In the three years or so since I last wrote a blogpost, my motto has been 'Don't Go Back', until my good friend Bayleaf pointed out how much this was costing me in accommodation.
Looking back is often seen as a bad thing - Lot's wife turned into a pillow full of salt for looking back, I seem to recall - but in fact, there's nothing wrong with nostalgia after all. In these modern times, when reality shows such as Celebrity Corpse Munjing and Ready Steady Munj litter the airwaves like so many aphid shoes and socks on an expansive yet vulgar leaf, the repeats being played on the television in your head can provide guaranteed amusement.
I understand my own and others desire to get away from the past. Wasn't it LP Hartley who said, "The past is another country, and the food is yuk-yuk"? However, as Bayleaf pointed out to me, all my finest glories are in the past and in the three years since I last wrote a blog post, nothing of any good or worth or use has come from me at all. Yes, I fell in love and got married, but that doesn't butter any parsnips does it? (Who does butter parsnips, by the way? I have some that need buttering and I don't intend to do them myself.)
I only have to consider my decade-long friendship with Bayleaf to realise the joy of casting my mind back. We were callow, incredibly sexy young men, with heads full of music and cupboards full of alcohol when we first met and formed a band, The All Star White Persons English Vacuum Cleaner Players. One night, Bayleaf was tuning up his Henry Hoover (I seem to remember it was a baritone) and he said to me, "One day, we're going to be famous."
Okay, that never actually materialised, and the anecdote would work a lot better if it had come to pass, but the important thing here is that Bayleaf's hair looked really, really good that day. And though age has withered and bloated us both with its icy fingers and frostbitten moobs, when I think of Bayleaf I still see him with that ambitious twinkle (he insisted on having his twinkle out - he said it helped him relax), perfect quiff and the nozzle of a Henry attached to his lips. Whatever came to pass between us from that day to this - and there have been violent squalls, moments of unearthly understanding and at least one phantom pregnancy - our friendship has remained strong, sublime and tiring.
If I couldn't look back, I wouldn't know which way forward was. Ren Beliatilo is back, and if that doesn't make you believe in God then I can't blame you.
My parents left a message in a loaf of bread for me to find. "We're going a-whoring," it read, "please look after our mansion." I toasted the bread and ate the message so I'd remember, and last week turned up at Beliatilo Mansions, retrieved the key from under the gardener, and went inside.
It has been a while since I've been in the family home. Not much has changed - the dog still needs burying, the larder is full of steak and kidney pies and the statue of my sister Fantastienne is overpolished in the breast area. Was I happy to be there, the site of so many painful memories? Well, yes and no. It was good to have the space to ramble. My apartment is so small I have to hang my clothes outside the window and wrapped in clingfilm so they don't get bird crap on them. But on the other hand, it's hard to take a bath in a tub your parents tried to drown you in.
So I'm less fresh than usual, but I can air myself in the many acres of land. Talking of the gardener (as I did, in passing), I have spent a bit of time getting to know her, taking a cup of tea down to her shed and listening to her stories. Her tales tend to revolve around plants, flowers, trees and soil. One story has her falling asleep in her deck chair and upon waking find she is bound with the tendrils of a vindictive passion flower. By the gods you worship, that woman is dull. If she didn't know some powerfully damaging things about my parents, she would have been dispensed with long ago.
The time I've had to myself has been deeply beneficial, all in all. As you may or may not know, I slipped (skated? faverbooned?) into a coma and only recently woke up. One might think that time in a coma gives you the chance to consider your life, to work out long answered interior questions. One would be wrong, and bitterly so. A coma is not a chance to think. Instead, you get to watch some swirling pastel colours and fuzzy felt shapes having sex with each other. The orgasms are pretty, but you remain as limp as a year-old celery stick throughout.
I've therefore not really had 'me time' (I time? Soloicity?) for ages. And you know what? I don't want it either. That's why I'm talking to the boring gardener. I might invite my personal assistant Belo to stay with me until my parents return. The message in the cheese soup suggests they'll be back in a fortnight.
I always feel refreshed after a coma, I don't know about you. I'm also pretty sure my liver has repaired itself too, so it's good news all the way.
Anyway - I apologise if my absence has left you rudderless, bereft and a flop between the sheets. Sometimes when you see a strange powder you just have to sample it and to hell with the consequences. Belo tells me I've been out for almost a year. In that time, my sister Fantastienne has got married and my parents have moved away without leaving a forwarding address. I'm going through their personal mail as I type. I never had my mother down as the strap-on type.
The coma has left my writing a little fractured, so please give me a little bit of time to recover and I'll be right back with you with all kinds of eloquensia.
Mon dieu! Iraq is still not the haven it was intended to be. The more things change...
Ren Beliatilo wishes to apologise to his reader(s) for his current absence. Three weeks ago he found some unusual powder in his vacuum cleaner and decided to find out what it was by ingesting some. Unfortunately this had the effect of putting him into a deep sleep I can only assume is blissful judging by the facial tics and regular naughty emissions.
The good doctor assures all of us who care about Ren Beliatilo that he will be back to his old ways very soon, and he assures all those who don't like him that his death is imminent and will be spectacularly painful. Either way, he will be back and blogging as soon as he can.
Thank you for your patience.
Good 'morrow, weary traveller, what ails you? Ah, the unknowable! Aye, tis a troublesome thing not to know the lay of the land. The land known as Future belongs to that dark continent, Destiny, in the hemisphere of Fate. Tis enough to make anyone a-tired and heartful of sorrows.
But a-fear ye not, weary traveller, for I have the key! And if that's overstating it, then let me elucidate further. I have prepared the set of horoscopes that will shed gobs of torchlight upon the hedgehog of confusion under your bush of life in the nighttime garden of the world. All clear? Then without further a-too-rolly-aye-rol, here are they...
Ren Beliatilo's Monthly Horoscope - May
What’s the matter, cat got your tongue? Actually, yes. You can get it back by filling your mouth with catnip and leaving tongue reattachment instructions written on the label of your bra. Question is, do you really need it? You’ve become a better driver since losing it. You will make friends with an ant who communicates up to seven different emotions by waving her antennae at you.
Ren looks sideways and sees good buttocks for Taureans.
Lucky animal: kinkajou
With Mars melting in your pocket until next weekend, now is the time to really lose your inhibitions and kill a person. It doesn’t have to be someone important - maybe just a tramp or a whore. The thing to remember is to have fun and cover your tracksuit. Everyone thinks your plan to pull out your teeth and replace them with a turtle-like beak, made from a dried cuttlefish, is worthwhile - but don’t expect funding.
Ren sees a bottle of gin in your overnight bag.
Lucky animal: praying mantis
There is a big stick in your eye and people used to the infamous Cancer temper have been unwilling to let you know. Flour and raisins are but two of the ingredients for a perfect cake. Family and friends will gather round you in the next few days and will try to remove your face. A welcome addition to your uterus collection comes from an unlikely source.
Ren hopes you don't have any balloons lying around in May.
Lucky animal: sea slug
Pink feather boas! Pink feather boas and knickers of lace! Is that all you can say? Neptune is in your 49th nebulae this quarter, and you know what that means, don’t you? Of course you do - I have no need to explain it, so don't pressure me. Friends and family are intrigued by your new pastime of carrying a jellyfish in a bag and keeping it moist by weeping over it.
Ren promises travel opportunities for Leos with travel cards.
Lucky animal: bacteria
The Japanese gentleman at the bottom of your swimming pool has still not drowned. May I suggest you put water in the pool and try again? Sponsoring an African grandmother will create the first genuine feelings of love either of you have ever felt. Eat a lovely cake and it will probably make you feel happy. Jupiter is in your ninth quarter for the next year.
Ren sees the number 8 stapled to an old lady spelling bad times for you.
Lucky animal: puffin
You can’t actually turn a frown upside down, because you cannot get worry lines on your chin. Having said that, your shar-pei face is so deeply wrinkled that last year someone kissed you on the cheek and went missing. Don’t even try to make your vestigial tail disappear: it's the only pretty thing about you. Mercury hates you forever.
Ren advises you to wash your hands with coal tar soap.
Lucky animal: tapeworm
Money worries will be a thing of the past when something so traumatising befalls you that words such as ‘money’, ‘mother’ and ‘hitman’ are blocked from your mind altogether. As you recover, take time to look up some old friends. Don’t look too far up though - they deserve privacy. Sprigs of ivy in the home will ward off the spirit of an eager badger.
Ren kisses you once, twice, three times a lady.
Lucky animal: aye-aye
It’s the same old story - boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girl loses boy, boy loses contact lenses, bishop finds contact lenses and returns them, boy puts them in and can only see the bishop’s fingerprints, girl recants her Catholicism and through mutual dissatisfaction with the clergy, boy and girl meet again at a support group. It’s almost a cliché, isn’t it?
Ren urges you to instigate legal proceedings against your oldest cousin.
Lucky animal: millipede
You chewed off your own feet because you couldn’t find any shoes you really liked, and since then all you've seen are wonderful shoes. A serendipitous meeting with a pre-op transsexual gives you hope for the future. The beautiful pendant left to you by your godmother is a tracking device. There are cheaper ways to clothe children than shrinking t-shirts you no longer wear.
Ren suggests you invest in vests.
Lucky animal: jackal
You’ve listened to others for too long - now is the time to find out if you can fly. No half measures, head for the tallest building and let yourself fall. Fly, I meant fly. Should you survive, look out for a man whose name begins with a Z on Friday. He’s going to sex you up. Your biological clock is ticking: switch to digital so your hormones don’t bother the gay community - you know how sensitive their ears are.
Ren thinks you should read more or talk less.
Lucky animal: dead worm
Slabs of concrete, corrugated iron, ice cream tubs filled with vomit, stockings peeled from the legs of leprous tranvestites, goats’ eyes on strings, unholy screams whistling through the bare branches of the hangman’s tree. It has to be said, you’ve got a really nice garden. But you may come to regret drowning those kittens.
Ren has a vision of you with a piece of Lego up your nose.
Lucky animal: naked mole rat
Did you know you had a tattoo? Get a close friend to point it out to you. Beware of handing your life choices over to a swarthy fellow with a tilted hat. Everyone and their mother thinks it’s cute how you kiss your lucky penny and mutter a brief prayer heavenwards, but face it: you’re never going to win that yacht. In happier news... No, sorry, I’ve got nothing.
Ren sees a glove on a stairlift waving in good fortune for you.
Lucky animal: the reptile king
Bayleaf and I recently went to feed the ducks. Whilst I threw them some seeded batch, I reflected on what a timeless, simple pleasure feeding ducks is. If only I could recapture said moments again and again, without the tiresome walk to the lake, I thought to myself... when I came round from that reverie, I found I had five ducks under my jacket. Too late to turn back, I took them home and put them in the tin bath. I throw bread at them whenever I'm using the lavatory. It's nice, but lacks the charm of the original scenario. Some wishes are better left unfulfilled.
The Beliatilo Family loves animals. Uncle Waldo loves them so much he went to jail for it. My first dog was Bildungsroman. When she was executed my sister Fantastienne had her stuffed by a fly-by-night taxidermist, who filled my beloved hound with asbestos. She was judged to be a health hazard and taken off me by the authorities. If there's one thing worse than seeing your dog being hanged for shoplifting, it's seeing her dead, stuffed body being condemned and destroyed.
To cheer me up, my sister Fantastienne gave me a kitten from her most recent litter. She bred blind cats because they are popular among ugly people, but the kitten she gave me was the outcast - fully eyed and with keen vision. I called him Eyesy. He could not have been cuter whilst still a kitten, but he grew to be a phenomenal size - at least as large as a small yak. Eyesy would bring back smaller cats to leave on the mat for me in the morning as other cats leave mice for their owners, but he did not kill them. He nurtured them. My house was filled with over fifty regular-sized cats, and Eyesy ruled over them like a benign leader.
In time, he stopped leaving the house altogether and got his followers to pop out and perform errands for him. He never forgot an enemy. Mrs. Jessop, who threw a stiletto at him when he was out singing on her fence one evening years before, was terrorised by Eyesy's army of cats until she moved. The RSPCA came to see me about the problem after Eyesy's legion hunted down and clawed a child who kicked him when he was a kitten. Eyesey's lust for power knew now bounds, and the RSPCA were powerless to resist his hynoptic stare and silky coat.
I had to take action. It pained me to do it, but I tranquilised Eyesy and took him to an animal shelter. He currently works there giving strays their confidence back. Once a year I get a letter from him - and I genuinely can believe he writes them. It's delivered to a PO Box in case he harbours resentment about my underhand actions. His army is still out there somewhere. I try not to humanise animals but sometimes when a cat passes me in the street, I feel sure I see it digging into its little cat pockets and pulling out a Walkie Talkie (one of the new Feline Phone 5000 types) and radioing in that I've been spotted.
I cannot write about my current dog because she is shy and would hate to find out I've named her online. If I've learned anything from Eyesy the cat, it is not to undermine an animal's unquenchable thirst for vengeance. But I can safely reveal that I have a fish called Mowgli and a tortoise called Keiko. And, of course, five ducks. It turns out that ducks cannot live on bread and tap water alone, and they're looking awfully sick. I don't know whether to take them back or wait until they die before I can have a bath. Anybody want five ducks? Going quack.
I used to call the Samaritans when I felt the need to reminisce, and tell them about my teenage years. Sometimes they judged me to be a time-waster, other times they'd round-robin my call to several operators until eventually a minor deity had to take over.
They've been engaged a lot lately, and no one's in at their offices. I checked.
Except for a shifty feel-up on the bus, there's nothing as satisfying as a good reminisce. Nowadays, I'll call a friend and we'll talk about the day we met, the blossoming of our friendship, the hideous drunken tangles, the carnage, the fires, the bail money, the fun and the laughter. I thought I would extend this beautiful tradition to Sonny Diva, my longest-lasting crush. If you recall, dear reader (yes, you) Sonny Diva was my childhood friend who rejected me as a teenager and who now lives with a Daughter-of-Eve and a child-of-unknown gender in a posh London residence. Although I've been very busy, I've made time to sit in a nearby tree with a flask of earl grey, highly sensitive sound equipment and a telescopic lens to keep and eye on poor Sonny, who has clearly been imprisoned by this female prison warden and her midget accomplice.
I've tried to be a dispassionate observer of this domestic amiss, but it's hard not to intervene. I found his phone number when it was left lying around amid the condoms and egg shells (do they eat nothing else?) in the bin. At first, I called just to ask questions of him, such as 'Are you okay?' and 'Do you think you could ever love me?'. Of the woman, I would ask 'How could you?' and 'Why are you doing this to me?' They tended to sit on the fence. I like children, so I left it alone. It's an unattractive androgyne but it's part of this country's future, and must thusly be nurtured.
One day, the mother had taken the child to the clinic and Sonny was alone in his house. His Internet records showed he had an eye for other women besides the one who had enthralled him with her puffy earlobes and large nostrils. I waited until he had enjoyed his time alone with pixelated ladies to a satisfying conclusion and then called. Before he could ask who was calling, I launched into a full-on reminisce, aided by the exhaustive notes I had with me in the branches of the tree. I talked about our time as children, growing up together. I talked about our tenure at the Seb Morley School for Loose and Handsome Boys, when he made it his mission to humiliate and terrorise me through his nonchalance and buttery beauteousness. And I brought him up to date with everything that had happened to me in the years since. It was as I got to the point in the reminisce where I was up a tree watching his house that the police arrived.
I don't know how they found out, but I was taken into the stationarium and cautioned. The wife appeared in person and asked the police not to take matters any further, and even let me have a Hula Hoop. I learned three very valuable lessons as I twisted to keep that hoop burgeoning around my hips. Firstly - only 30% of the police force are worthy of my erotic imaginings. Secondly - Sonny Diva's wife is much nicer than her husband, and actually quite pretty once my jealous hatred of her fell from my eyes; and thirdly, lichen can begin to grow on a person's body if they've been up a tree long enough.
It's strange how you can look back and immediately see how wrong and unusual your behaviour has been. When I was in that tree with my highly sensitive surveillance equipment picking up every groan, gargle and mutter from within the Diva household, I thought it was the most commonplace thing in the world. Only now, as I treat myself for a tree disorder and read the fine print on the restraining order do I realise that I had spiralled out of control. My doctor thinks it is because I ingested large amounts of asbestos when clearing out the attic and it affected my behaviour. My doctor finds it easier to deal with things by explaining them away with asbestos. He's a very sensitive man. Sometimes he asks me to get undressed behind the screen while he weeps.
I recognise that I've come through a difficult time in my life, but that I have now moved on - I have reconciled and overcome my unrequited affections for Sonny Diva, whose face has haunted me since I was fourteen. His wife has agreed to become my pen pal, and my lichen infection is clearing up a treat. I can't wait to tell the Samaritans - but I don't want to break their restraining order.