I just took my wobbly old spaz of a mum to the supermarket.
I’m allowed to call her a wobbly old spaz, because that’s how she refers to herself. The “wobbly” part is because she’s had Parkinson’s Disease for almost 30 years, and apart from constant tremors she’s ground to an almost complete standstill now. I half expect to pop round to see her one day and find she’s turned into a statue of herself – which will be handy, because she can be her own headstone. Quids in!
And I call her a spaz because she uses that term, even though it hasn’t been the 1970s since the 1970s. I don’t think she’s trying to make a political point, and reclaim the word “spastic” in the same way black people often reclaim the “N” word. She’s just awesomely politically incorrect. She has a disabled parking badge, which she refers to as her “spaz badge”. And she calls her wheelchair her “spaz chariot”.
You’ve got to admire that sort of thing. There’s a grisly heriosm to simply not giving a fuck any more. But it can be embarrassing when we get to the supermarket and she loudly asks me to exchange her own hand-pushed “spaz chariot” for one of Tesco’s electric “spaz chariots”. She gets looks.
So there we are, wandering around the supermarket with her in her (deep breath) electric spaz chariot (sorry), and I spotted something in the clothing section that surely shouldn’t be possible: a yellow jersey. Not that there’s anything wrong with yellow jerseys, but Bradley Wiggins has just damn near killed himself racing around France to get one. What next: gold medals for shooting on sale in Walmart (or do they just stick to selling the guns and ammo?).
While we’re on the subject of Bradley Wiggins, can we just pause for a moment to admire that name. Before I saw a photo of him I had in mind a browbeaten office dogsbody from a Dickensian novel, all “westkits” and “beggin-yer-pardons” and “if-it-pleases-yer-honours”. Or perhaps a downtrodden under-manager at the Grimsdike Mill in industrial Badchester, endlessly servile to his dastardly boss, Mr Aloysius Hardacre, except for the afternoon off he’s allowed every 8th Sunday, when he joins the Coughing Choir and phlegms his way into the finals of the national Tuberculosis Cup.
But no, nothing so rococco for Bradley. He’s just a bony mod with that type of facial hair that once got me into terrible trouble at work.
My job – if you want to call it a job – is something in new media. People in new media are always making up arrestingly strange titles for themselves, and at various times I’ve been an Interactive Content Designer, an Executive Producer and a Grande Fromage. I don’t really know what any of those terms mean. A lot of the time I do nothing specific, just a general background hum of activity that makes it appear that I’m invaluable, whereas the truth is I’m the opposite of invaluable.
(Erm… valuable? Surely not. Surely there’s an opposite of invaluable that doesn’t make me sound like a rare vase.)
Anyway, I was once pretending to do my job, and had to spend a day meeting a new client: a women’s rights charity based in London. We met in the morning and then the clients, who were all rather joyless feminists, took me for lunch.
(Not that all feminists lack humour. But you know how some people seem to get massive pleasure from their religion, and others seem to simply suffer from it and hate every second of the light of Jesus? Well it was the same with these feminists. They believed in women’s rights so much that they were determined to be angry and depressed until every single X chromasome had been turned into a Y, at which point they’d hold a joyless celebration and die.)
Don’t ask me why, but at lunch I was being asked about my beard, and what I look like without it. In case you’re curious, the answer is that I look like a parsnip. As an attempt to lighten the mood, some of the women were suggesting that I should try some alternative facial hair. Somebody thought I should grow moustache instead, but I’m not German enough for that. A Van Dyke was mentioned, but quickly withdrawn because nobody would ever dare to say “dyke” in front of these deeply severe women. And only evil geniuses and Iron Man can carry off a Van Dyke.
And then, in one of those strange coincidences that sometimes happen, we all suddenly struggled to remember a perfectly normal word. Somebody mimed those things down the side of the face, those things that Bradley Wiggins has. People mouthed silently like goldfish, stared into the middle-distance and clicked their fingers. But nobody could remember the word “sideburns”.
Somebody said “sideboards”, which was close but we all knew it wasn’t quite right. Somebody else said “beard burns”, but those are the things my girlfriend gets when I’ve been snogging her for too long.
And then it occurred to me that there’s a slang term that would do until I could remember the real word. I wasn’t 100% sure I had the slang term correct, but I was confident enough to say it. For a moment I wrestled internally with “lamb chops”, but I knew that wasn’t it. Perhaps it was “mutton chops”, but that wasn’t right either.
And then I had it. A spark went off inside my head, and without a moment’s hesitation I said the following words to a table full of grisly, joyless, staunchly feminist women’s rights activists.
And then I beamed with pride.
It’s a pride that is somewhat deflated today, because sideburned Mr Wiggins and his team of cyclists managed to return Britain to its normal state by failing to live up to every promise. What a bunch of beef curtains.
Actually I don’t blame them – it occurs to me that winning at the Olympics is probably quite tricky, and if I’m being blisteringly honest with myself I could probably only win a medal on 3 out of every 4 attempts. At most
But he just won a yellow jersey for being the best cyclist in the world, so why isn’t he the best cyclist in the world a fortnight later, when there’s a medal in the offing? We can all get a yellow jersey, Bradley. They sell them in Tesco.