I’ve been thinking about Albert a lot recently.
I’m worried that I might be the only person who remembers him, who knows him.
You’ve got to look out for old people in the community, you know. Stuff can happen. We’ve all heard about backlogs of letters and rain bloated newspapers; bottles of neglected silvertop on leaf strewn doorsteps, quietly curdling; a flickering telly behind thin curtains that are always drawn, day and night, night and day, day and night…
You’ve got to keep a weather eye out for those warning signs, those cries for help and attention from the aged citizens.
You don’t want to look out one morning and see an ambulance at number fifty three, green clad paramedics carrying out the desiccated mummy of Mrs Ducundiano who you’ve not seen since August ’08 and who would sometimes give you a coconut macaroon of dubious vintage if you happened to be passing.
The guilt would haunt you, torment you, tighten like a cheap plastic belt on your very soul until you could stand it no longer and you felt compelled to seek out a sympathetic priest to hear your confession as a true earpiece of the Almighty Triumvirate, and berate you, absolve you, cleanse you in the quiet, cool waters of the confessional…
Or you could just watch half of Songs of Praise while you eat your tea.
Same fucking difference.
Anyway, I’m worried about Albert.
I slouch to the toilets, go into the cubicle on the left, drop my trousers, sit down. I don’t know why I bothered dropping my trousers – I need neither a crap or a piss. Force of habit, I suppose. The right thing to do.
I have brought nothing to read. A schoolboy error, you might think, perhaps I’m losing my edge. But wait. I reach behind the cistern, locate glossy paper misted with condensation, and Hey Presto! A copy of Fiesta from around 1987.
It’s not in bad condition, considering it’s resting place in a gent’s lavvy, but there is a little warping to the pages, a light whiff of mildew about it’s puckered leaves.
I slowly thumb through the pages.
I don’t get aroused, you understand. Pornography has come a long way since this particular magazine was first plucked excitedly from the top shelf of a newsagents by a randy punter. Back then, it was quite acceptable to wank like a madman over the knicker section of a Kay’s catalogue. In fact it was actively encouraged.
Pornography was deliciously rare, a product that had to be sought out with considerable effort. If you wanted to see tits and fannies you would have to put on your coat, leave the house, got to a newsagents, make sure the shop was reasonably empty, wander in and peruse the choice of magazines, pretend to consider buying Auto Trader or National Geographic, allow your gaze to wander upwards, discretely ogle the strumpets on display, carefully choose your favourite according to brand loyalty and budgetary constraints, take your sweaty selection to the counter, realise it’s a woman behind the counter, and FLEE! FLEE! ABORT MISSION! drop the magazine behind a stack of Happy Bread and spend your money bitterly on unwanted confectionary under the withering gaze of a thoroughly disapproving propietoress who saw exactly what you had just done with that copy of Razzle.
If you wanted a publication of richer content, something… meatier, then you would be forced into that most bleak and chilling of establishments – the sex shop. For a tenner you could acquire a small, stout publication with a leering European crack whore on the front, sealed in heavy duty polythene.
You could only check the content for strength once you were safe at home, partly because you wouldn’t want to be seen outside Morrison’s desperately wrestling your way into German pornography, and partly because you would need half the sharp utensils in the kitchen to actually pierce the stubborn plastic coating.
It was always, always disappointing. The British editors would have been busy covering all the interesting bits with solid, cock shaped blocks of black ink, veiling all points of contact between Helga and Fritz with maddening diligence. Not that I craved cock, you understand, but as my cock wasn’t getting any action, it was always cheering to know that some cock somewhere was getting a proper sorting out, and that a photographer had been on hand to commemorate the event.
You, with your super fast broadband, your bookmarks of alarmingly specific niche pornography, your instantly erasable internet history…
You don’t know you’re fucking born.
Anyway, back to the toilet, the copy of Fiesta, my concerns for Albert.
I’d read this magazine from cover to cover many times before, was on nodding acquaintance with each girl, Mandy, Trudy, Beryl, Ruby, I knew their strengths and weaknesses, from pert breast to spotty arse, frizzy perm to graceful neck.
We were not lovers; more than that, we were friends.
The stories in the magazine fascinated me.
To think that this era was quite naive, pornographically speaking, they were certainly imaginative. One bloke had written in about how he used to fuck his landlady. She was older than him, and it turned him on when she would flip her legs up, hold his face to her arse and smother him with an immense fart. Another bloke liked to get lads round to the house to shag his wife, and then he’d creep up a ladder outside, peek in the bedroom window and wank over them. I mean, he’s up a ladder. Wanking.
After the girls, my girls, and after the stories of ladder wanking and landlady farting there were the Reader’s Wives.
These creeped me out, and I never lingered. They looked like crime scene photos, toothless crones and pouch-bellied housewives gurning reluctantly for a deluded husband who misguidedly though it a good idea to splay his missus over the pages of a soft core porno mag.
No, no, no.
I would carefully hold this part of the magazine closed, and leaf the edges of the pages past without witnessing the horror.
And now we come to the interesting bit.
A part of the publication called, ‘One for the Ladies’.
This consisted of a single page in the whole magazine devoted to blokes showing us their cocks.
Blurry polaroids of men grinning reluctantly at the camera as the missus decides what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, snapping away at Derek from Doncaster with his tackle flapping around in the living room in front of a three bar fire.
And here he is.
Albert is stood forlornly in his own living room, a popular spot for male exhibitionism, it seems. Better than the front garden, I suppose.
The difference with Albert is, he’s alone. There is no-one on hand to instruct Albert to say ‘cheese’, and he does not say ‘cheese’, he does not smile. Albert stares into the camera lens with a strange intensity, a puzzled, lost expression on his grizzled features. He is, of course, bollock naked; it goes without saying. He is naked, his flaccid penis hanging loosely against his sagging ball-bag, a slight pot belly casting a vague shadow over the aforementioned region.
I know that Albert is alone because he has been forced to use a long stick to operate the camera mechanism, a device he uses with surprising dexterity, but it still seems rather alarming as it looms into shot on the far right of the screen.
Albert is alone, he looks sad and puzzled, he uses a stick to operate a camera to take pictures of his own cock.
If that isn’t a cry for help, I don’t know what is.
Guessing from the age Albert seems to be in the picture, and from the age of the magazine, I reckon Albert is no longer with us.
Albert is almost definitely dead.
Yet, strangely, he lives on.
There he is, staring at me with his funny stick and his sagging genitalia, a sad face and a wall clock forever frozen at one twenty seven.
Like Stonehenge and the great pyramids of Giza, I haven’t got a fucking clue what message Albert wanted to leave behind on those crumpled pages of a popular wank mag, but I hope it’s a comfort to him, wherever he is, that somebody saw him and remembered him.
After all, who will remember me?
Maybe I should crack out the old Olympus Trip and a garden cane and recreate that famous pose, in the hope that, in twenty odd years time someone will stare into the pages of an old magazine, and think, ‘what the fuck was that crazy bastard up to?’
I carefully fold up the copy of Fiesta, slip it behind the cistern, pull up my trousers, and go back to work.
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