Sunday, May 16, 1999

`I've started following sad foreign women. I'm not a stalker - I just love their exquisite erotolachrymalia'

There's an idea. Out there. I haven't got it. I did have it. But now it's gone. That's how it's been all week for me - and actually for longer than that. You see, I was going to tell you about a problem I've got with a friend who is dying. The problem is that I have started to fancy her. But only because she is dying. So what? Well, I've also started to fancy another stricken girl I talked to on the same ward. Without being particularly attractive in a Mercutio Banadzani kind of way, both have infinitely more allure than all the non- terminal bints in the world. In short, I have become a moribunderast. So I was going to tell you that, but I couldn't remember why.

Then I was going to tell you about my habit of following sad-looking foreign women on the Tube. I don't bother them, you understand. I just stay on the train for as long as they do so I can bathe in the exquisite tragedy of their remote erotolachrymalia. Does that make me sound like a stalker? I don't think so, but I realise that if I go on about it you will think - she doth protest too much, La Geefe. So instead I will tell you about how much difficulty I have had getting up in the morning.

I've become a past master at shaving time off my day. We all procrastinate most of the time. How else do you contrive to stay in a relationship for 10 weeks longer than you should? How else did Nato manage to pick the worst possible moment for action? How else do writers like Allison Pearson, India Knight and Julie Burchill produce such witless tripe except by waiting till the last possible moment before they drivel out their columns? All right, one of Melvyn Bragg's berk psychologists will probably argue that procrastination is a valuable facet of the human mind, perfectly evolved to some arcane end. But no one can persuade me that staying in bed all day is a good thing. If you've done it (and you're not ill), I flop my Homburg to you. It's an achievement - albeit a bloody depressing one.

The shock of realising you've done it two days in a row is actually scary. You have to do something to break the cycle. I phoned a friend and asked if I could work at his office. Next morning I set off on foot at a respectable 11.30. What exactly happened next I can only partly recall.

I remember feeling drowsy and deciding I needed a coffee. In the absence of an honest Italian café that wouldn't try and fob you off with a cappuccino made with filter coffee, I entered a shopping mall. American strongbean and cardboard franchises may be less welcome than chillis up your pisser, but they do use espresso and so strong you can't taste the toxic waste. To the exquisitely nasty soundtrack of Tears for Fears' `Sowing the Seeds of Love' (a band for whom I played keyboards in a shameful but well-paid lapse in the Eighties), I browsed around the plaza. As the dead hits tape broached the section in the song that is ripped off from so many other tunes it can destroy your love of music in one hearing, I stumbled into the glass-fronted cliffs of the Coffee Colony.

Now it's all very well charging £1.80 for a cup of coffee but when will someone spend less time dreaming up the perfect combination of halogen light and stainless steel, and more on the taste? You may have the perfect Skimmy Frap Precaff Enormo charmingly served by a foreign teenager but do we need the chocolate on top to be made out of plastic? The stuff smells like polystyrene sprue under heat stress. (Boys: remember Airfix kits - wiggling and waggling and sniffing the frames?) And does it need to be served in cardboard? The whole point of espresso-based coffees is to drink them out of chunky little miniature toilets that make you feel like you're sipping with a punched lip. And who, please, needs to be told that the contents of the cup are hot? Anyone with a shred of common sense, let alone a basic education in physics, could tell you that after you've seen steam channelled fiercely through milk for a minute the stuff might have a few celsius to spare. Don't people learn physics now?

For fuck's sake and come on! Our physics teacher may have blathered on about the regulator on his dynamo failing and his headlights blowing up (we were doing solenoids) but, Christ, we came away with firm views on heat transfer. Sure, sure, the engine's snore went four four but don't you send me to see your mummo in that dark room where the drunken shit unclimbs his podgy little conquests with a dagger pooh whoo good morning sir.

Now here comes the bit I'm not so sure of… although I remember ordering the coffee, I have no idea whether I drank it. The next thing I can clearly recall is getting out of a bus feeling sick, and staring hard at a reflection of myself in an oily puddle. At some point, I may have felt a pang of protective sympathy towards Sinéad O'Connor, but the rest is a mystery. God knows why I'm telling you when I haven't told a single friend, let alone a doctor. And the truth is that the more I write, the more I feel like I did when I was telling a friend how I was bottling all my bodily produce and storing it in a freezer and I suddenly realised that I should stop.


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