Just after four I went to Adrian’s where he, Sarah and I shared the English 1503 I’d left earlier, as good as champagne. I asked if there was any food I, a gluten-freak, could eat. Sarah felt remiss. It was a shared birthday party, sparing me the need to tell here it was his fortieth though my pop-up card on the mantelpiece there blared it. Adrian presented me with a plate of vegetable chips I grazed on throughout. Sean sampled some later. The English-San Marino match was on the tele for whoever wanted to watch it.

I checked Adrian intended to have his front teeth removed and replaced by screw-ins, saying Greg had that and they were weak. “Don’t do it. You’d lose distinction.” Sarah added her, “No!” “You could have them capped.” They are chipmunk.

Cherie came, though going on to another do at the Princes Head. I asked was Donna, and Ryan, coming. Donna wasn’t invited. Cherie expatiated on her various problems that day: the TV set broken, the car clutch gone and having an unemployed son staying though he was no problem compared to the ongoing one of her eldest, Jack, she loves to bits but doesn’t get on with. He doesn’t get on with anybody. His girlfriend’s chucked him. This was her conversation piece. I said I liked her bosom, and hair. “What are you after?”

Adrian had installed my spider plant he’d wanted on an outside sill in the garden into which Lisa made an entrance and embraced her three friends. I was wondering.... Then me. Danny’d brought his daughter, Holly, who’s dyspraxic. Danny explained what that entailed, basically that Holly reads the same book over and over till she gets it. Back in the big room again I danced, a lot apparently, with Holly apparently. I do remember attempting to teach Sarah manually what were her secondary sexual characteristics and what her primary one, effecting on her part repetitively protective hand movements, her body jackknifing several times until I desisted. I think she learned the difference.

When Angie came I asked where was Kevin and postulated he wasn’t here because she, his mother, was. I had a talk too with Daminda, who looked bulky from all his physical training, about the programme on Buddha I’d seen, expounding that there was a whole lot less suffering among the poor in Britain now than India then. My life had not been one of suffering. He’s thinking of moving out of London when he’d see his son for longer.

Tess came, Karen, Kama, Sarahmei and Christina. I forgot four of them till Adrian reminded me. I can’t remember what was said at each entrance. Kama went for the football I think. Christina passed through the French window with few inches to spare and it hit me, “She’s fat.” “She is,” Adrian agreed. Apparently I talked a lot, to everybody. I did ask if Rich was coming. He wasn’t but he’d sent a card, etc. “Charlie Carlos is coming, for you,” Adrian said. “Is he!” Adrian was having me on; we were thought too low. “He said I was the lowest of the low but I can’t remember why.” Nor could Adrian. None of his rich friends were coming. “They could put in an appearance. They don’t have to stay.” I said Adrian was a millionaire because his house was worth over a million. Caitlin, I think, objected that if he sold it, where would he live? “He’d buy a smaller one.” He would not then have a million £s. They were thinking in terms of cash, I thought, giving up, “Everybody takes what they already have as the base line. I have nothing.” I do have a little, nothing much.

I may have squeezed Nick’s bum and groped towards his balls, maybe towards Sean’s too. I asked Nick how many men he’d had. A hundred in a short space of time, more than I’ve had men and women in my whole life. I was a bit surprised because he’d just come out. He was bragging and I can’t remember the length of time, maybe from Xmas last, but did work out it was fewer than two a week, which didn’t seem that many. I must’ve evinced a liking for his hirsute arm because Sean asked if I liked hairiness and I admitted I did, not that that necessarily meant I didn’t like Sean, who was a smooth man.

Adrian must’ve put them to guessing how old I was because he asked how old I was, “Seventy-six?” “Seventy-seven.”

I hadn’t known Carlos was out of a relationship and free to chance his arm with another woman. Hannah said she’d have him. “All a woman has to do to get sex is make herself available,” I said. “Hannah’s available,” I was encouraging Carlos, who seemed unwarrantedly reluctant, until Caitlin said Hannah was a lesbian, at which point I discouraged Carlos.

Emma-Lee wanted my Japan jacket. Adrian said not to give her it. “If I give it to anybody, it’ll be Quentin,” who speaks Japanese. She took pictures of it. She offered money. She wore it. Adrian said to give her it. I didn’t. I needed its warmth for the way home since I was wearing my red see-through I’ve had for fifty odd years.

Daminda was looking down, I remarked to Sean, and I wanted to cheer him up and did apparently by my continued conversation with Sean about having done my heterosexual duty and perpetrated the species, because Daminda was smiling.

Rob gave me a hug. He’s left the army and doing painting and decorating with the odd bit of plumbing which I thought might come in handy now I’ve a washing machine which is bound to break down. Sean kept looking at me from the sofa where he was ensconced with Hannah and I looked back.

Sarahmei was the eleventh of thirteen children and felt she was unwanted. Grandma’d had twelve. A lake with an island in it was mentioned. Java wasn’t big enough I reckoned. “Sumatra?” “Yes.” I was amazed at being right. Her father was a general who’d died when she was a child. She was left nothing. Tears seeped. She also spilled drink on my crotch. “Don’t worry about it.” It’d look as if I’d wet myself. I took her in my arms and said she wasn’t unwanted, had made her own way in life irrespective of family; she lived in London. After I left her on the sofa she fell asleep. A man called John Adrian didn’t know came to take her away.

I couldn’t believe it was one o’clock. I left at two. At the door Adrian was seeing me out and I completely forgot this ensuing preliminary until he told me he had asked me not to tell what he wanted to tell me but thought maybe he shouldn’t, because I thought he hadn’t told me not to tell, and it came back to me he had, which makes it so much worse I blogged it and it came up on Facebook and Twitter, my only excuse being aesthetic. I wanted to write it. I would not exclude it, whatever the immorality in betraying his confidence. On writing out the party to the meagre extent I could remember its events, this was obviously their culmination. It had to be included. He wanted to tell me something but I mustn’t tell anybody, did I promise not to, etc, he was swithering back and forth, knowing what I’m like. Why doesn’t he just tell ne and take his chances? I now remember thinking. He confided Sean had groped him. I know I thought something here because I can see it between what came before and what after but what it was I can’t realise because, I’m guessing, I didn’t know what to make of what he’d told me: for starters, it was a nothing, at a party; secondly, why was it important to him that he felt the need to confide it? There was no elaboration, no context. I didn’t know why Sean did it. I think I thought it wasn’t to do with me because whatever I may have done that incited it was way back in the distant past of this party and I couldn’t remember what. Besides, all moral or emotional response was ...obliviated.

I weaved down the road. Turning into the dark entrance of the Vineyard graveyard, I was falling and hit my upper lip against a grainy stone. My front teeth were intact but there was blood, drying on my hand.

20th August 2015
Jay Mistry
Customer Advisor
8 Waldegrave Road
Teddington, Mx
TW11 8GT

Dear Jay Mistry

I told the Citizens Advisor you’d stopped the harassment. One problem solved, for now.

He seized on 6b of the tenancy agreement but once he realised the cat was the responsibility of another tenant, that problem too was solved. I said you already knew whose was the cat. He said RHP was a big organisation and the brief may have been given to someone not au fait and that the cat was another tenant’s needed to be spelt out to you who did refer to cats instead of cat, window boxes instead of balcony boxes, referring to them as personal items as if they could be anywhere else but on a balcony outside and that there were six of them when there were five.

The problem of the balcony boxes remained. I told him I’d thought to retrough the rosemary but prescience informed me that’d be a waste of money and to wait, the trough it was in secure enough. I told him I was going through the motions without conviction. We agreed now you had them you wouldn’t give them back, and had gone through blackmail before and extortion after. There was nothing to be done about what was within your remit. It is bad to remove the beauty of green plants outside his door from a seventy-seven year old man, worse to make out it’s for his good, worst to be doing it to him to protect yourself from liability to a negligible risk. I may go through one more motion before leaving you to my unconscious will, so much better at contriving the means to get back at people who do me injury than I am.

Without restoring my entitlement to use the balcony to hang boxes from, there’s no point your returning them, and I don’t give in to extortion.

John Cairns

10th August 2015

Jay Mistry

Customer Advisor

8 Waldegrave Road

Teddington, Mx

TW11 8GT

Dear Jay Mistry

The Citizens Advisor said I’d been before if not where they were now. “I can’t remember!” It must’ve been when the leaseholder and Mrs Cole were intimidating me on the stairs. “He stopped when I was behind him and left no room to pass in order to have me submit. She pushed in front to go slowly upstairs, taking up all the room, to hold me up.” The advisor suggested you must have a way to resolve differences between tenants. “That must be why Olivia wanted us to sit down in the same room but I wasn’t going to do that, condoning what they’d done, nor have Olivia as arbiter after she’d colluded with them to give him what he wanted for railings and stairs, though I didn’t say that! – They send a letter out at the last minute about what they’re going to do. I always answer it. They depend on inertia and indifference and can say three were for, only one person was against. The council do that too – She’d’ve exonerated them and I’d have had to accept it. I wasn’t having that. She stopped it.” “How many are in the block?” “Nine.” Ten, if you include Sally, Mr Patterson’s live-in friend.

The advisor thought your letter tactful and that I should have answered it unemotionally, spelling out that your letter was part of the pattern of his pinprick harassment. I had decided not to.

“I could deny it if I wanted.” I hadn’t put pieces of chicken in a communal area. I called the cat and threw down skin from the chicken I’d roasted for meat-eaters on my birthday. There was too much for the cat to eat in one go so, when I went out, I kicked what was left into touch under plants for the cat to come back to later, or the fox. “I peeled off the skin of a trout fillet and threw it down. It was hot. The cat waited till it cooled and scarpered off with it, never to be seen again. I timed It. It took eight minutes and there was no sign the skin had ever been there, no mess.” Less than a minute if cold.

I’d brought all the correspondence since February. She wanted to know what the tenancy agreement said with respect to animals and cleanliness of communal areas. “I hadn’t thought to bring it!” It’s not my cat. It says nothing about not making a mess in a communal area. It says nothing about my not having balcony boxes either.

She was incredulous I’d been there thirty-three years. “I’m the longest-standing tenant.” She was also puzzled why after so long you should want my balcony boxes removed, one of which I’d inherited. “They expropriated them! I thought of going to the police.” “What were their grounds for removal?” “The grounds shifted as they tried justifying what they wanted. The last on the stickers before their removal was that the boxes were a fire hazard, a cause of tripping and of fuming plants, patently ridiculous, especially since they were on the other side of the balcony ledge. Before that it was that they had been left on their property, also absurd, since a tenant is entitled to use the landlord’s property – to get out and in, if nothing else! Six years ago they were cleared of being a fire hazard.” “What’s changed?” “They’re frightened of the cost of defending themselves against litigation in the infinitesimal likelihood of a box falling on somebody standing in a gravel garden when there’s a path under the balcony.” The boxes haven’t impaired the structure one iota either. “They’re a little bit insane.”

By the expropriation of my balcony boxes, you have degraded my environment and confined me to my hutch without reason but in irrational fear, taking illusion of danger for reality. Give me them back.

Yours sincerely

First the words of RHP’s letter to me from a new so-called customer advisor: ‘We had a report passed on to us that you may have left pieces of chicken in the communal area of Eton Street. We weren’t there at the time so we don’t know what happened. All we’d ask that if you did leave pieces of chicken in the communal area that you don’t do it again. If it wasn’t you, please of course ignore this letter. Or if you know who it was, please get in touch with us so we can investigate it further. Thank you for your cooperation with this.’

Now, my reply on the 27th July, sent by second class post as was RHP’s letter:

‘Are you reneging on your agreement I feed cat and birds titbits in support of my stairwell intimidator and harasser?

Although advised to, I thought it too trivial an incident to take to the police, and the caretaker concurred with that decision – I thought I’d dealt with it anyway – but in the light of your letter I may have been mistaken: while your men were removing items, I was splashed by water from above as I was leaning over the balcony in a discussion with another neighbour, Diana Callender about the removals. She didn’t hear what I said at the time but subsequently said she too was splashed. It wasn’t by one of your men who didn’t have access to water and it was water. Since it was on the back of my neck and not the left side of my face, it was done by the intimidator in a direction that would also hit Miss Callender. I went upstairs to confirm the trajectory only to desist on seeing him brushing up. Prior to that, on seeing me go out the back door he released the catch to impede my coming back in by it.

Unless you’re trying to prove you’re not racist by letting Mrs Cole continue to keep items that were stickered outside, shouldn’t you remove them like everybody else’s?

Yours sincerely, John Cairns’

The items being forcibly removed were all those outside that had been yellow stickered. All had been but Diana was sitting on her garden chair and Mrs Cole took hers in saying she’d put them out again. I should perhaps add on being splashed I said, “The cunt upstairs has just splashed me with water!” ‘Cunt’ covered the workman as well as the leaseholder. I’d wiped the smirk off their faces in my response to their saying they were just doing as ordered with, “That’s what they said in the concentration camps,” which the man I was addressing while wiping the smirk off the other man’s face found offensive, to the which I replied, “What you’re doing is offensive,” the removal of my balcony boxes, one of which I inherited on moving in thirty-three years ago. He said I was racist. “How racist? I was likening you to a Nazi.” Diana, overhearing me, likened him in her turn to the Gestapo. It could’ve been he was the cunt upstairs taking his revenge or one of the others. On seeing the cunt upstairs, I should add I emitted, “Yuch.” Finally I should explain Mrs Cole is coal black. PS This will not be appearing on Jacyntha Crawley’s blog site since I've lost the link to it and she hasn’t given me it again [till now]. Maybe that’s symbolic of the failure to publish CORRESPONDENCE.

I went to Citizens Advice today which said RHP was being tactful and I should have unemotionally stated I was taking its letter, however tactfully written, as part of the pattern of harassment by the complainer.

Letting the oven continue roasting the potatoes at a peep for the vegetarian dish, I went out for the Standard. Kate and John were waiting for me when I returned empty-handed at three. “You’re looking a lot better,” I told the depressed Kate whose eyes were regaining their mad gleam. I’d a picture up of the moon, Charon, the pronunciation of which John queried but I assured him I’d looked it up and it had a short stress. For them was dished up roast chicken, for meat-eaters, with a white wine, Kate having half a glass, and lettuce with a French dressing Kate thought preferable to balsamic, in order not to overpower the taste of the chicken. “I wanted to keep the cooking simple. There was no accompaniment in the recipe to the chicken – just chicken!” I’d also baked sausages, however, with halved tomatoes and a halved leek in case there wasn’t enough food, and these were added.

Kate wasn’t getting enough sleep. John woke up and couldn’t get back again whereas I could and was even sleeping through the night, which I attributed to the summer heat, astonishing Kate by not having to get up to pee. John didn’t get up to pee when he awakened. Our eyebrows were all over the place. “I used to be pleased my lashes caught on them but now I have to snip them growing down.” Kate’s nails had ridges. “Syphilis,” I said. Ridged nails were in her family. “Hereditary syphilis,” I said. Beards were metrosexual Kate said. I denied they were, having read an article saying they ended the possibility of metrosexuality. John said they were fashionable. “How can they be? Everybody has them. They’re herd. Fashion is before the herd.” Kate brought up the trolling arguments on Facebook where sides are taken and abuse let fly. “It reminds me how stupid people are. I never get a reply, I suppose because what I say is sane. There was this argument about fazing, homosexual abuse, and I said homosexuality was used in initiation. It was down the pit. It didn’t fit their stereotypical thinking!” This led on to a man tried for raping his girlfriend while she slept, self-sedated. “She noticed his semen on her yet this went on for a year. She noticed he was watching hard core stuff. She knows men are led by their pricks but she was putting temptation in his way. I was missing something and started to think she was passive-aggressive, like hoovering during card-playing, doing a good thing, putting him in the wrong, playing the victim. And he must’ve known, mustn’t he? what he was doing wasn’t quite right, yet he didn’t wear a condom the better to deny it and get off with it. They might’ve had an unconscious agreement.” Kate agreed. “He did get off with it, because he admitted it, before a judge. It was in Ireland.”

There were assorted cheeses, wolfed down with crackers, and a cake I put candles in just before five. “I asked my mother was it minutes before or after. She said she had more on her mind at the time than to note it. She could be so scathing. If I’d been born in Scotland, somebody else would’ve noted it. But I was born in England, at Shoreham,” seventy-seven years ago to be precise. “Usually I wish for happiness but this year I’m going to wish that the book’s finally published,” by my would-be publisher. Kate approved. “She’s looking frail. She might die. That’ll be the next thing I expect and that’ll be that.” Kate agreed. “I wouldn’t put it past her.” I remembered to make my wish while I blew the candles out with one breath on the hour of my birth, “give a minute or two.” We had champagne with the cake.

We discussed what it was like being born then. “My father paid for the confinement,” so it wasn’t in a hospital. “Mrs Bruce was the midwife, thus my middle name.” They hadn’t been born in hospitals either. My mother had gone on to give birth to a stillborn at home. “Maybe if she’d been in a hospital the cord round its neck would’ve been cut and it saved.”

John wanted to know who the actor was in the film about monkeys. “Can’t you be more specific?” He couldn’t. His jaw clacked with vagueness. I thought he meant the camp one in Cheaper by the Dozen but Kate suggested Spencer Tracy and he went with that. After three hours, they thought of leaving but didn’t like to leave me without anyone. I told them to do as they wanted. They settled back a little longer and on their going Quentin and tall Dan arrived together, having met at Richmond Station. Quentin’s ringlets were silvered. “I,” fingering the one to my left, “hadn’t noticed before.” “I must take a photo.” He took a photo of a yellow warning sticker RHP, my social landlord, had put at a balcony box to be removed in twenty-four hours or else. The stickers had adhered since July 6th for the previous eleven days, and there had been another lot before that. I’d used the thyme and tarragon from the boxes in my cooking and would thank RHP for not moving them before my birthday.

Dan hadn’t been here before. He has moved as he said he might, to Archway, where there’s a bridge for suicides, I extolled, in case he changed his mind. He didn’t know why that bridge since there were several. I asked if he’d tried Richmond Bridge or Lock. He said I was ruthlessly honest. I demurred at ‘ruthless’, and can’t recall on what specific instance he based his contention. They had cake and champagne before the vegetarian meal for Quentin Dan surprised me by wanting too, of the roasted potatoes, steamed broccoli florets and soft goats cheese though I’d made a mistake in buying Tesco’s soft when the recipe actually wanted a round log sliced, albeit melting. There was enough left for anybody else wanting vegetarian. Dan’s doing a philosophy BA on Open University because he’s no school qualifications.

Quentin, assured I did mean I wanted no presents, gave me a card of a smirking angel I inferred meant me without reading what he’d written. “I’ll put it here,” on the top left corner of the small bookcase fronting the mantelpiece lined with cards. Quentin’s having a short story from Rule Dementia! translated into Spanish and is going to Mexico City for the promotion but not taking Beehive, his girlfriend, because he can’t pay for her himself as he’d have to. “I don’t think it’s a breakthrough,” I considered, “but it is something.” He deduced the wine he was drinking was English because of the taste of elderflower. I checked. “You’re right.” It was Bacchus from Chapel Down. Quentin can detect the ingredients in food.

Steph was let in and I was abstracting another bottle of champagne from the shed when she came through the stairwell door and I informed her I had let Quentin know about her want of a job in his publishing firm but the stick-it note I’d given him had come unstuck from his work desk so it hadn’t looked symbolically promising. They’d sorted it, she said. Anyway she had a job now.

Steph presented a bottle of prosecco I graciously accepted and asked might she use the bathroom. “Of course. The paper is up on the....” She’d seen it.

After cake, “Is chicken all right for you?” I gave her chicken in the lemony butter sauce which she didn’t eat and didn’t want the sausage either which I removed from her plate. “I’ll give the chicken to the cat,” but Jonathan, her boyfriend, arrived and I gave it to him instead. “I bought beer for hoi-polloi,” I said, “Jonathan likes beer.” Steph agreed Jonathan did. I told him when he took a bottle from the fridge to put another in. He mastered the catch which sometimes slips but then he is doing a PhD in a bit of religious history to do with Luther. He’s about my height, small, skinnier; I’d felt the boniness of his back from an embrace. He’s also interested in ancient history, appraising my library, abstracting a copy of a life of Pythagoras from a bookcase stacked like a Mayan temple against the wall across from the foot of the bed and picking up the Venantius Fortunatus I was reading from face down on the occasional table by the door and which he exactly replaced. He was exhibiting the same birdlike quality I’d remarked at his and Steph’s party of pursuing what interested him freely if within the confines of the cage of my flat. They’d both recognised which was no 28 from the spider plant in the window. I’d given them a house present of a clone. I liked that they felt comfortable in my place, Steph reclining stocking-footed on the blue silk sheet of the bed. She had not been let teach because of her laissez-faire attitude. She couldn’t control a class. “Fair enough,” I said. She agreed but felt she should’ve been given credit for the theory if not for the practice as they did in Germany. On her pointing to a spill from her glass, “It’s white,” I absolved, “Already drying.” When she divulged her previous boyfriend had been gay, I did wonder to what extent Jonathan was an improvement.

Quentin was leaving to meet Beehive at the station and go for a walk. A walk? both Dan and I queried. “Bring me a paper back,” I said. “What paperback?” As Dan was explaining what I’d meant, I elaborated, “the Standard?” and Dan ceased. It wasn’t a long walk, to the Green, and Quentin did bring back the paper and Beehive who liked the ladder in my black silk semmit. Beehive wanted a glass of water. She had to remind me since I’d been distracted. I enjoyed catering for them. The conversation was too much and disparate for me to net and, while of interest to us there, nothing stood out as of interest to others not there, I waived writing this.

Steph asked about Liz Kendall as leader for the Labour party. “Support for her’s fading,” I said, having read an article to that effect. “Andy Burnham’s good-looking.” Jon endorsed that as a valid consideration for election.

Beehive wanted the chicken before the cake and a sliver of the latter. I remarked her almond eyes with a green glint. Dan was talking to her and I deliberately talked to her at the same time to see what he’d do. She complained so I desisted since he wasn’t going to.

Jon broached labour value. Marx was simply wrong, I thought. “You can put in as much work as you want into something,” I was thinking of the work I’d put into ‘the book’ nobody wanted, “but it’s the thing that’s valued, like gold is, and not for the work.” Quentin, who feels underappreciated, said, “I agree with John.” Jon feinted from labour value to surplus labour value and then to surplus value, an idea I wasn’t understanding, he explaining it in terms of when he was freelancing that he made more money but it was convenient to work for somebody else for less because, I inferred, the working for less would be more often than the opportunities made by himself.

We were sitting side by side at the foot of the bed. Jon was talking about the differences in interpretation between languages. I said, “Even in unconscious communication, which isn’t in a language – The Turk didn’t speak English or I Turkish – there can be a glitch. I thought he looked ill. He thought I was thinking he was bad-looking.” Detecting scepticism, I let it be.

When I switched on the pink light bulb, Steph said she’d had a red one which incited requests. I put a pizza in the oven and Steph supervised its readiness. Beehive wanted a sliver so got the broken bit. “Do you realise how difficult it is to cut something into five?” I rhetorically asked. Who didn’t have a slice? Maybe Jonathan.

On Quentin, Dan and Beehive’s leaving, I gave her a hug and called her my friend, and must have said something wittily because she was in stitches. It was along the lines of I’d forgive her anything because she was good for Quentin but I don’t know what it was, having had seven units of alcohol over the eight hours of party. I said I’d wave from the window but by the time I got there was nothing but empty street. “Are they taking a long time to get down the stairs?” Shortly after, Jon thought they’d better go too. I set up the laptop for him to look up train times. He explained they’d have to go or miss the last train to Chessun, I thought he said, in Hertfordshire. “Where?” Chessun, Steph said. While recognising there must be such a place, I didn’t recognise the name. I thought they lived on a boat. Maybe that’s where the boat was now. I hoped I hadn’t put them to too much expense on train fares. I did get to the window in time this time but they didn’t look up.

I left the clearing-up to read the paper before cleaning my teeth.

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