The Oslers, I’ve noticed, are keen joggers – usually setting out around seven p.m. and returning an hour or so later. Steven, invariably, starts the stronger, but is trailing by the time they return – on reflection, this seems fairly typical of the man.
Pauline has set up a Facebook page for the Hawthorne Crescent Book Group. I thought it best to contact Christine who saw fit, after all, to ignore my reservations and introduce Pauline in the first place. “For goodness sake, Hamilton,” she snapped, irritated by the fact that I‘d interrupted a meeting by inferring a ‘family problem’ “It’s just a bit of fun!”
As a favour to my sister, I invited Mark Gavigan – one of her clients and, in Christine’s words, ‘a real Western buff’ – to participate in tonight’s show, a tribute to the films of Sam Peckinpah. Arriving ten minutes late and already unsteady on his feet, Gavigan embarked on a long, incoherent explanation – on air – throughout which he made frequent use of the ‘f’ word. At this juncture, at least, he was still affable. As the show continued, he became increasingly rancorous, at one point demanding an explanation as to why I ‘kept banging on about Sam fucking Peckinpah.’
Spencer and I watched the Omega Man. I can’t help but feel sorry for Charlton Heston. Even his once fabled physique seems inadequate – as he pulls off his shirt to display an expanse of vaguely defined midriff, he resembles nothing so much as a father who persistently embarrasses his children in public.
Since introducing Jackson to the table tennis club, I’ve had to warn him about gamesmanship on four separate occasions. Team Drumfeld has written rules that specifically forbid offences involving goading or distraction of opponents. Over-celebration is also discouraged. Although there are no written guidelines on winning gracefully, common sense should suffice: a ‘high five’ exchanged with a doubles’ partner is acceptable; a fist belligerently pumped in the direction of a vanquished opponent, Jackson’s customary gesture of triumph, is not.
Spent the morning reading some of Anne-Marie’s poems. They seem very accomplished – sensitive without being cloyingly so and illuminated by flashes of insight. In ‘Mission Statement’, for example, a cat sits on the window ledge, staring back at the narrator with an expression of ‘insolence and regret’. This, I assume, is a metaphor for friendships lost and opportunities squandered. Later, in the same poem, she follows ‘a shadowed path, leaving parts of myself in its puddles.’ Is this, I wonder, the path that led to Steven?
Tonight’s book group was at Christine’s. A pointless and rancorous exchange about Celine’s ‘Death on Credit’ – my suggested novel – which nobody else had bothered to finish. Pauline, in fact, confessed – apparently without embarrassment – that she hadn’t even started, an admission I thought should have invalidated her presence at the meeting. The evening might have been wasted were it not for Izzie’s revelation that she went to school with Anne-Marie Osler. “We weren’t particular friends, but she was nice,” she said. “Jessica keeps up with her – she writes poetry…”
To Gartmore where I addressed the local historical society on the subject of Haunted Houses – focusing on Ballechin House and Glamis Castle. An attentive and agreeable audience with the exception of a sickly looking character – prominently seated – who coughed throughout, his complexion (already ruddy) turning an increasingly dangerous shade of puce. At one point, completely distracted, I referred to the door between this world and the next, adding that “some of us are already half-way through.” On reflection, this was poorly judged and the rapport I’d enjoyed with the audience started to dwindle – a process of alienation that culminated in an ill-tempered Q and A.
Later, as I waited for Christine to pick me up, I noticed the invalid smoking a cigarette and expectorating a strand of sputum into a drain.
My new neighbours have finally moved into Number 12 – the Oslers: Anne-Marie seems agreeable but I was less fussed about Steven who appeared five minutes into our conversation and, on being introduced, demanded, “So what do you do?” As I offered a precis of my employment history, he stared at me with a strange expression that might have indicated belligerence or incredulity – before I could finish, he turned to Anne-Marie, grimaced and disappeared into the kitchen. I think that he was trying to be humorous in the genially blunt manner adopted by boors and numbskulls, though it occurred to me later that he might have incurred an injury in the process of moving – solvent exposure, for example, or a blow to the head.