19 JANUARY 2004

The tax return is a harsh mistress. Clad in armybarracks shades of grey and blue, she stares at me with pinched nostrils and lips in dire need of troutpoutage. I pity those that scribe for her website. 'December reminders hit doormats!' they chirrup, the one point of life on that dour portal.

Poor inland revenue web editors. I imagine the debates held over the use of that exclamation point. But we want to make it FUN, one web editor will cry at the meeting, the one with the wax in his hair and the scuffs on the toes of his black brogues, remembering the night in 1993 when he actually attended a nightclub with his friends from the Christian Union, and did not find it an entirely hateful experience. Had even toked a drag of someone's cigarette and sipped a mouthful of Jack Daniels. Had felt the burny throat like fires of hell; but had felt the release, his eyes squnting, and, for a moment, had longed to cast off the shackles of his unworldliness, and dive face down on the nearest cock.

The memory of that night would have led him to argue with something approaching passion for the inclusion of the exclamation point during the Inland Revenue Web Editors Editorial Meeting. 'It's self-assessment!' he would argue, his mind's eye picturing him harsh and firm as Tom Cruise in a pair of tortoise-rimmed specs. 'We're dealing with freelancers here! People in creative jobs! We need to convince them that we're not all dreary old godbotherers, here at the Inland Revenue!' He would fight for the inclusion of the exclamation point at the end of the sentence 'December reminders hit doormats', and his heart would remember the throbby feeling he had had at the nightclub in 1993, and he would pin all his hopes on the inclusion of the exotic punctuation.

He would remember the night he sobbed over double quote marks, and the battle he had lost about them. He would decide it would not be like this, not this time. He would ensure the inclusion of that exclamation point: it would be his gift to the freelancers of the United Kingdom, though one that would go unheeded; and on his deathbed, he would remember that exclamation point, and say to himself, well, at least the freelancers of the tax year 2002-2003 were afforded a little bit of joy by my valiant struggle at the Inland Revenue Website Editorial Meeting.

Harsh mistress she may be, but I shall not obey. I shall remain in my room all weekend under the pretence of filing my tax return, but I shall not file it. No. I shall lie in my bed, my nest, making of my knees a tent, snuggled up on cushions. I shall press the noise-ends of my iPod in my ears and I play exotica to myself: the first Wu-Tang album, mash-ups with titles like 'Sweet as Neurotic Indie Boys'; the cold emptiness of electroclash's last gasp, the Nag Nag Nag album.

Tax mistress will not see me scribe never-to-be published (on here) tales with titles like 'I DID IT WITH A GAYER!' or 'HOW ANOTHER CHUBBY FOOEL BROKE MY HEART'; tales packed with freak-outs and fluffy moonboots and lines of this and bumps of that and cocktails and glamour and sequins and giant battleships that glint in the half-light of the River Thames and trees made of neon; tales tax mistress would not understand, for they writhe with life and flesh and tentacles and heart-viscera, and contain no tick-boxes, footnotes or reference numbers.

All tax mistress can do is adminster a firm paddling to the exposed and vulnerable flesh of my bank balance post January 31, steering its calm white expanses once again into the red. But I shall push tax mistress off course. I shall slip a hard-back book into my bank balance's back pockets. I shall protect myself. I shall do it tomorrow.

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