Magazine article The Spectator

It's Sick

Magazine article The Spectator

It's Sick

Article excerpt

Low life It's sick

Jeremy Clarke

I was standing in my Mum's kitchen last week when I coughed. I coughed so violently that I retched, and the retch set off waves of nausea. I held out as long as I could, but was overwhelmed and vomited into the kitchen sink. I was sick three times then felt fine again. I then had the problem of what to do with the mess in the sink. We'd had tuna fishcakes for lunch, which I'd wolfed down in a hurry as usual, and the lumps were too large to slip through the little circular sieve thing in the plug hole. So I ladled them into a saucepan with a wooden spoon. Not as easy as it sounds, this, as they were slippery with digestive juices.

I thought I was unobserved. But my Uncle Reg had been watching me through the kitchen window. Uncle Reg, a sort of sawn-off Hemingway, has lived abroad, in Kenya, for many years, but has had to return to the land of his birth to undergo a complicated surgical procedure on his brain. The surgeon should simply have removed the entire brain and had done with it. The effect on his behaviour would have been negligible and might even have proved beneficial. And the simpler procedure would have cost our country less. But the doctors have made their minute adjustment, and inexplicably, given that Reg is as boring and opinionated as before, the operation has been pronounced a success.

Ex-army officer Reg has visited England just once, for a month, in the last ten years. And he's constantly been banging on about how this country has gone to the dogs and how he can't wait to get away again. He can't leave, unfortunately, until the consultant examines his head and gives him the all-clear. The main indicators of this decline Reg cites as rising levels of crime, immigration and drug abuse, and the poor state of the railways. The root cause of this decline, he says, is the new sexual permissiveness and absence of moral absolutes.

Reg likes a cheap cigar. Apart from Liquorice Allsorts, they are his only public vice. He's not allowed to smoke in the house so he strolls in the garden to smoke. The garden is divided into four parts by high ancient walls. On his second afternoon, a warm one, he came across my sister and her new boyfriend lying naked under the old apple tree. I understand they were embracing. …

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