Saturday, October 6, 2007

Cubicle number two

A bag of shopping sits at my feet, some ham, Marmite, toothpaste, bin bags; the weird supermarket harvest of a man who lives alone. I’m in the middle cubicle of a row of three in a public toilet. My fingers are busy pruning my mobile phone of old texts when I hear a woman’s voice, “Hello cubicle number one, tell us your name and where you come from.” It sounds like Cilla Black. Here in the gents. A voice pipes up in the cubicle to my left, “My name is Seb and I’m from South Kensington, here in London.” “Ooh-eh, doesn’t he sound posh?” says Cilla, “Cubicle number two, tell us your name and where you come from.” Cubicle two, that’s me. I hear stiletto heels cross the floor and stop outside my door. A strong smell of hairspray wafts into my cubicle reminding me of mad aunties and Christmas. “Don’t be shy number two.” What the hell… “My name is Martin and I’m from Walthamstow.” “Aaaah, Marty from Walthamstow. Have you got a cold, chuck?” “No, I always sound like this.” Cilla has already moved on, “Last but not least, cubicle number three, what’s your name and where do you come from?” The voice from the cubicle to my right sounds like Kermit the Frog, “I’m Paul and I’m from Northampton.” Full marks for the Kermit impression, Paul’s got it nailed. “That’s the fellas, then, now let’s meet the lucky gal who has to pick one of them.” More stiletto heels. Cilla coos, “Oooh, doesn’t she just look like her from Basic Instincts, you’ve got all that lovely hair going on. Now tell us your name and where you come from?” “Hiya Cilla, I’m Tina and I’m from Cardiff.” Tina speaks like she’s gargling cheap gin, her voice somewhere between a Dalek and a pack-a-day bingo caller. “Now Tina, I hear you go for men with that dishy Mediterranean look, the dark mysterious eyes, the lovely dark hair, the tanned body…” “Moroccans. I like Moroccans mainly,” says Tina. “Well I don’t know if we can find you a Moroccan tonight, but we have got three smashing lads waiting behind them doors for your first question.” Tina calls out, “Hiya, boys!” Cubicles one and three respond chirpily. I attempt to stifle a bit of escaping gas and cover it up with a strangulated, “Hey-hey- ya-ello!” Parp. “Shit.” Parp. Kermit giggles next to me. Tina gamely continues, “I like Moroccans, what would you say was your most Moroccan feature? And that’s for cubicle number one.” Seb clears his throat as if he’s about to address the House of Lords, “Well of course, I consider myself quintessentially English, with just a wee dash of the Scottish laird going back on my father’s side.” “Doesn’t he go on,” interjects Cilla, “Carry on your Highness.” “Nice one, Cilla,” croaks Kermit. “But like a Moroccan stew I am hot, spicy and I pack a lot of meat.” concludes saucy Seb. “Oooh-ey, I can see you’re licking your lips there, Tina, but don’t make your mind up just yet.” Tina directs her next question at me, “Okay, number two, same question.” Quietly I take the Marmite jar from my bag and unscrew the lid. Then I begin to smear the brown sticky goo all over my face, “Funny you should ask, Tina, because just yesterday I was speaking to my brother Abdelmouqsit in Marrakech, and I said to him, Abdelmouqsit, you’re my brother, you know me well, what is my most Moroccan feature? And he said, you have a very Moroccan nose, very Moroccan indeed.” “Marty, I had no idea you were…Moroccan” says Cilla. “I know, what are they chances.” I reply, just applying the finishing touches to my face. I hear Tina whisper her approval, "I'll have a bit of him." “I can see Tina is eager to get cubicle number three out the way, so number three, same question,” says Cilla hurrying things along. I can tell from Kermit Paul’s voice he’s a broken man. He knows it’s a foregone conclusion. “I haven’t really got any Moroccan features,” he says, his heart not in it, “I’ve got mousey hair, I come from Northampton.” “Ah-eh, never mind, Paul chuck. Can you do any other impressions though? Can you do Miss Piggy?” “This is my normal voice, I’m not doing an impression.” “Oh, our Paul, I am sorry. Eh, at least you don’t sound all bunged up like Marty here.” “Yeah, I suppose.” Thanks for that, Kermy. “Tina chuck, so who’s it going to be? Don’t tell us just yet, because here’s our Graham with a reminder…”

Bang! Bang! Bang! Someone is knocking heavily on my door. “You gonna be long in there, mate, ‘cos I’ve got a shite in the pipe and it ain’t gonna take no for an answer, know what I mean.” That doesn't sound like our Graham. It isn’t Cilla either, or Tina or Seb, and it definitely isn’t Kermit Paul. I put a Marmite coated hand out to hold the door firmly shut. How perculiar, I think to myself.