We'll pull your socks up for pounds 50


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The Independent Online

PERHAPS I should explain why the new announcement on my answering-machine says: 'Hallo, Chelsea Drugs. Please state your requirements after the bleep.'

Some of you have got the wrong end of the stick entirely, though I ought to explain that Terence Blacker, having been engaged to sing 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon' at the Lone Star Restaurant in the Gloucester Road, only wanted some 'Do-Dos' to keep him awake till midnight. For others, it merely confirmed what most of you had already twigged: that as between Mrs Matthews, 95 and in denial, and Simon Holiday, it was no contest as to which should be my partner as a television watchdog.

That said, I reached a decision myself only after Holiday - about whom I've had my doubts since he started sending his latest photographs to women on 12-step programmes like himself - grew tired of being treated abominably by Amy Jenkins, his beloved, and chose instead to be treated by a distinguished counsellor to drunks.

I tried to talk him out of it, of course. Being a naval man myself - accustomed to shipping it green at 90ft and, on manoeuvres, removing my own appendix with an oyster fork - I tend to give short shrift to chaps on programmes, advising them instead to inflate the chest and walk with their toes turned out.

'Pull your socks up,' I said. 'He'll pop you in a clinic and one, in all likelihood, practising the sinister Minnesota Method,' but Holiday would not be told. I'll not see him again, I thought, but he returned, with his tail wagging, after an hour or two.

This was embarrassing, since I'd already told Mrs Matthews to have some photographs taken ('Good news, Holiday's been carted off to a clinic, so you're on the firm after all'), but I blew her out ('As you were. Cancel the photographs, you're off the firm') and asked Holiday what had happened.

'It was brilliant,' he said. 'I had to fill in a 10-page questionnaire, thereafter achieving a record score under Obsessional Characteristics. Then he charged me pounds 50.'

'That's fair. But what treatment did he suggest?'

'He told me to pull my socks up.'

I was thunderstruck, but within seconds realised that here was a second string to our bow. As well as being independent watchdogs we could open a clinic ourselves, relieving the seriously confused of pounds 50 and telling them to pull their socks up - the two enterprises blending perfectly since our patients, once they had been thoroughly disorientated (in accordance with the Minnesota Method) by sensory deprivation techniques acquired by myself while seconded to the SBS, would divulge their secrets (not least the names of the street fiends who'd been supplying them), later enabling us to hold the latter up to ridicule in a prime-time slot.

I know, you think I'm irresponsible, but you're wrong. Winchester, Magdalene and Broadway Lodge, that's my background, so don't tell me about the Minnesota Method (though I stress that I attended the latter institution not as a patient but as a co-dependant, being inveigled, as a 'significant other', on to three-day programmes, in the course of which wild-eyed Christian counsellors told us we were in it up to here; more deeply in it, as it happened, than our various beloveds in their care).

Accordingly, I have altered the announcement on my answering-machine and turned my flat into a clinic, with myself as the hard man, in charge of humiliation, and with Holiday as the soft one, offering our patients a kind word and a cup of tea, after I've broken them into little pieces.

The problem is that Holiday forgets the tea and sympathy and instead hands round his photographs. Never mind. I play my part brilliantly, though Holiday disputes this, confronting our patients with parade-ground insults from the moment they arrive.

'Right]' I bellow, my nose an inch from theirs. 'Are you carrying, by any chance?'

'No]' they squeak, aiming at indignation, but achieving only a rat-like terror.

At which point, Holiday rebukes me. 'You shouldn't do that,' he says.

'No harm in asking,' I say, indeed I've twice got lucky.

Then I have them on their hands and knees, scrubbing the bath and polishing the kitchen floor, after which Holiday offers round his photographs. 'No thanks,' they say, 'we'd rather clean the kitchen floor again' - the most enthusiastic in this regard being a nice young man who, for two hours on Tuesday, crawled around on all fours and then admitted that he was merely an admirer of Root into Europe and had come all the way from Cornwall to get my autograph.

We're coining it, and my flat hasn't looked as good in years. Plus, I have the name of a front-line fiend in Ladbroke Grove whom I'll film next week in fuzzy focus - after I've had lunch, that is, with a prissy type from Conde Nast, who, if you please, wishes me to become restaurant critic on one of their glossy monthlies. Things are looking up.