No idling, no talking, no licence
1AM MONDAY MORNING
My climber daughter, Lily, WhatsAppd me from Australia a photo of her about to climb a 400 ft vertical rock. I couldn’t see any ropes — I woke up worrying every 20 minutes.
Exhausted, I got out of bed and looked at the photo again and realised Melbourne’s 9 hours ahead — so she had already climbed it when I received it!
On my Vespa at the traffic lights by Lord’s cricket ground I saw a ball of white fluff on the pavement. A man holding a cat carrier was waiting to cross the road. “Excuse me, I think you’ve dropped your cat,” I said, pointing to the motionless ball of fluff.
He looked at me… then at the ball of fur, then in his cat carrier. The lights changed and as I zoomed off I realised the “kitten” was a child’s ball of fur, the kind they dangle from their gloves.
11 AM I lost my driving licence.
On the rush hour tube, as the train approached Oxford Circus the young woman sitting opposite me stood up, leaving her empty plastic bottle of Evian on the seat. I picked it up and handed it to her.
“I don’t want it,” she said dropping it back on the seat.
“Save the ocean!” I said. “Save the fish!”
“Save what? What fish?” she said. “We’re on the tube.”
“A humpback whale could choke to death on that Evian bottle,” I said.
“A humpback whale? On the Central Line?” she replied.
“OK — maybe they use the Jubilee Line”, I said. “But what about a sardine then? What’s going to happen if an innocent little sardine tries to swallow it?” I said, sticking the bottle back into her hand.
“EVIAN IS NAIVE BACKWARDS!” I shouted as she got off as the doors closed. I like to do my bit to save the planet.
WEDNESDAY 4 PM
I’d just left the dentist when I saw a parking warden standing at the lights. He wasn’t wearing the normal blue uniform but a green one. “New uniforms?” I ask.
“I’m idling”, he says. “I’m an idling warden.”
“That sounds like a good job,” I said. “How idle do you have to be to get the job? Totally idle or just semi-idle? Is idling the same as dawdling or loitering?”
“What’s your name?” I continued.
“I’m Peter. Very good to meet you, Mustafa.”
“Peter — it’s the people who are idling. not me.”
“So they’re giving tickets now to lazy people?”
“No Peter, not to lazy people. It’s their cars! If the drivers are parked with their engines on they’re idling — and I give them a ticket — ”
SATURDAY 11 AM
I was off to the big match — The Times National Crossword Championships, where I was given a pink wrist band.
“Why pink?” I asked the security guard?
“Did you know that in Victorian times, pink was the colour parents dressed boys in?” he said.
“No, I didn’t know that,” I said. I was there to support my friend, Johnny the Crossword King. I assumed there would be hundreds of screaming crossword fans cheering their favourites on. But apart from one elderly woman sitting reading a book, I was the only other person watching 150 middle aged men in grey pullovers bent silently over their desks doing crosswords. The elderly woman fell asleep so I walked across and gave her a nudge. “Excuse me, what time do they finish?” I whispered.
She woke up: “Sssh!!!” she said. “They can hear you.”
“It’s your loud ‘sssh’ they’ll hear, not my whisper!” I said.
Johnny didn’t get past the preliminary round. This came as a huge relief: I couldn’t face the idea of sitting in silence for the next four hours.
Afterwards, on the way to the pub for lunch, I asked him the big question: “Where were all the women cross worders?”
“Women don’t do crosswords”, he said.
On my way home, riding on my Vespa along Marylebone High Street, I saw Mustafa. He waved.
“Keep busy Mustafa!” I shouted as I rode by.
I got home to find a hand written letter with a second class stamp waiting for me. The rare excitement these days of getting a handwritten letter! Maybe it’s from an old friend? An old girlfriend? An old ex-wife?
I sat down with a glass of red wine in my armchair by the fireplace and opened it.
Inside was my driving licence.