By a strange turn of events and in a twist of comparative gluttony, my uncle, whom I lived with during my early Goldhawk days, used to come home of a Saturday afternoon from the Hammersmith Library with enough books for a university. He was a compulsive reader, my uncle and would have gotten through at least three of the books by Sunday night!
Jimmy's friend, Dave, told him that eels live on sewage and Jimmy makes the point that that being the case - his dad must be full of it. Then he says he doesn't think his dad ever twigged that he (Jimmy) was doing five cartons of leapers a day.
The face turned to me where we sat in the Silver Dollar caf? in Redmore Road, Hammersmith and said: "Each to his own sewage!"
When I got the two cokes in I rejoined him at the table and we kept an eye on his Lambretta scooter parked outside. He always made me laugh 'cos you never knew what was going on in his head half the time.
"So," I says, trying to get a decision out of him, "what're we doin'?"
"Ere!" he says completely ignoring my question and grabbing me by the sleeve in that very annoying way like cheeky monkey Marriott. He got my attention.
"You know what?" he asks, "I used to know a geezer called Cooper."
"Cooper? Go on."
"Yeh. Phil Cooper. Straight up, He used to knock around with a friend of mine... whom I don't think you ever met."
"Oh yeh! Who' s that, then?"
I was having a bad trip just then with my brain occupying another part of the cafe - and Phil Cooper's body was wearing Jimmy Daniel's head. But to get back to where I was at the start of this piece; besides coming home from the local library with enough books for a university, my uncle used to bring a lot of his paperwork home from the office. He had a big Premier typewriter, which he used to place on a sort of mobile desk trolley and push it from room to room in the pursuit of peace and quiet.
"Now," I says to him making sure he got the subtlety of what I was trying to say, "I don't think he (my uncle) ever twigged I was typing out the words of songs I'd composed in the middle of the night on his typewriter."
The face stared back at me as if he was waiting for me to hit the punch line. It drove me mad when he did that. He was a wind up merchant, Phil Cooper-with-Jimmy Daniels'-head, was. A bleeding wind up merchant. So I decided to add in the finish. But my mouth had barely opened when once again in that very annoying Marriott way he had, he grabbed my sleeve like one of Fagin's urchins and cackled into my ear. "Composing songs on a typewriter? Each to his own key, eh?"
"Go up and get two more fucking cokes," I said, feeling disgusted and flattened. A couple of girls from the White City estate were standing outside the window like his bike might have been for sale, I knew one of them. She'd given me a hand job at a party. She always went about in a maroon suede coat that looked like if she took it off for a second it would find its own way to the dry cleaners. She spotted me through the window out of the corner of her eye then suddenly grabbed her friend by the elbow and they were gone.
Meanwhile the face had returned with a couple of cokes. He always acted the prat by asking the old geezer for a couple of straws. He'd return with two straws stuck in the bottles, then go back up to the old boy and say "Sorry. Don't want them."
The poor old bloke would sort of very gingerly take the two straws dripping in coke, and it didn't matter if it happened 365 days a fucking year, he'd still sayä "Sodding nah goot to me-a now!"
Then the face would come back to the table carrying a deformed expression and mimicking the old boy... "Sodding nah goot to me-a now!"
I slugged quarter way down the bottle and found myself staring out the window.
"Are You half deaf?"
I looked back at him and pretended I had heard the start of whatever it was he'd been saying.
"Every Mondays it is."
"Every Monday for what?"
"You are fucking deaf! I told yer, every Monday-the psychiatrist. He'll never find out what's wrong with me."
"Christ, he must be some nutter!"
He looked back at me hard, so I shut up
"He says I ain't mad or anything..."
"Well, course not..."
He shot me a warning glance so I shut it again. Then he never said no more about it like he was clamming up on some dark family secret. I dunno, maybe he went into one of his moods 'cos I was flippant about something deadly serious to 'im.
I stared back out the window again and after a while, I said, "What you were saying about going to this shrink every week..."
"Well, I used to go somewhere every week. Every Tuesday. Funny that, the very next day after your Monday."
I looked back at him. Go on with the story? Or, 'go on,' it's sensational that Tuesday follows Monday? I never knew with 'im.
"Anyway" says I catching the note of impatience in his eyes, "it was every Tuesday and this place was like a college for nutters."
"Yeh. Nutters. Anyway, this places this college for nutters, was otherwise known as Hammersmith Day College."
"And I had to go there every week 'cos of my age while attendin' the London Electricity Board."
He jumped in: "Attendin' the London Electricity Board? What do they do give you electric shock treatment?"
"Don't be stupid. I mean, working there. I was under a certain age see, so I had to go to day college. I've got a mate who works at the Inland Revenue at Bromyard Avenue and he's had to do the same. It's alright; you miss work once a week and that ain't bad."
Phil Cooper-with-Jimmy Daniels-head looked at me with a sort of specially reserved sarcastic expression on his face and enquired, "Is this all leading up to something?"
"See, the point I'm trying to make is if, as you say, your shrinks never going to find out what's wrong, with you, the nutters whom I met at the HDC----"
"Hammersmith Day College!"
"The nutters whom I met there certainly knew what was wrong with me. And they were a big help to me and my problem."
"Oh yeh? Practising psychiatrists was they?"
"No. Most of 'em were bleeding Gippo boys. That's what we used to call 'em. From the Post Office - you know, GPO. "I mean, there were others as well from the North Thames Gas Board and----"
"The LEB!" he chimed, sarkily.
"Yeh... the LEB."
"Come out of the Hammersmith Day College with a degree, did you?"
"No. Course not," I replied, "it weren't that kind of place. We did a lot of social studies and stuff."
"Social studies? The fuck' s that?"
"Like sort of light-hearted politics. In the English class each one of us had to choose a book to read over a month and then write something about it."
"Oh yeh. What did you choose, then?"
"Kingsley fucking who?"
"Amis. Kingsley Amis. He's an English writer."
"Well, he must be if you chose to read about 'im. Why didn't you ask for Lady Chatterley's Lover, you prat."
"Dunno. I s'pose that would've been tooä y'know, obvious. Like sort of predictable."
"Pre--dict--able! You cunt. You really are a flash git, Jack."
I looked at him and his words stung in my ears. I got up and went to the counter for two cokes without straws. Came back and sat down. Sod him, I thought, I'm not going to put my head on the block anymore. Then he took me by surpriseä
"Think I'm gettin' the sack at work."
"Yeh. I'm not bothered. Plenty of work elsewhere. I goes in last Monday morning, late, I know about eleven, and everything in front of me is in fucking triplicate. I tell you those Black Bombers, they ought to be banned. They're bloody lethal they are. Sick to death, I was. Dying after Sunday night. I'll tell you something, that job's got me like a bleeding invalid. Tramping around the building with letters. Letters for the MD: managing director. The bleeding CDO: chief design officer. The bloody SCC: senior creative consultant. And on top of that, the geezer in the Post Room--------"
Post Room? I was looking at him with my mouth open and the trip had stopped. It was unbelievable - we had the same fucking job. So how's that for bits and pieces of comparison?
© Irish Jack Lyons