I arrive at work feeling pretty good, rested. This is rare for me. Usually I’ll turn up at the weathered, paint-peeled door to The Factory in a state of exhausted despondency, the door looking pretty much how I feel.
But not today.
I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, some time in the sun, reading books and drinking cold beers with sea spray on the warm wind. Usually I see holidays as an expensive luxury, just another worry to struggle paying for, but this time it was a necessity.
My wife could tell I was struggling. Sinking. Things were getting on top of me. She booked a holiday that entailed doing nothing and wouldn’t let me find something to do, so I did just what I really needed to do.
I did nothing.
Now I feel rested, able to face the unending stream of shit that cascades onto me for eight hours a day without hurling myself headlong into the nearest convenient piece of thundering machinery.
I walk into the office and see Intense Ginger Bloke hunched over his keyboard, leg jiggling, air whistling through hair-clogged nostrils like the last words of a dying inflatable sex doll.
He smells weird.
They do say gingers smell differently. I’ve never noticed it in red headed women, but men… Most ginger men I’ve known have been highly strung fuckers, leg-jiggling shouters, red-faced bellowers. Not every ginger, just a lot of them. Prone to fits of rage at the slightest provocation but rarely with a violent ending. Just… angry. It seems to make them sweaty. Sweaty ginger blokes can occasionally smell like an electrical fire, a knackered toaster, a fucked kettle.
I wonder if ginger men are actually robots…
Intense Ginger Bloke seems tense, more tense than usual.
I say, “Morning.”
He looks up with red rimmed eyes, blinking. He says, “Oh, yeah. Morning. Nice holiday?”
I nod. “Yep. Smashing.”
I chuck things into my drawer – tea, a bag of sugar, paracetamol, Cuppa Soup. I press the power button on the computer and it DONG’s into life. I adjust the height setting of the office chair, look up.
Intense Ginger Bloke is looking at me across the desk divider like a Beagle who’s been told he’s got terminal cancer and won’t make it to his seventh birthday.
He says, “Our lass is leaving me.”
As greasy tears well up in his piggy eyes I fight the urge to fist pump, shout ‘YES!!!’ and do a little dance.
I love being right.
I’ve been predicting that she’ll leave him for at least two years now. He’s a right one for posting blissful pictures on Facebook of a perfect family life but I’ve never bought it.
All those little griping stories he tells me about how she’s pissed off at him for buying stupid fucking toys on a whim, how he casually criticises her parenting abilities, how he flatly refuses to allow her a little more financial freedom because it would ‘mess up’ his bewildering payment/savings system of fourteen separate bank accounts.
He’d never take her for a night out, never go on holiday unless it was to the caravan in a windswept field facing the grim grey North Sea. They don’t ‘do’ presents for birthdays or Christmas or Valentine’s anymore because ‘you don’t need all that stuff to prove you’re in love.’
Turns out perhaps you do.
Those pictures he posted on Facebook showed a young woman gradually losing a bit of weight, getting her hair done differently, wearing contacts instead of glasses, applying her make up like a YouTube tutorial, improving her image over months and years whilst the grinning mug stood next to her gained weight but refused to lose the Berghaus fleece covered in dog hair, come rain or shine.
He always put on a voice when he quoted her, a stupid voice, but when I met her once at some function or other she turned out to be warm and intelligent, witty, her voice far from the oaf that her ginger partner portrayed.
I remember him telling me about the evening he bought his virtual reality goggles and how he stood flailing in front of the computer, describing to her what was happening with great excitement, but when he took the goggles off he found himself alone, in the dark, and that she had gone to bed…
He saw none of them.
Everyone else did but he didn’t.
I look at his sad face and I want to slap it, hard. I want to describe exactly how he fucked up, give him a walking tour of his errors but it would be of no use whatsoever.
You see, his last relationship ended the same way.
He’d taken that girl for granted too, presumed all her late nights behind the bar at the local golf club were spent pulling pints when really she was pulling… well, who’s to say?
Good luck to her.
The first Intense Ginger Bloke knew about it was when she didn’t come home, and then he realised her belongings were gone.
A day later a total stranger turned up demanding his bed, saying it was the property of his ex. This was the new chap, the bloke who’d been quietly getting the benefit of that bed whilst Intense Ginger Bloke was at work, but instead of punching his lights out, Intense Ginger Bloke paid him £100 for the bed.
I’d have dragged it into the garden and set fire to the fucking thing, personally.
So now he’s looking at me with his lip trembling, the injured party, once again the victim of a cold hearted woman, and all I want to do is laugh.
But I don’t.
I say, “Shit, that’s bad news, mate. I’m really sorry to hear that.”
He gives a brave smile. He says, “It’s not my fault, I wanted to work at it but she didn’t. She’s changed, since having the young ‘un. I mean, we had our ups an’ downs before that, like anyone does. It’s just afterwards… I wanted more kids but she was dead against it.”
He leans in, brow furrowing. He says, “I think it were chemical.”
Confused, I say, “Chemical?”
He says, “Yeah. Well, everything was fine and then it wasn’t! Nothing changed but suddenly she was unhappy, arguing, picking at me all the time. So I said to her, go to the doctor. You’re not right! It’s them hormones, they’re all fucked up. What you need is for the doctor to give you something, some tablets maybe, to straighten you out then everything will be fine!”
I flinch. I say, “You said that to her? You said the reason she isn’t happy is just hormones? How did she take that?”
He shakes his head. “She went fucking mental. Blew her stack. Like I say, hormones…”
I shake my head too, for a totally different reason.
He says everything’s fine because nothing changed, but that’s precisely why she was unhappy.
Intense Ginger Bloke is a man of simple tastes. He’s meat and tatties, holidays at Filey, pints of bitter, grumbles about foreigners. He’s all about what roads you used to get to work, to Manchester, to Cornwall. He’s fuel consumption, smart meters, pension plans and spread sheets.
He likes Mrs Brown’s Boys.
He calls the old Top Gear team ‘the lads’.
He still quotes Only Fools and Horses.
He’d call Nigel Farage a maverick if he knew what a maverick was.
He’s never tried whisky or gin or vodka, never smoked a cigarette, never taken drugs, never had anal sex, given or received.
He’s funny about what he eats.
In the dining room and in the bedroom.
In other words, he’s a boring cunt. A really, really boring cunt.
don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for boring cunts in this world.
It’s doing all the boring shit that anyone with a single iota of imagination really can’t be bothered with.
Boring cunts lap it up.
But boring cunts don’t sit well with people who are going places.
His ex girlfriend is going places.
When he met her she was living at home with dysfunctional parents who had a hard time paying bills from one day to the next, just blundering through life.
She wanted better than that.
She saw Intense Ginger Bloke driving a well polished Vauxhall, saw that he had his own house, paid his bills on time, had a steady job, didn’t drink heavily, didn’t do drugs. Sure, he was no looker, but that also meant he wasn’t shagging anything with a pulse.
He was safe.
This was all fine, but what she couldn’t see at the time is that he is also an incredibly boring cunt.
And he is intense.
The steady routine worked for a few years, the savings gradually built up in that strange labyrinth of 14 bank accounts, and they bought that 1970s three bedroom semi-detached in the dullest suburb of Leeds which has been Intense Ginger Bloke’s destiny from birth.
They got the dog, they got the caravan, then they had the child.
Tick, tick, tick. All the boxes.
Intense Ginger Bloke was over the moon. His life was filled with his spread sheets, his caravan club committee meetings, his Toby Carvery Sunday lunches with dozens of obscure family members that make up his social circle, his cans of lager whilst watching the Formula 1 on one of his gigantic televisions.
He isn’t yet forty.
She isn’t yet thirty.
There’s a ten year age gap between them but it may as well be twenty years, thirty years, forty years.
Because this is it.
She didn’t need a crystal ball. She could see the future.
That’s the problem with someone who is safe, who is dependable, who is secure.
She could see the second child on the horizon, maybe a third. She could see the ambition to swap out the single axle caravan for a double axle, the endless carveries, the lines of rain washed caravans with tattered St George cross flags fluttering overhead.
Picking up dog shit whilst trying to kick the brake on an overladen pram.
Swapping the sharp jacket for a practical fleece.
The Intense Ginger vision that led from her twenties to the grave, laid out in a practical spreadsheet format, detailing his inevitable weight gain and probable heart attack in his late fifties, and her own decline into despairing frumpyness as the mother to his children, the cook for his beige meals, the cleaner of his understains, the fetcher of tins from the caravan fridge whilst he laughs around the barbecue with his caravanning cronies about that fucking time Derek fucking Trotter fell through the fucking gap in the cunting fucking bar.
She smartens up her act.
She goes running.
She eats healthily, not the stodge HE likes for his tea.
She changes her hair, changes her make-up, changes her glasses for contact lenses.
If he won’t take her out then she’ll bloody well take herself out.
Midnight turns to one o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock, four.
Girls nights out become weekends away.
And then… and then…
Intense Ginger Bloke shakes his head again, blows out.
He says, “It’s come out of the blue. I just didn’t see it coming. Why didn’t she say something?”
I could see it coming from my side of the desk for years but he didn’t notice a thing.
He slaps the desk and sighs, rubs his face.
He says, “Right, I’ve got to crack on. Lots to do.”
I say, “Yeah, it’s probably going to be a busy one today.”
“No,” he says. “I’m working on my spreadsheets. I’ve got to work out budgets, who gets what, fair allocation of time with the child…”
“Yeah, her, fair allocation of time with the dog, caravan custody…”
He drones on, I zone out.
He taps keys and mutters to himself for a couple of hours.
I get on with my work.
After a while it occurs to me that Intense Ginger Bloke is really enjoying himself.
I wonder if those Nazi administrative types enjoyed their nice tidy ledgers filled with neat, triplicate horror.
His leg is jiggling overtime and he stops occasionally to stab the buttons on a calculator. He mutters, shakes his head, types again then gives a little smile.
Just before lunch he pushes away from his desk and drains his tea mug.
“Ah! That’s sorted! I just need to see Soulless Boss about changing my shifts and getting a pay rise, then everything will be fine.”
I look up from my work. “Pay rise? We haven’t had a pay rise in years. How much are you asking for?”
He checks his figures again. “Let’s see… a hundred pounds.”
I laugh. “A hundred quid?? Fuck off! They won’t give you a hundred quid a month!”
He blinks owlishly at me. “A hundred quid a week. I need a hundred quid a week extra or I won’t get by.”
I check to make sure he’s not taking the piss. He’s not. I say, “Why the fuck will they give you and extra ton a week, four hundred a month? Why?”
He looks indignant. “I supervise the studio. It’s an important job and it’s about time the role is recognised!”
I say, “You take jobs from account handlers and give them to me and I do the work. You’ve not batted a stroke all day, apart from your fucking spreadsheets. You think that’s worth an extra hundred?”
He scowls. “Yeah, I do.”
I say, “Good luck with that.”
He says, “I need it. Without it I’m fucked. I won’t be able to afford to eat!”
I say, “Where’s your list of expenses. Let me see.”
He tilts his computer monitor and I lean over to take a look.
I shake my head. “Fuck me… Really? You’re budgeting a hundred and thirty a month for TV and Broadband? You save a hundred a month for ‘car sundries’? Caravan storage, all these other bits… fifty a month for your fucking phone? Mate, you’re not starving! Cut out all that crap and you’ll be fine!”
He turns a deep red and glowers at me. “I need my telly. I’ve got fuck all left, at least I’ll have a telly to watch.”
I say, “Yeah, whatever… I don’t see child maintenance on here. How much is she asking?”
He says, “Oh, Don’t worry about that. I don’t have to pay any.”
I blink at him. “Excuse me? I thought you just said ‘I don’t have to pay any’. I don’t want to be alarmist, but you have a daughter so I think you have to pay!”
He says, “No, I’ll be looking after her half the time so I don’t have to pay. I’m sure of it.”
Something occurs to me. “Wait… You say your lass is leaving you. Where is she going?”
He shrugs. “Dunno. I think she’s getting a flat somewhere, but I can’t see it being a great place, what with her only working part time.”
I say, “But she’s leaving… with your daughter. If your lass’s flat is a shit hole, then your daughter will be living in a shit hole for fifty percent of the time!”
“Not my fault,” he growls. “She chose to leave me. If she can’t afford a decent place, that’s her lookout.”
I’m at a loss. “But… your daughter…”
“Not my fault.”
I look at this stubborn, pig-headed arsehole in front of me and I fail to feel any pity for him.
I don’t need to feel any – he has enough self pity for both of us.
If it was me in his position, if my marriage broke down, I’d do the right thing and leave, not send my wife packing. My priority is my kids. The idea of me sitting there in a three bedroom house on my own when my kids are cramming their possessions into a shitty bedsit somewhere makes me feel sick.
I realise for the first time just how fucking greedy and self centred Intense Ginger Bloke really is. He’s a taker, not a giver. That precious fucking house of his, his TVs and his computer, his gadgets, his games consoles, his drone, his caravan, his fucking toys, they all mean so much to him.
He’s like a dragon crouching over his hoard, both furious and frightened that one shiny thing might be taken away, when in reality the most important things are slipping away unnoticed.
I imagine that flat where his girlfriend is moving – a dingy rental, and I know how dingy rental properties can be because I’ve lived in a fair few. I’m imagining his daughter wondering what the is going on, what she’s done wrong to be sent to live there and why she can’t sleep in her own room all the time.
It makes me angry, and I’m going to say something, but then I stop.
I remember his girlfriend.
Intelligent, witty, good looking.
I remember Intense Ginger Bloke describing her staying out late, staying out all weekend.
She’s not stupid.
She’s not the type to suddenly jump without there being a safety net.
So I make a few new predictions.
There’s someone else.
Another bloke is in the picture, just as Intense Ginger Bloke was the safety net to catch her when she left home, there’s someone else catching her now. Yes, maybe she’s moving into a flat but I’m willing to bet it’s a six month lease, enough time to let the dust settle with her angry red haired ex, to get the cheque for her half of the equity in the house that he has to pay her to avoid selling his precious house.
And she won’t want him around every day, picking up and dropping off their daughter. No-one wants to see their ex every day, not when you can get greater custody AND have them pay maintenance too.
No, I can see what’s happening.
But he can’t.
All he can see is his spreadsheets, the numbers, the trinkets and toys, the material things that mean fuck all when all is said and done, shit that pleases one day and is in the charity shop window the next.
He thinks this is Hell, but it’s actually the honeymoon period. The shit is still to hit the fan.
I know that over the next few months I’m really going to hear about it, he’s going to moan and sob, possibly lose the house, lose some custody. Maybe he’ll join Fathers For Justice and dangle from the top of Leeds Town Hall in a sagging Spiderman suit, whining about the relationship that he managed to fuck up.
I wonder if it’ll be worth hearing all this shit, and then I’m sure it’ll be worth it, just for one thing alone.
For when this sad cunt gets back on the horse and starts internet dating.
I can only imagine the bizarre stories that will crop up.
So I give him a sympathetic smile, grab his mug and say, “Cheer up, mate. How about a nice cuppa?”
He smiles at me, eyes filling up, says, “Yeah, that’d be great, buddy. Thanks.”
I fill the kettle.
I know I’m a two faced cunt, but it passes the time.
Blog North Awards
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