There were three or four inches of snow on the ground this morning. But half a mile down the hill in Birkenhead most of it had gone apart from small piles of black slush at the side of the pavement. I was going to the market to pick up some fish from Wards.
Simon and Nigel were behind the counter offering tea made by Galen. He lurked in the background embarrassed to have his Dad there. I picked up a pound and a half of prime haddock for fishcakes on Monday. As we were talking an elderly man walked up and leaned against the counter next to me.
‘Good morning boys’ he said ‘Are you okay?’ His voice was clipped and far back, not from Birkenhead. The skin on his face was tight around the bones and he had bright lively eyes.
He was dressed in a curly black wig, a red pixie hat and what looked like an old Father Christmas outfit that had seen better days and was badly ripped so it hung round his legs like a skirt. He was wearing two bright green hoola hoops slung around his neck.
‘Now boys,’ he said ‘Now boys these hoola hoops are new. But they are not for me no they are not. These hoola hoops are for the good lady at home, Judith. Boys’ he leaned closer over the counter ‘Now boys I am not a transvestite. I have no objection to them of course and there are a few round here if you look closely enough. But I am not one of those. Let me explain.’
‘Did you see that thing on the telly were they looked at the prostrate. Thats all you need. It fits somewhere between the front of a man and the back part of a woman.’ He laughed and rubbed at his belly with a hand that was covered in a clear plastic glove. ‘I tell you boys they showed it all and if you want to change from being a man to a woman then let have a go at your prostrate, it will wiggle a bit, and after they were done there was no need for any surgery, pills or prosthetics. So that is why I’m not a transvestite.’
He started on a story involving a loose woman who could not be satisfied, a man who loses a watch and another man who loses a coach and two horses laughing all the way through until he got to the end. He then stood back from the counter and re-arranged the hoola hoops around his neck.
‘Boys I have to be off now I will see you again.’ He walked down the ailes.
‘Well he was the first of the day’ said Nigel. ‘Does Galen tell you about the people who come here?’
I asked about Ted, the man I had written about last summer who came for an oyster on a Saturday morning.
“He’s not been back’, said Nigel.