I said hello
I arrived back in my office with two steaming mugs of tea.
“What are you doing with my computer Barrington?”
“I don’t think anyone is there.”
Barrington sat at my desk, and began spinning around on the office chair in front of the computer, occasionally pointing at the screen as it went past him. Or he went past it. Not sure which way round to be honest, we probably need Einstein.
“There!.. not! There!…. not!… There!…..”
I sighed. I always sigh a lot when Barrington is about.
“Look Barrington, just stop when it’s… no… now… no…. now… missed it… Oh for gods sake!”
I reached out to put his mug of tea on the desk in front of him, then grabbed the chair to stop him spinning as he was in front of the screen and watched his childlike joyful expression change to one of sulkiness. I sat myself down in my armchair, cradling my mug as if it was my last link to sanity and I shouldn’t let it’s comforting warmth go.
“Thank you,” he said “It was getting a bit like a ride on the Waltzers at the fair. You know, the spinny things? They designed them to spin all the loose change out of your pockets I reckon. Tabitha Braithwaite always had her candy floss and whatever she had for dinner spun out of her though.”
“Yes, thank you for that image Barrington.”
“She found sweetcorn difficult to digest you know.”
“Had that and carrots in a lot of her meals I think.”
“Stop it now!”
I attempted to change the subject.
“So what do you mean there’s no one there?” I asked conversationally, knowing that it wouldn’t take long to unravel my mind again now.
“Ah, well I typed hello world and no one answered.”
“That’s not how it works Barrington, that’s just a word processor. You just type your words in to it and it saves them, they don’t go any…”
My sentence tailed off as I realised something “Well, mine don’t go very far anyway. There isn’t anyone actually there, it’s not like a two way conversation.”
“Oh, OK.” Barrington appeared to be deep in thought about this, which was always worrying.
“So, you’re typing what I just said into the word processor now and we’re talking to each other aren’t we?”
I paused to think on this. This was exactly the sort of meta thing that I’d been worried about when thinking about getting Barrington back. It messed with everyone’s head, but mostly mine as I’d have to write it. Sometimes I would think then write it but was mostly just write it.
Anyone else already feeling ill could just navigate away from the page right now.
It was time to seamlessly move the conversation on as if nothing had happened. Which it hadn’t yet.
“Yes. But that’s different,” I said, and moved on quickly before he realised it actually wasn’t.
“Anyway, the thing is, if I’m going to bring you back, how am I going to do it? I mean, should I give you a job, some sort reason for being here?”
“Barrington Higginbottom, Special Investigations.” Barrington pretended to hand me a business card.
“At your service. £500 a day plus expenses of course.”
“We’ve done investigator. You weren’t very good.”
“That is not entirely accurate. I always got answers.”
“Barrington, you generally got some answers by asking a man who was walking a dog in the vicinity. And, although entertaining in a way, they weren’t very often relevant to the original bloody question either.”
The nice thing about Barrington was that you could never hurt his feelings because he was either too thick to understand how it was hurtful or he was completely blind to the possibility he had any faults so it couldn’t possibly be aimed at him.
A bit like Boris Johnson but thinner.
“I could do a weekly film review.” he suggested.
“Ahh, you like the cinema?”
“Sort of. Well no not really. I’m not actually keen on the dark… In fact haven’t been to the cinema since I was seven and there was an incident with the ice cream lady and the popcorn and some drinks straws.”
“She just surprised me with her sudden appearance with her torch and tray of goodies. She was alright in the end, it just took a few years before she finished sneezing out pieces of popcorn.”
The thing is, you should only briefly think about what Barrington has said sometimes otherwise the disturbing pictures he has put in your head will get to you if you let them play out for too long.
“OK, well for the sake of cinema staff everywhere, let’s not do film reviews.”
We both sat looking into our mugs of tea, as if waiting for some sort of answer to float up to the top, maybe a word forming out of floating tea leaves.
“Are you an expert in anything?” I asked. “It would be great to have someone who was an expert on something here sometimes.”
This surprised me.
“I’m surprised at that…” (Told you) “What in?”
Absolutely the only reason I ever associated Barrington with ducks was so that I could write an amusing post, dangerously including all known rhymes for the word duck and skirting knowingly and playfully around a particular one.
And now he considered himself an expert on ducks.
And then a thought occurred to me.
“I’ve got it!” I exclaimed, mainly to justify the punctuation.
“You went to Oxbridge, yes?” I asked him.
“I rowed for Oxford in the boat race.” Barrington beamed proudly, “Although that was a sinking year…” his expression fell as he remembered.
“You rowed! Perfect! How about instead of rowing, you cover the rowing instead.”
I re-read that line to myself as I typed it and realised that it didn’t actually work in type as well as it did in speech.
“Rowing as in arguing…” I quickly clarified. “So from rowing, a boat, to rowing, arguing…”
It seemed so simple when I first thought of it.
“How do you mean?”
“Politics! You can be my politics columnist. It’s just like the rowing (as in a boat). You’ve got your reds, your blues, shouting, pointing and laughing, childlike sulks, supporters, partisan slagging each other off… rowing (as in the arguing).”
“And sinking.” Barrington added.
“Yep, there’s sometimes desperate bailing out and wilful ignoring of the fact you’re sinking but yes, in the end there’s sinking too.”
“Perfect. When should I start?”
I settled back into my armchair and closed my eyes.
“Somehow Barrington, in my head, I think you already have.”
I cradled my mug trying to find any remaining warmth.
It was too late. All the tea and the warm and comforting sanity had gone.