Magazine article The Spectator

Expert Advice

Magazine article The Spectator

Expert Advice

Article excerpt

Low life

My sister's run off with the gas man. Left her husband and everything. I was introduced last week. Ron's father used to whip him with a stick, even whilst driving the car, he says, but thinks it hasn't done him any harm. Apart from sleeping with my sister, Ron says his main passions are cycling and drinking beer.

During our conversation, Ron discerned that all was not entirely well with me at the moment. My problem, basically, is that the course of true love has in my case failed to run true and I'm on tablets. What I needed, said Ron, apparently something of an expert in these matters, was to get out of the house and shag someone else. And to get my rehabilitation programme started, he suggested I work as his plumber's mate for a week or two.

Next morning I was standing on the corner at 8.30, waiting for him to pick me up in his van. As I waited, about 150 school-- girls walked past me. I must have fallen in love with about 135 of them. Fourteen- and 15-year-old girls, plus certain species of African antelope, must be God's greatest aesthetic triumph, in my opinion. Those bare bruised adolescent legs do it for me every time. And nobody, it seems, not even a politician, has such an instinctive understanding of the true lineaments of power as they have. You can see it in their absolute contempt for everyone else. A nubilocracy of 14- and 15-year-old schoolgirls should be running the country in my opinion, especially as we are about to go to war with Saddam again. I'd certainly vote for them.

Our first job was for a Mrs Goodfellow, an elderly widow living in a bungalow on top of a hill. Mrs Goodfellow wore a luxuriant wig. She and her wig disappeared into the sitting room to watch Trisha, while Ron and I disconnected the gas boiler from her kitchen wall, put up the new one and reconnected the pipework.

Ron showed me how to sever a copper pipe with a C-shaped pipe-cutting gadget and told me to cut one of the pipes leading to the boiler. Though I cut it successfully, unfortunately we'd forgotten to shut off the gas supply and Mrs Goodfellow's small bungalow was instantly filled with pungent fumes. She came trotting out of the sittingroom, wig slightly awry, and said, 'I can smell gas! …

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