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Wednesday 10th May 2006

Wednesday 10th May 2006

I was waiting to cross the road at Hammersmith roundabout and reached out to puch the button for the pelican crossing. At the exact same time an old Asian woman did the same and our fingers accidentally touched. Finger to finger contact with a complete stranger is oddly intimate and we both pulled away sharply, embarrassed by this flouting of social convention. It's strange that a clearly unintentional invasion of each other's space can still illicit this reaction. But finger to finger contact is one of the most personal things that can happen between two people (I am not talking about the personal finger to finger contact that a child will use to imply that someone is homosexual, though also demonstrating they have little to no idea what homosexuality really involves - "yes when you are gay you have sex by pressing the tips of your penises together, then edging back and forward very quickly and when you are a lesbian you just bang your vaginas together quite hard and fast, as is my eight year old understanding"). Even when God touched Adam's finger at the start of the South Bank Show they both felt a bit awkward about it, and the fingers of me and this old Asian lady should never have met, but fate had brought us together and neither of us liked it. The only recourse was to pretend it never happened, so an apology or eye contact would have been the worst possible reactions. We just waited side by side for the lights to change. Otherwise we had to admit our intimacy and then maybe one of us would want to take it a stage further, but aside from me pinching her arse or cupping her old Asian dugs there could be no worse afront to this woman than placing my finger tip against her finger tip.
Later I was in the swimming pool and a fit young man was in the fast lane doing breast stroke, and I was in the medium lane also on one of my breast stroke lengths (I alternate between front crawl, breast stroke and back stroke, doing none of them well or gracefully). As he sped towards me our fingers touched underneath the floating rope that divides us by ability. We had broken so many rules of society. Our fingers had touched, we were both men (and subconsciously combining to make the eight year old code for homosexuality), but worst of all we were of different swimming ranks and yet we had fraternised out of sight of the (sadly male and non-secret girl-friend) life-guard, who is not in fact there to save out lives, but to stop fraternisation between the three classes of swimmer. Even underwater we flinched at this inappropriate contact and pulled our hands away. I had touched two people in the space of an hour who I should never have touched and in the third most intimate place on the human body.
In the late afternoon I went for a hair cut. I am directed to the special hair-dresser basins to get my hair washed, but unusually the girl doing the washing comes up from behind me and I don't even see her before she starts wetting and washing my hair. She says the bare minimum of things to me and is soon running her fingers through my hair and massaging conditioner into my scalp. For the third time in the day I am in an intimate situation with a complete stranger. Of course in this case we have an understanding that this is normal behaviour, but without even having set eyes on the girl it seems that part of our unspoken contract has been twisted if not broken. Usually there would be a mirror opposite the basins and you could at least have seen who was behind you before you rested your head back, but it struck me that I have no idea who is back there. Anyone could impersonate a girlish voice enough to say "Is that OK?" and "Do you want conditioner?" which is all I know of the person who is gently rubbing my scalp. What if it is a skull fetishist who has just wandered in off the street and is now getting their kicks from rubbing my not insubstantil cranium? Worst of all, how spooky would it be if I turned round at the end of the process to see that my hair had been washed by both the old Asian lady and the fit young man (still in his swimming trunks) who had both used one hand each in order to pretend to be one person? What if they were standing there expectantly smiling at me, assuming that the intimacies we had shared must lead somewhere? That would have been really weird.
Luckily it was just a bored looking eighteen year old girl, with a whiff of disdain and disgust hanging round her as if touching the over-sized head of a 38 year old man had not been the highlight of her day. (I will allow you to make your own hairdresser based joke about highlights to finish this strange entry off. You can't expect me to spoon feed you by now.

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