On Sunday, for the first time since the fifteenth of December last year, there was no postage at Hooting Yard. So yesterday, when I leapt out of bed at 5.15, and went to the ablutions pod to submerge my head in icy water, I wondered if I should proffer an apology to my readers for this dereliction. But when I reflected â€“ head still submerged â€“ on the unexpectedly trying day I’d had, it seemed clear to me that far from apologising, it would be more appropriate to whimper in a bid for sympathy. What promised to be an average April Sunday became a nightmare of mishaps, catastrophes, and disasters which left me with no opportunity whatsoever to tap gubbins into this blog.
First of all, before I lifted my head out of the bucket, I was reaching blindly for my towel and inadvertently knocked over a jar of grease, the lid of which had not been fastened properly, with the result that some of the grease spilled on to the floor and formed a small puddle, in which Skippy slipped as he came bounding and barking into the ablutions pod, as he usually does when he senses that I am up and about, ravenous as he is for his bowl of reconstituted meat chunks in jelly, and in slipping, Skippy, huge of bulk, bashed right into my bucket, which clonked me on the side of my head, and more specifically on my ear, before falling over so that the icy water it held sploshed all over the floor, some of it dripping through slits in the planks on to the wiring beneath, causing a short circuit which knocked out all the electrical power not only in my hub but in the entire building. There are reasons, I think, why wiring is tucked away behind wainscots and floorboards and walls, partly because it is inherently dangerous and partly because it makes sense to keep it hidden from people like me, who have no understanding of it whatsoever but who might be tempted to fiddle with it, as a way of passing the time.
Even though I was temporarily deaf in one ear and my head was soaking wet, I resolved to dislodge one of the planks so I could, with my towel, dab at the wet wiring and dry it off, not realising, in my ignorance, that this would not restore the power supply. Nor did it occur to me that I would receive an electric shock that would knock me down dead. Luckily, before I had extracted sufficient nails from the plank to lift it clear and thus have revealed to me in all its complexity and dazzle the underfloor wiring system, two things happened. Skippy leapt upon me growling his happy but hungry growl, flattening me beneath him, and there came an insistent thumping at my door. I wrestled with Skippy, trying to throw him off, but he was as a limpet, so I forced myself across the floor in a sort of serpentine wriggle, like one of those creatures carrying a Biblical curse, although in my case it was a giant slobbering hound.
Before I reached the door, however, it had been kicked in by one of those thumping upon it. Now, in my hallway, under a cur, I was confronted by a combination of enraged neighbours, who blamed me for the power outage, and a pair of uniformed goons from the electricity police. It was these latter brutes who had kicked the door down. One of them now grabbed hold of Skippy and, with main force, threw him at the wall, which, being of plaster, and weak, collapsed. As I choked on dust, I was bundled out by the other copper, shoved down the stairs and into the street and into the back of a van, the doors of which were slammed and locked behind me.
I wasn’t too worried about Skippy, who was massive and savage enough to look after himself. But I wondered at my own predicament, which might prove perilous. The electricity police had a fearsome reputation, and not without reason. I lay on the floor of the van as it sped clanging through the deserted Sunday morning streets, consoling myself with the thought that at least I was not in the hands of the gas police, who, as rumour had it, were much, much worse.
Funnily enough, it had once been my ambition to join the gas police. Unfortunately, I failed all the entrance tests, due to myopia and ignorance of gas, and instead I ended up, as you know, tapping drivel into a blog. It was this thought that made me panic, in the back of the van, still clutching my towel, parts of my head still wet and the hearing only imperfectly returned to one ear. If I was going to be taken away somewhere by the electricity police, how was I going to do my daily Hooting Yard update? I hammered on the partition between my cage and the driver’s nest, or whatever it’s called. This was a mistake. The van screeched and bumped and came to rest. I waited for the back doors to open and for one of the coppers to come and rough me up. Instead, there was only an eerie stillness and silence.
I remained trapped in the back of the van for hours and hours, until after nightfall, until Sunday had become Monday. During that time I suffered hallucinations, or possibly even real occurrences, involving electricity and gas and rent anomalies and zombies and vampires and crustaceans and talking sparrows and ethereal shimmerings and large boiling ovens and beings with tails that thumped the ground as they skittered and voodoo hobgoblins and starched Nazi boffins and crazy paving and things with suckers and tendrils and globular appendages and wrinkled crones and, oh, all sorts of stuff, either in the back of the van or up in the air or in a gloomy cellar or out in a field menaced by machine-gunning crop duster planes. What did I imagine and what really happened? I don’t know, nor do I know if the whole thing was set up by the electricity police or if they were the victims, for Lars and Tad, the two who had dragged me from my flat, were bulldozed into brimming pits at around four-thirty in the afternoon.
As I said, it was a trying day, and by the time I got home, via the hospital helicopter, it was the small hours of Monday morning. Skippy was asleep in plaster-dust, dreaming the dreams dogs dream, so I put out a bowl of reconstituted meat chunks in jelly ready for him when he awoke, and I retired to my pallet, wondering at the fresh tattoo of a stylised chaffinch which had appeared on my ankle, and what it meant, and what it portended for my future. When I find out, I will let you know.