Oh my days. Still a long way to go with the Meaning of Life script, but still hopeful the AIOTM effect will kick in. A few ideas presented themselves today, including trying to write a better version of the 10 Commandments, which I less arrogantly than God called the 10 Suggestions. I hope that they can prove as popular and enduring as the ones that Moses took down the mountain. They are definitely better than the ones God came up with, so it should be worth tuning into the show when it finally goes up (it may be a few months away yet - episode 2 is approaching completion). So come along on Sunday if you want to be the first to hear the good news. Unless tomorrow I decide it was a rubbish idea in which case you'll have to mug me and nick my notebook.
I have to return a Dyson heater that I recently bought because excitingly there is a product recall based on the small danger that the device might burst into flames. Which is one way to get your room heated up. Well done Ian Dyson for this new innovation. The firm have done an OK job of covering up for their balls-up and sent me a box to return the item, but I then needed to take this to the post office. I took the opportunity to also post off a signed copy of "Railways and the Holocaust" to last month's monthly subscriber winner (it was slightly odd having to sign the picture from the Holocaust on the front cover, I hope no one thinks that is me accepting responsibility). If you want to be one of the five or six lucky winners who wins one of my RHLSTP T-shirts (I haven't counted how many there are) then you'll have to make a monthly donation here. There's one entry for every pound a month you donate.
The Post Office queue was long and moving slowly, but things were both lightened and darkened by the arrival of a hollow-cheeked, white-haired man in a red baseball cap who decided to heckle the staff as he waited. It was funny, but also a bit threatening and unsettling. He was not physically intimidating, a life time of drinking had taken its toll. He looked like he was at least in his sixties, but then he might have been younger and just destroyed by booze. His brain was a little pickled, but his satire of the slow progress of the queue was sharp and loud. He shouted everything that came into his head. First he sang a rendition of "Why are we waiting?" which elicited a few smiles from the people ahead of him. "Where are the rest of the staff?" he requested, a reasonable query from a unreasonable man, "You need to put more staff on. The queue's too long." He was a Holy Fool pointing out how ludicrous reality was. Then, a little more tangentially he went for a rousing version of Humpty Dumpty, with the surprise twist of the last line being "All the Kings Horses and All the Kings Men, couldn't be bothered to help and went home", (or words to that effect). The smiles on the other people around me were uneasy. There was going to be at least a fifteen minute wait and if this unpredictable man was this antsy so early on, what were we going to be subjected to by the end? The staff were reasonably safe behind their glass screens, but what protection did we have if this unbalanced individual started to lose his footing on the mental tightrope he was now walking. "What's happened to this country?" he moaned and I feared that the ethically mixed group of citizens was going to be subjected to a slightly less insane version of a Nigel Farage speech, but luckily he didn't go that way. The man was impatient to get some benefits money so that he could get into the pub, so perhaps he was part of the problem, rather than the solution, but I didn't begrudge him this. "There aren't even any chairs to sit on," was his actual complaint. I don't know if in the past people in queues were provided with sumptuous sofas while they waited. I suspected that queues were no shorter or less boring in the olden days.
"Where's the toilet?" he suddenly screamed. "I need the toilet. I am going to piss myself." This was, I suspected, an attention seeking device (as if the earlier stuff hadn't been) and there did indeed prompt the tiniest amount of activity behind the partition. "I'll just have to go here," he threatened. And now the other customers looked properly worried, especially those of them within the splash zone. "I am going to have to shit myself," he continued. "Don't worry I've done it already!" He laughed as if this might be a joke, but no one was totally convinced. I had shifted my Dyson box out of the way just in case. Ian Dyson might not repair it if it was covered in old man's alcoholy urine.
Finally a man came out from the offices behind to check that the Post Office floor was not covered in effluent. He offered to show the man the way to the toilet, but the man reiterated that it was too late and that fecal matter was now in his trousers. His laugh and the lack of shit stink suggested this was still a joke. But one, like all the best jokes that smacked of potential truth and suggested that there was a pungent punchline on the way. The man didn't really want to go to the toilet. He wanted to get to the front of the queue, so he could get his money for more booze. I was certainly tempted to let him go in front of me, but the other people were less keen to bow down to such terrorism. He had lost his card, but the employee reassured him that as long as he had ID he could still get his money. "I've been to four post offices today. I just want to get into the pub." He was cheery in his desperation and his swearing and his shouting made the situation seem funny rather than tragic. Another lost soul left to fend for himself, the only help from the government being the money to get blotto on a Friday. Of course if he really wanted us to forget about the harsh facts behind his outburst then he should have been wearing a sombrero instead of a baseball cap.
A few minutes of silence were broken by him demanding a glass of fucking water. The employee asked him if he really wanted one as he would get it for him, but not if he was just pretending and he also asked him to stop swearing. "I apologise for swearing everyone, " he shouted, "But I might swear again in a minute for which I am also sorry." He was well meaning, but a victim of an addiction and a disease that had him in its thrall. "I don't want any water. I just want to get to the pub."
By now people had relaxed, feeling safe from excrement and danger, though one woman was shaking her head and quietly asking him to be quiet. Another old lady stood behind him quoting scripture to herself, as if trying to convert this captive audience to her religion. Madness was everywhere. All the less mad ones could do was smile. When I needed a neighbour.
I got my posh heater and my offensive bookazine into the post and escaped this madhouse. Because the things I had been posting off were normal and my life is sane.
Here's this week's Metro article.
Please come and see the difficult fifth episode of Meaning of Life on Sunday. It only costs a tenner. Buy tickets here.