Nancy wore green stockings and she slept with everyone

Now there’s a title! Sadly I didn’t write it; it’s from that Leonard Cohen song Seems So Long Ago, Nancy. He has been in the wilderness for so long, and now, towards the end of his life, people are beginning to appreciate his true worth. Just as an aside, a friend of mine went into a record shop in the 90s – they still had record shops then – and asked if they had any Leonard Cohen CDs. The chap in the beard and the Motorhead tee shirt exclaimed, with the sweetest of smiles:

Ah, you must be the other Leonard Cohen fan.

In an interview Cohen said this song was about a woman he had known in Montreal:

I think that the world throws up certain kinds of figures. Sometime in abundance, sometimes very rarely, and that some of these figures act as archetypes or prototypes for another generation which will manifest these characteristics a lot more easily, maybe a lot more gracefully, but not a lot more heroically…Another twenty years later she would have been just like you know, the hippest girl on the block. But twenty years before she was – there was no reference to her, so in a certain way she was doomed.

Poor, promiscuous, beautiful Nancy who ended up alone …looking at the Late Late show through a semi-precious stone… and then even more alone …a forty-five beside her head, an open telephone…

 You may be wondering what started me thinking about Leonard Cohen and Nancy at all, and I’m trying to remember… really I am! Oh yes, semi-precious stones. For some reason, when I asked myself this question: if the world was about to end, what would you do? the answer came to me: find a piece of coloured glass and look through it.

I always liked coloured glass. I have a green glass cat – a real great chunk of pure green glass – looks almost like a dog it’s so chunky. Sometimes I look through that. See my dull surroundings suddenly all wavery and underwatery

Goodness, could this be some sort of hippie flashback/regression thing? Is this the fate of old hippies? Instead of going senile in a straightforward way

 …I put my fluffy slippers on the toaster to warm…

…boy-scouts have stolen the milk again…

…that hole in my garden was dug by greyhounds…

…remind me, what’s my name?

 you start imagining yourself at Woodstock, painting daisies on your forehead and coming out with things like all wavery and underwatery, man…

 Where was I?

End of the world.

I suppose it would depend on a lot of things. Where you were. How long before it ended. How it was going to end.

If, for example, a meteorite was due to strike the earth in ten minutes, and I was at home I might attempt to gather all the cats on the sofa with me and cuddle them. But then, the cats not realising it was about to be the end of the world would be unlikely to co-operate. They would want to remain in their various baskets, upside down in the armchair waving their white-and-ginger paws around or crouched on the upstairs windowsill enraging the dog next door. Or they would want feeding – all of them, regardless. Maybe I would just lie on the sofa and close my eyes, whilst trying not to imagine how it might feel to be killed by a meteorite. Would it be likely to atomise us – one minute you’re looking at the Late Late Show through your semi-precious stone, the next minute, oblivion? Or would it kind of suck all the atmosphere away so you’d be panic-stricken, gasping for breath? Or would it take longer still? Would it destroy ecosystems so that everything kind of withered away over the next few months while everyone starved to death or started stabbing, stealing from and eating one another, as in The Road?

I’m a natural worrier. I just think, would one be in a position to make the most of one’s remaining few seconds/ten minutes/six weeks after a lifetime of high anxiety? Or would one spend the whole few seconds/ten minutes/six weeks chewing ones fingernails and piling sofa cushions up around one? They say the people in the twin towers tried to phone home, tell people they loved them. That’s understandable if you’re in the twin towers and your loved ones are not, but what if everyone is in the twin towers together?

Supposing your loved ones are pursuing their own agendas – looking through semi-precious stones of their own, phoning someone else (in which case their phone would be engaged) piling their own cushions up around them on their own sofas, rushing to the airport to go hang-gliding because that was the last thing on their bucket list? Or maybe they haven’t heard the world is about to end, so wouldn’t it be cruel to tell them? And by the time you’d finished explaining and them not believing you, and then having to explain all over again – booom!

 I suppose the only thing to do, apart from cuddling a cat, if co-operative, would be to list all the things you will never, ever have to do again:

  • Answer the door to double-glazing salesmen…
  • Eat half-cold tinned macaroni cheese…
  • Untangle the mower cord…
  • Shovel up cat poo…
  • Open another sachet of Felix…
  • Set off for the tip with eighteen binsacks full of garden waste…
  • Scrape ice off the car windscreen at 10 o’clock at night in an unlit car-park…
  • Watch East Enders
  • Listen to your tinnitus getting louder…
  • Wish you hadn’t bitten your nails…
  • Hear men discussing football…
  • Wonder if you should have stayed married…
  • Queue up in a 99p store behind someone with body odour…
  • Weigh yourself…
  • Open a Christmas present you know you’re not going to like…
  • Throw another baked-bean can in the recycling…
  • Hoover…

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