The Loneliness of the Long Distance Pizza Flyer Delivery Boy

In December 2014, I wrote a short piece about a pizza junk mail delivery boy which was deliberately out of character with my other material. I was working at the computer, staring vacantly out of the window when one of these guys rocked up outside, looking as if he wanted the world to swallow him up whole. Alan Sillitoe’s Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner got into my head somehow, but I didn’t want a tale laden with the kind of pathos I didn’t feel qualified to write about; so I played a straight bat. When the narrator rejects outright a small moment of tenderness because he is preconditioned to expect the worst, there’s no fanfare: it’s just how it is. And I like that.

It was the last story of forty in Amateur of Life and Death. I was unashamedly channelling The Fast Show‘s Rowley Birkin QC, when his catchphrase “I’m afraid I was very, very drunk” is turned on its head because it isn’t funny. It catches your breath, and still to this day remains one of my favourite moments of character comedy writing. My cousin Mark Dicey illustrated it beautifully (see above), but I knew I wasn’t finished with it yet. I tentatively introduced it into the Broken Biscuits live set recently, with an accompanying urban landscape soundtrack recorded by Donald Ross Skinner in the 90s. But it needed something more to set it apart from the other posts, so I made it into a film.

Franck Alba’s haunting soundtrack, recorded in his bedroom in a matter of hours, is just perfect; and Alan Maclean’s wildly expressive features could not have been better for the ‘old geezer’. With a bit of help from one of my dearest friends Julitha Ryan, the whole thing was conceived, shot and edited in Crystal Palace over three days, and is now ready to be outed at Brighton Fringe next week. Hope you like it x

Idle Eye 133 : The Loneliness of the Long Distance Pizza Flyer Delivery Boy

Winter, Mid-90s

The bundle arrives at 5am. Dan & Charlie don’t come in, they never do, just sling it down by the milk crates and drive off. It’s usually wet when I pick it up but it don’t matter, I throw the top and bottom ones out anyway. Saves about twenty minutes in the long run. Not recently, though. They’ve put the big houses up on the Ridge onto my round ‘cos it’s the holidays and no one’s about. Takes bloody ages to get up there and they’ve all got them ‘No Junk Mail’ signs so you know you’re not wanted. Sometimes one of ‘em comes out and shouts but you just pretend you don’t hear nothing and keep going. No time to stop, too cold for that. Just get it over with.

Nan’s got me some gloves for Christmas. The thermal ones, she said, to stop me pinkies going blue. Trouble is, you can’t sort through the flyers so you end up taking them off anyway, bless her. Sometimes I go round after I’m done ‘cos she’s always got the heating up. Like the Bahamas in there most days, even in summer. Might nip over later if it’s still light. She likes a natter.

The first bit’s dead quick. Mostly flats, all shoved up close together & no one cares if you chuck in some extras. They all end up in the bin anyway, so what’s a few more if it makes life easier? You’ve got to watch it, though. A couple of lads got the elbow for putting theirs in a skip last week and bunking off early; not what you want at this time of year. Usually you see a few posties on the way, struggling with their big sacks of parcels and fat letters and cards and that. Makes you glad you’re not one of them, even though they make loads more than us. We don’t talk, neither. Everyone wants to get back indoors, quick as you like.

As you move out of town, the houses get bigger and further apart. Some have drives you’ve got to walk up, and dogs giving it all that until you leave. And those letterboxes that snap back onto your fingers, ‘cos to them you’re no better than the draughts they’re keeping out. There’s usually someone in, but when they see you coming they go in another room and pretend they’re not there. You can see their shadows through the crazy glass, trying to keep still. When you finally get up to the Ridge, you know you’re on the home run. Grand old places all the way along it, but there’s not too many and it’s downhill all the way back. You’re glad of this ‘cos by now you’ve had enough.

Today though, this old geezer comes out of one in his pyjamas and it’s well after lunch. ‘Here we go’, I says, and pull up my hood. But he’s shouting and shouting and I’m thinking maybe I’ve dropped something outside, so I go back. He’s only holding a tray and offering it out to me like some bloody weirdo. Now, I’ve been told about this sort of thing back at the depot and how to deal with it, but he don’t look so bad. Quite sad, actually. ‘Happy Christmas’, he goes. ‘Have a mince pie. It’ll keep you warm.’ I’m looking at him harsh so he don’t think I’m one of them, but he’s right: it’s bloody freezing and it’ll be an hour or two before I get back. So I take the pie and it’s lovely and warm in my hands. I watch him take a bite of his so I know it’s alright, then I put the whole thing in my mouth and swallow it down quick. And it’s proper nice. All sugary sweet with raisins and fruit and everything. But then I look up to say cheers and the bastard’s gone back in. Like I said, bloody weirdo.

Don’t think I’ll make it over to Nan’s after all. It’s getting dark and I’m up early in the morning. She’ll wait a day and you know what? That pie will do me until I get in, and the streetlights sort of make you feel warm too. It’s not so bad. And it’s downhill all the way back…