Something slightly preoccupied me over the Christmas week.
Seven or eight days ago, I had popped into my local branch of co-op to buy coffee and cigars and some of the other self-destructive products required by the eternal bachelor.
“Did you do all of your Christmas shopping at Fopp?” asked the cashier.
He was referring to my atypically large Fopp-brand carrier bags, bulging with CDs and paperbacks.
Normally, I like to keep these transactions as short and non-conversational as politely possible. Any interaction with the world outside of my own head or my own carefully constructed DVD collection usually only results in anger, shame and unpredicted moisture.
Today, however, I was feeling rather chipper. As the cashier had rightly suspected, I had done all of my Christmas shopping in a single trip to the Fopp records-and-books-and-videos emporium. So as the rest of the last-minute world buzzed about me, I was feeling quite smug about this.
“Yes! Haha!” I said, holding up my fistful of Fopp carrier bags, “Or should I say Christmas Fopping?!”
The cashier groaned but laughed all the same. “That’s the worst joke I’ve heard all day,” he said.
I suspect it was the only joke he had heard all day. I doubt many comedians of my stature come into the co-op and release such wonderful humour free of charge into his unsuspecting cashier’s ears.
On the way home with the bags of sundries, I bumped into my Kentish chum, Jon Ransom. He asked me what I had been doing out in the real world with the real people.
“Oh, I’ve just been doing my Christmas shopping,” I said, “Or should I say…. my Christmas Fopping?! Ahaha!”
Jon is a curmudgeonly sort (he looks like Orson Welles in The Third Man and has the attitude of a hook-handed militant religious leader) and I could tell he was far less impressed by my festive pun than the cashier in the supermarket had been. I didn’t care though. I was in a good mood and nothing could prevent me from littering half the city with my hilarious joke.
On my street, I spotted my next-door neighbour, Dr. MacLeod. He’s a no-nonsense sort and owns his entire property – a gorgeous West End townhouse worth over a million pounds. Since I rent only the attic of the house next door to him, he treats me with some degree of suspicion. We always get along when we meet in the communal gardens but I can tell he secretly regards the people in my building as a pieces of auspicious pond life.
“Just doing some Christmas shopping!” I called to him through the dusk, “Or rather my Christmas Fopping! Haha! Ha!”
Dr. MacLeod is an old man. He doesn’t shop in cool record stores or waste his evenings on Facebook or eat sushi. He writes books about twentieth-century photography and has postal subscriptions to The Great Composers and The Economist.
He clearly had no idea what I was on about, wished me a Merry Christmas and went quickly into his front door.
I’m sure I saw his letterbox open suddenly as though Dr. MacLeod was checking I had gone and that I wasn’t still raving in his street going “Ahaha! Christmas Fopping!” and that he didn’t have to call the police. I don’t think he really did this though. I am just being paranoid and editing history to make it more comically rewarding.
The next day, I walked past Fopp on my way to work. A poster in the window read:
CHRISTMAS FOPPING OPENING HOURS: 10:00-10:00.
Bugger and blast. I had been running around Glasgow telling everyone my rubbish joke and all along it had already been thought of by the evil Fopp corporation and proudly displayed in their shop windows for all to see. Everyone will think I have just stolen it. Telling a stolen rubbish joke is far worse than telling an original rubbish joke.
I seriously can’t see how I can carry on living now.
This Christmas I will be found dead – face down in a pile of turkey stuffing – overdosed on sleeping pills and mulled wine.
Suicide really is the only way out of this.