Monday 8 September 2008

It never does to pry

Ignorance is bliss when it comes to weight as to so much else; 6.4 units of alcohol yesterday; 1,246; European Capital of Culture 2008.

Today I had arranged to go for lunch at my club in Liverpool, a city where the posher people love to tell you that they have more listed buildings than anywhere in the UK outside London, despite the Luftwaffe’s historic efforts to blow them up and the more sustained and cunning efforts of the local authority to tear them down. I travelled by train from Chester, where I paid a visit to the newly refurbished gents at the station before making my way onto the platform, and found a youth with a wispy beard complaining to three burly train company employees that it was completely unacceptable – and surely illegal – that he had found himself being spied upon in a lavatory cubicle by a CCTV camera concealed in a light fitting. His antagonists were arguing – rather unconvincingly, I thought – that the thing which looked exactly like a CCTV camera was, in fact, a sensor. Though they couldn’t offer any convincing answer to the lad’s next question of what the sensor was for. I thought of quipping “to censor the horrible pictures of you with your trousers around your ankles, of course”, but concluded that it probably would not help. It all seemed a bit menacing, somehow. I must remember to keep an eye on the papers and see whether any slightly stroppy youths with wispy beards have been reported missing from the Chester area.

Before lunch, I took the opportunity to call on my stockbroker, who laid out my portfolio like a particularly sad corpse on a mortuary slab, but offered the glad tidings that it had increased in value by 4% this very morning, thanks to the market’s considered reaction to the bail-out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He did not add, as he could well have done, that 4% of f*** all was still f*** all, while I politely pretended that I understood what the hell he was talking about. I feel awfully tempted to sell everything, such as it is, and splurge the proceeds on a regrettably very short-lived orgy of reckless self-indulgence, but he counselled restraint. Just as you would expect. It was a bit like going to the doctor’s, I suppose, though without the risk that he might ask me to remove my trousers. Only my shirt was in danger on these premises.

My broker and I walked across to our club at 12.30. The fact that neither of us ever visits the place was swiftly brought home to us by the puzzled reaction of the staff, who clearly thought it an indecently early hour for any gentleman in these parts to be thinking about his luncheon. So we wandered around the premises, chatted to the secretary, who had been up a ladder when we arrived trying (though sadly failing) to correct an antique clock, drank beer and ate complimentary sausages. Eventually a quorum of seven old blokes, including one who was the spitting image of the late Tommy Cooper, assembled around a round table and enjoyed a convivial and occasionally hilarious lunch. The last time I was here the conversation had all been about the city’s marvellous new tram system, and the bloke next to me had spent all morning at a meeting discussing whether the squeals of the wheels on the rails would disturb theatre-goers as the cars rounded the bend outside the Empire. Then someone pointed out to John Prescott that Liverpool was not actually in Scotland, and Government funding for the project was summarily withdrawn.

The dish of the day was curry. It clearly did not do to ask what sort of curry, and I imagine that the answer would have been the same one favoured by the dodgier Indian restaurants of my youth: “meat”. You always knew that trying to go beyond that was asking for trouble, specifically including a guaranteed loss of appetite.

Having eaten a generous portion of the aforementioned curry, I was none the wiser about what it might contain, apart from curry powder. But I can record that it was perfectly palatable, and that I suffered none of the hideous after-effects attendant upon my last Indian meal in Newcastle.

I spent the long and tedious journey back to Chester on the train crunching mint imperials and wondering how on earth Liverpool continues to sustain not just one but a series of traditional gentlemen’s clubs. Along with the mysterious fact that I have yet to meet a member of my own club who has even the faintest trace of a Scouse accent. I wonder whether they all maintain the same high standard of Received Pronunciation when they are talking to their wives, dogs, horses and servants. But, of course, it would never do to pry.

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