Roy was a superb mechanic, a methodical master of his trade. For an hour I respectfully watched him work to try and learn something of the mysteries of the internal-combustion engine. I saw instead his oil-blackened fingers pluck away the veil to reveal that there was no mystery, only simplicity.
Job done, I invited him up to the house for a meaningful drink. He didn’t need asking twice. Invited to sit, he conscientiously placed yesterday’s Daily Telegraph between his oily backside and the sofa cushions. I made the fire up then went to the kitchen and poured us each a monster pastis with one ice cube and a squirt of tap water for the sake of decency. It was Burns Night so I proposed a toast to the lassies. Roy’s features expressed humorous resignation as we clinked glasses. I proposed a secondary toast to Virginia Woolf, whose birthday it was. Roy was reasonably happy to clink glasses to that too. Then, for good measure, I said, ‘The Queen!’ This unfortunately set him off on another of his astonishing, monomaniacal, conspiracy-theory rants, this one about the royal family.
Earlier in the day he’d stopped work and bored me senseless for an hour with an impassioned speech about a secret cabal operating at the heart of the world’s financial institutions, which effectively runs the world for its own diabolical ends. He had divulged the identity of one of the cabal’s members: none other than our former prime minister, Sir John Major. For a man who was once turned down for a job as a bus conductor, it was an astonishing leap by any standards. But that revelation was nothing compared with the one he now proceeded to unfold concerning Her Majesty.