There’s a story I need to tell. It’s long, and possibly boring, so bear with me.
“I told Mark and Pete about the records,” I said to Liz.
“Did they laugh?” she asked.
“Yes they did, thankfully,” I said. Liz smiled wryly, and we both went on our way.
I had been in Stroud Brewery when I told them. Dare I, I thought to myself, but heck, what’s to lose but my dignity. Again. Here goes, I thought, as I went in.
“Can I tell you about the records?” I asked.
“Sure,” said Mark and Pete, not knowing what else to say: we were sitting in a pub, what else was there to do but share idle stories. So I began.
“Well, there I was, at the Canal Trust bookshop,” I started. I didn’t tell them why I was there – it was to enquire about whether the bookshop wanted one of those transport cases for albums. Liz was with me, as was Stan, the dog: both were waiting on the path outside, within earshot. Two volunteers, both men, were sitting outside, wearing Canal Trust shirts and by this token good candidates for an enquiry.
“So,” I continued, “I said to these guys, can I tell you about the records?” What I didn’t say, to Mark and Pete at least, was that I had explained it as the funniest moment of my life, a turn of phrase that would come back to bite me. “Sure,” said the two Canal Trust people. At least I think they did, or perhaps it was just a nod, but it didn’t matter, I was going to tell them anyway.
“Okay,” I said, here’s what happened. There I was, walking the dog the other day, and I saw one of your colleagues. We were chatting and I asked him what he did.
“Ah, I deal with the records,” he said.
“Wow,” I said, “that must be really interesting, dealing with all those historical documents.” I was distinctly impressed, thinking to myself that he must be an absolute mine of information.
“Nah,” he said, opening a door. “These records.” He pointed at row upon row of albums of music, LPs stretching from wall to wall.
“Oh,” I said, laughing. I don’t remember him having found it particularly funny, but it tickled me.
So, that’s what I told the two Canal Trust volunteers: I was already laughing as I said it. I got to the end and said, “Nah, these records!” and waited for their response.
Nothing. Not a titter, not a smile. “You see, the records,” I said.
“I don’t get it,” said one.
“You know, albums. LPs. Like, you know, Johnny Cash.”
“Oh,” he said, nonplussed.
“I get it, I think,” said his colleague.
“The records,” I said, desperately. I tried again with an example, before saying, “I will never tell that story again.”
Nothing. Just a slightly perturbed face, as though a coin had appeared on the table for no reason.
“You might want to ask inside, you know, about the box,” said the other volunteer.
Recognising this as an opportunity to exit, I took my leave and did precisely that.
As I re-emerged onto the path, not able to make eye contact with the two, I saw Liz looking at me, her face sparkling with barely suppressed mirth. As we moved away she collapsed into helpless laughter.
“You see, the records,” I said, without any hope left.
“Stop,” she said, bursting into laughter once again.
So that’s what I told Mark and Pete. They laughed, their collective response no doubt helped by the empty pint glasses sitting in front of them. At that moment I didn’t care, I felt nothing but gratitude.
Which is what I told Liz. And now I am telling you. If you have read this far, I can only thank you.
You see, the records.
Also published on Medium.