Another day of my life was passing, and on this one I had bought scourers, so in some respects it hadn’t been a complete waste. It may not have made for the greatest segment of an autobiography, but I’d told myself I would hold off on that until something a little more dramatic had happened to me anyway. Yes, with the pressure off, I could freely walk the streets, buy scourers, put them in a drawer and think about other household goods that would elevate my status as a mature functioning adult. I unscrewed the cap of a bottle of tequila, which was shaped like a hat, and poured a medium-sized glass. Shuffling through my pockets as I threw my coat onto the area of floor I had designated as a coat rack, I found yesterday’s item: a radiator key. Yes, for just one pound and forty-nine pence I had given myself the power to unlock air from nearly every radiator in the country. Only mature people would have one of these. I put it in the pocket of my jeans just in case I got invited to a dinner party and didn’t want to take my coat and when I was there a radiator needed bleeding. I was prepared. Yes, if someone needed an adult, well…hello. I placed the hat-shaped cap of the bottle on my head, shouted “arriba” and took a sophisticated sip from the glass.
I suddenly noticed a letter for me on the table. It was addressed to “Vaillant Boiler Owner”. I was so taken aback that the hat fell from my head and I didn’t notice for a good six or seven minutes. I had never been regarded as valiant. I didn’t know what it meant, but I was picturing something in the vein of the Three Musketeers, and I liked what I was thinking. I was disappointed with my admirer’s choice of font on the letter, and the fact that they had clearly exploited their company’s postal privileges to send me their passionate plea for unison. A love letter always looks more personal when handwritten or, if you want to go the whole hog, written in blood. But my day had so far solely consisted of obtaining scourers, so I wasn’t about to start going on about it. I decided to check the meaning of the word “valiant” on Google. I was delighted with the results, which confirmed my swashbuckling hopes: “boldly courageous, brave, stout-hearted, worthy, excellent”. And Google didn’t even know I had a radiator key in my pocket. Suddenly, every decision I had made in my life that had led me to this moment seemed absolutely one hundred percent the right thing to have done. Picking up the hat from the floor, I placed it back on my valiant head and decided to take another sophisticated sip.
Feeling a little overzealous and excited, I decided to do a Google image search to see what company I was keeping as a valiant type. I found a picture of Will Mellor. That’s right, Jambo from Hollyoaks. He was the cool one in Hollyoaks when it first aired in 1972. This was, however, just a consolation prize, as it had taken five pages of scrolling to get to him, and other than a picture of a bear eating a slice of watermelon, the other four pages were filled with ugly white rectangles with the word “Vaillant” on them. I looked at the letter again, and my heart sank. “Vaillant Boiler Owner” it said. Of course, my boiler is a Vaillant. I am simply “Boiler Owner” (though now I do also own a radiator key and scourers). The hat-cap fell off the side of my head in sympathy for my misunderstanding. I muttered “arriba” gently and took a slightly less sophisticated sip from the tequila. What was I thinking? Why would I have received such a letter? Unless someone had been impressed with my confidence in picking up cleaning goods in the local Sainsbury’s… And even then, how would they know where I lived? Even if they followed me, I’m in a gated mews, so they would have had to take a punt on the door number, and the odds on succeeding there would be worse than two to one, as there are ten houses in there. Yes, the more I thought about it the more ridiculous my initial reaction seemed. Unless of course they had sent the letter to all ten houses in the hope that at least one copy would reach me. I hadn’t ruled this out, as it would explain the generic typeface.
I opened up the autobiography I had put on hold and leafed through it, desperately looking for a valiant moment, but all I had were receipts for food. Where had my life gone so violently wrong? Why would anybody be impressed with this Alan Titchmarsh excuse for a man? Suddenly weighed down with personal rage, I decided to put things right. Perhaps my mistaking a boiler insurance policy letter for love would be the turning point my life needed. Maybe I could be valiant and make a statement of intent - a romantic gesture of immense magnitude. Rather than wait for a girl to confirm her interest to me in writing, I would go out there with my dusted-down boom box, stand outside her house and play something, like they do in films with happy endings. But who would this lucky girl be? I wrestled with my brain for two and a half seconds. Then I put on my shoes.
When I was at school there was a girl I loved with an intensity I have never fully realised again. I think her name was Sam. It felt like, within the small beach town mundanity in which we lived, we had found a connection as strong as a fridge magnet on a fridge. I always thought it was a shame our relationship was mainly conducted from no closer than ten metres. A fridge magnet rarely registers its connection from distances that great. For that you would need one of those industrial horseshoe shaped ones you get in cartoons. And we weren’t cartoons. We were REAL LIFE. I will never forget the day her bulbous blue eyes locked with mine while I was standing behind my friend Roland. It may sound stupid, but it was one of those moments when you think “this character is going to be a big feature in this movie I call Life, perhaps even an Oscar winner”. Based on her coat I presumed we shared an impeccable taste in obscure indie records nobody had ever heard. I loved that coat. She once didn’t wear it because it was really hot, and I walked straight past her without realising. She was an incredibly special specimen.
It’s not important how I ended up knowing where she now lived, sixteen years later in London, the capital city of England. Let’s just say we had a connection like a cactus spray-mounted on a basketball. I positioned myself outside a window and started flicking through a selection of CDs. It was important to get this right. I wanted to show I’d moved on from being the gawky kid wandering around the old town centre, so I wanted something that would reflect my progression into the adult world. I decided this would mean an instrumental piece. Yes, as an adult, I didn’t need words to tell me what a song was about. I could try and crack the saxophone code. I went to art school. I reflected on what I had learnt there: that everything is subjective, and I can understand everything the way I want because it’s what I want to understand. I think this is what I understood to be correct. I opted for the long version of the Taxi Driver theme tune. I toasted the air and took a sophisticated sip from the bottle of Tequila. I removed my poncho and hoisted the boom box above my head. The problem with these instrumental songs is that they take a long time to really kick in. I could feel my arms shaking as the main motif began to finally introduce itself. But it was working - the window opened, and a head peered out. And it was the girl who might have been called Sam.
“Who are you?” She asked seductively.
I was bamboozled. I hadn’t though this through, but I now realised it was probably pointless to give my name as though we were close. It wouldn’t mean anything to her anyway. I opted for sexy.
“Who do you want me to be?” I shouted.
“Robert Pattinson”, she replied, with almost no time to think.
“Okay, I’m Robert Pattinson”, I shrieked, as the weight of the boom box finally became unbearable.
“Why are you playing scary music out there? Do you have any Tinie Tempah? He’s always on the radio.”
“Tinie Tempah?” I thought to myself. This wasn’t the kind of music that coat would listen to.
“I’m really sorry, this is an old boom box, it isn’t a digital radio.”
“He’ll be on the normal radio.”
“Okay, let me check.” I was happy to check, because it meant I could finally put the boom box down. Unfortunately, it didn’t have an FM setting, and after a few minutes of whizzing around white noise, I settled on a sports debate on Talk Sport.
“I’m sorry”, I said sexily. “You’ll just have to make do with this.”
“Well, thanks for trying”, she said, clearly impressed with my tuning skills. “I’m going to shut the window now. My heating’s gone, and the house is getting cold.”
“Wait!” I screamed as the window came smashing down.
“I have a radiator key…”