Friday, September 15, 2006

Paranoia in the Launderette

My walk into work this morning led me past the fabulously named Bernie Spain Gardens by Gabriel's Wharf. Here I passed a man wielding a very large chainsaw device, who was neatly trimming the hedges. My immediate reaction was to take stock of the situation, think fast and wonder if - as I approached - he would let loose, turn and slice me into slithereens with his nasty, rusty, angry looking chainsaw.

Such paranoia is commonplace in my mind. And while I'm pleased to report that I managed to walk past the man without incident of any kind, it did remind me of one of my favourite short stories: 'Paranoia in the Launderette' by Bruce 'Withnail & I' Robinson (a snip at £2.99).

Published (and first read by me) in 1998, I never tire of turning the pages as the unnamed protagonist, a failing writer, takes a reluctant trip to the launderette in order to wash his only set of clothes before embarking on an interview for a job he doesn't even want... and that he fears may well lead to his death. Between getting in a scrape with the police and worrying about what the launderette's staff think of his pants, this is a reassuring anxiety trip inside the head of the truly paranoid. The final scene contains a true gem of a line: "I'm not in here to hurt anyone. I'm a professional writer."

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