This morning on the telly here was a Jamaican prancing about in boxers and dreads, chanting a poem about his nakedness with the authority of a ritual maker. Formed of his deep bell-like voice, the word 'naked' bounced in slow motion off the white walls of his room like it was the word of God written in earth and flesh.
However, after half-hearing the word 'naked' about what seemed like 40-50 times in the space of 10 minutes, I was suddenly gripped with paranoia and muted the TV in case the feature was part of a conspiracy to control the nation's minds via neurolinguistic programming.
Sometimes when I'm back in Paddington and the cold doesn't bite, I take a brisk walk down to Edgware Road. My usual path cuts between some rows of skinny houses with friendly glass milk bottles standing on concrete doorsteps, like in my hot afternoon daydreams on the other side of the world. Occasionally a few of these units dare to raise their front window sashes, which are intrusively close to passersby on the pavement, but usually there is a large pet with a big grin loitering expectantly nearby. Mostly windows and doors are shut tight, but as I drag my shadow across them, I can hear the shiny, translucent scratch of continuous sound that reports a TV is on in the vicinity, despite the volume being lowered or killed. At the right time of the day this secret electrical voice strings from one door number to the next, sharpening at windows and thinning out at separating walls or empty front rooms.
I didn't watch much TV when I was little. When I did, it was after lunch on a no-school day, when I stretched my feet out on the wooden floor tiles, the shellac turned dark honey in the sunlight through the curtains. Sometimes when the varnish was warm and no one was looking, I'd press my nose to it and smell it. I believed shellac was made from the backs of glistening beetles, and then wondered how anyone could collect enough to make so much varnish. Did they wait for the beetles to die, or did they kill them? Near my parents' bed, the floor slid into the no-man's land under the thick wiry carpet, the edge of which rose like a rugged cliff, I thought, to the tiny brown ants wandering about on the barren polished surface I was resting my face on.
The TV pretended to be fully occupied in showing talking furry monsters stealing each other's cookies and producing giant foam letters, but it was watching the proceedings of my ponderings on the floor. My mum would have reprimanded me for rubbing my face all over where people's feet had been.
Once I was pretending two staplers were monsters. I found that if you pressed a fingertip against the gap where the staples punched through, and gently half-fired it, the staple would emerge halfway and protrude like vampire teeth under the heavy brooding brow of hard plastic. When I was doing this for the red one, the TV caught my attention, and in my distraction I punched the staple right into my finger. I was so surprised that I didn't open my mouth, but observed the pain for a while, then went to the next room where my mother was at her desk and showed it to her. "Very good," she said absentmindedly, and I returned to my spot in front of the TV. When I pulled it out, the fierce sting travelled up to my eyes and nose.
The TV lost interest as the two staplers became ordinary horses.