So, have you seen Les Mis? Isn’t it just super! Now come on, spill the beans, peeps; did you have a nice big juicy cry at the end? Don’t worry, yours truly had to wipe away a few stray tears as the credits rolled, and I’m not at all ashamed to admit it! Because not only is it a masterpiece of cinema, it’s also a deeply Christian film! (And you can’t say that very often nowadays, can you?) Oh, and isn’t Eddie Redmayne simply sublime as Marius? I shall have to keep my eye on this charming, freckle-faced young chap! (Because of his considerable acting and singing talents, of course! Why else do you think?)
For the past few days since seeing the film I’ve been walking around the flat trilling all the songs. Thankfully Dan hasn’t been around, or he’d have flipped with rage by now. He’s still traversing the African plains with his dear old mama, leaving me all on my tod to be ‘Master of the House!’ (well, ok, ‘master of the flat’!)
I’ve been getting along just fine of course, despite Dan and Linda’s touching concern for me before they left. “You’ll be all by yourself,” warned Dan, “but don’t think you can go getting up to any mischief in my absence! Remember, I can read you like a book, Matthew, I’ll know!” “And God witnesses everything!” added Linda as she heaved her suitcases behind her out the door.
But there are the occasional moments where one yearns for the brain and braun of Mr Dan Erpingham to be on hand. Take yesterday for instance.
I’d just popped out to the shops to get some groceries and returned to the front entrance of the flats to find a mean looking young lad in a hoodie loitering by the door. I hurried past him and hastily let myself in but as I had feared the youth followed me into the hallway. My heart pounded in my chest as I took the stairwell and ascended quickly, he in hot pursuit. As I reached the door of my flat, it became apparent that my pursuer was still snapping at my heels, so I would simply have to man up and confront the fellow. I spun round to face him, but before I could squeak “please don’t hurt me!” he had thrust a crumpled photograph under my nose. Well, this didn’t seem like the modus operandi of any young felon I’d read about, so I began to breathe a sigh of relief only to have said sigh halted mid-exhalation and reversed back into a sharp intake of breath as I observed who the photograph depicted. It was Joel, our former admin assistant and lodger, (up until he wavered and had to be taken to ‘The Garage’ for his ‘MOT’).
“Where’s Joel!” he snapped.
“Who?” I queried, taking care to suitably furrow my brow. “I know no Joels!”
“Yes you do, he lives here!” barked the boy. I didn’t like the racket he was kicking up for the neighbours entertainment so I opened the door and ushered him inside.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” I asked, in an attempt to pacify the brute via the medium of hot beverages.
“Joel!” hollered the young man, rudely barging into every room in search of our fallen comrade. “Where is he? What the f*** have you done with him?”
I attempted in vain to maintain the fiction that this Joel was a complete stranger to myself but the intruder fished a letter from his inside pocket and waved it accusingly in my face, a letter written by Joel some months ago. Having disgorged several items of paperwork from a filing cabinet which established that a Matthew Ditty and Dan Erpingham both resided in the residence, (and that being in the residence I was likely to be one of them) he then began reading aloud choice passages from Joel’s letter that seemed to further verify that myself, Joel and Dan were indeed intimately acquainted, despite my earlier protestations to the contrary.
“I think you’d better sit down,” I said calmly, leading him to the kitchen table as I made us some tea.
Turns out young Declan (for that is his name) has a lurking suspicion that all isn’t quite tickety boo with his old chum. Joel wrote to his old school pal Declan whilst ensconsed in our spare room, just to say “so long, adieu, auf wiedersehen goodbye” or words to that effect. But he’d listed our address on the letter and given lengthy descriptions of Dan and myself. Well, mostly Dan, actually. (Referred to throughout as the “handsome one”! Hmm.)
Declan resides in Brighton (where Joel hailed from). Apparently Joel had announced one Friday to Dec that he was off to London for the weekend to taste the “hedonistic splendour of gay London” (or words to that effect) as he’d grown tired of the rather provincial Brighton scene. So nobody was more shocked than Declan when Joel returned to sixth form college the following Monday to announce that he’d become a Christian. Joel’s parents, (two militant lesbians) were outraged, immediately turfing him out into the street in disgust.
So Joel came hurtling back to London on the next train and sought me out (the cause of his conversion, natch), pitching up in our flat for the next few months. (You can see Joel in our promotional video, re-enacting his first encounter with me, about 3:39 minutes in). Then of course there was the fateful phone call to one of his mothers, the olive branch of peace was extended and he was to be tentatively welcomed back into the fold.
Except of course he never arrived. But Joel’s mothers did receive a message on their answer-phone from Joel. “Hello Mums,” Joel’s quavering voice had said, “I’ve decided not to come home after all. Ever. Don’t try and contact me. I hate you and I never want to speak to either of you ever again. Goodbye.”
“Well, then,” I said, “mystery solved.”
“No, it’s not mystery solved! Where is he?”
“He just took off one day,” I said, “said he fancied doing some travelling, something about India I think. Said he wanted to find himself, go on a spiritual journey, or some such.”
“But he’s a Christian!”
“No,” I corrected him, “he got bored with Christ, said he fancied giving Eastern mysticism a whirl, like so many pampered Westerners before him.” And on that point, I emitted a weary little sigh and rolled my eyes.
“I don’t know,” shrugged Declan, flummoxed. “I just thought it was all a bit suspicious. I heard that answerphone message and thought it sounded a bit weird, like you’d made him record it under duress or something.”
I laughed at this to demonstrate how ridiculous I thought it sounded.
“I tried to get his mums to report him missing to the police, but they didn’t seem to give a toss. I was like, “he’s your son!” and one of his mum’s was like, “no son of mine is a Christian!” and the other mum was like, “yes, and he’s probably started reading the Daily Mail too, and voting Tory!” And they both shuddered, and one of them said, “what would the neighbours say if they saw him walking up the street with his crucifix necklace, his Daily Mail and his blue rosette, we’d be cast out of Brighton society! Never again will Caroline Lucas MP invite us to her vegan summer barbecues! Julie Burchill will spit in our faces!” And I was like, “but Julie Burchill’s a Christian!” and his mums were both, like, “all the more reason why she’d spit in our faces, Julie hates anyone copying her!” I gave up trying to reason with them, so I thought I’d try and find Joel myself!”
“But maybe,” I said sadly, squeezing Declan’s hand, “Joel doesn’t want to be found?”
“But I’m his BFF!” protested Declan.
A brainwave suddenly occured to me. “Tell me Declan, did Joel have any other friends called Declan?”
“No,” said Declan, “just me. Why?”
I bit my lip. “Because he often used to talk about someone called Declan whom he found really annoying, and secretly despised, and how he’d be so happy never to see him again.”
As Declan stared at me I thought ‘here it comes,’ as the flood gates opened and he burst into tears.
“Oh dear, come here, Declan,” I murmured, enfolding him in my arms. “There, there!” And as I cradled him I sang ‘Do You Hear The People Sing?’ from Les Miserables. And what do you know, after a couple of verses Declan joined in!
So a round of applause please for clever-clogs Matthew who successfully managed to defuse this potentially explosive situation! Who says I can’t look after myself, eh?
All together now, “master of the house, doling out the charm, ready with a handshake and an open palm…..”