Thursday 17 January 2008

As implausible a tale as you're ever likely to hear

More than yesterday; alcohol in life-threatening quantities; 1,478; Dover (I wish it was).

This blog is true to my life in so many ways. For a start it’s out of synch, as I seem to have started describing things a day in arrears.

Yesterday is a day perhaps best forgotten, though I did at least spend a reasonably productive morning writing in the library of the club where I am staying; and a reasonably productive afternoon discussing a writing project with the creative person who actually came up with the idea.

A home from home; only a bit less grand, obviously

Between those, I had a surely very healthy and non-fattening Japanese lunch at a self-service place by St Paul’s called Itsu, to which I was introduced by an old friend now working for the thundering herd of Merrill Lynch. Unlike the unfortunate Mr Litvinenko, I managed to enjoy my meal without ingesting fatal quantities of Polonium-210. I wonder if there is potential for a similarly high turnover English chain called Etsu, which would major on suet puddings (served with thick onion gravy or lumpy custard, according to taste) and be staffed entirely by hugely obese school dinner lady types called Su.

Stone me, I’ve just checked Google and there is already an establishment on London’s fashionable South Bank called Etsu, though it sounds like they have just bagged the name, not the concept.

It’s the same whenever I come up with a brilliant idea for a book. Someone always explains (in unnecessary and somehow gloating detail) that it’s been done. Perhaps I should major on TV instead, where the fact that it’s already been done seems to be the number one selling point for any series.

Where things went seriously off the rails yesterday was in the evening, when I was scheduled to have drinks and dinner with my friend the temporarily unemployed investment banker (a.k.a. The Luckiest Man in the World). He failed to turn up for drinks at my club, which had been entirely his idea; then he failed to turn up at the restaurant in Victoria. I began to detect a pattern. Fortunately the third Bloke scheduled to meet us for dinner did turn up, relieving me of that worrying feeling that I might have got it all wrong.

Having been ringing an unanswered mobile phone at regular intervals for well over an hour, I decided that drastic action was required. I know that it is a dreadful thing to do to any Bloke, but what was the alternative? I didn’t have a land line number for his London flat, so I rang his country home, faintly hoping that the phone would be answered by the man himself, who would spin some tale about a malfunctioning electronic diary; but knowing in my heart that it would almost certainly be picked up by his wife. Which it was. To make it worse, she had also been ringing her husband’s mobile at regular intervals since 2pm, with no result.

“What do you think I should do?” she asked, which is always a sign of extreme desperation since women invariably have a much clearer idea of what to do in a crisis than any Bloke. Obviously she was expecting me to volunteer to ring round all the London hospitals, while she got on with initiating the “Missing Person” process with the police. Instead I blurted out, massively unhelpfully, “Oh, don’t worry, I expect he’s just drunk in a ditch somewhere.” For some unknown reason, this did not play particularly well.

As I was sitting there, wondering how the hell to get off the phone and trying to clear an image of the amnesiac Hartlepool canoeist from my mind, my companion’s mobile rang. The Luckiest Man in the World was on his way!

When he finally pitched up something over an hour late, he told a story of truly epic implausibility. After an unusually light and sober luncheon he had returned to his flat and decided to have a refreshing nap, for which purpose he had donned his pyjamas (yes, really: I told you it was implausible) and climbed into bed. When his alarm clock went off at 5.30pm, he took it for 5.30am, congratulated himself on not having to keep City hours any more, rolled over and went back to sleep.

Now, if he’d told a vaguely believable story, we’d both naturally have assumed that he was trying to cover up a passionate affair that had got a bit out of hand. As it was (and having due regard to his looks and character) we believed him. Suggesting a lesson for Blokes everywhere attempting a cover-up: the more ludicrous your story, the better.

As for me, I’d drunk three aperitifs and the best part of a bottle of white wine on an empty stomach before he turned up. I can’t recall what we actually talked about over dinner itself, but I think I can state with some confidence that my own contribution to the conversation was a good deal less than sparkling.

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