Wednesday 21 May 2008

A perfect evening, eventually

No idea on the weight front, though in my defence I did only eat a few Twiglets for supper last night; 13.0 units of alcohol yesterday, it appears, even though I was at no point noticeably inebriated – I wonder what Churchill’s typical daily intake would amount to in units?; 1,353; St Martin’s Lane.

Ah, Twiglets: a taste of the past. My own club always used to have Hula Hoops on the bar, which went well with a Bloody Mary and induced an agreeable nostalgia for olde worlde savoury snacks. Until yesterday, that is, when they proved to have been modernized out of existence in favour of what the barman dismissively called “birdseed”, but which looked to me like Bombay mix. They had also upgraded the crisps to some luxury brand that probably calls itself “chips” instead. I do hope the committee thought through the hygiene implications of this unprecedented radicalism. After all, it is quite easy to remove a Hula Hoop or indeed a crisp from a bowl without touching any of the others in it. Bombay mix seems rather more of a challenge. How long will it be before the serene atmosphere of the Morning Room is disturbed by an anguished cry of “Ugh, this stuff tastes of sh*t!” To which the only answer is the one I think I have recorded elsewhere in this blog, “How the hell does he know that?”

After a relentlessly practical morning having my teeth polished and my eyes tested, which was much less painful than attempting it the other way around, I went out for lunch with one of my very few teetotal acquaintances. This had been carefully arranged so that I would not collapse in a drunken heap on the platform when I went to meet the LTCB off her train from the North West at 3.17. Mind you, I once tried this very ploy before heading to Covent Garden for a 6½ hour performance of Gotterdamerung. Despite David’s excellent example, my own willpower had not proved quite up to the standard required, and I came round after about an hour and a half of the first act, smacking my lips, feeling unaccountably thirsty and vaguely wondering who was making all that racket in the background. At the interval, the bloke in the next seat congratulated me on my faultless timing, as he had been about to nudge me in anticipation of something interesting happening on stage for the first time since the orchestra played the opening chords of the overture. Up to that point, he assured me, I had missed nothing and I had not snored, dribbled or otherwise marred his enjoyment of the occasion. Which is something, I suppose, to set against the colossal waste of my money involved in using Covent Garden as a doss-house.

This time I managed to maintain more of a grip, and was completely upright when the LTCB strode up the ramp from Branson’s BMS (Barely Mobile Sewer, as one disgruntled correspondent described the new generation of Pendolino trains, with their less-abled-friendly lavatories which have such a pervasive smell, even though they are so rarely in working order). I thought she looked really rather scrumptious, and luckily a small knot of drunken old men on the steps of my club was able to provide explicit confirmation of that when we stepped out of our taxi. Her red shoes, in particular, attracted considerable positive comment. For the remainder of her visit, I kept detecting sidelong glances clearly communicating the thought, “What is that attractive young woman doing in the company of that sad old git – can the frightful cad have drugged her in some way?” The LTCB threatened to play up this by loudly calling me “Uncle” at every opportunity, but in practice displayed commendable restraint.

Before we went out for the evening she changed into a mid-length pink frock in which she looked really rather stunning. I was glad that the old men had dispersed from the front steps by the time we headed out, as I think her appearance might have given them apoplexy. We walked – yes, walked, no nonsense about taxis or rickshaws – to the Coliseum and saw The Merry Widow, the first act of which appeared to be a sumptuously produced exercise in utter pointlessness. Long passages of unbelievably tedious dialogue clunkingly set up the incredibly simple plot, and were interspersed with a few completely unmemorable songs. Then after the interval (during which I would have walked out, to be honest, if I had been on my own) things looked up considerably, with the second half containing the two really Big Tunes that had been hummed and sung by my parents throughout my childhood. In addition to which, the gigantic Living Legend Roy Hudd got to perform a jolly comedy number, and several women not wearing much at all danced around energetically. In short, top class entertainment. What more could one ask of life, except perhaps a delicious supper at J Sheekey and a beautiful woman to walk back to one’s club with, even if she did need to borrow my blazer against the evening cold? Lucky for her, I thought, that she is going out with a Geordie who is used to this sort of thing. I was still wearing a shirt, after all. Bloody luxury, as they say in the Bigg Market.

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