Leaping off very high structures seems the only sensible course of action for JLS fans, although, as Stephen Watt found out, it’s less enjoyable when it involves a relative.
‘I’m going to do it,’ my step-daughter screamed from the roof, her feet terrifyingly close to the edge.
The crowd below held its breath. One slip and she’d plummet three storeys, smashing into the crazy paving, pebble-dashing the assorted policemen, firemen, paramedics, concerned onlookers, passing tourists, dog walkers and fast-food vendors, with brains and entrails. (Viscera that would no doubt constitute part of the latters’ fare in the very near future.)
I grasped the loudhailer in sweaty hands, and pressed the button.
‘You’ve got so much to live for, please come down’, my amplified voice pleaded. The situation was dire, extremely dire and I was spouting flaccid platitudes. This was life and death. What was wrong with me? (Answers to the usual address, Ed.)
‘Don’t lie,’ she howled, leaning vertiginously over the void. ‘Unless they arrive within the hour I’m jumping.’
My bath was just getting into its stride, when a spine-chilling scream torpedoed it. Obviously the Rapture had commenced, our house succumbed to home invasion or Lene Lovich moved in, but prudence suggested investigation. Ablutions abandoned, I grabbed a towel, wiped away my perfectly sculpted foam beard, and, with caution aforethought, opened the door.
Everything seemed calm… apart from a great wailing and gnashing of teeth emanated from my step-daughter’s room.
‘Are you okay?’ I enquired. ‘Has your brother been filming himself twerking your teddy again?’
‘JLS have split up!’ she sobbed, collapsing dramatically into the largest collection of cushions and pillows outside of Süleyman the Magnificent’s harem.
‘That’s… that’s terrible news,’ I spluttered, stifling a joyous eruption as I backed out the room. ‘Your mum’s better with these things… I’ll get her.’
The torment was over. The mind forg'd manacles were rent asunder. The stairs dispatched in seconds. I was free! Finally free!
‘You’re smiling?’ my-better-half ejaculated as I streaked passed through the front door.
‘Your daughter needs you’, my Parthian shot.
A cold, biting wind whipped away my towel as I fell to my knees, head thrown back, arms spread to heaven: ‘Thank you God! Thank you!’
‘Has the Milk Snatcher died again?’ my neighbour enquired jovially.
I glanced in his direction, then at my shame.
‘Afternoon Terry,’ I said, standing proud. (This was no time for timidity.) ‘I was just getting in the bath when it occurred to me that any solid material will push away an amount of fluid equal to its own volume. That said, it’s a bit parky, best get in.’ Such subterfuge worked for Archimedes, whether it would displace much water nowadays would remain to be seen.
Inside protracted sobs threatened structural damage. Sympathy was required, but without recourse to pepper spray it was beyond me. Anyway, I had more important things to ponder.
Even though the letters J, L and S induced hideous hives, I had supported my step-daughter, but I nurtured dark desires. A perverted miasma that coalesced into action after a chance encounter with Voodoo Queen Tracy-Marie Laveau in the fetid, forbidding bayous of the Tees’ estuary. And all it required were four likenesses.
Initially, I’d intended to buy a set of official JLS dolls, as the real pubic hair harvested daily from the young-stars’ shaven havens would increase the sympathetic magic’s potency. Unsurprisingly, the fear of crabs put me off, and I made do with my old Action Men, which, with their eagle eyes, gripping hands and bri-nylon pubes, were far superior.
Each night, as the house throbbed incessantly, I lay in bed torturing these effigies, exacting my revenge with needles, lighters and pliers. A purely therapeutic pastime, or so I thought. Now I viewed my scepticism sceptically.
I wasn’t concerned about my eternal soul. Faced with Hell’s diabolically effective ‘come one, come all’ policy, Heaven has relaxed its prohibitive entrance criteria. It was that or foreclosure. However, the endless wrath of Beelzebub, or Mr Cowell, filled me with terror. For interfering directly in his infernal plans my fate would be truly horrific.
After advice from a migraine of psychotherapists and magnums of Mogadon milkshakes she calmed down. Or so it seemed, because during my last watch, while I was momentarily distracted by two, or three, no more than four, okay five, episodes of Breaking Bad, she escaped onto the roof.
Swathed in blue and red light, we waited helplessly as the minutes ticked painfully away. My step-daughter’s horrific dry dive relentlessly approaching. Relegated to impotent bystander there was nothing I could do. (I’d been forcibly relieved of my negotiating duties half-an-hour earlier when I’d started promising that JLS had agreed to reform and would soon be here playing a rooftop reunion gig.)
‘Have you heard from JLS yet?’ I demanded.
‘I’m afraid they won’t intervene in these situations, sir. Their accountants won’t let them’, the officer-in-charge replied. ‘If they did, everyone would try it and they’d waste all their cash travelling from crisis to crisis.’
‘But there’s less than five minutes left,’ I shrieked. ‘If they don’t arrive she’ll do it. I know she will.’
‘Calm down, sir,’ he replied impassively.
‘Look, you’ve been here before. She won’t jump will she? It’s just a cry for help,’ I implored, desperate for reassurance.
‘I’m not sure about that, sir. This is my thirteenth case this week and there’s a dearth of happy endings. Best case scenario, the fireman on that ladder will catch her when she takes the plunge… metaphorically speaking.’
My-better-half collapsed, inconsolable, and I snapped, lunging for the world’s most sensitive copper. The impact knocked him to the ground, and, before anyone else could react, the loudhailer was mine. Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure what to do next. Looking up I saw my step-daughter preparing to step into the abyss forever. This couldn’t be happening. It mustn’t end like this.
Unable to watch, I turned away powerless, just as my cousin Viv’s people carrier ploughed through the crowd and skidded to a halt beside me. She leapt out, and grabbed the megaphone.
‘Don’t do it. ‘I’ve got tickets for the farewell show!’ she bellowed, frantically waving four pieces of paper above her head like a malfunctioning, electronic Neville Chamberlain.
Next month: Action Directe
With thanks to Dominic Salmon and Dangerous Dave Nicholson