Another bus stop, another life.
"...Beach Boys, Spector, the Velvet Underground and the Stooges."
"The Stoooooges? The Three Stoooooges? Who are these Stoooooges?" This voice comes out of the darkness.
"It's a band," announces Inglesfield.
"A band? A band? Bands have destroyed everything. Wrecked everything. Everything is ruined by these wretched entertainers."
Chimmie is thinking: not another life. No. Another nutter. Here he is, peering into our faces with a "We're all doooomed" look and pushing his lips out as if he's found a prune with an endless supply of stones.
"That's a nice bit of headgear you've got there. Do I infer that you, too, are a part of the Great Caledonian Diaspora, bringing inte-lect-ual rigour to the institutions of the world and pleasure to the inti-mate places of its women?"
"Well, err mm, I'm doing my bit for Scotland s reputation if that s what you mean, mm, especially about the last part."
"And do you keep that bonnet on your head when you're sticking it up these whores you say you've found?"
"Uhh ...that's my business, thanks."
"Huh huh. By the way, that's a fine Scots accent you've got there, I must say."
"Look, that s just an accident of geography. My folks were as Scottish as ... as Anything." More Scottish than you know pal, more Scottish than you know, "Its in here. Here. It s something I Feel. I'm trying to discover my roots, like."
"Yes? Yes? Well, by God I'm going to show you these roots and what you will find is pain and guilt! Pain and guilt! I will show what it is to walk with the devil! Ochone! Ochone! Ochone! Ah, the Fend is sle! The Fend is sle!"
Suddenly Inglesfield shouts "Here's my bus!". All of a sudden, a bus marked "High Barnet", wherever that may be, seems to be just the thing to take him home. The sle Fend pauses, briefly. Then:
"Has ever a man come close to you and asked you to walk with him?"
"Hmm, well a man came up to me once and said 'Are you looking for cock fun, sonny?' I told him I didn't reckon that to be a sport and that the RSPCA would hear of it. He walked away quite quickly after that."
But he isn't going to let me off without listening to his life history, is he gentle reader? Here it comes:
Some years ago the Devil came to him disguised as Frankie Howerd. A seemingly chance meeting in a Bermondsey pub led to an offer to advance his writing career by collaborating on a biography. However, before Frankie could give the go-ahead to publishing his revelations, he must dispose of a distraction posed by an enemy with a taste for going to the courts of law. Wringhim, "Robert Wring-him with a W ", could begin writing as soon as he had dealt with this obstacle.
"I was to use my good offices to persuade him to drop his action, which compromised our freedom to tell the story properly."
But on making his approach, he discovered that the man s acquaintance seemed to go no further than being aware that Frankie was an eminent comedian. Frankie himself explained that this was a pose assumed to conceal his intention of wrecking both established careers and those "still swelling in the bud". No useful purpose would be served by further exercise of fair play and Wringhim s only option was to take him on "that awful journey down the dark river".
However this would not be the only obstacle to publication and before long Wringhim had gone in deeper and deeper.
"By degrees I succumbed to his false counsels, drawn on to heinous crimes by a scarlet thread, so thin as to be invisible, yet, like the line of a spider s web, gripping tighter than steel."
Not only was his rest broken by wild dreams and ecstacies, but he was haunted by the awarenesss of a constant presence three paces to the left of him, or sometimes, paradoxically inside his own head.
"....gaps in my history or my memory and on occasions I was startled to chance on people who would address me by other names."
"Jules, Randall.... Josť..... Josť my arse!"
"And does err he ... still come to you?"
"Of course. He is still here. Did you not listen to me at all?"
"Well maybe he really is Frankie Howerd."
"Frankie Howerd is dead these ten years, you gomeril! You stupid bastard!"
He starts screaming and shouting "Ochone!" again, lurching back and forth across the pavement as if hes on a ferry boat in a gale all the while throwing punches at the air to the left of him.
"That s it! Run off with your precious Stoooooges and the spectre of the velvet pantyhose, and .....that .........Stupid - Fucking - Hat!"
Thirty seconds later I am on the top deck of a Routemaster bus with "High Barnet" on the front. Chimmie is tingling a bit, I dont mind telling you. I breathe in, out, in, out. I look at the traffic shapes, the street lights and the shadows.
I dont mean to but I find myself looking at the empty seat to my left, across the aisle.
Just checking. Just checking.