Mark offered to pick Martha up from the office.
‘I’ll be there at six,’ Mark confidently predicted.
But he put the wrong postcode into his satnav and turned up twenty minutes late.
‘You are a complete waste of both space and time,’ Martha ranted at him when he finally arrived.
Sometimes Albert covets other people’s houses. All that space, somewhere to park, spare bedrooms. An office even! More than one toilet. Then he remembers how he hates buildings surrounded by air. Best to huddle together in a terrace, he reasons. Far harder, that way, for predators to pick you off.
Albert sits in the park in central London enjoying the first of the spring sunshine. Albert likes parks almost as much as he likes libraries. In both places he can give himself the illusion of being amongst people but without the need to speak.
Albert watches a male pigeon clumsily strutting around a female. The female turns one way, then the other. Albert feels sorry for her. Then Albert wonders how she decides which way to go? Then he wonders if pigeons ever make decisions. It’s impossible to tell what motivates them to take a particular course of action. Unlike people, Albert thinks.
Then he thinks again. It’s also impossible to tell why people take a particular path. Our explanations are just justifications after the event, stories to tell ourselves. To what extent is the path taken genuinely chosen by any creature. No, Albert decides, intelligence has nothing to do with it. When it comes to decisions, he concludes, we may as well all be pigeons.
Except for Albert, of course, who is certain he has chosen to sit in the park to enjoy the first of the spring sunshine and watch the pigeons.
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.
For the last couple of months I’ve been building my own car, pretty much from scratch. It’s quite a thing I don’t mind telling you. And believe me, I’ve told everyone about it. So okay, I’ve probably made a few rash predictions about how fast it can go, how many people it can carry, but you know what, I’m proud of it, really proud of it, and not ashamed to say so. Not everyone can build a car after all.
But then over the last couple of weeks I’ve been taking it out on the roads. If I’m honest with myself – which I admit is a rare activity for me – it’s not gone quite as well as I’d anticipated. Last Tuesday, for example, I scratched the driver’s door on a neighbour’s boundary wall. And then yesterday, I couldn’t seem to brake at all when turning right which led to a few – shall we say – issues.
And finally, today, I wrapped it around a tree just up the road from where I live. Now don’t worry – I was okay, I was fine. I just sat in the crushed car and contemplated my next move. And then a police officer tapped my window.
‘Is everything okay here sir?’ he asked me. ‘Is there some kind of problem?’
For once, I didn’t know what to say. ‘I just don’t get it,’ I said, shaking my head in disbelief. ‘I was so certain this was a fine-tuned machine.’
I went head to head with Beethoven today. Best of five.
Well, I have to admit he got off to a really great start. He completely outplayed me in the first round which was all about harmony and counterpoint. And then, in round two, his melodic vocal writing made mincemeat of my tuneless humming.
But my lucked started to turn in round three, which was focused upon jumping up and down on the spot. I don’t like to gloat, but Beethoven was nowhere to be seen.
Then we went down the park to determine who could look the most moody in the wind. Well I say we but again old Ludwig was notable by his absence.
Finally, in the decider, which was all about having a pulse in 2017, I basically left him for dead.
As you might well imagine, this has been an important victory for me. It’s done wonders for my self-esteem. Beethoven is no pushover.
Next week, I’m up to play Shakespeare. I mean, I don’t like to boast, but after this victory today I must confess to feeling quietly confident.