Friday, 21 June 2013

7: A Frank Exchange of Views

“It’s all the fault of this government of ours, Frank.  They don't give a damn about the average working man.  Or the oldies or the kids.  None of the people the welfare state was set up to care for.  All just chucked on the scrap heap, that’s what it feels like.”

“Yeah it’s OK saying that, Frankie, but what about those who can't be bothered to try for things, eh?  Why should I have to work hard, spent 10 hours a day slaving my guts out so some lazy B can stay in bed and set his family on fire when he doesn't get his own way?”

“Steady on, you can’t lump everyone in together like that.  My son’s best mate Franc, he’s been hunting for work for months, not got so much as an interview.  How does that make a man feel do you reckon?  He’s got a young kiddie too, and he can’t even buy her proper Christmas presents.  He had to go to London and work for nothing at the Olympics.  They made him sleep under a bridge.”

“How many people would have given their right arm for a chance to be at the Olympics every day, Frankie?  You can’t pay for an experience like that and he probably got a free uniform out of it too.  Stick on eBay at the end of it, did he?”

“It’s alright for you Frank, your father starting you off in the family business, then your whole life falling into place.  Bet you go private for those teeth of yours, eh?  Some people are too poor to even have teeth these days.”

“Give over with you.  Course they do.”

“Not if you’re on minimum wage and you need £50 for a filling and it’s a choice between food or heating or your face.  So they end up drilling into their own teeth to stop the pain.  We see it all the time down the pub.”

“Really?  You’ve really seen a load of people who drilled into their teeth themselves because they can’t afford a dentist Frankie?”

“Well, not a load.  But I heard about a bloke who had a cousin who knew someone who did it.  It’ll be everyone before long, you mark my words.”

“Maybe if they can all afford an electric drill they should start doing odd jobs for people.  Earn a bit of money.  Let me get you to a drink Frankie.

“Fuck off, Frank.”

7: After Life - Mr Flash365

- So, you died then, Bob.
- I did, Jim.
- How was that, then?
- Touch and go.
- They touched you and you went? Barbara told me you had that problem.
- Ha bloody ha.
- Glad to see you’re keeping cheerful.
- No, though, actually, Jim, it was bloody weird.
- Well, it would be. Not something you do every day. Not your actual dying.
- No, well, exactly. But it was what I saw.
- Saw? Was it a bright light?
- Not as such. Not a bright light as such. More a load of them.
- Aliens.
- What?
- You didn’t die, you were abducted by aliens.
- Was I?
- No, you daft bugger. They said you were out for nearly a minute before they brought you back. The lights was probably them, whatsits, neuro-thingies in your brain, firing and whizzing and doing all that.
- Could be. But explain this to me.
- What?
- The lights that I saw looked like the lights of the room I was in. But from above.
- Ooh, one of them out of whatsit experiences?
- Body?
- Aye, that.
- Yeah, that’s what I’ve been thinking.
- So do you reckon it was real? Or was it just your brain making stuff up. Did you see the horse?
- What horse?
- They do this thing, to test if it’s real. On the tops of the cupboards in rooms where people are going to croak, they put pictures of horses or whatever. And then, if the previously deceased claims to have been all floaty and looking down, they can ask them what they saw.
- Oh, yeah, I read about that.
- So did you?
- What? See the horse? Have you seen this hospital? If I looked down on their cupboards you know what I’d see?
- What?
- Dust.
- True. True. Mind you, they’re all the way up there, aren’t they? Out of sight, out of mind.
- Out of body.
- Yep. So when you getting out?
- Soon as they let me. When are you getting them in?
- Soon as they let me.
- Good. Cos I tell you what.
- What?
- My throat feels like the top of one of them cupboards.
- You’re a little hoarse, then?

- Nay.

6: If Only, Frank

It would have been alright for Frank, if only it hadn’t happened like that.  If only the lights hadn’t changed and the cars hadn’t got split up as they went through.  If only the sun wasn’t in his eyes.  If only the cat hadn’t scratched Marian’s leg so deeply.  If only the stocks hadn’t risen quite that far.  If only they had picked the bigger dog.  If only Frank had been in the 40% who could smell it.  If only being number 5 in the world was enough.  If only the concrete hadn’t dried quite so quickly, before she was able to smooth out the marks.  If only the red hadn’t glowed quite so brightly.  If only the guy looked less like Bernard Cribbins and more like Dennis O’Leary.  And the worst thing was Frank knew exactly what that would mean but not exactly who for.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

6: Footnote* - Mr Flash365

*Taken from Steven Briers’ monograph, The World in the Twenty First Century (Bitterne University Press, 1978). Though, to be honest, it’s all a bit like that Tomorrow’s World, isn’t it? I mean, they were predicting protein pills and jetpacks, weren’t they? Not once did they say we’d all have smart phones and tiny skinny tellys and no money. It’s a hilarious book, you really ought to read it. If you can find it, that is. I couldn’t find it in the library, and inter-library loans were no use. I mean, who do you have to sleep with to get one of those? I’m serious. You tell me who exactly it is who needs that particular blowjob and I’ll be on my knees with my mouth gaped in a heartbeat. I tried getting it from Amazon. No joy. Ebay: similar. In the end I tracked it down in a book warehouse which smelt worse than the Vice Chancellor’s armpit juice. But, no, it’s really funny. He makes all these predictions about the economy, and they’re all based on unions and the three day week. To him, Thatcher was just a funny woman who liked ice cream. He knew nothing. But he had one useful quote, and I stuck it in here because my supervisor told me I should consult the book, and she probably hasn’t read it since it was published. She looks back, through gin-tinted glasses, to a time when she was thrusting and energetic and studying everything she could find, then going out on the beers and having a knee-trembler round the back of the union. It’s all tied up in her mind: dirty, panting,  back-alley orgasms and Steven Briers’ masterpiece. Still, if it gets me through this bloody thesis, that’s good enough for me. So, yeah, this was taken from a 40 year old book by a man writing about his future – our present – who managed to get almost everything exactly wrong. And yet, here it is. Welcome to bloody academia. Where’s my jetpack?

5: Frank: The Making of a Legend - Mrs Flash365

In the pub there was Frank’s chair, at the club it was Frank’s table and at football Frank’s seat.  He was here so often we eventually christened the second room Frank’s cubicle.  We had no other patient come in as often as Frank and believe me, we get some in here a lot.

His visits fell into one of three main categories.  Firstly, he came in when he’d had problems at work.  Sometimes he fell off things.  He dropped things, mainly on himself.  He bumped into things and from time to time things collapsed with him inside.

Then came the visits after leisure activities.  Despite his age he seemed to think creaks and strains on the pitch should be run off.  He usually visited us match day plus two, but once or twice he was stretchered in from the field directly.  His wife talked him out of rock climbing and suggested country walking, but then there was that landslip and sure enough it slipped onto Frank.

We’ve termed the third group miscellaneous because we couldn’t think of another term to describe the motley selection of other things he pitched up at our door suffering from.  Once he tried to eat a snake for a bet and it bit him, so he rolled up, Ozzy Osbourne-like with a swollen face, needing a complete set of shots.  And then he burnt himself trying to swap the battery on his daughter’s car.  He was doing fine with running it under cold water until he managed to spray it over the floor, slipped and cracked his wrist on the floor.  At least 6 weeks in plaster kept him away from us because he just couldn't get up to his normal mischief.

Despite everything we have come to love Frank.  He’s always smiling and leaves every time promising he’ll be more careful and that was the last time we’d see him.  Sister Boo vetoed inviting him to our Christmas party, so we raised a glass to him instead.  What else can you do with the only man who has ever come into an A&E department with something inserted in his rectum and admitted he stuck it there himself because he thought it would feel good.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

5: The Halibut - Mr Flash365

Eat more fish, the doctor told me.
Bad skin and your hair loss: more fish.
Depression and high blood pressure: more fish.
Putting on weight and feeling sluggish: more fish.
I asked her if she was on commission. She just laughed. I even asked her if she was a proper doctor at all. That wasn’t so funny, apparently.
“More fish,” she said. “It’s full of Omega 3s and oils and low in fat and has far fewer side effects than pills. Much better for you, especially at your age. So try more fish, then come back if you don’t feel better. But you will, you will, if you eat more fish.”
I’ve never really eaten fish, though, so what do I do? I head to the nearest fish shop and I point and I pay.
I don’t know why I bought a halibut. I’ve heard the name, of course. And it’s a fun word to say – halibut, halibut, halibut.
It was looking at me, so I decided to take it home. It was looking at me with one good eye;  winking at me, eyebrow raised. How could I resist?
But then what? I mean, I picked it because it was cheeky. How was I supposed to cook it?
I used that Google thing our Stacey showed me and looked up ‘halibut’.
Wikipedia recommended it steamed and served in black bean sauce. Sounded like a lot of work to me for a fish. But before it told me that, it told me that it was a ‘right eye flounder’. That’s even more fun to say.
I picked it up and turned it over, aware of the slimy texture in my fingers. Sure enough, both eyes were on one side. One eye – the one with the cocky eyebrow – looked kind of normal. The other was smaller and squinted, as though the lights were too bright. It looked lobsided.
Don’t ask me why I carried it through to the powder room. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
If the lights in the kitchen were too bright, the lights in here were worse, that was one reason why I so rarely came in here. But, hey, it’s just a fish.
Called Derek.
I opened the door on the bathroom cabinet and then I held Derek up at arm’s length. I had a vague memory of Stanley Baxter.
Or Dick Emery.
I held Derek up and aligned him with the mirror.
And there he was, gazing back at me with two good eyes. His eyebrows were raised in greeting, and his mouth seemed to be curved into a sardonic smile.
Harry Worth, that was it.
I didn’t quite know what to do with Derek after that. I’d named him and now I felt I’d met him. He’d smiled at me. How could I cook him now?
So, I took him back to the kitchen, washed my hands, then fetched my wife’s ‘sewing and notions’ basket.
She’d always hated it when I called it that.
I found a square of green felt and I laid Derek down on it. It offset the dark colour of his upper side very nicely. And then, with some fragments of lace, and a handful of sequins, I prettied him up. He looked a picture by the time I’d finished.
I don’t know about my hair or my weight, but I felt really quite cheered up by the time I’d finished.

Maybe I’ll take him to the doctor tomorrow, and show her. If she likes fish as much as she says, she’ll love Derek.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

4: Talk to Frank - Mrs Flash365

It started as a bit of a joke, with that drugs campaign.  “Talk to Frank” it said.  I never found out why they chose to use Frank but I’ve had 10 years of being talked to.  At first only friends though, not anyone else until later.  Well, I say friends.  Used-to-be friends I think of them as now, all of them.

Sometimes they would talk to me about drugs and what did I know?  I like a bit of a drink and I know some of my mates do have a joint at parties but that’s about it for me and drugs.  I tried to remember Zammo and advised ‘just don't do it.’  Then Gary pointed out it was ‘just say no’ so I just said that as advice if anyone ever asked.

For a while everyone wanted to know who my dealer was, could they get something off him.  I don't think anyone really believed me when I said I didn’t have a dealer and no I didn't know anyone else either.  They looked suspicious, like I was trying to keep them from something, from my own special supply maybe.

After a while it wasn’t just my friends any more.  People at work had started popping by my desk to talk to me about things, hardly ever actually about work.  Sometimes it was about drugs too but mostly it was just about random stuff they wanted to say.  Some of it was really weird, saying odd things about me or about someone else in the office.  For some reason a lot of people wanted to talk about Marina in the post room.

Then one day it started outside work too, out on the street.  I was sat at the bus stop and people walking past started talking to me.  They didn't usually stop and talk, just say things as they walked past and then hurry on by.  I tried not to react because if one person saw me answering or maybe thought I’d have time to engage with them, I found that would encourage the others.

I mostly don't mind it but sometimes they won't stop and I want a rest.  I don't always have something to say and when two or three start talking together my head starts to hurt.  I even scream to drown it out but they carry on and on.

What’s it like?  Maybe like your own voice, telling you a story inside your head, one you don't always want to listen to but can’t do anything about.  I’d like it to be quiet and I’d like to know why.  Is it really just because I’m called Frank?