World falls apart
The doorbell rings, and I knew exactly who it would be.
It would have come as a complete surprise but a couple of weeks before, but definitely not now.
I hurry downstairs to greet my visitor.
"Mate" the late-night text had read, "Chantelle* and I have just split up. Might need somewhere to crash for a couple of nights."
No matter it had been morning before I read it. I texted straight back, saying of course it was ok. And the offer was immediately accepted.
I rush down the hall to unlock the door.
"I'm at London Bridge" had come the reply, mere minutes after texting back. "Can I come straight over?".
Of course he could. Things had clearly not been pretty.
I open the door to greet a shaken and disheveled Dorset Boy, and give him a manly hug.
I make coffee for my new temporary flatmate, and we start putting the world bang to rights.
*Obviously ficticious to protect the innocent.
Starter For Ten
"No!" shouts the voice beside me. "You're wrong!!"
The evening had been passing with the sufficient etiquette that such an event demanded. The assembling crowd, mostly of mature age, had queued in an orderly fashion at the entrance of my old school. Tickets were taken in, unfolded and counted by voluntary doorstaff, and names crossed off a pre-prepared list. Lottery-numbered vouchers were handed back to individuals to ensure an even distribution of food: a choice of chicken or quiche lorraine. Attendees were directed to one of twenty-five pre-assigned tables, which were situated equidistant throughout the hall and unfailingly featuring ten members per team. The quiz itself was to consist of ten rounds, each comprising twelve questions, to which a laminated 'joker' card could be volunteered to double the points prior to each team's favoured round, in addition to which there would be a wildcard bonus round. Team sheets would be despatched at regular intervals by the teenage daughters of a couple of the organisers, clearly instructed to consistently distribute two sheets per table to help encourage group participation. The end of each ten-minute round would be pre-empted by an announcement approximately one minute prior, and again ten seconds prior, before the end itself would be signalled beyond any doubt by the beeping of the quizmaster's alarm clock. Completed sheets would be swiftly retrieved, marked by a team of four sitting at tables on the hall stage, and appended to an Excel spreadsheet on a laptop computer, the display of which was back-projected for everyone to see. All this, before the correct answers were announced, results accumulated, the raffle run and prizes - ranging from handmade fruitcake to a '2 for 1' voucher at Café Uno - duly awarded.
The quizmaster, it seemed, had thought of everything.
Everything, that is, apart from the scorn of a wronged Yorkshireman.
"Your answer's incorrect!" bellows the Vernon Kaye-like face of my sister Babyhand's boyfriend, clearly conscious our team's rapidly-attained third-place position was resting on a knife-edge.
A sea of blue rinse and greying combover turns to witness the increasingly tense commotion kicking off.
"I… I… I'm sorry…" replies the aggrieved quizmaster, "I can't quite hear you."
The sound of disapproving coos domino-topples through the hall.
"The year's four major championships are not a 'Grand Slam' in itself
" continues Vernon, "It is the winning of all four
that constitutes a 'Grand Slam'."
Disapproving coos give way to interested mutterings.
"I… I… I'll have to check my book" apologises the crestfallen quizmaster.
Interested mutterings give way to approving shouts. "He's right!" exclaims one table. "We put that too!" concurs another.
And then a gentle wave of applause lappingly encircles the hall. Vernon, like the great leaders before him, remains eyes resolutely transfixed on his enemy: the faltering quizmaster. Then this gentle applause steadily gives away to the slow handclap.
It is pensioner anarchy, and the beleagured quizmaster has little choice.
"I'll give that one then" he concedes, immediately rending all his other preparations irrelevant under his spineless bowing down.
There is now widespread applause, but Vernon is not done.
"Where's he going?" asks a bemused Babyhands, as he struts off to the stage to confront the red-faced quizmaster.
"To contest another two questions" I reply.
Her exasperated head falls in to her far-too-small hands, as I observe that I don't think the organisers will bother doing 'Golf' again.
Not lovin' it
Three days into my extended contract as a moderately-successful freelance digital marketer, I see fit to turn up with the Mother Of All Hangovers.
The previous night having been Hallowe'en, I will not be alone, I presume.
But alone is what I find myself as I apologetically munch on my rushedly-procured Sausage & Egg McMuffin™ at the start of our brainstorming meeting. I am no ambassador to the evil American sweatshop, I muse, but I am nothing if not practical. Even if the quick-fix benefits of such a feast do risk coming across as just a teensy-weensy little little bit pikey among such esteemed professionals.
"Shorry" I garble, mouthful, "I'll be with you shhortly."
The client services director looks at me in complete disdain.
"I'll have to sit over there" she points, green-faced, "My vegetarianism means I can't stand the smell of McDonalds."
She reseats allowing the meeting to commence, and within minutes I polish my breakfast off.
Folding the last of the remnants away, the client-services director returns, her absence having gone unnoticed by the rest of us.
"Can we move rooms?" she interrupts, white-faced, "It's just... I've just vomited."
Day three, and I've already made my boss sick.
"No, you're a cunt." announces the until-then mild-mannered singer.
Dorset Boy and I interrupt our conversation, acknowledging that all is not well at the front of the stage.
"No." replies a short dark-haired man, "you eez a cunt!"
"No." assertively replies the singer, "you
are a cunt."
"Cunt!" replies the short dark-haired man, pointing at the singer.
"CUNT!" replies the singer, as the short dark-haired man backs into the crowd.
"You eez all de CUNTS!" replies the short dark-haired man, "Get a GOOD BAND on insteeeed!"
"That…" replies the singer, turning back to address the crowd, pointing back at the short dark-haired man staggering through the audience, "is a cunt
"CUNTS!!!" replies the short dark-haired man, as he settles back at the bar behind myself and Dorset.
"So," I assert to the short dark-haired man as he quietens, "do you not like this band?!"
"No!!!" he replies, over-excitedly, "They eez all cunts!!!!!"
This seedy goth bar in north London, I muse, is making for the perfect Hallowe' en.
"Only…" I deadpan, staring intently at the short dark-haired man, "that man up there is my brother."
"Aaaaahhhh" apologises the short dark-haired man, his now obvious Italianness coming to the fore, "I eez so so so sorry to insults ya brother."
The short dark-haired Italian man moves to put an arm around me, as if this futile act of reconciliation would somehow make up for his completely unnecessary rudeness.
I glare at him, stock still, in mock offence.
He winces uncomfortably.
"Ha!" I exclaim, victorious. "...NOT REALLY!!!"
We hug, before both laughing.
"CUNTS!!!" he shouts again, as the band compose themselves to strike up another sweet gothic song.