A PORTRAIT OF THE VICTOR AS A YOUNG MAN
(With apologies to James Joyce)
It all happened so long ago yet memories flood back as clearly as if it were just happening.
As a young man I had to visit one of our Branch Offices in the big city with a colleague of mine, Josh MacKintosh, to discuss future sales and profits projections.
It was a cold and snowing winter's day when we arrived at the Railway Station and were met by a chauffeur driven car sent by our Branch Office - after all, it isn't often they get a visit from top management, and they were trying hard to impress.
The visit was to last for two days and they looked after us well. At the end of the first day they offered the chauffeur driven car to take us to the hotel.
As we entered the car, the driver asked us which hotel we were staying at, and Josh blurted out an address. The driver raised an eyebrow and said nothing.
At this point I should mention perhaps that Josh MacKintosh was carefull with money. He had an aversion to opening his wallet lest he disturbed the moths living there.
As the car drove on, heading outside the big city, I noticed that the surroundings were becoming less and less salubrious. It was obvious from the houses and the general feel of the place that we were heading for the poorer part of town ... much poorer part of town. Despite the snow covering everything with its mantle of white it could not hide the poverty of the place.
It was as if we were travelling back in time to Dickensian England.
Eventually the posh car stopped outside a dilapidated house. The chauffeur got out of his seat and opened the doors for Josh and I. He then opened the boot and brought us our luggage.
Around us a lot of urchins stopped playing football with a rolled up sock filled with sand and looked at us in our pin-striped suits. They'd obviously never seen a limousine before nor anyone dressed as we did.
The chauffeur saluted by touching his hat gently and then drove off.
As we stood there in the freezing cold I heard myself mumble "Are you sure about this, Josh?"
"Och aye ... it's OK," he said, "my friend recommended it!"
We entered the house and were met by a young-ish woman named Elvira; she was in her mid-thirties I would guess.
She took us to our rooms upstairs and suggested that "dinner" was at seven o'clock prompt.
As Elvira left I noticed that the door had no lock, and the room was rather cold and damp, but at least it had hot and cold running cockroaches.
I killed one of them on the wall by my bed and pretty soon there were dozen others attending the funeral.
I pulled the bed away from the wall and the cockroaches pulled it back to hide their habitat.
I decided that we were not eating at this place. We had no choice but to spend the night there, especially since it was cold and snowing outside and our car had gone, but I had no intention to risk eating at this unhygienic house.
Josh and I went out for somewhere to eat ... but would you really find a restaurant in this part of town? We just bought a bit of bread, some cheese and an apple or two from a small shop still open and decided to eat in our rooms.
As we neared the house a man brandishing a knife stopped us and asked for our wallets or our lives. I must admit that for a few seconds I had difficulty in deciding.
I then said sarcastically, "You're too late mate! We've already been mugged by another man down the street."
To my surprise our mugger replied, "Oh that must be Gary. I told him many times this is my street!"
He let us go and as we were leaving he shouted "Say Hi to Elvira for me !!!"
Josh and I got home and after sharing our meagre repast we decided to call it a day.
I went to my room, got in bed to keep warm as best I can, and started reading the many reports I'd been given by Branch Office about their sales and profits projections.
After an hour or so there was a knock at the door and Elvira came in wearing a very revealing see-through white negligent. (Is that what they call it?)
I did not know where to look ... well, I did really, because she was speaking to me at the time. And it is not polite to look elsewhere when someone is speaking to you.
"Do you want some time?" she asked with a smile.
I must have misheard her, (or was it my subconscious), because I looked at my watch and said "It is a quarter to ten!"
She moved forward a couple more steps teasingly and asked again "Do you want something to keep you warm?"
"Yes please," I replied, "I'd like a hot chocolate drink if I may".
"You don't understand ..." she continued patiently as she sat on the bed, "You have not left your shoes outside the door, which means you require personal services ..."
At last the penny dropped in a young man's befuddled mind. So that's why she was wearing nothing else but the revealing see-through negligent despite the freezing cold! I thought she was just hot-blooded.
"My shoes ..." I mumbled "I'll ... I'll ... I'll put them out later ... I must have forgotten ..."
"So I went to all this trouble for nothing?" she growled as she stood up, "do you think your friend forgot to put his shoes out too?"
"I don't know ... better ask him ..." I mumbled again as she left.
Needless to say, I stayed up all night fearful in case anyone took my shoes !!!
NOTE: This was an excerpt from my memoires
"AS I QUOTE MYSELF"
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