Tuesday 13 May 2008

With a bag over her head

13st 8lb; zero alcohol yesterday (so it can still be done); 1,361; the iconic and cutting edge heart of NewcastleGateshead. And Alnwick.

Most mornings these days I wake up after five or, at most, six hours’ sleep, and get up feeling that I could have done with a bit more rest. But occasionally, as last night, I sleep for a full and uninterrupted seven hours. With the result that I come round feeling muddle-headed and totally exhausted, a condition which tends to persist all day.

Just as well, then, that I had nothing more demanding on my schedule for today than getting to Morpeth station in time for the 10.50 to Newcastle. This allowed me ample time to wander down to one of those spanking new hotels on the Quayside for the Annual General Meeting of one of my few remaining clients. An event, as ever, of truly mind-boggling dullness, attended by the usual clutch of retired employees and long term private shareholders with too much time on their hands (which is odd, given that most of them have been attending this annual ritual for more than two decades and, therefore, in the normal course of events, time must be running ever so slightly short).

Only one shareholder asked a question, and that was the most unoriginal query since Sid the Sexist asked that girl in the bar whether she slept on her stomach (because, if not, he would). And no-one bothered to stand up and thank the board for paying such a generous dividend and generally doing a cracking job. I’d have done it myself, but it looks pretty desperate if your own PR adviser starts doing that sort of thing.

So I made my excuses as the shareholders filed towards what looked like a thoroughly unappetizing buffet, and went to the Crown Posada for a pint of Gladiator, a packet of pork scratchings and a look at The Daily Telegraph. Sheer bliss on every level. Then I walked along to Café 21 and had lunch with a friend whose partner is about as far removed from him in age as the LTCB is from me. I could not help noticing that he appeared to be wearing a boldly striped pyjama jacket above his well-worn jeans. He reckoned that this was exactly what the LTCB would have in mind for me if she took me shopping in London next week, as she has threatened to do. So why not give her a nice surprise by organizing my own makeover before then? He kindly volunteered his partner’s services as my personal shopper so that I too could look like an overgrown teenager. I thought not, on the whole.

This evening my aunt and I went to see Kathryn Tickell at the Playhouse in Alnwick. The world’s best known exponent of the Northumbrian pipes was appearing with her younger brother Peter, and they were joined in the second half by an engagingly pretty girl called Amy who did clog dances and played the accordion. Though not, sadly, at the same time, as that really would have been worthy of a blog entry. Auntie enjoyed the music but expressed regret at the scruffiness of the performers and, for that matter, most of the audience. If only more of them would turn out in a nice smart jacket and tie like mine. Oh dear. There seems likely to be a bit of a conflict between her views of how I should look and the LTCB’s. In the interests of a quiet life I can see myself ending up with two wardrobes and having to develop my skills as a quick change artiste.

Not a problem faced by the LTCB herself, as it turns out, since she has e-mailed to report that she has arrived safely, but her suitcase hasn’t. And she did all the right things, too (like not flying with BA or from Heathrow Terminal 5). It wouldn’t matter so much if she’d gone on one of those beach holidays where you lie around pretty much naked all day, but unfortunately she has gone for family reasons to a country where that sort of thing is very much frowned upon. I remember seeing an article once where a woman had had her body painted so convincingly that she was able to walk down a busy London street completely nude without anyone noticing a thing. But somehow it seems a bit of a high risk proposition where the LTCB is, so I just recommend staying indoors with a pillow case over her head until her stuff turns up. If the Stalin moustache is developing as threatened, I may well suggest that she adopts the same approach when she gets back, too.

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