it’s magnificent, but it’s not the station

26Jun09

aliensSo, anyway, there I was, re-checking my watch for the hundredth time with the last Piccadilly Line train still not even a timid glimmer in the moonlit distance, when suddenly, out of nowhere, this gigantic spinning disc appeared, strobing and whooping away like some impromptu aerial disco some thirty feet above the footbridge. Eager for reassurance that I wasn’t going completely doolally – frankly, I’ve had a tough few months – I quickly scanned the lengths of both platforms, but it was as I’d suspected: I was alone. South Harrow isn’t the busiest of stations at the best of times, and on a wet Tuesday night in March its rain-spattered asphalt clearly held about as much appeal for the local populace as sharing a B&Q jacuzzi with Peter Mandelson.

Which is probably why no witnesses have yet emerged who can confirm that, shortly after being spotlit by a slanting shaft of blinding light, I was lifted off my feet and sucked slowly and obliquely through the cold night air towards a small oval aperture in the pulsating underbelly of what was, they would now have realised, some sort of spaceship, before being propelled at high speed along a soft-walled flume within the body of the craft – obviously they wouldn’t have seen this bit – and deposited on what I can only describe as Boris Johnson.

“Crikey,” Boris said, picking himself up and rearranging the creases in his suit. “Sorry. Gosh. Should have remembered to stand out the way. Don’t get much warning, that’s the thing. Damn light comes on” – he pointed at a small bulb just above the furry mouth of the tube down which I’d lately slid – “and next thing you know, boof.”

Blinking in the pale greenish glow, I desperately tried to order my thoughts. Behind Boris stood banks of computers and flashing VDUs. Above him, running in mazy lines across a ceiling composed entirely of what looked like egg boxes, translucent pipes hummed softly. My mind was a mess. So many questions. Where did I begin???

“Why did you veto plans to pedestrianise Parliament Square? And where are we? Answer the second one first.”

He harrumphed, and combed his fingers through his fringe. “Well, golly, I’m afraid I’m no Bo-Frangle the Navigator but, at a rough guess, I’d say we’re just passing Betelgeuse. These new ships are pretty nippy. As for – what was it? – Parliament Square, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I think you might be confusing me with the Mayor of London.”

“But… but… you are the…”

At this moment, a door in the far wall shooshed open, and Boris Johnson walked in, accompanied by Boris Johnson. Seeing my slack-jawed confusion, the hindmost Boris sought to reassure me.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “all members of your species look alike to us too. Except for Bernie Ecclestone – we don’t understand how he fits in at all. But, once you get to know us, you’ll soon get the hang of it. Now, would you like a doughnut? It’s three hours till we land.”

***

bissign

And, you know what, he was right. It took time, and a lot of practice, but soon, whenever crowds of eager Borises pressed their podgy faces to the glass of the large cabinet in which I was exhibited, I found I could happily distinguish not just the wary from the excited, and the contemptuous from the deeply moved, but also – with some 90% accuracy – the male from the female. Not that any of the Borises understood my fascination with the latter distinction, as it turned out they were essentially an asexual race, who reproduced via the occasional explosive release of thousands of spores, each of which would quickly develop into a full-size replica of its parent within six weeks. The only time that the Borises felt the need to differentiate between male and female was when queuing for buses, as here strict and highly complex chivalric codes still pertained. Except, sensibly, during peak hours.

“Deep down, we’re really quite an old-fashioned lot,” confided my keeper as he explained all this to me one afternoon – each day on the Borises’ planet had two afternoons, and the first one was nearly always pretty dead in terms of visitors.

“But… if each… um, sporing?”

“We say spuming. It sounds ruder.”

“OK, if each spuming produces thousands of young, why isn’t the planet over-run?”

“Oh, they cull us. The young acquire this murderous rage after about three weeks, which completely disappears again three weeks later. We call it adolescence. Silly word, I know – I’m not sure where we got it from – but there you go. Anyway, during adolescence, they can kill as many of us oldsters as they like, no questions asked. We just learn to keep our heads down and stay away from bus shelters after dark.”

I used to enjoy these afternoon chats with my keeper. He was a nice chap. But then one day he woke me with some intriguing news.

“We’ve decided to breed you,” he said.

I stopped midway through chewing my breakfast doughnut.

“Breed?”

“Yes. Partly for scientific purposes, partly to stop people gossiping, and partly because we’re trying to pitch to a younger age group. Not sure if I approve of that myself, but – it’s not up to me. So, anyway, we’ve been back to Earth and got you a mate. We were thinking that maybe you could mate every evening just before closing time, to keep the crowds from leaving early, with perhaps a matinee on Saturdays. What do you think?”

“Well, it sort of depends on who she… I mean, mostly it wouldn’t be a problem, but…”

“Really? How extraordinary. But, then, it still beats me how you distinguish. Well, let’s just keep our fingers crossed, eh? Oh – here she is now. Don’t stand too close, or I’ll never tell you apart. Better still, wear this hat.”

As he’d been speaking, another Boris had appeared, leading my new companion on a short length of rope.

“What do you think?” asked my keeper nervously.

I sucked reflectively on my doughnut.

“I think it’s Tony Hadley,” I said. “From Spandau Ballet.”

“Is that a problem?”

I looked at Tony Hadley. And Tony Hadley looked at me. And then he looked at the plate glass wall that fronted our display.

“Could we maybe have curtains?” he said.

***

Once I’d explained to the Borises where they’d gone wrong, they were aghast.

“Crikey,” they all said.

A high-level meeting was quickly convened, and it was decided that either me or Tony Hadley would be returned to Earth and a more suitable mate found for whichever of us remained. Because I’d already been there a while, and some visitors were apparently complaining that I’d become repetitive, it was decided that I should be the one to go back. I was actually quite sorry to leave, and even Tony Hadley seemed a bit emotional when the day finally came for me to depart.

“What’s that odd gurgling noise?” I said, as he hugged me manfully beside the taxi.

“That,” he said, clearing his throat awkwardly, “is the sound of my soul.”

I was so glad we’d never got those curtains.

***

I arrived back on Earth at the end of May. But it’s taken me a while to readjust. Also, to stop them making the same mistake again, I offered to show the Borises likely places to pick up women who might be willing to mate with Tony Hadley. I really don’t know why I did that. I’m a fool to myself. I also never realised that every All Bar One has an emergency button in the ladies that links direct to the local police station.

So, in conclusion, that’s why this blog hasn’t been updated since February. But I’m back now, so – let’s give it another go, eh? Oh, and here’s a tip: stay clear of City Hall in April 2011, as it seems that’s when our Boris is due to spume, and by all accounts it can be quite messy. Like a really big sneeze, apparently.

And make the most of the next couple of years.

Advertisements