Danny had the English disease and began his days with a ritual designed, not to cure it, but to make its indignities bearable. He left Jody in bed and swilled his face with water from the cold tap in the bathroom. He scratched the sleep from the corners of his eyes and poked at the crumbly build-up of wax in his ears. He had a wet shave, careful to deal with the growth which protruded from his nostrils and checked for the occasional sucker in his eyebrows.
Downstairs in the kitchen he put the kettle on to boil while he set the tray for breakfast. He got the Telegraph from the mat and the milk from the doorstep and put a quarter of a pint into a saucepan over a low flame. He added to the tray a paper napkin and a small plate with two slices of toast, butter and marmalade on the side. From the fridge he brought a carton of plain yoghurt. He poured All-Bran into a bowl and added hot milk and sugar.
He checked that he had a spoon and a knife and then, at the last minute, he poured boiling water onto the instant coffee and inhaled the aroma. He carried the tray up the stairs to the bathroom and placed it on the wooden trolley he kept next to the lavatory bowl.
Danny dropped his pyjama trousers and sat on the throne, strained weakly to test if there was anything imminent and reached for the trolley. He propped up the Telegraph and read the headlines. He took a sip of the coffee and placed the cup back on its saucer. He ate the All-Bran first, as he did every morning, feeling the magic power of the roughage scouring his digestive tract, leading the waste material of the day before through its long alimentary journey.
Next he took the carton of yoghurt and, using the same spoon he’d used for the All-Bran, he scooped up dollops of the creamy curd and conveyed it to his mouth. The bacteria, he’d discovered from a pamphlet on alternative medicine, stimulated the intestinal flora and added vital energy to the process of evacuating refuse.
Danny wasn’t sure what the toast and marmalade added to his morning ablutions. He knew that he needed something sweet after the yoghurt and that it contributed, if nothing else, a general feeling of well-being. Towards the end of his breakfast, when his coffee cup was half empty, his bowel would begin to move. This was in no way a seismic movement and it’s extremely unlikely that it would have attained any numerical value on the scale of the late Charles Francis Richter. What it delivered was a series of small soft parcels, not turds exactly, too frothy for that. It was a sediment that put one in mind of the produce of the dairy industry, some kind of light brown centrifuged paste, a commodity in dire need of makeover, a brand-name and a marketing department.