Slow by Chris Green

I am sitting in my comfy high-backed chair with a nice milky cup of tea and a plate of Waitrose custard creams. I don’t always shop at Waitrose because it is a bit expensive, and anyway, Goodbuy is nearer, but I like to get a few nice things when I can. Molly is nestling against my leg, purring gently. I’ve given her her dinner. Gourmet cod and haddock, she likes, and her saucer of milk. Molly is black and white, in case you were wondering. We are settled for the evening now and we are listening to the snooker on the radio.

Clive Whisper and Dennis O’Donnell are commentating. Dennis’s voice has such a gentle Irish lilt. Like warm buttered toast, it is. You can almost hear the cows in the fields. Dennis is fond of gardening, my magazine says. He has a nice house in Hampshire with a big garden with a shrubbery and herbaceous borders.

My Albert used to like gardening. He would spend hours in his shed sometimes on a warm spring evening looking at his magazines and getting his seeds ready for planting. He knew what to do to make things grow. That’s where Jonathan gets his green fingers from I suppose.

‘Dave’s taking a little time lining up this pink. It must be a good two minutes now, Clive since he potted the last red. ‘

‘He’s having the white cleaned, Dennis. Only a few inches between cue ball and object ball but he doesn’t want to get a ‘kick’. ….. He’s having the pink cleaned. ….. He wants to make sure of the pot. Nothing’s straightforward at this stage.’

‘He’s getting the referee to clean the blue now, Clive. Surely he’s not going to go for the blue.’

‘No, Dennis. I think he is just making sure the blue is clean if he cannons on to it after he has potted the pink. ….. Meticulously chalking the tip of his cue. He’s down for the shot. Pink to bottom right. Gently moving the cue back and forward. Perfect concentration. He does not want to miss this and let his opponent back in. A little right-hand side on the cue ball.’

Someone in the audience is rustling a sweet wrapper, Clive. Earlier we had someone in the audience coughing and now this. This is disgraceful behaviour.’

‘Yes Dennis. Dave’s been distracted. He’s up from the shot. …. Walking round the table again now. ……..’

I thought Jonathon might phone. He can’t be that busy with his aquilegias, or is it pelargoniums that he grows. The Chelsea Flower Show’s not on for another couple of weeks. He knows I look forward to his phonecalls, hearing all the gossip, and news of how the extension is coming along. It doesn’t take much to just pick up the phone. ….. I know I shouldn’t say it but sometimes I wish I’d had a daughter. Mable’s Debbie phones her every night, on the dot at twenty to seven, so that she still has time to put the kettle on in time for Emmerdale.

‘It’s all about concentration, here in these championships. Dave’s having a sip of water now to calm things down …. He’s walking round the table again to have another look at the remaining balls from all the angles.’

Choice of shot, very important these days, Clive.’

‘He’s getting down to cue, what a classic cueing action Dave has, Dennis.’

‘Yes perfect cueing action, Clive. Head down, very straight back, straight backward movement of the cue, fourteen or fifteen little stabs at the ball to line it up. …. ‘

Oh dear. Is that the time? I must have dropped off. I’m as bad as you, Molly. I wonder if we’ve missed anything.

‘No, Dave’s getting up again. He’s looking at the brown. He thinks it might just pass the red near the middle pocket. …… He’s getting the referee to clean the white. Didn’t he just have the white cleaned, Clive?’

‘Yes, he did, Dennis. But there IS a place in the semi-final of the World Championship at stake. You can’t blame Dave for being a bit careful. There’s a lot of pressure on this shot.’

Yes, Clive. He’s only sixty seven points ahead and there are still fifty one left on the table. His opponent only needs three four point snookers to tie the frame.’

He’s getting the referee to clean the brown.’

I am beginning to feel my age. Myrtle is fond of saying, ‘you’re only as old as you feel’, but I can’t get about like I used to. Everything just seems harder these days. I know there’s a lot of talk about Easyjets and mobile phones and the world wide web, but that’s as maybe; to me the world seems to be slowing down.

It does not seem so long ago that Robbie Swift was making maximum 147 breaks in five minutes; now Dave Plodder often takes five minutes over one shot. Since Robbie’s retirement… he was a lovely boy, Robbie. Handsome. Big shock of dark hair. Big brown eyes. Since Robbie retired, snooker has become slower and slower. Dennis and Clive are always talking about the importance of safety shots in the modern game and putting the white behind the green or putting the white behind the yellow or leaving it on the baulk cushion. It seems to me that players don’t take risks anymore. I suppose I can see why people say that it’s dull. …. I’m not surprised really, if I’m honest, that it was replaced by Celebrity Strip Snooker. I don’t want to watch that. Who are they anyway these celebrities? I’ve not even heard of most of them. Armani Love, Sloggi Bragas, Suki Ringtone. What are they famous for? Are they Page Five girls? Call me old fashioned but I think that snooker should be played in black trousers and waistcoats – by men.

Not everyone likes listening to it on the radio, mind you. Myrtle says, ‘what to you want to listen to that for, there’s Going Once, Going Twice or there’s Celebrity Facelift on the TV. Or that programme where they tell you how many bacteria there are behind your deep fat fryer. …. There’s no end of choice these days it seems with satellite or cable. You can watch a live operation or Russian roulette. I think Myrtle was just making a point; I can’t imagine that’s what she watches. And it’s all interactive if you have a red button. You can even phone up now and order films and watch them while you’re having your breakfast. …… I’d like to see Brief Encounter. Probably not at breakfast time. I’d like to see it in the afternoon with a good hanky. Albert and I went to see Brief Encounter at the Roxy when we were courting. I don’t know if I can get satellite or cable, though. I’ll have to ask Jonathan when he phones. And I’ll ask him how I can get a red button. When he’s not too busy with his euphorbias or montbretias.

Still, the snooker on the radio does take my mind off things. I have so much time to think about things these days. And it’s May, and it’s light in the evenings. You can hear the birds singing. May used to always be my favourite time of the year. But it’s not a time to be old. It’s not a time to be on your own. You want to have some company in May. You want to talk to someone and hear someone’s voice. It’s not much, but I do like Dennis’s voice. And Clive’s of course. Clive reminds me of John Le Mesurier. Of course John le Mesurier is dead now isn’t he, and Richard Attenborough.

With summer coming, at least I have the test cricket on Teletext to look forward to. I’m glad you don’t need a red button to get Teletext. Cricket, I expect you can remember, was taken off the television after the low over rate fiasco in the Ashes series. Thousands of complaints, there were from people waiting to see Property Ladder. It must have been two years ago now. How time flies.

But that’s just the point. Time doesn’t fly, that’s just what they say. Time actually crawls. It’s no fun getting old, I can tell you.

I remember when my Albert was still alive and we used to watch the cricket together. Albert was a member of the MCC, you know. He used to play for Godmanchester in the league, before his accident. Used to bowl ganglies, or perhaps it was googlies. He took me to Lords once or twice, but it always seemed to rain, and there was one time he got too drunk to drive us back and we had to call Derek. Albert liked a drink. He was never nasty drunk, though, he just used to fool around a bit and make silly promises. And he would always apologise the next day. He was a good man, my Albert.

There were some thrilling matches when it was on the telly. The one I remember the best was the one where Geoffrey Firstblood got 342 for England and Dwayne Bwana scored 350 for the West Indies in their innings. You don’t get scores like that anymore. Fred Bowler hit the winning run off the last ball

Of course, I’ve got my Origami classes at the Community Centre in Geoff Hamilton Street on Fridays. Free, they are, because I’m over seventy five. I have been practicing my swivel folds and double rabbit folds by cutting up all my old Radio Times. ‘You shouldn’t have done that’, says Gladys. ‘They would have been worth something one day.’

Not in my lifetime,’ I tell her.

I am driving to the class now in my safe little Kia. Jonathon got it for me last time he was down. Just after Christmas, it was. He had to rush off, though. Lesley was having a dinner party and he had to arrange the drinks. Got him under the thumb she has, and those short skirts she wears. More like belts, they are. And at her age. Doesn’t she think to look in the mirror? Mutton dressed as lamb, I say. Jonathon should have married someone who could have children, that’s the truth of the matter.

I’m moving slowly along Alan Titchmarsh Avenue. They have put in three different types of speed bumps over the last few weeks, with white lines and yellow lines and yellow criss crosses and dotted white lines and red boxes and an interesting selection of what Hannah in my hairdressers tells me is referred to as traffic furniture. They do nails and tanning as well now at my hairdressers, but I think I’m too old for all that. l just go for my perm. Anyway, back to the road. There are peach coloured sections of that rough road service that makes you think you have a puncture. Rumble strips, are they called? Every few yards there are signs saying 20. How on earth do they think you could get anywhere near 20 miles per hour on this stretch of road without putting your back out? Several hundred thousand pounds, Gerald said it cost. I asked him if it came out of my council tax. He was not sure. Gerald, bless him, is not sure of a lot of things, but he is eighty two. I’m only seventy six and I have my senior moments. I don’t think I pay council tax.

And to impede progress further, there are yellow and black ramps and a chicane with black and white hooped bollards. And they’ve put in a red cycle track along the pavement. Not that anyone ever uses it. Too windy these days, I expect what with the climate change. I don’t know how they come up with these ideas. The road looks like an overgrown licquorice allsort. And then there are temporary traffic lights where they are narrowing the road at the approach to the Diarmuid Gavin Road junction. These seem to be permanently on red.

I am on Diarmuid Gavin Road now. They seem to be narrowing the road here too. There are hundreds of red and white cones and they have put in temporary traffic lights. These are on red.

I have switched the car radio on. I didn’t realise I had a radio. I thought it was the heater. Jonathan never was one for explaining things. And it’s already tuned in to the snooker. I wonder how I turn the heater off. It is rather warm in here.

Dave doesn’t seem to want to go for the pot on the green, Clive. He’s going for safety. He’s looking to put the white ball firmly behind the black.’

‘He’s not played it hard enough, Dennis. It’s not going to reach.’

'That's the second time in this frame that he's ended up short, Clive. Do you think the table's playing a little slow?'

© Chris Green 2015: All rights reserved



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