Happy Mondays February 5, 2007Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Darlings, it’s February, I can’t sleep, I’ve got work to do, I’m worried I’m about to have lots of work to do (which should be a cause for celebration, of course, but just isn’t), my body feels sort of wintrily fragile… which I thought were all cues to spread a little bit of gloom.
Life feels horribly eventless at the mo. The Russian is sick and refuses to entertain me. “Darling, take me to the cinema,” I holler, “or I’ll start an argument.” But he answers, “Seeck,” and so I have to make quite an effort not to watch German TV’s attempts to recreate the atmosphere of summer 2006 with the home nation’s glorious victory in the Handball World Cup. Jiggy-jiggy would be, it goes without saying, unthinkable for any Russian with an illness on the go. “But, darling, I couldn’t give a fuck about the germs,” I didn’t say, but might have thought, but he would see the whole transaction as far too microbially sordid.
So, no cinema, no jiggy-jiggy , I don’t want to overdo the work… So blogging, natch. But what about the eventlessness? Nothing on earth to blog about. So I’ve flicked through my mental and blogging archives, yet again, and a nice bit of gloom I’ve been meaning to blog for ever has presented itself as most suitable blog-meat candidate.
The Russian and I were in Thailand in 2002. We had a shit time, all in all, because I hate leaving the house, my skin burnt to a crisp within 1 second of arrival, and because it was deemed that English was more likely to be understood in Thailand than Russian – not wrongly – I had to be in charge of every transaction whilst there. Plus our combined social autism meant we weren’t allowed to talk to strangers, so it was three weeks solid of each other. On holiday. I did think of suggesting we meet back at the airport on the due departure date and tell each other stories of how we’d got on. But we stayed solitarily together. There was one handsome Australian gent that we kept bumping into, who was with his girlfriend, whom he hated, and they would never do anything together, and we would see him at some recumbent Buddha or other or doing a mime of what we wanted to order in a restaurant and there he’d be, and we’d exchange smiles, but no more than that, and we’d abandon him to his lonely fate or to other tourists. (I once heard him engaged in a riveting convo with a German about how Thais wrote text messages.)
So just me and the Russian. The Russian happy to be in Thailand. Enjoying sun in winter. And seeing the trip as a great privilege. Not everyone gets to go to Thailand, after all. And taking notes in museums to pass on the knowledge to his family at a later date. (He does this in London too. Even I have to admit it’s sweet.) And me loathing every minute, and even when I would accidentally get carried away and forget that I was meant to be having a horrible time and notice that ACTUALLY Bangkok was pretty fantastically interesting and the rest of the country had oodles going for it too, I would try to rein in all feelings of positiveness and try to re-etch the scowl into my face. (Can’t remember if the Russian had finished the milk within the previous couple of years or if there’d been some other egregious crime.)
Anyway, one day, in Bangkok, we ended up in an utterly uninteresting part of the city, which probably put me in an ungovernable rage, and made me scowl so hard that my eyebrows met my chin, but the Russian resourcefully thought we should make a good out of a bad and so we pretended it was now a shopping trip (by which time my lower teeth were embedded in my brain). The area was modern. Sort of skyscrapery. And seemed to be where Indian wholesalers plied their trade. So the shopping was unlikely to be interesting. We’d pop into another mini-shopping-centre and there’d be more people selling more curtain material. We bought ourselves some flavoured ice in a plastic bag and decided to go for one last shoppery before we’d call our mummies and ask them what to do when lost in a big, foreign city.
And, darlings, I was washed over in gloom. Traipsing through the utterly uninteresting shops was gloomy and soul-emptying enough but as we escalatored ourselves ever higher, the floors got more and more desolate. Floor seven might only have had three or four tables with curtain material folded nicely on it. Floor eight had even fewer and an automatic drinks machine. Floor nine had nothing but its strip-lighting and one upended plastic chair. We somehow had a feeling that the tenth and final floor wasn’t going to mysteriously turn into Harrods but we did see that it had a toilet so allowed ourselves to be elevated ever upwards.
And there was gloom itself. In the overlit gangway, on the lino floor, between escalator and toilet, was a karaoke machine. The karaoke machine had an attendant, a concerned-looking young woman. She was holding the microphone and clearly trying to explain to someone who didn’t know the routine how it all worked. He seemed at a loss. I loitered to watch the scene, which probably made the attendant more flustered. And then the man, having gleaned what he could of the procedure, began to sing. He was old and wizened. Decrepit and senile. He sang poorly. The girl looked more concerned than ever. Perhaps her regular clients – though god knows how many of them there could have been with only the smelliest toilet in Bangkok as an accompanying attraction – were teenage girls. But she needn’t have. The man was no trouble. He just wanted to sing. I didn’t know what the song was, of course, but it meant something to him. And it was all much the sharpest stab of sheer, unadulterated, unmitigated gloom I had ever felt. Not pain, because I have, of course, experienced worse things than a chronically lonely man singing badly. But something about his loneliness and the way he was combating it struck me as irredeemably pathetic. The poor bastard.
My jaw shot through my crown before I’d even got round to verbalising my new-improved gloom to the Russian. We entered the world’s smelliest loo. A leering idiot waggled his willy at us.
I’d had better days.