Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Chance Meat


















Most of the time I go around believing myself to be invisible. This is the way I explain to myself why, when I open the door of the newspaper shop for a woman struggling with two pushchairs and a shopping trolley, some blinkered gorilla barges through without so much as a how do you do, knocking the two of us, three children and several tons of Pampers into the Lotto stand.

My cloak of invisibility allows me to believe that I can go out in the trackies I have slept in topped with a Gore-Tex coat older than Madonna and tuck hair that has not been washed since the Tories were last in power up under a Nike hat I found in the street in 1993 and trawl around the shops with impunity. In Hackney no one expects too much sartorial sophistication.

I have a strong raffia basket older than Madonna’s father that has needed more repairs than John ‘Prezzies’ Prescott’s reputation to keep it fit for purpose. Admittedly it does actually have a job to do so at least has some excuse. I keep fixing the bag because it can carry four bottles of wine. They don’t make bags like that any more.

Today, I had occasion to visit the Homerton Library to return the gratis DVD that I got as a prize for being clever enough to renew my library card. I also returned an unreadable book by Julie Myerson. I thought, because Ms Myerson is so sparklingly erudite on Newsnight Review, that I would also enjoy her novels. Me and the Fat Man is the story of a married woman with a full time job and no drug addiction who prostitutes herself in a blind people’s herb garden for no apparent reason. She does immediately rush off and deposit her earnings in the Nationwide so maybe she is more freaked out about the prospect of growing old in poverty than I am. I’m quite optimistic as I feel certain they would have brought back the workhouse by then.

Shuffling up the high street I popped into various Turkish emporia to buy exotic vegetables and window shop for a new scone cutter and eventually ended up at the butchers. I go to the butcher approximately three times a year. I am fussy about meat and normally only buy at the farmers’ market but this particular butcher has very good Scottish stewing steak and I was in a Hungarian goulash kind of mood. Today, my invisibility cloak doesn’t seem to be working very well.

As I ordered my pound of flesh, I noticed the butcher giggling away to himself in a manner that suggested he had seen my baggiest knickers hanging on the washing line. I naturally enquired as to the nature of his mirth and he said that he was just thinking that I had been coming into his butcher shop for over twenty years and how little I had changed in that time. I might have been flattered if there was any way he could have ascertained that from the three square inches of my face that was exposed to him.

Rather shocked by the directness of this personal exchange, I rushed home to see if the rest of the world and I had finally aligned. The post box was empty save a reminder from the Inland Revenue to do something I have already done and a leaflet from Pizza Au Go-Go. There was evidence that I had received one of those ghost calls from a machine that phones people up during the day just to annoy them and the usual clutch of Viagra emails and notifications that I had won the British National Lottery. The butcher must be some kind of innocent as he does not know that I am invisible…




Cartoon from www.markstivers.com

6 comments:

Meredith said...

Hey was your blog always so blue? Or is it just my eyes... anyway that was really funny, thanks. In Marrickville, too, it is easy to be invisible. There is an unspoken law that if you see someone you know at the Woolworths in their pyjamas & ugg boots or trackie daks that have been hastily picked out of the bottom of the dirty clothes basket, you look the other way. Your butcher has some nerve, breaking that trust.

swimmer6foot4 said...

Back on line again and so glad to be reading your blog again, after a long time away (throwing a sickie). I know that feeling of invisibility. It seemed to occur, for me, about seven years ago when I stopped dyeing my hair and went grey. It was as if I had put on an invisible cloak. Kids walking four abreast on the pavement didn't break up to let me through, bike riders on the footpath expected me to jump aside and young mums jammed pushchairs into my Achilles heel in the Post Office queue.

On the other hand, I can throw on cardigans and track suit bottoms that I wore twenty five years ago, go shopping in Kingsland Waste and nobody, just nobody, turns to look at me. Even the "Have you got loose change/the price of a cuppa tea?" youth encamped below the Money Vomit Machine gives me nothing more than a sympathetic smile.

I come from a village where everyone said "hello" to everyone as they passed them by. As a kid I was expected to doff my cap to all the grown ups.

I'd like to opt for some happy medium. Do you think that means a new hair do?

swimmer6foot4 said...

Back on line again and so glad to be reading your blog again, after a long time away (throwing a sickie). I know that feeling of invisibility. It seemed to occur, for me, about seven years ago when I stopped dyeing my hair and went grey. It was as if I had put on an invisible cloak. Kids walking four abreast on the pavement didn't break up to let me through, bike riders on the footpath expected me to jump aside and young mums jammed pushchairs into my Achilles heel in the Post Office queue.

On the other hand, I can throw on cardigans and track suit bottoms that I wore twenty five years ago, go shopping in Kingsland Waste and nobody, just nobody, turns to look at me. Even the "Have you got loose change/the price of a cuppa tea?" youth encamped below the Money Vomit Machine gives me nothing more than a sympathetic smile.

I originally come from a village where everyone said "hello" to everyone as they passed them by. As a kid I was expected to doff my cap to all the grown ups.

I'd like to opt for some happy medium. Do you think that means a new hair do?

Reading the Signs said...

ms P, have you considered that perhaps you are "one of them" and should really be at Hogwarts refining your magical powers and scoring at Quidditch? Be happy with the invisibility cloak. Fancy a swap? I've got this piece of wood -

nmj said...

I too was disappointed in Julie Myerson, I read Something Might Happen on holiday a few years ago, it was a real struggle to finish, though I like her on Newsnight review.

That's so pants said...

Hi Ms Meredith - so right! Bad butcher. I will move to Marrickville forthwith. The blueness (colour)is a template issue - I am not smart enough to design my own. The blueness (attitude) is because I'm a miserable git and misanthrope.

Swimmer! Great to have you back - A new hairdo usually gets me looked at but I think that's because I do that Marlow Thomas 'That Girl' thing of spinning down the street demanding attention.

Hi signs -will swap for either a red paperclip or a house in The Hamptons.

Hi NMJ - It was a shock, then again, have you ever read a Julie Burchall novel? That makes no sense.