A different kind of leaflet dropped through the letterbox today. It was just a small slip of paper with slightly fuzzy black and white print, the sort that usually heralds the arrival of yet another UNBEATABLE CARPET SALE! or an opportunity to make a pitiful amount of money working from home. I picked it up and took it to the bin, which incidentally smells of apples since I started using those scented bin-liners from Poundstretcher. Theyâ€™re a bit of a con, really. The instructions that came with them say: Line the bottom of bin-liner with fresh apple peel (not included), then use as normal.
Anyway, so I was about to toss this leaflet when I gave it the customary inspection. I am now quoting directly from the leaflet, which I have in front of me:
Mr Habarra, African Psychic and Medium, Problem Solver and Blocker of Eyes.
Also, fantastic discounts on room-sized remnants and shagpile roll-ends now in stock!
Hold it, I made that last line up. Iâ€™m sorry, I can never resist a curve-ball. The headline is a true one, though. Trust me, I copied it directly from the leaflet. The text goes on to claim that the mysterious Mr Habarra, in addition to blocking eyes, will also save your marriage, cure infertility, sexual problems, kidney infections, and in a somewhat insidious statement, â€˜return your loved ones,â€™ which does vaguely make me want to call them right now, just to be sure they are where they should be.
Have you worked this out yet? It took me a few minutes, I have to say. But then itâ€™s not every day you get a leaflet from a witch doctor pushed through your letterbox.
There is a sizeable African population where I live. In Nairobi. Sorry, curve-ball again. This is Leeds Iâ€™m talking about. It shouldnâ€™t be a big deal really. After all, I can step outside my flat and buy just about any spice and vegetable from every corner of the globe, although the fucking fish and chip shop is only open for about twenty-minutes every other Tuesday. Stillâ€¦a witch doctor!
So Iâ€™m thinking of having my eyes blocked. No, really â€“ I am cursed. A friend of mine also believed his life was cursed. He was a football prodigy in school, one of those Wayne Rooney types who are destined for fame and fortune from the age of about seven. As soon as he left school he signed for Leeds United, which is unfortunate but hardly a curse in itself. He played a handful of first-team games before being unceremoniously transferred to Hull City. From there things really went from bad to worse. He played for a succession of inglorious lower-league clubs in the north, including Grimsby, Rotherham, Grumbly town and a brief spell at Strangely Athletic, before vanishing into obscurity, or the Scottish Premier League as it is sometimes known.
The football prodigy finally ended his playing career in some godforsaken Danish fishing town, playing right-back for the local third-division side while working as a herring-gutter. It wasnâ€™t quite that bad but thatâ€™s about the state of things as far as he was concerned. He still maintains that he was cursed from an early stage of his career, perhaps given the evil eye by a rival for his position at Leeds.
It certainly makes you think. My own literary path has pretty much mirrored my friendâ€™s football career, only I never even moved out of Leeds. It is merely my ambition, my expectations which have slipped down the leagues. If I started off being the literary equivalent of a dynamic new Chelsea striker, I now reside on the subs bench for the local pub side, feeling faintly ridiculous in shorts and a stripy shirt that bulges in the middle.
So I think I will pop over to see Mr Habarra, blocker of eyes, and see if thereâ€™s anything he can do to lift the curse on my life. Iâ€™ll mention the naked-lady-on-the-leaflet thing while Iâ€™m over there.