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Sunday, 23 March 2014

Third year they go nuts

"I don't want you writing about my girlfriend," my son tells me, as we're sat in the bay window of his old friend Matt's spacious, south-facing flat, overlooking the bowling club.

"I haven't," I tell him. "I mentioned she lives in Carlisle, she's called Linda and she's a musician. That's it. I know nothing about your girlfriend. I imagine she's smart, decent, creative and good-looking, because you're all of those. But I have no idea. I've never seen her."

"Well I've had complaints," he tells me. "Personally I wouldn't know what you write because I don't read it."

"Well I do," Matt says "I'm his biggest fan and what he's saying is true."

"You want to know why I never read it?" my son says.

"No," I tell him.

"You quote me out of context."

"People always say that about journalists," I tell him. "But the context is invariably a long, rambling, tedious pile of horseshit that no one would read. We select the most interesting parts and make people sound intelligent. You should be thanking us. But you're missing a more important point. You want to know what that is?"

"No," he tells me.

"What I do these days is not journalism. It's imaginative writing. It's art. I make stuff up, same as you. My medium is words where yours is paint, clay and planks of fungus-infested wood. I expected other people to confuse art and reality, but I figured you for smarter than that. 

"The son in the blog is not you. The son's girlfriend is not your girlfriend. Susan is not my girlfriend. The narrator is not me. He's an idiot for heaven's sake. How could that be me?"

The two of them study their tea with surprising interest, so I push the point. "He's the kind of guy that would stick a list of instructions to himself on the bathroom mirror, starting "Get up. Brush teeth. Go downstairs."

"My mother says you did that when we lived in Derby," he says.

"Bad example," I say. "He's the kind of guy that uses a satnav to get to the village shop and back."

"I've seen you do that," he says.

"Bad example again," I say. "He's the kind of guy ... Look just take it from me the narrator is an idiot. I write him that way so no one could confuse him with me, or anyone in the blog with real people. Reality is reality. Art is art."

"Speaking of art," Matt says, passing me his mobile phone, showing an image of a blonde female. "What do you think of her?"

"Pretty," I say.

"Then there's her and her," he says, touching the screen to display an attractive brunette then another blonde.

"You know these women?" I ask. 

"Met them online," he says. "It's this mobile site called Tinder that hooks you up with women in the neighborhood. Been out with five in the past week."

"Listen, I don't want to sound like an old fogey," I say. 

"Stop talking then," my son says.

"But at your age shouldn't you have a more mature attitude to women? You've been doing casual and uninvolved all your life."

"You got me wrong, chief," Matt says. "I want a serious relationship. But the longest I've managed is three years. There's a pattern. First year great. Second year the arguments start. Third year they go nuts and start fighting about everything and I tell them to beat it. I've a theory about women."

"We've all got one of those," I say. "Mine is that they're robots planted on Earth by aliens running experiments on pain and suffering." 

"Mine is that they're all mental," Matt says. "They can hide it for a while, some even a year or two. But sooner or later out it comes."

"Reminds me of a PG Wodehouse line," I say. "'It's no use telling me there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof.'"

"Yeah, that's it exactly," Matt says. "Sooner or later, out pops the meat cleaver and the throbbing veins in the head."

"You been quiet a while," I say to my son, who's cradling his mug in his hands and staring out the window at white-shirted bowlers on the sunlit lawn below. "What's your theory about women? Aliens, parallel evolution, incurably insane?"

"Well," he says, lowering his mug to the table. "Obviously I don't have as much experience as you two masterminds. But it seems to me that ...."

"What?" Matt says. "Spit it out."

"Women are people," my son says, and Matt and I stare at each other blankly for a moment.  

"Yeah, good one!" Matt laughs and slaps him on the back. "You going to write all this up for your blog, chief?" he says, standing up and starting to clear the table.

"Course not," I tell him. "Wouldn't be fiction if I did."