Sunday, 25 March 2012

Bill


There was no mistaking it. Her arse was the best he’d ever seen. Even in her uniform of brown slacks with orange piping, it was obscenely good. Not too large but definitely not flat. Round. Firm. Protudent was the word he was looking for. Maybe time had made his memories resentful but he seemed to recall the bottoms they had in the 1940s just weren’t as good. Although back then, when he was young and the possibility of getting nearer to the owner of a bottom as good as that of 'Samantha' still existed, their bottoms had all seemed as wonderful as each other. Another benefit of being young, perhaps, was the pure joyful lust that you were allowed to wallow in. As opposed to the sad and guilty thoughts he indulged now, at four thirty on a Sunday afternoon, whilst considering the pros and cons of two similarly priced tins of baked beans.

Nowadays, young women just seemed so polished, so taut, so confident. It was the way they managed to do these things that astounded him. Were they still really the same as they used to be? He supposed it was just creams and ‘supportive’ clothing, which gave them that extra something. Not that he pretended to have ever really known anything about women.


The smaller tin of baked beans it was then. They’d do nicely with a couple of sausages and some peas. Bill dropped the tin into his basket and headed off toward the checkout, pulling the beast of burden that was his tartan shopping trolley behind him. Fucking embarrassing was what it was, really. He’d got the trolley on his sixty-fourth birthday; same day he’d got his government-issue bus pass. It was a tongue-in-cheek birthday present to himself. Very fashionable amongst us old-age folk, he thought, but, seriously, it had been a bloody nightmare lugging so many cans down the road twice a week- hoping the flimsy carrier-bags would hold out on him, and he’d just given in and accepted it: I’m old. No one cares if I’ve got a tacky tartan push-along. Get on with it.


Out on the New Cross Road the pavement was icy. A Christmas tree stood awkwardly by the public toilets and some lights ran nervously between the lamp posts. The sky was grey like porridge. A couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses stood shivering outside of Woolworths’ closed doors, shopping bags dumped nearby as they participated in a bit of impromptu sermonising. Preaching the good news of the Kingdom was a tough gig, their audience- a group of pigeons- huddled in the doorway behind them.


Bill hurried, giving his trolley a good work-out as it bumped over uneven paving slabs. He had to make it back by seven to give him time to get his dinner on, feed the cats and brush up on his general knowledge for half an hour or so before settling down to Mastermind with a cup of milky Darjeeling. This week he had been researching Henry II, the specialist subject of the 1980 Mastermind Champion, Fred Housego. Bill tended to alternate his research techniques. Admittedly, he had a fairly haphazard approach, which he was sure, Housego wouldn’t approve of. Not that he cared what that eejit thought. Bill based his studies on past questions, areas that hadn’t come up on the show for a while and things that just took his fancy. Nevertheless, it all helped exercise the old grey matter and kept him from being just an old codger sitting at home with his cats in front of the box.
They rattled on, Bill and his trolley.


Outside The New Cross Palais, a homeless couple were exchanging slurred, toothless jibes as they tallied back and forth over someone called ‘Wendy’.

Past the launderette with its pleasantly dirty, soapy vapors and over the bridge above New Cross train station. Looking down the railway to one side, the silver tracks looked like grey sky reflected on a narrow river as they disappeared into a border of leafless spiny trees. On the other, instead of narrowing inward, the tracks spread out, splitting like tributaries of the Thames, their empty surfaces stretching towards the dormancy of West India Docks.