Ugly Puggly 28
We trooped down the stairs, out of breath and excited, as if we’d just returned from a long cross-country run. Ugly Puggly had that distant look, as if we were strangers and our enthusiasm bled away.
Jeff went back to tacking with an English and mock Bearsden accent. ‘I’m sure when we get the survey report back, we can make further arrangements. Take a few photographs and get things properly moving. H He searched for his car keys that were in his left hand, but he’d passed them into his right hand.
Dave slunk in behind his back and sat down, pulling out his phone. Ugly Puggly looked up to me for a translation.
‘He said the house is like a shite-pit, but he’s got a dodgy mate that’s offering £80 000. But you’d be mad to take that.’
‘I’m legally insane,’ said Ugly Puggly. ‘So I’ll take it.’
‘You will?’ said Jeff.
‘You urnane and willnae.’ Dave offered a taut smile, but with anger in his voice. ‘We can get far mair than that. And you seem in an awful hurry tae make us homeless—I’m no sure why?’
I stood between them and offered up my penny’s worth. ‘Rome wisnae built in a day. And I don’t see whit all the hurryin is about either.’
‘Depends whit Rome yer talkin about,’ said Ugly Puggly. After the fall of the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantium Empire a sixteenth-century monk declared that Moscow would be the last Rome and the gateway to heaven. Like the economist, Francis Fukyama, wae the fall of the Berlin Wall, it would lead us to the end of history.’
‘Aye, so whit?’ I nodded at Dave. ‘He probably doesnae even know where Rome is.’
‘I dae,’ said Dave. ‘Rome’s in Rome.’
Jeff glanced at his key and sighed. ‘Look, I need to be going.’ He pulled a glossy business card out of his breast pocket and handed it to Ugly Puggly, ‘I’ll phone and check you out later for an update’.
I heard the roar of his souped-up engine as he reversed out of the parking bay. And I felt relieved. As if it was just another one of Ugly Puggly’s ideas that took off and then fizzled out. We could go back to being normal as Spring in December. We could sell the FOR SALE sign for firewood, or Ugly Puggly could make it into a bird table we could catch birds with and bake in a pie, like in that nursery rhyme. But I was jumping too far ahead of myself. I thought I might have a can of lager left in the fridge and went to check.
There was only half a can and it was flat, but at least it was cold.
When I came back into the living room, Dave was sitting on Ugly Puggly’s lap, his eyes wide. His face was face glowing as if he was trying to learn everything about him in one breath. They might even have been kissing. I felt like an intruder and turned to go, but with so much junk about, I kicked the edge of the door. They gazed at me and smiled complicity.
I stumbled into the room and slumped down on the couch. I took a slug of lager. ‘That thing yeh were sayin about Moscow. It’s still standin,’ I burped.
‘For noo,’ Ugly Puggly eased Dave off his lap. ‘But when the prophecy was made it was the sixteenth century. And as we all know in 1812, Napoleon let his army into the city. Its golden church domes glistening in the sunlight. Thousands of palaces sculpted out of the finest woods known to man. All turned to ash. As winter set in, and man turned against man. The Slavic Holy City was an unholy city as it burned.’
‘Lighten up, mate,’ I said. ‘We’ve got a Holy City tae. Up the tap of the hill. I’ll tell you this. Whoever designed those houses needs burning. Flat roofs, for fuck sake. Did the stupid cunt know realize we live in Scotland and it rains every day?’
‘Council houses,’ said Ugly Puggly. ‘After every war, the government makes a lot of promises. “Homes fit for Heroes” is always up there somewhere. And to be fair, after the Second World War they made a good start on it.’
‘Thatcher finished it. She did mair damage than the Luftwaffe.’
Dave had an arm draped over Ugly Puggly’s shoulder. ‘Who’s Thatcher?’ he asked.
If I’d been Ugly Puggly, I’d have shoved him off the chair and onto his arse. We exchanged bemused glances. I waited for him to explain and he waited for me. After all, I was the one that had a drink, even if it was only a mouthful of lager. I took another drink and a deep breath.
‘You ever seen the Wizard of Oz?’ I assumed that even though his mum was a gay-bashing Christian she let him watch it in the closet as long as he didn’t try and dress up as Tutu.
‘Aye, it’s on every year innit?’
‘Right, that’s a good start. Remember the bit when the Wicked Witched of the East is crushed under a big boulder and all the Munchkins come oot to celebrate?’
‘Emm,’ he didn’t look convinced.
‘Well, that was Thatcher.’
‘It’s a bit more complicated than that,’ said Ugly Puggly.
‘Well, I prefer my version.’ I shook the can to check if there was any lager left. And realized I’d have to go to the off-license.
Ugly Puggly began picking up and sorting through his scraps of paper. ‘We’ve got some of the most expensive housing in Europe. And there’s no enough. The government keeps tellin us we’re one of the richest countries in the world. Thatcher nicked Labour’s idea and ran with it. She pioneered the great housing gie away. Three-and-a-hauf tae four million council houses gieing away. Wae nothing to replace them wae, while gieing oodles of pubic cash to private landlords who cashed in on scarcity, and an asset that never stopped giein. If we’d used the billions of pounds we’d gied tae landlord oer the years, everybody that wanted a house could hae a house. And there’d still be enough spare cash left to offer a Polaris missile as a flagpole to every Tory landlord as a keepsake.’
I pointed a finger at Dave. ‘You’ll ne’er be a homeowner, because in order to be a homeowner your parents need to be homeowners. And you Ma rents fae the Council.’
‘I don’t want to be a homeowner,’ he said.
‘Aye, you dae. Let’s be honest. It’s every middle-class ma’s wet dream that her son or daughter owns their own gated house. And they’d quite happily vote for Herod killin the firstborn of every child in the land if it would ensure their wee Jack or Jessica got a place in medical school and were guaranteed a first-class degree.’
‘I dunno any Jessica,’ he said.
I leaned forward. ‘Aye, but you dae know quite a few Jack the lads. Home is where the heart is. And yours is doon other guy’s drawers.’
‘No it isnae.’
Ugly Puggly piled his notes and stuck them under an open Oxford Dictionary. ‘We put up a statue of Mary Barbour in Govan, where she helped pioneer the rent strikes in 1915.’ He sighed. ‘We don’t need mair statues. But we do need mair rent strikes. And we need about 300 000 decent houses built yesterday and ever year fae noo on.’
‘So whit you sellin yours for then?’ I asked.