Waking. Fighting the dry, tickling cough until the inevitable defeat. Up. Kettle burbles and clicks; computer sings. Now for a proper cough. Feeling more human: patter between bedroom and study to deal with emails (ping!), alarms (bringle, bringle, up and down the scale). Gather together the necessaries for work (‘I shall be late!’ and cursing freely), pack the bag and unlock the trike (‘what’s the time? I shall be late!’), and – now it starts:
– the click-click-click of the freewheel, the clunk of the gear change, the whir of the tyres. A sulky purr from the car behind me (‘yes, well, you can wait, can’t you?’), a honk if I’m unlucky, the roar as it passes. If it’s a motorbike, roar-whoosh. If a bike (they’re all faster than me, and can pass more easily) a slight disturbance in the air, and perhaps a ‘good morning’.
Birds. I never used to hear birds on my way to work; the fresh air never moved fast enough past me. My own gasping breathing (‘come-on-you-bastard, come-on-you-bastard, come-on-you-bastard’) – and down the other side of the hill, and I’m not sure whether I hear the air or feel it.
Back towards the main road, now. A siren. A hundred engines ticking over. The shrill peeping of the pedestrian crossing. The clatter of a train. Sometimes this seems like the longest road in the world. I am so nearly there.
Into work. ‘Kayjay!’ I am not fit for human interaction until I have had a shower. And yes, I am allowed to take the lift to it. I’ve just cycled seven miles you know. GROUND. FLOOR. Lift going up. SECOND. FLOOR. The extractor fan in the shower sounds more like a jet engine.
Phones. ‘Good morning, how can I help?… I see – when is your meeting?… have you spoken to your branch?… I’ll get the duty officer to give you a ring back…’ Will this bloody computer never load up? ‘Where are we with this committee?’ ‘What’s the craic?’ Always questions. The sickening crunch that means the photocopier has broken again.
The hum and the bleeping of the microwave. The inane witterings of whoever’s presenting this property show. A colleague’s get-rich-quick scheme (why does he never try them, if they’re so good?)
More phones. The tinny Westminster chimes of the doorbell. It is the photocopier man, who is not best pleased at being out here again. Or a courier with a trolley. ‘You coming out for a fag?’ Of course one of the smokers’ phones goes immediately afterwards. ‘No, I’m afraid he’s away from his desk at the moment. No, he’ll only be ten minutes or so. Can I get him to give you a ring back?’
‘Bye everybody!’ And then the long ride home. Whir, gasp, click, whoosh.
I am a tenor when I shower at home. ‘Yes! let me like a soldier fall!‘ The camper the better. ‘this breast expanding for the ball to blot out every stain. Brave manly hearts confer my-hy doom, which gentler wu-huh-huh-uns may tell… and the planet of love is on high, beginning to faint in the light she loves, on a bed of daffodil sky‘. Marie Lloyd used that to prove that smut was in the eye of the beholder. I don’t think she would have had to try very hard, but I suppose they hadn’t invented Eng. Lit. back then, at least, not the sort that deals with Subtext. ‘Beginning to faint in the light she lo-oves, to fa-int in the li-ight and – to die! Come! Come! Co-ome, my own, my sweet! Co-ome, my own, my sweet! Maud! Maud! Come! Come! I am here at the gate – alone! pom pom pom pom’.
The sizzle of hot fat. ‘I know I say this every time, but I don’t half make a damn good omelette.’ Somebody hits ‘shuffle’ on iTunes. Something loud and French. Or something sugary and soppy by the Kings Singers. Bairstow. Jackson. Or Youtube. Horrible Histories (‘My name is – my name is – my name is – Charles the Second’) or QI (‘Good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening good evening’).
And so to bed. ‘Night night.’ ‘Sleep tight.’ ‘Do not let the bedbugs bite.’ ‘Wake up in the morning light.’
A single car passes. And the call of a night train – wah-waaah.