When I was about nine I would go out riding my Raleigh Tomahawk (I progressed to a Grifter later on.) My best friend Ste would often be alongside me though I can remember having a new headlamp and going out one evening to try it out on my own. I wanted to be a spy and, for some reason, I hoped that if you kept circling around on your bike alone, you would be approached by a man in a big black car and asked to be a spy (it didn’t happen.)
One night I was out near the local council house estate, parked in small alley way (still use it.) I was hoping to catch a glimpse of a woman who looked a bit like Lady Penelope from The Thunderbirds. She lived next to the alley and had a posh velvety voice and well-kept golden hair like Lady Penelope. I was parked up behind a wooden fence where I could see her pegging washing on a line (the washing line was in the front garden for some reason.) She wore tiny shorts and was talking to someone as she worked.
I moved a little closer and saw the man chatting to her was her neighbour. He was an overweight rangy man with a beard and face like a bulldog, blooming ugly. I can’t remember the conversation but he was being very friendly to her; I think he was trying to force a drink onto her or invite her into his house. Now, wise and cynical, I know it probably wasn’t just friendliness but he was trying to make an impression on her. He was a bit scary like that huge wrestler, Giant Haystacks, but with a dome of a bald head. Lady Penelope-look-a-like was chatty enough but I remember her coming back down the path to her side door with her washing basket and she muttered to herself, “In your dreams, dick head.” I can only remember it because only a posh Lady Penelope kind of woman would pronounce the “H” in ‘head’.
I don’t think she would have been remotely interested in her neighbour if he was that last man on earth and she had drank nine pints of cider.
On the subject of men receiving the wrong signals I remember an old man called Albert who worked on my flats through the day. I had met him in the library, never knew his second name or much about him, but he agreed to work through the week and I would pay him cash the following Saturday in the library. One day I was working with him and we stopped for a coffee. He was 74 at the time and said he had been in a long queue at the bank. He said a young sprightly woman bank cashier of about 30 kept looking up at him. He looked back and their eyes met many times. He ended up getting another cashier but he said he was “definitely getting the look”. He said he was going back the next day to ask her out. I remember thinking, “In your dreams, Albert.”
I met him in the library the following Saturday to see what had happened. He had excitedly returned to the bank and, again, the banker lady kept looking at him while he queued. He got lucky and went to her till. After a brief chat he invited her out for a coffee but he was dejected when she said she had been staring at him because he was the image of her dead dad. She did not join him for a frothy coffee and a Danish pastry. As I thought - in your dreams, Albert.
I remember at the time thinking how ancient he looked; there wasn’t a flicker of a hope she would go out with him, not a sausage of a chance. He had an enlarged prostate and used to stand at the toilet for about fifteen minutes to eventually produce a trickle that wouldn’t dry a bee (and I was paying him by the hour.) When I enter the library I always wonder if he’ll be there.