These spring days are a wonderous thing. In the morning I awake to shards of sunlight streaming through the pale curtains which are closed over my bedroom window, and to the bustling sound of the local binmen emptying the three recycling bins gathered outside. Through in the kitchen I can hear the harmony of birds tweeting in the garden; 140 characters or less. I take a detour along the esplanade on my way to work under a bright blue sky casting crystals into the calm sea. The temperature threatens to rise to a level where I might consider changing out of my long black winter overcoat. The same walk is repeated in the evening, in reverse, because it is still daylight and all of a sudden the days feel much longer, even if they are still the same 24 hours they have always been.
The extended days of spring crackle with a wealth of fresh opportunity. Families walk along the pavements, spread out across the tarmac like a fan, messily lapping at ice cream cones for the first time since the early days of September. I admire their ability to walk and eat at the same time – a feat I would never dare attempt through fear of how horribly it would inevitably go wrong – though find it frustrating as I try to amble around them. Al fresco diners fill the seating areas outside the coffee shops and at night the bars are alive with dancers.
Meanwhile I am feeling a slight scratching in the back of my throat and a sort of sniffle taunting the lining of my nose. My eyes develop a demand to be rubbed and it isn’t long before they resemble the aftermath of a small bee sting. They water in the way some girls eyes do once I have attempted seduction, and a lethargy washes over me. Initially I suspect that I am experiencing the onset of a cold – such terrible timing, I think to myself – but I haven’t been in contact with any other sick people and surely a cold doesn’t just happen? I remembered that when I was younger my mother would often tell me that I probably suffer from very mild hay fever and, even though I never knew her to be wrong about anything, I would never fully believe this to be true. This was partly because I couldn’t understand how it could be possible to be afflicted by something you’re supposed to be able to count but can’t, and also because I didn’t want to be that guy who is allergic to spring.
This week, however, I began to accept the possibility that I might have hay fever when it seemed like it could go some way to explaining some of my unusual behaviours of late. After all, what man can think straight when he is literally being attacked by the most beautiful season of the year?
On Thursday of the week before last I went shopping in Aldi for a few essential goods: coffee, milk, eggs, pizza. As I walked up the fresh produce aisle I passed a woman who I had met at an event at the Rockfield Community Centre some time last year. We had a favourable interaction that night and I recall that when she told me that she had recently started working for an accountancy firm in town I responded by saying that as I also work in the financial sector we probably shouldn’t be talking. I said this in the hope that I could engineer some kind of Romeo and Juliet scenario, but with less death and tragedy. She seemed to recognise me and smiled and said hello. I continued with my shopping and proceeded to the checkout, where I typically found myself behind a man with a large trolley. I unloaded my four items onto the conveyor belt and continued listening to The Decemberists. Soon I became aware that the woman from the rival accountants was approaching behind me and I began to consider how my diet might appear to her. Ordinarily my basket would have mango and blueberries, perhaps asparagus or mangetout, some sweet potato, chicken breast, parsley, spinach and cherry tomatoes. But I had bought all of that on Wednesday and here I had pizza and milk; the one with the green lid, indicating that I am only a semi-healthy person.
“I always worry how my shopping is going to look to someone behind me,” I said removing my earphones. “It’s usually a lot more healthy than this,” I assured her as I glanced at my 89p double pepperoni pizza. She offered a consolation smile and pointed out that the first item out of her basket was a bottle of red wine. “At least there are grapes in there.” Even I cringed as those words fell from my mouth.
My interactions with women would only become worse on Friday, although for a time it seemed things were going well when a young lady at the bar expressed an interest in my bright pink pocket square and would eventually show me how to fold it correctly – or at least better than I had been doing. This traveller from Norfolk remarked that my fashion ensemble resembled Jon Snow and I made some quip about the much desired after character from the television series Game of Thrones, knowing that she was referring to the Channel 4 newsreader. We engaged in conversation and I could see that some of my words were making her smile. I learned that she was travelling through Oban on her way to a job interview on Morvern this week and that she was spending the night in a backpackers hostel. For reasons I have yet to establish my next question was to ask how the bed is. After several seconds of aching silence I told her that I was aware how odd my last question sounded and I pleaded that I had asked it in a strictly non-sexual manner. She advised me, quite logically, that she didn’t know how the bed was because she had not yet slept in it, and the dialogue ceased. To compound my error I wished her luck for her interview on Coll as I was leaving.
In an effort to give my flat some character I have recently been decorating the walls with picture frames and pieces of art. In February I bought a 94 x 56 cm mounted print of Jackson Pollock’s Convergence, though it has been sitting on my breakfast bar since it arrived as its size convinced me that hanging it on the wall would be a two person job, least of all because I was never entirely sure how or where on the wall a picture should be hung. On Sunday I decided that attempting to hang this piece of art by myself would be exactly the kind of endeavour needed to prove my worth after the farce of Friday, and it turned out that hanging a picture is remarkably straightforward. I felt pleased with my accomplishment and enjoyed a bottle of red wine to celebrate. In a drunken haze, fuelled by the confidence that I now know how to hang things, I went online and ordered a Henri Matisse print. This made a change, I thought, from my usual routine of drunk buying socks and ties from Slaters.
It is perhaps my habit of buying art and fashion accessories which leads me to being thrifty in other areas of life. At one stage this week I suffered a repetitive strain injury to my thumb and index finger from squeezing an almost but not quite empty tube of toothpaste. My desperation to use every last ounce of the stuff was such that I began contemplating whether I could use a knife to slice open the tube and scrape the last of the paste onto my brush. Eventually I accepted that such action would be beyond the pale and I bought a new carton of toothpaste.
One morning this week while my toothbrush was clenched between my pained index finger and thumb and I was cleaning my teeth it occurred to me that I hadn’t watered my houseplants in some time. I can only assume that it was the running water which brought this realisation, because despite them being the only other living being I have to care for, my attention to the wellbeing of my houseplants is lacking. I try to tell myself that this isn’t due to an absence of love for my family of foliage and that they are more difficult to look after than children or dogs because at least they have a way of making a person aware that they are in need of nourishment or attention, whereas I only know that my plants need water when they are resembling a nearly dead thing. It is because of this inability to communicate that two of the four plants I inherited when I moved into my flat have since gone to the great window box in the sky.
The effects of my allergy to spring were proving to be quite profound as the week went on, and I can only attribute a loss of senses through hay fever to the situation I found myself in on Friday night when I finally had the opportunity to invite a lovely girl back to my place after closing time at the bar, only to realise when I got home that the only mixer I could offer to accompany the seven bottles of Jack Daniels I have was orange juice. This was despite me laying awake for at least a few minutes on Thursday night considering how if I am to have an efficient home bar I would need to keep a regular supply of sodas and coke. I can only wonder how different things might have been if I didn’t feel the need to blow my nose on Friday afternoon.