Part Seven: Google Face-offs

Another blog, another location. I’m in Hereford, on the bed-settee in Scottish Paul’s living room to be precise, after a difficult two weeks back with Mum and Dad. Mum was disappointed by my inability to sell even one stick of salami at the Co-Op in Leicester, and Dad by my inability to get off the internet when he wanted to use it. Mum had been kind enough to use her contacts at check out to get me my own stall in the Co-Op for a day; unfortunately the locals were more interested in whether I had any haslet or tongue, having used my free sample. I now have 185 sticks left. Dad claims that he has rediscovered Baywatch and needs the internet to watch old episodes, and pointed out its kitsch value and the fact that it’s the most watched TV show of all time when I laughed.

Before I left I did manage to sell the 1987 coconut Boost and some of my Garbage Pail Kids stickers on eBay, which left me with enough money to get a single ticket to Hereford. Dad took pity on me and gave me enough money to get back to London which I will do once Vladik has ended my exile, though I had to promise not to tell anyone about his Baywatch fascination (no-one reads this blog, anyway, according to the so-called writer Saul Pope, so it won’t matter if I mention it here).

I called Paul from the station:

‘Paul, it’s Jonathan. Sorry I haven’t spoken to you for a year, but I’m at the station.’

‘Which one?’

‘Yours.’

‘What? Hereford?’

‘Yes – I need somewhere to stay.’

There was a pause, to the extent where I was scared that the phone would eat the remnants of my last twenty pence piece.

‘Well, you’d better come round then. Do you know the way?’

I don’t think life has exactly treated Paul kindly since being published in Russia, The Man and Jonathan David, hence his retreat to the flat he inherited from his aunt. Still, I was expecting a warmer greeting when I rang his doorbell – I didn’t write the thing:

‘I thought you’d be in Moscow.’

‘Why?’

‘The filming’s started.’

‘Apparently they don’t want me. Has Saul called you?’

Paul shuffled a little on the doorstep.

‘Erm…I’m flying out next week to film a few scenes. I’m playing myself.’

‘But…’

‘Look, come in – we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Even if you do smell of Russian salami.’

Half an hour later, salami stick number 185 was almost finished. For the first time ever, I found that I was keeping Paul entertained with a new game I invented in Leicester:

‘Paul, who’d win a Google face-off between Heaven 17 and Kim Wilde?’

‘Easy – Kim Wilde. She easily outsold Heaven 17.’

‘You’re wrong! ‘Heaven 17 music’, 9,480,000 hits, ‘Kim Wilde music’, 824,000!’

‘Are we playing for salami? I owe you a stick. Try Nik Kershaw v Joe Dolce.’

‘A close run contest: Nik, 207,000, Joe, 199,000!’

‘Well, I suppose that’s some modicum of comfort for Nik. Now he’s in a final against Midge Ure.’

‘Midge’s thrashed him! 311,000 to 207,000!’

We played and laughed for so long that we could have almost avoided all the serious stuff – until Paul asked me to do a ‘Jonathan v Olesya’ contest. I’d almost forgotten about her with all my worrying about the salami:

‘If Jonathan wins, you’ve got to go back there this year. If Olesya wins, you’ve got to try and forget all about her and move on.’

‘That’s not fair – you know I’ll win.’

‘Try it in Russian if you think it’s not fair – I’ve got Cyrillic keys.’

‘OK, you’re on. No…I can’t believe it! Have you fixed Google? Jonathan still wins!’

‘Well, you’d better get back out there. You don’t seem yourself without her. It’s like you’ve lost the thread of your life.’

I paused and looked at Paul, suddenly realising that he’s my only real friend.

‘If I go, will you come with me? You’re not the same without Yuliya either.’

His smile showed me the old him was still in there somewhere, thank goodness.

‘We’ll see – let’s talk about it tomorrow.’

Before curling up on the bed-settee, I sent a couple of text messages – one to Vladik and the other to Saul:

Vladik, hi! In Hereford arranging your football trial. When can go home? Am sleeping on uncomfy settee.

Mr Pope, if you want me to keep promoting your book then please reconsider putting me in film. Everyone else seems 2B in it…

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