The Metaphorical Zulus of Calamity…

Friday morning commenced well. I managed to evade my parental responsibilities for a full half hour, and lay undisturbed in bed, contemplating the day ahead. The small intellectual part of my brain was quite quiescent, having conceded the floor, timidly, to the larger portion of my brain that concerned itself with morale, welfare and gluttony. The synapses were alive with intense activity, pitting muesli against crumpets in a battle royal for the imminent occupation of my stomach. The hard-bitten and highly motivated muesli militia nevertheless lacked popular support, and were ruthlessly steam-rollered by the densely-packed ranks of advancing buttered crumpets… As torpor threatened to drag me back beneath the seductive fathoms of illicit repose, the cat landed unceremoniously on my face, signalling that the day had begun.

Like a pair of trusty hounds – and with a similar aroma – my feet were met by my comfortably dilapidated slippers as they descended toward the floorboards. As the boiler seemed to be slogging manfully on, I forebore to don my guernsey and descended in pyjamas and t-shirt to join the clan downstairs.

As I paused on the landing to facilitate some gentlemanly adjustments and to release an ebullient morningtide trouser chirrup, I reflected that it seemed like such an unremarkable day. And yet it was not…

I had forgotten that last Friday I had finally denounced my neighbour to the council, describing in forensic detail the full horror of his disreputable and disarrayed garden. Since that moment, the metaphorical Zulus of Calamity had been gathering silently on the Kop, waiting to fall bloodthirstily upon Mr Scumbag’s fetid kraal… Justice would be done. The council had let slip that they would visit Mr Scumbag within a week, so, having seen hide nor hair of the appartchiks so far, today had to be the day. From my vantage point, overlooking Chez Scumbag, I would regard the unfolding drama, like a pasty, pyjamaed Cetewayo… That’s the end of that metaphor, I think.

I furnished myself with a cup of tea and settled in to enjoy the delicious drama ahead. As I waited, I reviewed the scene in his garden of delights: There was the familiar discarded bathtub, half-filled with rainwater and fag butts; There the pile of soggy cardboard boxes, there the pink bags of rubbish and the unbridled riot of brambles. And there, in all his endomorphic, Calibanic glory was Mr Scumbag, emerging for his ante meridiem cigarette, guts surging and drooping over the top of his trousers like the nose of a flaccid zeppelin. And here comes his status dog, prowling, sniffing, squatting… Mr Scumbag and his hound scratched themselves and returned to the house, where the dog was probably even now dragging its massive, clarted fundiment accross the tufted wilton.

Sure enough, as I drained the last drops of tea from my mug, the council descended. Much to my annoyance, they appeared not to be mob-handed. No battering rams, no tasers, no truncheons. All they were packing was a clip-board. Indeed, there was no indication at all they they would be dishing out a severe beating. It was disheartening, but as the council disappeared into the house, I continued to monitor the situation from my capacious, but thinly furnished, Georgian eerie.

To describe the lay of the land, our house is built on a hill. We’re at the top of the hill, Mr Scumbag, in a strangely appropriate ordering of the social hierarchies, is at the bottom, and revelling in it like a licentious pig in shit… So, in more ways than one, I suppose, I look down upon him. Now, I’ll put up my hands and say, I’ve never actually spoken to him, and yet he seems as one of my familiars. I know the slope of his shoulders, the bulge of his gut, the way he drags his feet accross the floor. Oh yes, I have studied him in detail… And having made discreet inquiries with the neighbours, I understand that the slightly more elusive Mrs Scumbag works at some sort of beauty parlour down the road. Judging by the look of Mr S, she doesn’t take her work home with her.

…And low, Mr Scumbag’s back in the garden with the council functionaries, pointing at his own piles of detritus and waving his arms about. And hang on… They’re laughing. I duck as Mr Scumbag and the council drones look up directly toward the window from which I’m spying. Peeping over the sill, I just see one of the men from the council slap Mr S on the back. The other one actually strokes the dog… What is this malfeasance? This obscene corruption? Are they masons? Illuminati?

The council depart, taking not a bag, not a box, not a bath – not even a photograph. They leave only a sense of confusion and unease. The day wears on…

Attending briskly to my ablutions, I note that I need a haircut, and add it to my list of chores. Unlike the old days in London, a gentleman’s haircut in these parts sets you back only £7.00, and looks exactly like a £35.00 Soho cut. Moreover, I can usually be assured of some gripping Boy’s Own banter about the barber’s former life as a member of the Parachute Regiment. I head down the little alley where the barber resides, resolving to restore my appearance before attending to other duties. Not that there’s any particular neccessity to look well-turned out currently. In the bucolic provinces, you could go about with your trousers held up with string and nobody would bat an eye-lid. I still try to look like I might have a career, however – not that I do, currently (qv. “audacious corporate buccanneering” etc etc…). I’m like one of those redundant Japanese businessmen who can’t lose face in front of his family and still dons his suit and departs for a non-existant job every morning at 07.30. Well, a bit like that…

Annoyingly, for no apparent reason, the barber is closed. However, I’m committed now and need to get it done. I try out the only other place in town – I say, ‘town’, but don’t get carried away. I dwell in something more akin to a big village. However, there is a swanky vanity palace for the well-healed ladies of the locality. There’s nothing else for it: I venture somewhat diffidently into the perfumed precincts of Ahead of Hair knowing full well that I’m unlikely to be regaled with eidetic accounts of bayoneting ‘Argies’ on Mount Longdon. I am ushered to a chair which is mercifully remote from the large front window. I give some perfunctory directions and settle in to sit out the experience sullenly. The hairdresser – who looks strangely familiar – asks me a few half-hearted questions to try to break the ice, and I briskly respond, attempting to blunt the thrust of inquiry further by feigning torpor and letting my eyelids droop. There’s a bit more about her husband working for the council and how long she’s lived here etc etc, but I’m already tuning out the verbal static, and conversation dries up completely after a bit of back and forth about when we moved into the town and where we live. She drifts off for some minutes after that, and I lift a lid to watch her in the mirror, taking a phonecall on her mobile. She returns to finish the job, concentrating diligently on the back of my head, presumably trying to make up for her absence and the large bill I will doubtless be presented with.

As it happened, she finished the trim and shooed me out of the chair with some haste. I might have said something, except that as she ushered me out she informed me that as a local resident and a first timer in the establishment, the cut was on the house. So, I dismissed the abrupt farewell and headed home, turning quite a few heads on the way home, I might add. ‘Still in my prime,’ I thought, smugly.

It was only when I returned to the homestead that it transpired something was amiss… As I flicked on the kettle, Mrs D looked at me with an expression of surprise tinged with mirth…

“What?” I said.

She merely looked at me, dubiously.

“I don’t know what’s happened, but you’re not going to like it,” she said, turning me around to take a photograph with her phone…

On the contrary, being something of an aesthete and a great admirer of craft, I couldn’t but appreciate the deftly-rendered lines and the anatomically correct detail of the tumescent cock and balls depicted in the photograph. There was even a rather jaunty little spurt leaping from the end. If it hadn’t been graven into the back of my head, I might have appreciated it more, but you know…

First blood to Mrs Scumbag. But the Zulus of Calamity would not be cowed…

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