The entrance is unpromising: a badly-lit village hall in a desperate sleepy commuter town at the end of the District Line.
"I wouldn't bother" she'd told me, just over twenty-four hours previously.
We gingerly ease inside, past the not entirely unpredicted group of hippies.
"But I'm on my way…" I'd protested, "to a fancy dress shop I looked up especially
The door creaks open to reveal the hall adorned with posters of the 60s, decorated genuinely impressively, as we squeeze past the Beatles.
"I really don't think people will be trying that hard" she'd replied.
We carry our cans to the table in the corner, politely excusing ourselves between a transvestite Diana Ross and probably-female Myra Hindley/Petula Clark.
"What about your hubby?" I'd asked, "...The Austin Powers suit?!"
Frank Sinatra sips on his Stella as he talks to Brian Wilson (shirt-rear labelled, unnecessarily, 'BEACH BOY').
"Shelved" she'd replied. "Just a Fred Perry top now. Mod, you see."
The night is already exceeding all expectations. An obviously-professional Ray Davies lookalike points at the ladies as he dances in the moonlight. Austin Powers is here as well, of course - twice.
"I'll just buy a sixties-ish
shirt from Top Man then." I'd conceded, sulkenly shrugging my shoulders.
"That's more like it!" she'd encouraged me, before we'd debated whether a Fred Perry Mod actually even constituted
the right decade.
Neil Armstrong, complete with papier-mache spacehelmet and Persil-boxed backpack, takes to the stage.
The band are annoyingly brilliant, atmosphere is great and, no, I have not been set up with the aging divorcee.
Remember when rock was young
beeped my phone.
"Sorry for tardy response" began her tardy response to this
. "Don't suppose u r free sat 21/10" it continued, "for a sixties night?"
"Average age or decade?" was my immmediate reply, hiding what I considered to be a serious concern given her rapidly-aging divorced friend who she absolutely, definitely, honestly wasn't setting me up with.
"Decade of course" was her reassuring reply, "It will be groovy baby!"
I was free, of course. So, a sixties night it is. In a village hall. Near a desperate sleepy commuter town, situated at the far end of the District Line.
"The band played Elton John's wedding!" she further explained, as if this somehow made things better.
I sit cringing on my sofa as I brace myself for what promises to be the most dire night of my life.
Moral lowground, part 2
I return to the cigar smoke-filled side-room of the East-End boozer.
The convivial atmosphere which I had left but a couple of minutes previously has inexplicably disappeared.
It had been a good evening. Old mates, warm beer, mild banter, stale rolls, inane chatter, bad darts. In my case, rubbish
darts. Or at least, rubbish darts for a good two-thirds of the evening. The final third, alcohol having imbued me with an unjustified sense of confidence, having steadily improved the quality of my dart-throwing. To the extent of having dominated - yes, dominated
- the final game: 'Killer'. A finer game to raise the testosterone and competitive spirits you will not find. But lead this game I did, and yet where I had proudly stood on the oche just moments before, now stands a clearly angered Volvo, packing his darts away as a bemused Tall Stuttering Friend, M, Geordie and Cockney helplessly look on.
"Right, if I'm being painted as the bad guy," slurs Volvo, "as I always am, it seems
, I think we'll call that a draw."
The cause for his outrage is somewhat unclear, but is hurriedly explained to me. Something about Volvo killing M with a single. Then throwing another double at M regardless. Which caused Geordie to make a case in the rules for resurrection. And, "as with all these goal-line clearances, is open to debate". So TSF argued the toss, and Cockney waded in, calling Volvo a Spurs fan, resulting in the current debacle.
But none of this seems to matter at this moment, because all that matters, is knowing that I am a winner
The atmosphere now ugly and turgid, we shuffle out the pub, with barely a wave towards the Slovakian barmaid.
"And why are you looking so sheepish?" asks an aggrieved TSF, as I sense the cold piss slowly spreading from my back pocket.
I stand there, slowly motioning as I relieve myself just as mother nature intended.
As I sway from left to right, out the corner of my eye, I notice something not normally found situated on the edge of a mens' urinal.
Not a discarded fag, or half-eaten pie, or empty pint glass: these, for the uninitiated, are unremarkably common sightings.
No, for it is a crisp five-pound note that I observe.
Crisp, that is, but for the corner nearest the white-tiled wall which is distinctly ridden with liquid.
I stare ahead as I sway some more, contemplating my modern-day moral dilemma.
“Everyone…”, I announce proudly to my New Media Friends* pointing to the tussle-haired colossus standing before us, “This is Dorset Boy!”(* i.e. My new friends, who work in media. Only a few of whom work in the strand of media now coined ‘new media’. But who are just as new as those friends who work in other strands of media. Hope that clears any potential misunderstandings up.)
“Dorset Boy…”, I announce equally proudly to the tussle-haired colossus starting to sit down before me, “These are my New Media…”
But as I bring introduction formalities to an end, my voice tails off. It tails off because of a concerning development. At six-foot-four, you see, Dorset Boy stands a good couple of inches taller than me. From a seated position, however, the height difference is naturally a couple of feet further exaggerated. Adding on to this the distance from our seated position to the floor, presents a considerable distance over which my concern is to continue to develop.
Dorset Boy misses his seat.
The fall that follows seems to unravel in painful slow-motion. Despite my saying “misses his seat”, Dorset Boy does actually make decent contact with a good half of his seat, but the off-kilter balance of his weight naturally causes this seat to start to topple. The understandably startled expression which immediately envelopes his West Country face does little to counter the increasing acceleration of his centre of gravity away from the middle of the seat, towards the candlelit hard wooden floor. Even the giving way of his ridiculously long legs provides insufficient time for my onlooking media friends to overcome the sense of utter helpnessness, as we continue to watch him grapple for something, anything, that would serve to slow, or at least minimise the impact of, his inevitable impending contact with the aforementioned floor.
I reach instinctively, reacting to the sudden flash emanating from the moving reflection of candles shining against the polished steel of the champagne bucket to which Dorset Boy is now hopelessly grappling, as I observe it and its expensive contents teasingly start to lean towards the floor onto which he has just this split-second plummetted.
Having averted the fall in time, I turn back to greet the angry gaze I sense burning in the back of my neck.
There are better entrances to make, I think, than pouring my Finance Director’s engagement-celebrating champagne over yourself.
“Glad to see you’ve got your priorities right, Unlucky.”, the FD dryly observes, as he counts the pounds saved whilst watching a slightly-bruised Dorset Boy dust himself down.