheap. I asked if Gowing had been in touch, and he said he hadn’t. I said I couldn’t believe Gowing could have behaved so shabbily. Cummings said, “I think you’re letting him off lightly. I’d say he behaved like a total shit”.
He’d barely said it when the door opened and in came Gowing. He said, “Can I come in?" I said, “Certainly”. Pointedly, Carrie said “Well, you are a stranger, aren’t you?" Gowing said “Yeah, I’ve been up and down to Croydon a lot over the past fortnight”. I could see that Cummings was getting really angry, and eventually he interrogated Gowing about what had happened last Saturday week. Gowing looked surprised and said, “I left a message on both your answer phones saying that the party was off – definitely off. And I don’t think your answer phones were off, like the party!”. Cummings said “Don’t try to be funny. I didn’t get any message”. Gowing said, “In the message I left for Charles, I told him to tell you as well, just to make doubly sure. Whatever, we must get together at my place sometime soon”. I said I hoped he’d put in an appearance next time. Carrie really laughed, and Cummings couldn’t help laughing too.
Friday, February 05, 2010It’s a nightmare trying to find decent sausages. They’re either rip-off “Taste the Difference” things with basil and god knows what in them, or else just bread, basically. I’m anxious about the £700 I invested through Lupin the other week. Mind you, Cummings did the same.
Saturday, January 23, 2010Something very strange happened. Carrie and I went round to Gowing’s place (it’s in a block of new apartments) at half seven. We rang the buzzer a load of times, with no success. Then we knocked on the door, and a guy in a T-shirt opened it. He said, “Yeah? What is it?" I said “We’re trying to get hold of Mr Gowing in Apartment 4”. The man said, “He’s not here” (or at least, I think that’s what he said – I couldn’t really hear because there was some horrible dog yapping in the background). I said, “I’m sure he’ll be back soon”.
The guy slammed the door shut, and we were left outside, in the freezing cold. Carrie told me to knock again, and then I realised that the paint on the door was sticky and I’d got it all over my hands. So I hammered on it with my umbrella, and the man opened the door again. He said, “What the hell are you doing? Look – you’ve damaged the paint. Bloody idiot”.
I said, “Excuse me. There’s no call for that. We’re just trying to get up to Apartment 4 to see Mr Gowing who …”.
He interrupted and said “I don’t give a shit about Mr Gowing or his mates. This is a communal entrance. Who do you think I am? The concierge?”.
Still, this guy’s rudeness was nothing compared to Gowing’s. Then Cummings and his wife arrived. Cummings was walking with a stick and limping badly. He managed to get up the steps all the same, and asked what was going on.
The man said “I saw Mr Gowing this afternoon. He told me he was going down to Croydon and wasn’t going to be back ’til Monday. He was carrying a suitcase”.
Once again, he slammed the door. I was very, very angry with Gowing. Cummings was incandescent, whacked his stick on the ground, and shouted “Bastard!”.
Friday, January 22, 2010We’d just finished supper when all of a sudden Cummings turned up. He’d not been around for about three weeks. He wasn’t looking too well. I said, “How are you doing? You don’t look so good”. He said, “No, I’m not”. I said, “What’s the problem?" He said, “Oh nothing. Nothing to worry about. I’ve just been flat on my back for three weeks in bed. The doctor wanted to put me in hospital. Of course, no one’s bothered to get in touch. I might as well have been dead, for all anybody cared”.
I said, “But I didn’t know. Any time I passed your house, all the lights were on. Most of the time it looked like you had people round”.
Cummngs said, “The only people I’ve had round are the doctor, the physiotherapist and the chiropracter. He was absolutely brilliant by the way. I’m surprised you didn’t read about what happened in the paper”.
To cheer him up I said “Well, it looks like you’re making a good recovery”.
He said, “That’s not the issue, is it. The real issue is when you’re seriously ill, that’s when you find out who your true friends are”.
I said I thought that was pretty uncalled for. Then, to exacerbate the situation, Gowing comes in, slaps Cummings on the back and said, “Bloody hell! Have you seen a ghost? You look like Amy Winehouse”. I said, “Take it easy, Gowing. Apparently he’s been very ill”. Gowing laughed “Yeah, you look awful”. Cummings said, “I feel awful as well. Not that you care”.
There was an awkward silence. Gowing said, “No worries – come across to my place tomorrow with the wife. We’ll crack open a few bottles of vino. That’ll make you feel better”.
Thursday, January 21, 2010The oak dining table arrived from John Lewis. Carrie put some tea lights in coloured glass holders down the length of it. It looks great, and makes the room a lot more welcoming.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010I asked Lupin to pop into Boots to change some hard Kent Hairbrushes he’d recently got me as a present for some softer ones. The barber tells me it might be wise with my hair being the way it is.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010Over the years, I’ve rarely lost my temper with the cleaners we’ve had, but I had to speak to Anya about a careless habit she has of shaking the tablecloth after breakfast and covering the carpet in crumbs which then get trodden in. Anya answered rudely “Always, you are complaining”. I replied “Actually, I’m not. I spoke to you last week about walking all round the living room with some soap stuck on your shoe”. She said “You moan always about the washing”. I said “I don’t. But when things get lost, or shrunk, or come out the wrong colour, I think it’s perfectly justifiable for me to complain”. She began to cry and make a scene, but luckily I had to head out for work, so I had an excuse for leaving her to it. Gowing left a message saying not to forget next Saturday. Carrie said, quite wittily, “As he’s never asked anyone across before, we’re hardly going to forget, are we”.
Monday, January 18, 2010I’m worried. Lupin’s now driving a Mazda RX8. I said “Lupin, this must be costing you a fortune”. He said, “Well, I’ve got to get into the city somehow. Anyway, it’s hire-purchase. I can get shot of it any time I like”. But I wouldn’t let it go. I said, “Yes, but what about the running costs? And the insurance, for God’s sake!”. He said, “Look mate, you don’t get it, do you?. In this business, you can’t drive around in a heap of junk like your Focus. My boss tells me if I stick at it, I’ll be earning serious dough soon. And I mean serious”. I told him I thought gambling on the stock market was immoral. He said, “It’s not gambling. It’s about information”. I told him that whatever take he had on it, he should still get rid of the car. He said, “Look, I made £7K in one day. OK, suppose I made £7K a month, or, in the worst case scenario, £3.5K. £400 a month for a car against that – it’s a pissy amount of money”.
I didn’t discuss it any further – just told him to be very very careful not to get into debt. “No worries” he said. “I only use other people’s money, and I only go on insider info”. I felt slightly relieved. Gowing popped in later, and I was surprised to hear he’d made £700 thanks to something Lupin had told him. He asked if we wanted to come round on Saturday, with the Cummings. We said we’d love to.
Friday, January 08, 2010My god! Barry told me I’d be getting a £3.5K rise. £3.5K! I was reckoning on maybe two thousand tops (given that there’s been a pay freeze for the last two years), but £3.5K! Carrie and I were dancing round the room. Lupin came home in good spirits. I popped down to Oddbins and got a bottle of champagne, which we opened at supper. “Lupin, I’ve got this in so we can raise a toast to some good news I’ve had”. Lupin said “Wicked. Buy One Get One Free! I’ve got good news as well, so a double whammy eh?” I said, “Lupin, I’ve carefully toed the party line and put 21 years dedicated service into my company. As a result, I’ve just been given promotion and a salary increase of £3,500”.
Lupin gave three cheers, hammered on the table, downed his champagne, shouted “fill ’er up” and stood up. He said “I’ve put a few months less-than-dedicated service in at Cleanands International Investment Brokers, but I covered my line manager’s back the other week (because he was having an affair with the receptionist) and he gave me some insider information. Today, I made £7K”. I said, “You’re joking”. He said “No mate, it’s true. It was spread-betting on some construction shares which bombed”.
Thursday, January 07, 2010Barry called me in and said I was going to be promoted to Senior Administration Manager. I was over the moon. He said he’d have confirmation on the salary tomorrow. Another day’s uncertainty. At least it’s the right kind of uncertainty. I remembered I’d not spoken to Lupin about Daisy’s father’s e-mail, so I mentioned it in the evening after getting the go ahead from Carrie. Lupin was deeply immersed in the FT like he was some kind of city boy. I said, “I was wondering why you’d not been round to the Mutlars’ this week”.
Lupin said, “I thought I’d told you. I can’t stand Daisy’s old fart of a father”. I said, “Well Daisy’s father wrote to me to say he doesn’t think that highly of you”.
Lupin said, “Cheeky bastard. Writing to you! If his dad’s still alive, I’ll write to him and complain that his son’s an arsehole”.
I said, “Lupin, not in front of your mother”.
Lupin said, “Sorry. But that’s what he is. There’s no way I’m going round there again”.
I said, “Lupin, he’s barred you from the house”.
Lupin said, “Yeah, whatever. It amounts to the same thing. Daisy’s still cool though”.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010I was really on edge when I went to the office. Then I found out from Barry’s PA that he was going to be working remotely all day. In the evening, Lupin had his head buried in the paper. Suddenly he looked up and said, “Mate, what do you know about heat-pumps?" I said, “Nothing”. Lupin said, “Well, I’ll give you a tip. It’s the next big thing in renewables, and safe as pharma stock. I’d buy ’em”. I said something very very clever. “Pharma stock – I thought that was bullocks”. Carrie and I fell about laughing. Lupin didn’t take any notice, even though I repeated it. I carried on, “Hey, I’ll give you a tip: if you’re a waiter!”. Finally, I said “The other thing about tips – they’re usually full of rubbish!” Lupin looked at me witheringly and said “You should be introducing Countdown”.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010I was on tenterhooks all day. I didn’t want to interrupt Barry, but he didn’t ask me in, so eventually I went and knocked on his door. He said “Charles! What’s up?" I said, “Barry, I thought you and I were, you know, well, possibly going to have a brief chat about things today?" He said, “Oh, yeah. I remember. Look, things have gone a bit mental. Can we do it tomorrow?"
Monday, January 04, 2010I was going to pack this in last week, but something significant happened today, so I’ll carry on a bit longer. It was just after half one, and I was about to take my lunch break, when I got an e-mail from Barry Perkupp saying he wanted to see me immediately. I felt a bit uneasy.
Barry was on the phone in his office, and motioned me to take a seat, but I indicated I’d stand. His conversation went on for a good twenty minutes. It seemed like hours. Eventually, Barry rang off and stood up.
I said, “I hope there isn’t a problem, Barry?"
He replied, “No, no, quite the reverse. Well, I don’t think there is”. That was a relief.
Barry said “John Buckling’s about to retire, so we’re going to need to re-organise. You’ve been with us for – what is it? Twenty one years? Retention levels are something we’re very proud of here. We’ve considered your input and experience, and we’d like to offer you promotion. We’ve not hammered out the exact details, but it’ll mean a significant rise in salary. I’ve got a meeting at two: let’s talk tomorrow”.
He picked up his Blackberry and walked out. I didn’t even have time to thank him. Carrie was delighted. She said, “Oh, fantastic. We’ll be able to get that oak dining table” and I said, “Yes, and you’ll get that lovely Laura Ashley outfit, if it’s still in the sale”.
Thursday, December 31, 2009New Year’s Eve. I got a strange letter from Mr Mutlar:
I’ve been trying to sort something out – namely who’s in charge in my own home. Is it me, or is it your son Lupin? I’ve tried not to be biased, but on balance I’ve decided that actually it’s me. In which case, I don’t want him round here again. I’m sorry, because it means I’ll miss out on the company of one of the most modest, unassuming, well-mannered young men I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
I didn’t want the year to end unhappily, so I didn’t mention the letter to Carrie or Lupin.
There was a really thick fog. Lupin decided he’d go out all the same, but promised he’d be back to see the new year in. It’s something of a custom with us. At quarter to, there was no sign of him, so I got out a new bottle of whisky. Carrie said it tasted like brandy. I knew it was whisky, for definite, told her so, and said that was the end of it. Carrie – obviously irritated because Lupin hadn’t shown up – said it wasn’t the end of it, because it was brandy, and said she’d lay a fiver on it. She said it must have been own-brand stuff which had been labelled wrong, or something. We had a stupid argument. Next thing, we discovered it was a quarter past twelve, and for the first time since we’d been married, we’d not toasted the new year in. Lupin got in after two, claiming he’d got lost in the fog.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009Lupin spent the whole day round at the Mutlars. He seemed pretty up-beat in the evening, so I said “I’m really glad to see you’re so happy Lupin”. He replied, “Daisy’s fantastic, but her dad’s an idiot, and I had to point a few things out to him. He’s really stingy with the drinks, turns the lights out the minute you leave a room, won’t turn the central heating on, and buys everything in Lidl. He bangs on about carbon emissions and minding the pennies all the time. I had to tell him not to be such a tight-arse”. I said, “Lupin, you’re young. I hope you won’t end up regretting it”.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009I had a really vivid dream last night. I woke up, and when I went back to sleep, I had it all over again. In the dream, Frank Mutlar was telling his sister that he’d sent me the Christmas card, and he’d slapped me on the head. As luck would have it, at breakfast time Lupin was looking at an annotated script he’d got from Frank.
I asked him to pass it over, so that I could take a look at the handwriting. I put it next to the envelope the card had come in. The writing looked similar, despite the attempt at disguise. I passed them to Carrie. She started to laugh. I asked her what was so funny, and she said the card wasn’t addressed to me at all. It was to “L.Pooter”, not “C.Pooter”. Lupin looked at it and said “Oh yeah, it’s for me”. I said “You don’t normally receive such unpleasant cards, do you?" He said, “Sure. And I send plenty too”.
In the evening, Gowing came by and said he’d had a great time last night. I mentioned to him about having been slapped on the head. He burst out laughing and said, “Oh, it was your head was it? I knew I’d accidentally hit something, but I thought it was the wall”. I told him I felt hurt, in both senses of the term.
Monday, December 28, 2009Lupin came down to breakfast and said “Frank and Daisy are still coming. It’d be nice for them to see Gowing and Cummings this evening”. I was pleased with him for doing this. Carrie said “Thanks for telling me. I can use up some of the turkey my mother gave me”. She said she’d make some mince pies and get some clotted cream.
Since Lupin was in a good mood, I took him aside and asked if he had some problem with Gowing or Cummings. He said, “Not that I know of. I think Cummings looks a bit of a twat with his Pringle sweaters. As for Gowing’s taste in cardigans – well, he looks like he should be in a residential home”.
I said (cleverly) “I think you’ll find a man is more than the sum of his knitwear”. Lupin, laughing, said “Yeah, but what kind of a nit wears stuff like that?”
It was quite a happy meal. Daisy was pleasant. At the table, though, she started rolling up bits of bread and said “Hey, can anyone make animals out of bread?” and moulded some into the shape of a giraffe. I thought it was bad manners, but didn’t say anything. Daisy and Lupin started throwing bits of bread at each other, Frank joined in, and – unforgiveably – so did Cummings and Gowing. Then they started chucking whole chunks of stick-loaf around, and a crust hit me on the forehead. I said “Steady on” and Frank jumped up and shouted “Yabba dabba doo”.
I hadn’t a clue what he meant, but they all cracked up, and went on with their bread battle. Gowing grabbed some rocket leaves off a plate, and threw them right in my face. I gave him a really sharp look and he said, “Don’t try looking angry. It doesn’t work. Not with a load of lettuce on your head”. I got up from the table and told them to pack it in. Frank shouted “Time gentlemen please” and turned out the lights. I was feeling my way towards the light switch, when I felt a sharp slap on the back of my head. I said, “Who did that?" No one said anything. I asked again. No result. I turned the lights back on. Everyone was chatting and laughing, so I didn’t make anything more of it. Later I said to Carrie, “I bet you whoever sent that rude Christmas card was here tonight”.
Sunday, December 27, 2009I told Lupin that Gowing and Cummings would be coming over tomorrow evening. I was hoping he’d want to stay in and have a laugh with them. But he said, “Cancel that. I’ve asked Daisy and Frank over”. I said I wasn’t going to cancel it. He said “OK, I’ll text her and tell her it’s off”.
Carrie had been listening, and was annoyed. She had a go at Lupin, saying “Any reason why you don’t want Daisy meeting your dad’s friends? Aren’t they good enough for her? Or perhaps, equally possible, she’s not good enough for them?" Lupin looked shocked, and said nothing. When he left the room, I gave Carrie a kiss, by way of approval.
Saturday, December 26, 2009I didn’t get much sleep last night. I never do in a strange bed. I had a bit of heartburn (hardly surprising at this time of year). We came home in the evening. Lupin got back late. He said he’d had a great time, and added “I’m fit as a fiddle. Almost as good as a stradivarius. Awesome”. I’ve given up trying to work out what the hell he’s talking about half the time.
Friday, December 25, 2009CHRISTMAS DAY
We drove down to Carrie’s mother’s. The countryside was looking nice, though the roads were wet and muddy. We ate at lunch-time, ten of us, and reminisced about the old days. If everyone’s mother-in-law was as pleasant and uninterfering as mine, the world would be a happier place, I’m sure. We gave her a toast, and I made a very good speech.
I drew it to a close by saying “At a time like this, friends, family and acquaintances are all well disposed towards each other. Love and friendship are uppermost in our minds. Those who’ve fallen out, should kiss and make up. Those who’ve not fallen out … well, they can kiss as well!”
Both Carrie and her mother had tears in their eyes at this, which I took as a compliment. Very flattering. An old friend of Carrie’s mother, John Panzy Smith, made a funny speech, and finished up by saying we should do as I’d suggested. He walked round the table and kissed the ladies. I didn’t mind at all. But then a young chap called Moss (I’d not met him before) who’d hardly said a thing during the meal, suddenly jumped up, holding a piece of mistletoe, and said “Wey hey! I’m going to get a slice of the action!” and kissed all the women. On the mouth. And a little too long, I’d say.
People took it as a joke. We all laughed. I thought he’d gone a bit too far. I mentioned it to Carrie later, but she said, “Come on. He’s not much more than a boy”. I said he was pretty familiar for a boy. She said, “I’m sure he’ll turn into a very nice young man”.
Thursday, December 24, 2009I’m not particularly flush, but I’d willingly give fifty quid to anyone who could tell me who sent me the rude Christmas card I got this morning. I don’t insult people. Why should they insult me? The worst thing about it is, I’ve ended up suspecting my friends. The hand-writing on the envelope slopes backwards (obviously disguised). I don’t reckon Gowing or Cummings would have done it. Lupin said he didn’t know anything about it, and I believe him, although I don’t like the way he laughed at the card. Franching wouldn’t lower himself, and neither would the Mutlars. Perhaps it was Michael Pitt, the self-appointed court jester down at the office. Anya? Rudy? (I don’t reckon it was Anya – the writing’s far too neat).
Wednesday, December 23, 2009I didn’t exchange one word with Lupin this morning, but in the evening he seemed to be in high spirits. I asked him where he was planning to spend Christmas day. He said, “Probably round the Mutlars’ place”.
I was astonished. I said, “What? Round the Mutlars? After you and Daisy broke off your engagement?”
Lupin said, “Who said we broke it off?”
I said, “Well, we got the distinct impression ….”
Lupin interrupted “Well, whatever, it‘s back on - so there!”
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