Albert feels proud as he steps back to admire the wardrobe he has just built from a flat pack. For once, he can see and touch the results of his labours.
This then reminds him of when he was working at home for a time while there was work being done on his house. Real men were knocking things down and building walls. Meanwhile, up in his bedroom, Albert was tapping onto his laptop, responding to emails and writing reports.
“Well, I’m actually working very hard as well,” Albert decided not to say to the sweating workmen when he ventured downstairs to offer them cups of tea.
So yesterday, these two men took my tired and emotional car hostage. Out of the blue, they demanded I pay a ransom of 650 for its release. New gearbox, they kept repeating, new gearbox. Well I took advice of course. I spoke to the authorities. I even tried reasoning with them. But negotiation proved futile.
I tried holding out, I really did. But yes, yes, I admit it: I gave in eventually. I do feel bad about it though. I realise that the more we give in to these people, the more it just encourages them.
How spread out they were at the start! How open and warm they were, yearning to tell each other where they were born and their hopes for the future, desperate to show each other off to all their friends. Come, see! Behold! Is this not a thing of dazzling greatness?
An now? Now they can’t even speak of what they did today or their plans for tomorrow. They have gnarled in on themselves to become something cold, small and impenetrable.
“We’re all in this alone,” he said one evening. “That’s the truth of the matter.”
And she just looked at him.
Andre Gide said that holding onto happiness was like trying to cup water in your hands, an image that has never left me. So perhaps, yes, I was a tad arrogant trying to get through last summer without the use of the usual receptacles.
It seemed fine at first. But looking back, it seems pretty obvious that I’d end up sad and ridiculous, with wet hands cupped together, holding what exactly?
My plan was flawed from the outset. Inevitably, I was always going to be left standing there like an idiot. Very like an idiot. Okay, okay, an actual idiot.
I must have dropped off at the wheel because before I knew it I was crashing through the fencing, past the sheep and into the ditch at the end of the field. The sheep came over to investigate. I could tell I’d worried them. I mean, I must have looked quite a sight: my face covered in blood, my car written off, shattered glass everywhere.
“If you think this is bad,” I said to one of the ewes, “you should see the choices for US President.”
She just kept on chewing, clearly in denial.
And that, officer, is when I must have passed out.
At weekends, to give the illusion of being nice, we took elderly gentlemen out in their wheelchairs. We usually took them to the park. They liked that.
But after a few weeks it all got a bit samey so, to liven things up, I suggested racing.
After the count of three we pushed them around the park at breakneck speed. I was well ahead before misjudging a curb, sending mine flying through the air. I’d killed him! I just knew it!
“You okay?” I gasped. “Shall I get an ambulance?”
“Get me up!” he shouted. “Quick! We’re going to lose!”
Albert generally feels superior to the plants. After all, they have no consciousness, they can’t plan ahead, their potential for debate and discussion is limited. Name the last great plant novelist. Exactly. And you’d be waiting a long time for a cactus to make an important scientific discovery.
But then Albert thinks about questions of judgement. Plants seem to know exactly when to sit tight and when to branch out, usually in the right directions. Albert reckons that if he was a plant he’d have his roots embarrassingly exposed to the air and his leaves redundantly fumbling in the undergrowth.