So, I’m heading home from work, wandering down the darkened North End Road, minding my own business, absentmindedly choosing a piece of music to listen to when, before I’ve even registered it’s happening, two motorbikes have steamed off the road onto the pavement and are hurtling towards me or, for fuck’s sake I think as it begins to dawn, at me. A punch is landed and the fist returns to make a grab for my ipod.
Of course, what these two-bit thieves on their second-rate motorbikes couldn’t possibly have known is that this particular piece of techno-chicery was a 40th birthday present and is loaded not just with music, but with memories of a weekend spent celebrating that landmark occasion. And there’s no way I’d give it up that easily. Needless to say the bike-raiders sped off empty handed.
I did my civic duty, of course, and called the cops, and spent half an hour sitting in the back of a police car on the side of the road recounting the incident with as much attention to detail as I could muster. But we all know that memory is a deceitful little thing, and twenty eye-witnesses’ll give you twenty different versions of an event so I really don’t expect those boys or girls in blue to get anywhere with this one.
When we finished with the serious stuff, one of the officers asked the final question on his checklist: ‘And have you been a victim of any other crime in the past twelve months?’
‘Well,’ I said. ‘There is that pay freeze.’
Oh how we laughed.
“… with Cathy and Heathcliff, you can’t empathise
They’re selfish and nasty, they cheat and they lie.”
“But they love with a passion, you don’t need to approve
Or to like or respect them, but fail to be moved?”
“I’m with Claire, I don’t like it at all
The characters are hateful, the story is dull.”
“And what’s with that Nelly, interfering old hag,
A gossip, a stirrer, a nosy old nag.”
“Are you crazy, or blind? This is love on grand scale,
Consuming and flaming, not sickly and pale.
How can you not like it? It’s raw and blood red
Besides,” she leaned forward, “Heathcliff’d be great in bed.”
“No!” Claire replied. “He’d be violent and mean,”
“That’s as may be, but he’d sure make you scream.”
Valerie downed her lager and smiled,
“The prose is laborious, the characters vile.”
“But remember Heathcliff, Cathy dead in his hold
His pain and his anguish, relentless and bold
Remember his plea, his piteous howl,
‘How can I live sans my life, live sans my soul?’
You’re right he is vicious, more devil than man,
And she is deceitful, a cowardly sham
And they are abhorrent and twisted and cruel
But they are in love! And this love makes them cruel.”
Valerie raised her eyebrows and said,
“I’d just rather read a good book instead.”
“Now Jane Eyre,” said Claire, “that one was good.
With characters who love, but behave like they should.
Jane I believe in. Jane I can like.
She is meek but with strength, and she does what is right.”
“Now don’t get me wrong here, I love the book too
But does what is right? Are you crazy? A fool?
She says that she loves him, yet she leaves him alone
To suffer his mistake, to pay on his own.
Okay, so she’s selfless, and honest and kind
But these virtues mislead her; her faith makes her blind
So he’s already married, a hurdle for sure
But, truly, he loves her, still she walks out that door.
Though in th’ end he’s redeemed, and happ’ly they live,
For leaving that day, Jane I’d never forgive.”
“I didn’t think much of Emma, either,” said Val
“Or that Sense and whatever, also banal.”
“Fuck’s sake, I can’t hear this! Are you crazy, unhinged?”
“Just saying I didn’t like them. Guess they’re just not my thing.”
“Please, please tell me that you like P and P.”
“Sorry. Not really. It just wasn’t me.”
Claire laughed and said, “I thought it was cool,
Especially that bit where Darcy dives in the pool!”
A fist hits the table, legs wobble and shake
“Fucking unbelievable, for sacrilege sake.”
“Rebecca, I loved. No, really. No joke.”
Said Claire as she sipped at her vodka and Coke.
“I feel for the heroine. Her doubts and her fears
I’ve shared now and then, in the passing of years.”
“But Mrs de Winter, she’s mousy and dull.
Now Rebecca’s a woman to plague someone’s soul.”
Time had been called; the bar had been cleared,
Except for the table where these musings were heard
“And your lovers,” asked Claire, “are they likeable folk?”
“Not nice exactly, but intriguing I hope.
Really and truly, they’re a cowardly pair,
One won’t fight, the other doesn’t fight fair.”
“I like it,” said Val, “it’s a credible read.”
Said the barman, “Night ladies. Time to leave.”