Tuesday, 7 June 2011


          ‘You broke my heart.  You tore it out my chest and ripped it up and threw it on the floor.  You’re a taker, you never give – no, no don’t make excuses – no, I’m not taking you back.  Not after what you did.  You Jezebel.  You hurt me so much – no, no tears, it won’t do any good - you can beg all you like, we’re finished.’
          What a powerful writer I am, eh?  Dramatic stuff.  But I didn’t write this – I overheard it – or ‘ark-‘oled it, as it’s called in the Black Country.  I was in a crowded pub, standing room only, and a man near me was muttering the above, in an intense whisper, into his mobile.  I quote from memory, and the above may not be word-for-word accurate, but I haven’t exaggerated: he really did go on about his heart being ripped out and thrown on the floor.  And I know for sure that he hissed, ‘You Jezebel,’ because malt whisky came down my nose when he said it, and as a lover of malt whisky, that’s not something I’d forget.
          Call me heartless, but he chose to hold this conversation in a crowded pub, instead of somewhere more private, and I couldn’t help but overhear.
          Writers have always been great ‘ark-‘olers of course, shushing their companions so they can better listen to the conversation at the next table, or on the other side of the bus.  But the mobile phone has been a boon to the nosy.  People seem to think that a sound-proof booth comes with every phone.  Shortly after overhearing Jezebel’s victim in the pub, I was walking down the middle of Broad Street in Birmingham (it’s pedestrianized – I wasn’t dodging cars.)  There was a girl standing in a shop-doorway, talking on her phone, her voice becoming louder and louder as she went on.  She said, on a sob, ‘I’m sorry – I’m so sorry – I didn’t know you’d feel like that.  Can’t we – ?  She was talking through tears now.  ‘Oh please – can’t we - ?  Oh, forgive me!  Please don’t be like this, please – ‘
          I wanted to go over, snatch the phone off her, and say, ‘Never apologise, never explain and, above all, never beg.’  I didn’t, of course.  Like everyone else, I walked on, pretending that I hadn’t heard.  Who was she talking to?  Boyfriend?  Boss?  Best friend whose boyfriend she’d snogged?  There must be other people out there, like me, still wondering.
          And then there were the lads I overheard in a bus-stop late one night.  They chatted about their court appearances – ‘Yeah, I’m up again, but my brief says he can get me off.’
          They reminisced about how they’d tocced a car together some years before and ‘wrapped it round a lamp-post.’  ‘It was a loff, wor it?’
          ‘An’ how’s that wench yo was seeing?’
          ‘Her’s had the babby!  Ar – her’s lovely.  Eight pound.’
          ‘How many’s that now?’
          ‘Two with her.  One with Cheryl – one with Kayleigh.’
          “Fower, then.”
          “No, there’s Anna’s little lad an’ all.’
          Was he an Adonis?  Nope, he was a pudgy, nondescript lad in jeans and WBA t-shirt.  Couldn’t see his attraction myself.
          Happy ‘ark-‘oling to all my readers.