bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

Billy And My Monotone Brothers

Dear Rachel

I was returning to London last week, having spent a couple of days tending to our commercial interests in the provinces, when I found myself considering the Essex countryside from the window of an inter city train.  While doing so, the following forgotten rhyme from my childhood suddenly unforgot itself and came to mind, as the greenery between Manningtree and Colchester tumbled by:

My friend Billy had a ten foot willy,
He showed it to the lady next door,
She thought it was a snake,
And hit it with a rake,
And now it’s only four foot four.

While I’m sure that none of the above is based upon actual events, I do have a friend called Billy – he sells handpainted Jerusalem pottery at Greenwich Market – and he can’t be much more than four foot four tall, being the shortest man in casual retail.   He lives in a flat in Tufnell Park, and although there is a lady living next door to him, neither of them have a garden and she is therefore unlikely to own a rake, or indeed gardening implements of any kind.  Whether she needs to chill out a bit, as the lady in the rhyme would appear to, I suspect we will never know for sure.

I think my favourite bit of ‘My Friend Billy’ is the informal manner implied by the ‘He showed it to the lady next door’ lyric.   It suggests that it was just something he remembered in a conversation about something else, as if they were talking over the garden fence one afternoon and he suddenly said ‘I’ve got a parcel for you from Littlewoods, I think it’s that pac-a-mac you ordered.  Oh, and that’s what I meant to tell you – have a look at this’.   It was this that made me chuckle slightly to myself at the same moment that a lady with a tea trolley and a quizzical expression rattled to a halt beside me.   I doubted that explaining why I was larfing to myself would result in anything other than my ejection from the train at Colchester, and considered commenting on her apron which had creased in such a way that it appeared to have the word ‘Judas’ embroidered across it in large yellow capitals, in order to qualify my unsolicited mirth.  It didn’t actually say ‘Judas’, of course – as someone who knows a thing or two about writing stuff on aprons, I consider that such a garment would be unlikely to either engender team spirit among colleagues or endear the wearer to the general public – I think it was ‘Just something something daily something something us’.  By this point, however, I was even starting to weird myself out, so I prudently decided to let the matter drop.

Unless there are very special circumstances, I will only travel First Class on trains.   It’s usually silent and I almost always have an entire table to myself, which is an excellent opportunity to catch up with reading.   To this end, I fish my book out of my bag, place it on the table, make myself comfortable – sometimes in a little nest made of jumpers, in the winter months – arrange my coffee and Welshcakes, pick up my book again, find the correct page, settle myself down, prepare to read, and then stare out of the window for the remainder of the journey.    If you’re planning to do this, you might at first consider avoiding the part of the carriage nearest the buffet car where on most trains there is a disabled enclosure.    I once spent a couple of hours trying to concentrate upon David Shipman’s biography of Judy Garland to an aural backdrop of one special needs adult enthusiastically reading the problem page of the Sun aloud to another while sitting next to this.   The monotone saying-words-rather-than-reading vocal technique that only the mentally handicapped or those taught at any inner city state school in Britain have when quoting printed media formed a tantalising accompaniment to the story of a woman named Julie, who’d had a bit with someone who unexpectedly turned out to be her brother in law or something.   It went on for ages, as each sentence had to be read several times.  Not only that, but each sentence had to be read several times in the voice that you would adopt if you were doing the hilarious spastic impersonations that, along with the My Friend Billy rhyme, I also dimly recall from childhood playground larks.   I felt quite cool for them actually, as it was as if they were reclaiming ownership of spastic impersonations, like gays did with the words faggot and homosexual, until as a subculture they became just as bland and predictable as everything else.   I stopped short of high fiving them and saying ‘Yeah right on! Speak up with the voice God gave you, my monotone brothers!’, but by the time the train reached Stratford and tags belonging to Ikon, which are heavily in evidence along the eastern approaches to the city, give way to those belonging to Fuse, which dominate the home straight between Stratford and Liverpool Street, I had become quite fond of the noise I had previously considered to be expressionless droning, and as a result now occasionally adopt it as the voice of my inner dialogue.



Photards: we’ve had all these ones before, but Goliath 12, our mainframe pc has crashed to pieces again, so we’ll have to make do with what’s on the other laptop until Gary gets round to sorting it out.  Bearing that in mind this week’s cinematic epics are:

Top: Storage at Greenwich Market. with tell tale ‘Paul Aprons’ tag.  I don’t store my boxes in this particular spot anymore, because as you may recall I was becoming increasing unable to lift them without my heterosexuality being scandalously called into question.  Still, I suppose such continuity errors are unavoidable when you’re waiting for Gary to fix the pc that keeps your joint business interests ticking over, because he’s at a wedding again or something.  I’ve never known anyone go to so many weddings as Gary.  He’s like Hello! magazine or something.

Middle: Retro GT travelcard holders in storage at Gary’s flat in Hove, near Brighton.  If you’re interested in buying one – and you should certainly think about it what with Christmas coming up and all that – why not pop yourself down to Greenwich Market, where I often have them on my stall?  In keeping with Gary’s sense of urgency when it comes to the hard drive that forms an irreplaceable part of our united business concerns, I might get round to serving you in time for the New Year, if I’ve not got too many weddings on.  Oh hang on – I’m going to one in January, so if you were to pop down this Saturday I could reasonably expect to have taken your money, sorted out your change, and handed you your new travelcard holder by Febuary 23rd.

Lower: Here is Gary at the pc he builds our website on.  It’s nine hundred Commodore 64’s networked together.   He was going to upgrade in 1986, but was at weddings solidly until 1995.  I once went to a wedding with Gary.  Incredibly and to my lasting satisfaction I was the vicar, and it was also the first time I had seen a live chicken.  Even with all that pressure I still managed to maintain a sense of priority – I didn’t for example spend the afternoon staring at poultry with a mixture of delight and fascination, like a baby with a mirror, instead of marrying Joe and Abby.  Come to think of it, I’ve never seen Gary out of a herringbone jacket and waistcoat.  If you’ve ever been married at all, he would definitely have been at your wedding.   You can’t get legally hitched in the UK without him, although you do have to shout your vows above the sound of very important hard drives not being fixed.


  1. Gary

    Oct 4th, 2011
    11:32 pm

    Getting a vibe that perhaps you’d like me to take a look at that harddrive of yours that isn’t working… Not sure if I’ve got that right though… just a hunch… ;)

  2. Paul

    Oct 4th, 2011
    11:46 pm

    It would be nice though, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it, though? In the interests of moving things forward. Wouldn’t it be nice to move things forward? Wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it though?

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