Scene – Friday afternoon in an east Leeds coffee shop. A middle-aged man of erratic mind enjoys a catch up over a cappuccino with an uncle in his dotage. Perched on stools on stools in the company of local coffee patrons and three baristas, what follows are excerpts from the duo’s post-noon verbal exchanges.
“Things my appear bad, Gary… But trust me lad, there are always people worse off than you.” the well-meaning, but perhaps misguided, elderly relative advised his disenchanted looking nephew.
“I know, uncle Joe….. Sorry for being so grumpy. I’m not too bad at the minute, but I’ve recently come out of a tough few months low mood wise.” the middle-aged man responded disconsolately.
“I appreciate that, Gaz…… However, despite that you need to start looking on the positive side of things.” The old fella continued with his pep talk.
“What do you mean?” the middle-aged nephew queried.
“Well, for a start, at least you’re not called Aubrey Cheesecloth!” the idiosyncratic septuagenerian submitted philosophically; seeking to comfort his fed-up younger relative.
“Do you know somebody called Aubrey Cheesecloth?” a bemused Gary countered inquisitively.
“No, but that’d be far worse than what you’re currently having to live with!” the man in his dotage mooted.
“With all due respect, uncle Joe, I’d reckon my recent issues with depression are far worse life events than living with the moniker Aubrey Cheesecloth!” the fifty-something man felt moved to point out.
“I’m not convinced….. You’re still with us aren’t you!…… Also, you’ve had a fairly decent life, unlike poor old Aubrey who’s been burdened with a dreadful name for decades!….. You should think yourself lucky!!” Joe argued firmly. Although, unconvincingly in his nephew’s eyes.
“Aubrey Cheesecloth doesn’t even exist!!” the nephew blustered.
“I know, but I’m using him as a metaphor for all those poor people who’ve been burdened with monikers which put a target on their back!” came the elderly relative’s riposte.
“I know you’re only trying to cheer me up, uncle Joe……However, I’d venture in a game of existential event Top Trumps, mental health issues usurp owning a name veering from the mainstream.” an ever agitated Gary chuntered.
“I really think you need to calm down, Gaz!…… Smell the coffee and embrace the comfortable life you now enjoy in early retirement!” the old man fractiously suggested, much to his nephew’s chagrin.
“Sorry if this sounds disrespectful, Joe, but I think you’re talking out of your arse!!….. I’ve had a patchy few years fortune wise. ” the flustered younger man pointed out
Adding tetchily “Sure I’ve had good times, but in that time I’ve battled intermittent depression, suffered hospitalisation after a gastric bleed… Not to mention had stents fitted after a life threatening event... Episodes infinitely more distressing than bearing a name like Aubrey Cheesecloth!!”
“Well personally I feel you are being overly melodramatic….. Attention seeking for your minor misfortune, while Aubrey endures snide hurtful jibes through no fault of his own. He the mere victim of parental foresight shortfalls!” Joe confrontationally continued.
“Minor misfortune?!!… I had a f***ing heart attack!!… The blood flow to an area of my heart had stopped!!… Do you even understand what a cardiac incident of this magnitude entails?!” Gary bit back at his uncle’s provocation.
“My point about attention seeking for having the cardiac attack still stands, though.” Joe continued to antagonise his kin.
“Well my health issues weren’t my fault!” came the defensive nephews angry retort.
“Are you so sure?….. Your lifestyle is a bit rackety…… You drink more than you should; you’re exercise regime is sporadic at best in middle-age…… Plus you’re a bit of a hot head which probably contributed to your health problems in some form!” the uncle further antagonised.
“I’m not a hot head!!…. You silly old b*****d!….. And if you don’t stop winding me up I’ll kick you in the bollocks!” Gary unwisely blustered… His confrontational retort playing right into the old man’s hands.
“Well your current behaviour indicates otherwise!” Joe countered with a grin, clearly taking great joy from the fact his nephew had bitten at the psychological bait he’d laid.
“Well your current behaviour indicates you don’t mind stressing me to such an extent I could suffer another heart attack.” the younger man blasted the elderly relative, his chest tightening. Prior to him collapsing from his perch.
The uncle jumped from his stool and shaking his younger family member exclaimed “You know I’m only teasing, Gaz!!!!!……. Gaz! Gary! Gaz, wake up!!!…… Are you ok, Gary?!…….. Excuse me, barista, can you dial for an ambulance, please?!”