Wednesday 14 May 2008

Typical greed, rudeness and violence

13st 10lb (I am increasingly strongly tempted to stop putting this daily detail in my posts, though at least it must be cheering up those who have pledged money to charity if I reach my target of 12st 7lb by the end of June); 6.5 units of alcohol at lunchtime yesterday, apparently (now that I have actually looked at the small print on the back of a bottle of wine, and realized how much one actually contains; nearly all previous alcohol intake computations should be revised upwards retrospectively by around 50 per cent); 1,360 (or maybe less, or rather fewer, in the light of the alcohol bombshell); Boston Spa.

I sat at my desk writing what I thought were moderately amusing things until about 2.30, so absorbed in my self-appointed task that I missed lunch. Never a good idea, missing lunch, but I reasoned that it might help the overall dietary effort given that I was going out for dinner in the evening. Even though I know that this is also never a good idea for a man of my age and delicate constitution. The result was that I was absolutely starving by the time I got to my aunt’s to drop the dog off for the night, and ate a generous tea. This had the effect of making me feel dangerously sleepy on the remaining 100 miles or so of my journey to Wetherby.

Tonight’s dinner with a bunch of former clients had been in my diary for months. And in their diaries, too. Then one of them cried off on the grounds that he’d rather be watching Hull City play football, which struck the rest of us as being right up there with watching paint dry. My host for the night had also clearly made extensive preparations, offering me a drink with great gusto as soon as I walked through his door. To which his former boss, who was already there, said, “You can have anything you like so long as it’s not white wine,” and nodded towards the nearly empty glass in front of him, which apparently contained the entire domestic supply. There was some mumbling about a huge party the previous weekend. He did have red wine, though when the former boss asked if he could switch to that, an extensive preparatory search was undertaken to unearth the smallest wine glasses I have ever seen since my parents stopped serving sherry by the thimbleful. I settled for a refreshing can of beer.

We hung around through a second can of beer, waiting for our designated driver to arrive and run us to the pub for dinner. Then he rang to point out that he had been hanging around there for ages, drinking Diet Coke, and where the hell where we? It is this sort of planning and organization that no doubt accounts for two of the three former managers present this evening currently enjoying premature retirements. Though at least they were able to have a good chuckle over dinner over the fact that their successors, who are the second set of hapless idiots to try and turn their former company around, are currently making an even bigger mess of it than they ever did.

Dinner was All Right, though it was served in a pub that had once been considerably better than All Right, so came as a mild disappointment. Despite my tea, I was still starving and made rather a pig of myself with the small loaves of warm bread that arrived in advance of our starters. Three of us predictably ordered tempura prawns followed by medium Galloway steaks; the real foodie went for a chilli beef starter that produced cries not so much of satisfaction as of “Christ, that’s hot!” Followed by flounder with risotto, a dish marred only by the fact that they had run out of flounder. And risotto.

Then, at the end, I made the critical mistake of ordering bread and butter pudding, expecting the sort of light and delicious confection that is my friend Tom’s great speciality. Instead I received another small loaf of bread, with narrow seams of sultanas and marmalade running through it, and a little jug of cold and insipid custard. That would have been bad enough; the really bad thing was actually proceeding to eat the bloody thing. I can’t think what possessed me to do it, though I strongly suspect that booze consumption may have had something to do with it.

Cabaret was provided throughout dinner by two elderly couples at a neighbouring table who spoke rather loudly, and whose menfolk’s lives had clearly been blighted since they were rejected by the casting director of The Vicar of Dibley for being implausibly eccentric. The rather too obvious comedy continued when I suggested to our young waitress that she might like us to clear off home, and she eagerly confirmed that nothing would give her greater pleasure, as it would allow her to cash up. Admittedly, the landlady overheard her and swiftly announced that we could stay as long as we liked. Still, in the circumstances, I felt that it was remarkably generous of us to spend so long trying to persuade the landlady that we really did want to leave a tip so large that she kept trying to return most of it to us.

The night, spent in the very blue bedroom of an absent daughter, with “Sleepy Head” embroidered in blue on my blue pillow, passed in the usual violent conflict between the drunken desire to sleep and the impulse from chronic indigestion to lie awake and moan loudly. As conflicts go, it made the Iran – Iraq War look like the proverbial vicarage tea party.

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