The ugly truth about my inner self

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The Independent Culture
A WOMAN, Ms A, wrote to me the other day - a woman with mad, staring handwriting - to say that she'd like to go to bed with me, and where did I get my ideas?

More to the point, I'd have thought, would be to enquire where she got her ideas. Probably from the same reptilian part of the brain which listens to trance music not at gunpoint, plays the National Lottery, believes that Richard Branston, the inexplicable rock 'n' pickle king, is a damn fine balloonist, and regards New Labour as a breath of fresh air.

But wherever she gets them, this one isn't going to work. Bed, for a start, is a worry. I am frightened of Catching Something; desperate melancholy, most probably, hunched keening under the bedclothes with a Cadbury's Creme Egg, dreeing my feeble weird, fearfully contemplating suicide, not as a dramatic gesture of self-ending but simply because I couldn't be bothered not to.

My ideas are a different matter altogether. They are my stock-in-trade. Does she really expect me to give away my secrets? Were I to do so, she could horn in, take over my life and reap the benefits: the deadlines, the lies and excuses, the miserable runny-nosed officials who Disapprove, the doomed incompetence with money, the perennial chaos of disorganisation. Well, hell. She's welcome to it all. So...

How I get my ideas is simple. I am a tender, sensitive, warm-hearted, white, liberal humanitarian with the misfortune to have a drunken bigoted bastard living in my head. I have never seen him, but I know he is there and if I ever bump into him I shall recognise him at once. The red face. The bulging, watery eyes. The cheap suit, greasy tie and Hawaiian shirt, freely splashed with nasty stains. He has yellow teeth, cracked sunglasses, a pork-pie hat and a rusty, rasping voice. His two chief characteristics are gullibility and rage, which nourish each other in a terrible symbiosis. His name? I am not sure; it varies: sometimes Oscar, sometimes Lars; Dave on bad days; and periodically, on matters of politics or theology, he reveals himself in his full, florid majesty: H Pedgrift Abrawang Esq, MA (Bootle). But he is always a curse. He believes everything he reads in the papers, and despises it all. His range of contempt is breathtaking: the Tamil separatists, surrogate mothers, Anglican clergymen, charity workers, skin cancer, poetry, holidaymakers, drug counsellors, the Civil Aviation Authority, victims of sexual harassment, merchant bankers, viruses, Arabian city- states, the Space Shuttle, computers, the weather forecast, the weather, peace talks, Cezanne, football, universal suffrage, ghost writers, regional accents, virology, syncopation, credit cards, youths, pharmacists, paella and Staten Island. Do you see a pattern, a linking thread? No. There is no link. They belong to one of the two classes of thing the mere mention of which is enough to throw him into a heaving, bulging rage: phenomena and postulates. Anything which exists or which could exist: that is all it takes. He's off, roaring, like a man who's drunk, like a man who's been freebasing, like a man who's drunk and smashed and is now smoking toad, as a top-up.

His versatility is astonishing. He can hold any number of mutually contradictory ideas at the same time, and change his deepest convictions in a nanosecond; yet the expression of this remarkable intellectual dexterity is confined to coarse bellows of vulgar abuse. In the Seventies, he kept me awake at night deriding the outdated concept of State ownership ("Pack of arseholes"), yet when, in the Eighties, privatisation became the new orthodoxy, my sleep was shattered by his hoarse cries of contempt ("Pack of arseholes").

He is given to sentiment and emotional lability. In a doorway in Theobalds Road, a tramp slept for months, a heap of inertia cocooned in filthy rags, never moving, refusing charity: a creature whose horizons appeared to have contracted to the next breath or heartbeat. H Pedgrift Abrawang indulged in jejune and maudlin animadversions about this man, blaming his plight on Redwood, Portillo and similar cheesy, sclerotic wearers of Thomas Pink shirts; when he vanished in the cold spell a few weeks ago, presumably dead and cleared off the streets by some self-financing agency contracted under the soaraway "Next Steps" initiative, H Pedgrift Abrawang wept in the street. But when a notice appeared above his doorway - "Another unknown victim of the Government" - HP flew into a snarling frenzy of scholastic logic-chopping. "Victim?" he roared at me. "Nonsense. Casualty, yes; victim, no. As for blaming the Government..." and could only be stopped by a trip to the pictures to see Babe; after a brief complaint ("Why the hell didn't they come clean and call it Pig, for God's sake?") he shut up, to reappear as Oscar, in Whimsical Junkie mood. ("Like, imagine if background music were real, man? Like it existed. In actual life. Imagine if we all had a backing track as we walked around! Wow!")

When shrinks and therapists maunder on about Inner Life, I sometimes wonder if they have a clue. Does everyone have an internal bore? Do we all have to endure this insane, grumpy, babbling narrative, words without end? Or is it just me, as a punishment? It's not a question you can really ask, or they'd declare you insane and lock you up. But sometimes I'd like a little sympathy; it's hard living with a cerebellar squatter who can't even watch television without lashing himself into a frenzy about the Waaaaaaaaaaaa, Bodyfo-orm! advertisement, not because it's on, but because it might come on, and who can't even get dressed in the morning without some morose and mean-spirited comment about the very concept of trousers.

So, Ms A, now you know. If you still fancy a bit of the other, well, I don't mind giving it a whirl. But remember: when I say "How was it for you?" it won't be you I'm talking to. !

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