View from the Bridge: 9

by John Morrison


9: Wounded Man

The Milltown Times runs a regular column by the town's one celebrity export. He is a man whose huge affection for the town is indicated by the speed with which he decamped to London on being offered the important post of Deputy Head of Paperclips in Margaret Thatcher's government.

Now surplus to the requirements of any organisation with political leanings to the left of the Ku Klux Klan, he has been consigned to the rubber chicken circuit of minor celebrity. Now he feels obliged to offer his jaundiced opinions on every issue that affects the good people of Milltown, and labours under the misapprehension that we are as fascinated by his every word and gesture as he is himself.

In his achingly tedious role as 'Professional Yorkshireman' he has rendered himself immune to the doubts and indecision that affect those lesser mortals who try to think before they talk. His is a simplistic world peopled with conspirators whose one aim is to stop our country becoming great again. He makes it his personal crusade to show them up for what they really are: namby-pamby, Guardian-reading lefties who look at both sides of every issue and then come down firmly on the fence.

Naturally, there are many blameless folk in Milltown for whom it is a badge of honour to have been on the receiving end of one of his regular tirades. And, since it's a sunny weekend, a lot of them are sitting around in the town's square. They pass the time by watching the world go by and discussing the options open to the terminally indolent: such six-pint topics as the relative merits of opening a flea circus or starting a cult religion.

There are quite a variety of street-styles on display. The crusties look as if they've been dipped into a vat of mud and then left to dry. Etiquette demands they have an equally unkempt dog on a bit of string and drink strong cider to the point of unconsciousness. Some have rings through ears, noses, lips and tongues. Rumour has it that one of them even has a pierced foreskin, though it turns out, on polite enquiry, to have been nothing more than an unfortunate industrial accident.

The hippies wear shapeless pantaloons and rainbow coloured sweaters. They too adopt an air of studied torpor, especially the older ones, who seem to have adopted - and then adapted - Timothy Leary's dictum to tune in, turn on and drop off. Willow Woman is chatting to some of her friends, including Wounded Man who, in a town full of men with straggly grey hair, is distinguished only by it not being worn in a pigtail. He has the sad rheumy eyes of an elderly Labrador, and nods understandingly while Willow Woman complains the unwanted attention she gets from men... every time she walks into the Co-op naked.

Wounded Man is a founder member of the Holistic Plumbers Collective who, when called out, try to put plumbing problems into a more global context. Instead of just mending leaks or plumbing in washing machines they like to sit around at the customer's house, drinking coffee and consulting the I Ching. Only when they have fully explored their feelings do they make any effort to get down to work. By which point, in an unconscious homage to more conventional plumbing procedures, they usually find they've forgotten to bring any tools with them.

Stoical on such occasions, one of the collective will offer the well-meaning observation that "We obviously weren't meant to work today. Best put a bucket under that leak and call a plumber."

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