Bill gladdens me, as he has almost every week for the last 18 months. Each Wednesday lunchtime, we shoot a few games of Pool and chew the fat a nearby pub. I cycle and meet him there. He is always early. I am always late. Sometimes he comes to collect me from home in the car. Even then, I am still late. (Another unexpected Bonus Parkinson’s Free Giveaway: The complete inability to organise oneself and work to anything resembling a ‘time frame’.) Formerly punctilious to the point of obsession. I am now late for everything. A trait I abhor.
In the pub, one which after my first visit I swore I would never set foot in again, we chat about this ‘n’ that. His beloved QPR, my beloved Valencia CF, and always about music, while we share some ‘Pub Grub’ which I swear is pieces of Saloon bar carpet served on a bed of the most anaemic, jaundiced-looking lettuce, accompanied by a portion of ‘fries’ which taste like they have been cooked in linseed oil. Bill usually has a pint of Guinness. Either that, or a bottle of bright blue pear cider! If it’s a Guinness day, I usually spend a sizeable chunk of the afternoon wistfully gazing at it. Maddeningly, the blackstuff, one of my favourite thirst-quenchers back in the day, now, like most other alcohols, after two or three swallows tastes like cheap diesel. Again thanks to Parkinson’s. I’ll have a soft drink or occasionally, if I feel like pushing the boat out, a pint of lager shandy.
‘Which lager do you want?’ The bar staff kindly ask. I think, though I never say it ‘It’s a fucking shandy, it doesn’t matter what lager you put in it, it’s still going to taste shite’ I invariably find myself asking for ‘Cooking Lager then please’ but no-one gets the joke anymore.
Then it is to battle. At the pool table. What follows is a Pool Masterclass. Usually one in which I play like a complete novice, moreover one who is suffering from vertigo and has no thumbs. I usually finish three, often all four games down. Bill has the killer instinct, the eye for a ‘snooker’ and an ability to read the game, which sees me cornered, teased and then dispatched. Game over. Nevertheless, I continue to train hard and work at my game. I think it is paying off: I haven’t potted the white from the Break for weeks, now (‘The Break’ is the shot which disperses the pool balls from their triangular configuration and which marks the commencement of the game – I’m not sure how familiar you are with Snooker, Billiards, Pool and suchlike)
I on the other hand can read the game, but just can’t be bothered, and go for all the ludicrously ridiculous trick shots, which when they come off (flukes) have Old Bill staggering around in amazement. When I miss, which is more likely, he moves in like a Hit Man and I am severely punished for my sloppy play.
Bill cheers me up no end, especially when he either:
- Tells me the tales of his ‘Home Improvement’ capers. I am indebted to him for making me realise that there is someone worse, much, much worse than me at practising the Dark Art of DIY . Whenever I find myself struggling with a reluctant screw, troublesome nail or somesuch. I just think of Bill. For example, there was the time when he tried to plane the bottom of a door which had stopped closing smoothly, because a new carpet had been fitted. He took the door off, and gingerly at first, began to plane wood from the base. Put the door back on: check. No, still catching on the carpet. Off with the door again … and so on, for about twenty minutes, at which point he stopped, panting and sweating in order to inspect the door once more only to find he had been planing the wrong end. In other words the top. So now he had a door which still rubbed on the carpet, but which boasted a handsome four-inch gap, up above, between door and frame!
- Has a ‘Grumpy Old Man’ rant. Usually about some spectacularly bad customer service he has received, or rather, not. A man of principle, unequivocal about what he believes is right and what is wrong, but also possibly verging on the Tourette’s spectrum, from where, he is a fine sight (and sound) as he effs and blinds about Call Centres, Helplines and some of the hapless halfwits who work therein.
And that’s my mate, Bill. God bless him.
And that’s my Wednesday afternoon.
© Andy Daly 2011