Dulltown, Europe: Today’s anteater is the one that doesn’t like the taste of ants much.
I have a friend who lives in distant town, his name is… No, I don’t think I should name him here, perhaps we’ll call him… Oh, how about Marcel? In the style of TV journalists (when interviewing vulnerable people) it should of course be, ‘Marcel-not-his-real-name’. What a funny device that is – why don’t they just say at the start that the person will be anonymous – and anyway, how do they pick the name they give the person, do they ask them what they fancy being known as for five minutes, or do they say, ‘Right then Bill, on camera we are going to refer to you as Nigel.’
‘Nigel?… No, I’m not having that! How about Sebastian? That’s a very nice name…’
Anyway, my friend Marcel-not-his-real-name, is a good egg, a nice chap. He’s bright and creative, but I’m afraid he does like ‘the occasional beer’. We don’t keep in contact much, we don’t exchange emails, or send postcards or anything like that, but we do speak on the phone now and again.
Hm… the trouble is… Well, how can I put this?… He’s a good chap to have a chat with day times, but when the phone rings at midnight, or in the early hours, I think, oh, who on earth can be phoning at this time? Ah, this will probably be Marcel-not-his-real-name, and he’ll be drunk as a lord… He only seems to phone me when he’s had a few and is buzzing with enthusiasm. I’m afraid I do find this difficult, for two reasons: the first being that I’m pretty sure that in the cold light of the following morning he will have no recollection of what was said by either of us, and secondly, and this is upsetting for both parties, that he has the habit, when on the phone under the influence, of leaving a lump of silence hanging in the air. As soon as I begin a sentence to fill this space he talks over me – I stop talking and immediately he stops talking too – there is then a new lump of silence hanging in the air… I wait… I speak, he interrupts and then stops, then silence again. It’s a bit like on TV or radio when there is a delay on the line from a far-flung part of the world and people repeatedly talk over each other and leave empty gaps.
I end up shouting, ‘Marcel-not-his-real-name!… You keep stopping me talking! And then you go quiet!…’ and then in exasperation I often actually hang up on him. I don’t know if he remembers my hanging up on him, he’s not mentioned it…
When I get these late night calls I have taken to starting off with, ‘Marcel-not-his-real-name, are you drunk?’
He’ll giggle and say, ‘Oh only just a little bit Dave…’
These chats all seem to end the same way though – but as I say, he’s a good egg though, is Marcel-not-his-real-name…