The Serviette Union

THE SERVIETTE UNION – How Advancing Years And Nightshift Work Make You Think Some Very Odd Thoughts

 I wrote this fourteen years ago. Strangely, I don’t feel quite as old now.

Ship Shape And Bristol Fashion

Sitting at a breakfast table in a hotel in Bristol, I realized my childhood was over. This thought should have occurred to me earlier than this, what with me being 34 and all, but it hadn’t. My faithful old red Armani jumper was looking a bit ragged and grubby. It had been a rough night, working a night shift at a strange branch of my company. I’d had to go to hospital, due to some minor complications arising from heart surgery some months before, but that wasn’t it.

The staff  were efficient but surly. They were all Eastern Europeans, and evidently the bright lights of Bristol life were not quite how they imagined them, and they huddled together in groups when they got the chance, moaning. Moaning sounds the same in any language if you overhear it at a distance. I immediately christened them The Serviette Union and congratulated myself on my ability to come up with appalling puns at will.

As I tucked into my toast, coffee and kippers, more people filed in for breakfast. It quickly became evident that they were Russian students on an excursion of some kind. The boys were all healthy looking, with chiselled features. They were dressed fashionably but with haircuts which belonged in the Eighties. The girls were all impossibly pretty.

They had alarmingly willowy figures, despite the fact that they were all shovelling down more food than I would put in my stumpy frame in and entire day.  The room was full of the shine and glitter of youth and I looked around wistfully, memories from my teenage years bubbling to the top of my brain. Bastards, I thought, because it had struck me like a five pound lump hammer between the eyes. I’m fucking old.

The Lunatic Is On The Grass

When I wasn’t old, I had dreamed of being one of two things; either a writer or a spy. Preferably a spy, if I’m honest with myself. This was now never going to happen. The old enemy were all around me and they hadn’t needed an army to achieve it. They were here because we wanted them here. We wanted them here to do the jobs no one wants to do but that lots of people still maintain -rather oddly I’ve always thought- we don’t want them to steal.

These youngsters were eating cheerfully and wandering around as if the future and the world belonged to them, which of course it did. I was never going to chase any of them down atmospheric Viennese alleys. I was never going to be seduced by beautiful foreign agents called Natasha. I’d somehow missed Pink Floyd’s metaphorical starting gun.

Ten years had got behind me and I was just a tired night shift worker with a clockwork heart and I was wearing a faded, red and grubby Armani jumper.

So, writing it is, I thought. It’s not very glamorous or exciting and doesn’t involve husky voiced Russian temptresses, but it keeps you in the warm and dry. And it involves virtually no risk of assassination. Not unless you’re Salman Rushdie, of course. Which I’m not, incidentally. You probably guessed.

© Copyright Michael Grimes 2013

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About thedailygrime

At that awkward age - too young to be a grumpy old man, but just acerbic and downtrodden enough to have an opinion. Read it here.

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