Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Christmas Jumper

‘There’s a man in that window.’ Lorna said pointing towards our apartment block with fear on her face. To begin with I thought she meant there was someone in our flat but then I saw the man on the window ledge in the apartment two along and two floors up from ours and realised she was talking about a jumper.
‘I’ll call the police’ I said fishing my phone out of my pocket but there was no need because as I began to dial we heard sirens and two police cars and an ambulance rushed up our street. We recognised the man as one of our neighbours, a man who we said hello to but nothing much more than that. More cars pulled up and people got out, maybe social workers or negotiators.
The police made a cordon around the block and people went in and out of the building looking serious, nervous and concerned. A woman was lead away crying with a police woman talking sympathetically to her, while the man just remained calm and still up on the ledge.
‘C’mon let’s go inside’ Lorna said, ‘we don’t want to stand out here and gawp.’
We were worried for a moment the coppers wouldn’t let us in but once we told them where we lived, they let us through.  Lorna was right there was no point in gawping but how could I settle down to watch the darts when I knew there was a man trying to kill himself three windows along. I decided I’d offer the cold looking policeman outside my window a cup of tea and find out what was going on.
‘Bit unusual this isn’t it?’ I said to the policeman as he greedily slurped the tea I’d proffered through the window.
‘Not as unusual as you might think,’ the policeman said. ‘Especially not at this time of year. We get a lot of Christmas jumpers, as I see you did. He nodded at my reindeer knitwear. We smiled at the joke, however inappropriate it was.
‘Not always the most wonderful time of the year.’ I said.
‘That’s one of the reasons why I’m working.’ He said with no emotion in his voice. We drank our tea silently for a moment before I asked if I could have a chat with the jumper. 
‘Do you know him?’ The policeman asked.
‘Kind of.’ I lied. He got on his radio and to my surprise he told me to go upstairs, where I was ushered into the flat.
7 minutes later it was all over. Our jumper was safely in the arms of an ambulance man and there was nothing more to see. 
‘What did you say to him?’ The copper asked putting his mug back on the windowsill. ‘Did you remind him of all the good things in life, what he had to live for?’
‘Nope.’ I shook my head. ‘ I told him he was only three storeys up, a jump from there would bloody hurt but it wouldn’t kill him. So what’s the point of that? How does having a broken leg or two and a smashed up face solve his problems? He saw my point and climbed back inside.’
The copper looked at me in disbelief. I smiled, closed the window and settled down in front of the darts.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Brains or Brawn

When Christina left me I thought my whole world was going to collapse. It wasn’t because she unanimously decided that the relationship wasn’t working, I could see that with my own eyes. I knew we were living on borrow time and the repayments were crippling us. It wasn’t that she left me on a Friday and ruined my weekend. No, the killer was that she left me for another man. It wasn’t my heart that was broken, but my ego. And not just any man either but a jock, a muscle bound jock. The only muscle that wasn’t well developed for Tyler was the brain, Christina had gone from brains to brawn and made me feel just a lot inferior. I couldn’t understand how an intelligent girl like Christina could fall for such a bimbo, and what kind of name was Tyler.

Anyway it didn’t take me long to recover, a couple of months of moping and feeling sorry for myself ended when I met Carol. Carol was everything I’d ever dreamt of in a woman; beautiful, intelligent, funny, she put the smile back on my face that Christina had wiped off - only this time it was broader than ever before. What made my smile sweeter was the news that the Christina-Tyler tryst has been short lived. Tyler walked out on her.
Carol restored my pride, rebuilt my ego, assured me that only shallow women went for brawn, true women, sensitive women, sexy women found brains far more attractive.

But nothing lasts for ever, it was soon clear that this relationship was going the same way as the last one, moody silences, non-answered called, short, sulky answers and Carol wasn’t much better either.

When we went to feed the ducks, I knew from the look on her face how the conversation would proceed. And in fact I was quite relieved. It’s not you it’s me, I just need space, It’s not what I need right now, whatever line she chose I was almost looking forward to it. My money was on I need space.
‘We need to talk.’ she said. Here we go, I thought. ‘I’ve met someone else.’ She said. Hmm I wasn’t expecting that. ‘His name’s Tyler.’

Monday, 29 December 2014

and Automobiles

Christmas Eve. We were going nowhere and getting there fast. The line of traffic stretched out in front of us far into the distance. We hadn’t moved for an hour and twenty minutes and looked like we wouldn’t be moving for at least that long again. Sally thumped the steering wheel in frustration.
‘C’mon’ she said hopelessly. Night was drawing in and getting to Sally’s parents in time for Christmas dinner was looking less and less likely. She played with the dial on the radio looking for news while I tried the internet on my phone to find out what was going on.
‘I told you we should have left earlier.’ Sally said. I kept quiet; Sally had said nothing of the sort. If anything it was her fault we were running late, but I knew not to mention that now.
Sally’s family were Czech so the 24th was their big Christmas Day meal and so all the trimmings were being trimmed as we sat in this line of traffic trying to keep warm.
A policeman approached our car. Sally wound down the driver’s window.
‘Get set for the long haul,’ he said. ‘No one's going anywhere for a fair while.’
‘How long’s a fair while?’ Sally asked. ‘Are we talking hours or days?’
‘At least tomorrow morning,’ the copper replied.  
‘You’re joking?’ Sally thumped the wheel again.
He didn’t look like he was joking.
‘Can we turn around anywhere?’ Sally asked. The copper shook his head. 
‘But we have to get to my parents’ for Christmas.’ She said. The cop gave a so doess everyone love look and walked down to the next car.
Sally collapsed onto the wheel in disbelief.
You could see the different emotions on our faces, Sally distraught that she wouldn’t be with her parents and sisters for the big meal, me the relief of not being with her parents and sisters for the big meal. It’s great to try carp once but once is enough.
I’d been arguing for years that we should have Christmas  just the two of us and finally I was getting my way, although not quite how I imagined it, But now wasn’t the time to crow, not unless I wanted to the frosty atmosphere outside the car to creep inside it.
The weak winter sun had set and the temperature had dipped below zero and even with the blankets Sally had brought along with us,  we were struggling to deal with the cold. I’d laughed at Sally earlier in the day when she’d packed blankets and a thermos full of hot drinks for our journey. ‘We’re going to your mum and dad’s not trekking the Antarctic’ I’d teased. But she was having the last laugh now.
Sally was beginning to put a brave face on it, what else could she do? We’d climbed into the back so we could cwtch up together but we were still too cold. 
‘What did you get your mum and dad?’ I asked Sally, knowing the answer already.
‘Those Christmas jumpers,’ she said.
‘Shall we?’ I looked at her. She pulled a face to say no, but she knew that we had to.
Within seconds we were ripping off wrapping paper and wrapping ourselves up in Christmas jumpers, gloves and scarves, munching our way through the chocolate we’d bought for her sister and supping the brandy that was going to be her sister’s husband’s present.
A Christmas dinner of emergency sandwiches and Pringles was washed down with Thermos flask coffee. Our iPhone provided entertainment and our bodies provided warmth, it wasn’t the perfect Christmas but somehow it felt like a right Christmas. Eventually we drifted off to an uncomfortable sleep.
We were woken by the sound of horns and engines, cars were beginning to move. Sally jumped up to the driver’s seat and started the car. Just under an hour later we were pulling up outside Sally’s house.

The family were pleased to see us but the look on their faces changed when we started giving out unwrapped and used presents. For me it made the whole ordeal worth it and even Sally smiled.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Trains ...

The compartment was hot and stuffy and smelled of cheap vodka and BO. The air was heavy, like just before a storm, only the clouds in this couchette were made of vodka and the thunder was my roommate’s snoring. He was sleeping off the effects of the alcohol as the train rattled through the snowy Russian landscape. If it was freezing outside, the atmosphere in this couchette had certainly been frosty before my traveling companion had fallen asleep.
I’d unwittingly started a new Cold War earlier in the evening when I had turned down Ivan’s offer to share his spirits. My refusal was well meaning but it obviously wasn’t the done thing. Comrade Ivan had huffed and puffed and clanked and clattered as he drank on his own, giving me the noisiest silent treatment I’d ever had.

I could never sleep on these damn trains and this one was no different, although I’d been feigning sleep since just after the vodka impasse 3 hours before. Now my comrade was snoring, I no longer had to pretend. I could open my eyes and watch the shadows creating shapes on the compartment walls. God knows where we were or what was outside the frosted windows. All I knew was that I wished we were already 9 hours in the future, so I could be breathing in Miss Dior by Dior rather than his shoes by the door.  Seconds ticked into minutes, minutes became hours, time ate the kilometres as we inched towards our destination.
Finally I fell asleep and then 3 minutes later the guard hammered the door telling us it was time to get up. Time to get up meant time to arrive. Comrade Ivan and I ignored each other as we drank our tea and busied ourselves making ourselves look beautiful for the people meeting us. I couldn’t wait to see Valerina again. Christmas in her arms would make this journey seem worthwhile.

Her beauty took my breath away, her smile made my knees go weak and the kiss she planted on my lips was more delicious than anything I’d ever tasted. Her perfection made me self-conscious of my bedraggled, 3 days of travelling state but she didn’t seem to care. She did seem a little distracted though; like she was looking for someone. Then she smiled.

‘I’d like you to meet my father,’ she said. I took a deep breath, I didn’t have to look around to know comrade Ivan was standing behind me.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Steve’s Christmas Rant

‘Any Christmas jumpers this year?’ Johnny grinned at Steve as he sat down in his usual seat.
‘Not so far, thank god’ Steve said not returning the smile. It looked like Steve had something on his mind, even Christmas couldn’t put a smile on his face.
They simultaneously took mouthfuls of beer and then settled back in contented silence, happy to be away from the mayhem of Christmas morning.
‘What’s the point of wrapping paper?’ Steve blurted out. There it is, thought Johnny, there it is. There had to be something Steve could get his misery guts stuck into. ‘It is wrong on every level, yet no one is brave enough to break the tradition.’ Steve continued.
Johnny rolled his eyes wondering how Steve could find more than one level to wrapping paper, but experience told him not to doubt the master.
‘1 it is horrible getting it home from the shops. If you buy a tube, then it doesn’t fit into any bag so sticks up and catches on everything. But if you buy sheets, by the time you get home it’s more creased than a linen suit.’
Johnny nodded. Steve had a point.
‘2 I’m hopeless at wrapping things up, it takes me hours, this year I even managed to stick my shirt to the paper.  And then when I’ve finished it looks like it was done by a 7 year old. My mum thinks I do it on purpose to be cute.’
‘That’s not the wrapping paper’s fault though Steve, is it?’ said Johnny. ‘Have you tried the M and S paper, it has gridlines to help you.’
‘Ha the gridlines can tell you where to cut but they can’t fold it and stick it can they. Anyway after all that effort, it gets ripped off in seconds and discarded. It must be like a chef watching someone wolf down the food it has taken them hours to prepare.’
‘You’re comparing your wrapping to carefully crafted food?’ Johnny smiled.
‘No but you know what mean, there’s no appreciation. Anyway 4 after all of that hassle not to mention the expense which I haven’t even touched on, the stuff just get thrown away making me think the who thing has been a waste of time and money.’
‘So what do you suggest then, not having things wrapped up, just having them there under the tree? Wouldn’t that ruin the magic of Christmas a little bit?’
‘Well if it is only there for mystery, carrier bags would do the job?’ Steve said.
‘Carrier bags? Really?’ Johnny looked askew at his mate to see if he was being serious.

‘Why not?’ Steve laughed and collected the empty glasses and headed to the bar.