Thursday 9th June was day where had I been 30 years younger I would have been uttering OMGs all over the shop!
Back in the late 80s, before my shop, when I flitted in and out of work, I used to hang around with some dodgy geezas. They weren't Premier league villains, but could probably give League Two villains a run for their money. One of the chief protagonists was a wiry little hard man called Cliff, who liked Dobermans, drugs and shagging, when he wasn't kneecapping people or other nefarious stuff. I actually found him quite funny in a sinister and scary kind of way and he liked me - thank the stars - which meant I could be myself around him. I haven't seen Cliff in probably 21 years. The last I heard of him was that he was doing time for a big LSD bust.
I was in the Weston Favell Centre on my back from some errands, when someone called my name. I looked around, saw no one I recognised and put my head down again. Then my name rang out again and I thought, 'I recognise that voice', but I could see no one I even vaguely knew. So I shrugged and turned again to go when my name was called for a third time. This time I turned and all I saw was a woman, probably in her fifties, standing looking at me with her hands on her hips. She was thin and exceedingly ugly, but there was something familiar about her. Then she started laughing. "You should see the look on your face!" She cried, and I'm standing there thinking, 'I know you, I'm sure of it'. But I could not for the life of me place her.
To cut an excruciating story short. I was looking at Cliff, who is now Joanne!
30 minutes and an awkward coffee later I had the full SP as Cliff (as was) used to say. Cliff had entered prison, spent a year keeping out of trouble, started doing some courses, met a man who was a hash dealing self-proclaimed new age guru and the two hit it off in a totally platonic way. Cliff's backside was never defiled, he was quick to emphasise as if he saw questions appearing as real words at the front of my forehead. Cliff got heavily into the kind of New Age bollocks that is both slightly crackpot, but equally enticing to the right kind of susceptible hippy or ex-addict. Tonnes of crystals, I-chings, chakras, incense and faux Buddhist banalities. Cliff's guru claimed he could read and interpret auras and one afternoon he told my old friend that he was living a lie.
Cliff/Joanne explained to me that the guru said he was actually a woman in a man's body; that his unhappiness was all tied to his failure to accept his inner woman. He said Cliff needed to build a life around the things he should be rather than pretend to be something he wasn't. I was always convinced he made a good nutter, but, hey, what do I know about auras? Shortly after Cliff came out of prison, he swapped his wardrobe for that of a woman, and began living life as Joanne. There's me sitting there thinking, 'Okay, he's barking mad, he's living life as a man in drag, who just happens to look like a man in drag, but he seems happy enough', when he starts to tell me about the £25k he's spent on corrective surgery - he specifically called it 'corrective' not a gender realignment. She even offered to show me what a good job her surgeon had made of her brand new vagina, but thought Costa Coffee was probably not a good place to go flashing your fanny in...
My face must have been a picture, because, no offence to Joanne, but I was feeling extremely weird - it was like I'd walked into another world. She just didn't look particularly feminine. but she's living with another woman on one of the council estates, trains and works as a peripatetic nurse and was about as threatening as Les Dawson in drag. She was quick to point out to me that at no point has she ever been attracted to men; has never been with a man and that I could rest easy (gosh, how relieved was I?).
When I got home I felt slightly strange; like I'd been on Candid Camera or maybe had just woken from a really bizarre dream. Come to think of it, I had more lucid dreams when I stopped smoking than yesterday morning was like.
By the time I dosed off on the sofa during the One Show I'd just about forgotten my day. I slept too long, woke up at 7.55 and was supposed to meet Roger at 8 so we could go for a pint. I won't go into the details of it, but during the two hours we were at the pub we learnt far too much for fragile middle-aged men.
Are you aware there's a sex act operating in Benidorm where a woman in her fifties pulls all manner of items, ranging from fairy lights to rubber chickens out of her... um... er... vaginal passage? She's a millionaire, apparently. This woman has so much control over her labia that she can open beer bottles in her front bottom... As if this wasn't enough bizarre imagery for one evening, we then discovered that most girls under the age of 25 consider pubic hair to be a) a hindrance, b) unhygienic, c) unsightly and d) unnecessary. These facts and several others that frankly I'm just too old and embarrassed to mention made me realise that growing up when I did might have been a relatively promiscuous time, but only relatively. The sex lives of the young and trendy is very much the same but ultimately much different from when I was their age.
When you factor in all the other things I've discovered about the yoof of today from the jobs I've done for the last 10 years, you have to wonder about the long term future for mankind, if on one side you have the puritans and on the other the hedonism - I'm wondering if the latter is actually winning, despite all we hear about oppression and fundamentalism.
I'm a bit Victorian, I think.