Magazine article The Spectator

Homicidal Urges

Magazine article The Spectator

Homicidal Urges

Article excerpt

During the wettest July since records began, I was completely dry. As usual, not drinking made me angry and withdrawn.

As usual, I had homicidal urges and couldn't read. And, as usual, cleaning and polishing was the only way I could distract myself. I cleaned and polished the floors, windows, furniture, tools, ornaments and, of course, the car. Three coats of polish had the bonnet of the car reflecting the blackening sky like a mirror. This afforded me a momentary glimmer of satisfaction.

Later I valeted the car inside and out using old favourite aerosol cosmetic valeting products such as Alloy Bright, Back to Black and Dashboard Shine. My aim was to bring the car up to showroom condition and I was patient and thorough. When I'd finished, however, it looked like nothing more than an 11-year-old car that had been valeted.

It was a pleasant change, though, to drive around in a car that no longer smelt of putrefying banana skins and damp dog. To keep it that way, I barred Joe from the car until further notice. Joe is a collie I'm looking after for an elderly neighbour who is in hospital. He's a quiet, unassuming character, but shockingly unfit and overweight. Going for a walk seems to be a novel experience for him -- as is being continually shouted at by a short-tempered idiot trying to get by without a drink.

For our daily walks I was driving Joe to places where the walking is easy and on the flat. But after the recent deluge, flat ground means standing water. And standing water means mud transferred to the back seat of the car on the way home and more angry shouting from the unhappy man. Now that I'm taking care of my car, we go instead down a steep and overgrown cliff path to the naturist beach, where he does his business, then we come back up. It's a more strenuous walk than Joe's been used to, but he's making progress and no longer collapses in the ferns on the way back.

The beach is what is called a 'permissive' naturist beach. That is to say it is naturist by tradition rather than by decree. There are no signs or fences. The naturists keep to the far side of a traditionally recognised, though undefined, boundary, and those they like to deride as 'textiles' -- that's to say people who prefer to wear clothes -- keep to their side and pretend not to stare. …

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