Two schtoopid ways to lose £80 —

Elvis Bowie

…  both of which concern smoking, and neither even involves the cost of buying the dyam tings in the first place.

This morning, I stepped out onto the front porch for the second cigarette of the day. Because smoke tends to drift indoors when the door isn’t fully and firmly shut, thereby prompting protests from my emphatically non-smoking sweetie, I have been attempting to train myself to close said door behind me on these occasions. And so I did.

It was only when smokage had been completed that two awful realisations struck, more or less simultaneously. Realisation the first: because, somehow, my keys (which normally reside permanently in the front-right pocket of my jeans) had gotten tangled in their ring, I had simply dumped them on the coffee table and not reinstalled them in their proper trousery location.  Hence: locked door … no keys. I blame it entirely on the after-effects of celebrating the shared birthday of two one-time jewels in the crown of was once RCA Records — David Bowie, now 67 and Elvis Presley who, were he still amongst us, would’ve been 79. Or maybe I’d been prematurely celebrating Jimmy Page’s 70th. Or mourning Phil Everly  – the only people as divinely ordained by the universe to sing together as The Everly Brothers were Lennon & McCartney and Sam & Dave.

Wha’evah …

Realisation the second: since aforementioned sweetie was away on an outtatown visit, I couldn’t simply buzz the door, get called an absent-minded idiot and then readmitted to the premises to continue the designated activities of the day.

In other words … I was oudoors, in jeans, slippers (no socks), T-shirt and a lightweight jumper, sans keys, phone, wallet or even cigarettes. Total assets: £15 in cash, a Zippo about to run out of fuel, a copy of Bill Bryson’s A Short History Of Nearly Everything … and, of course, my wit, charm and personality. None of which were, in this eventuality, of the slightest bit of use.

Fortunately, my Lovely Upstairs Neighbour was hand with a mobile on which to call a locksmith, and to provide cups of coffee, offers of a sandwich and even to pick up extra cigs from up the road. Just as fortunately, the weather was only mildly inclement as opposed to full-on Biblical.

Locksmith duly arrived on a Vespa after a shivery hour, did summat arcane to door which obediently swung open, waited patiently while I added socks, shoes, jacket, hat, wallet, phone and keys to the Tout Ensemble, escorted me to the nearest cashpoint, accepted £80 in notes and scribbled me out a receipt.

I reflected, in a philosophical kinda way, that a friend of mine had recently been separated from an identical sum in a different variety of cigarette-related incident: fined by a representative of his local council for being spotted ditching a ciggy-butt in a gutter. At least, in his case, he hadn’t had to freeze on a doorstep for an hour. Many years ago, I’d committed a similar offence  outside San Diego airport and had an Actual Proper Gun pointed at me by an off-duty cop cunningly disguised as an overweight middle-aged  woman. ‘Pick that up!’ she ordered in a scarily Clint Eastwoodesque tone of voice.

There were several hundred ciggy butts at my feet. ‘How can I tell which one’s mine?’ I asked.

She made the gun do the clicky thing. My American compadre elbowed me in the ribs, hissing ‘Shut the fuck up!’ out of the corner of his mouth. I bent down, picked up the nearest butt from the carpet of similar items, walked a few yards and dropped it in a bin. Off-Duty Cop Lady grudgingly nodded, holstered her piece and waddled away. It was very scary, but on the other hand it didn’t cost me £80.

So what should you do with £80 rather than give it to a locksmith or a representative of your local council? Easy-peasy. Add it to the sum you’ve been saving up to buy yourself a place on the upcoming session of The Hothouse Project!