Saturday 11 October 2008

Not a dog's

No idea again, though I feel slimmer after 24 hours of uncharacteristic self-restraint; 2.0 units of alcohol yesterday; 1,213 days to go; Gomorrah.

Another day, another screaming headline in the Daily Telegraph. Today it was “Blind Panic”, and surprisingly it wasn’t about unsatisfactory behaviour during a fire at a centre for the visually impaired. But I was swiftly distracted from it by trying to work out what the Oriental lady who delivered our morning tea was trying to convey when she kept shouting “Aygo!” Had she previously worked in Italy, and slightly misheard “prego”? I finally worked out that it was meant to be a cheery “There you go!” But I haven’t struggled so much with a word since “Whuffo!” enjoyed a temporary and puzzling vogue during my time as an undergraduate at Cambridge. A group of us proposed an expedition to a public school type who responded, apparently enthusiastically, “Whuffo!” So we all took to chanting “Whuffo!” in unison whenever anyone came up with a good idea. Months elapsed before one of us worked out that the poor chap had actually been trying to ask “What for?”

This morning we wandered up to Fortnum & Mason, then on to a particularly exclusive Bond Street jeweller where, under cover of buying a refill for the LTCB’s ballpoint pen, I politely enquired whether they might be interested in taking back one of their more expensive engagement rings in some sort of part exchange deal. They seemed markedly less enthusiastic about their product than they had been when they sold it to me in 2005. “Oh no,” said the snooty girl in Customer Services, “we never take back anything worn”, with the same sort of disgust as if I had tried to claim a refund on a soiled pair of undercrackers. She suggested that I take it to Christie’s or Sotheby’s.

I was then much cheered when we looked in at the ring department, purely for hypothetical research purposes you understand, and a much nicer man showed the LTCB her dream engagement ring. It cost about a fifth of what I had paid for the previous one, suggesting to me that I am dealing with (a) a lady of rare taste, discernment and restraint, and (b) a bunch of c***s who had missed a brilliant trading opportunity, since I would happily have simply swapped ring A for ring B, whatever the nominal difference in their values. Mind you, that would assume that the LTCB actually wants to wear my ring. She did ask, not for the first time, whether I was trying to propose, and when I denied it, she said that was a good thing as it was Too Soon. A phrase with which I have become very familiar over the last few months.

We walked on up Bond Street, calling at the first of a long succession of shoe shops as the LTCB endeavoured to find a pair of flattish boots in which she could walk in comfort with her injured foot. Though, funnily enough, said painful disability did not prevent her from trudging what seemed like a hell of a long way when there was an Aladdin’s cave of ladies’ footwear at the end of the rainbow or maybe the top of the beanstalk, depending on how mixed you like your metaphors to be. We even … well, I hesitate to admit it, but we even went to Oxford Street EAST of the Circus. My dear, can you imagine?

Finally, after elbowing my way through yet another tat-filled shop packed with eager punters (what the hell happened to the recession?) I lost the will to live and volunteered to pay for a taxi back to Bond Street plus whatever it took to get her the pair of boots she had fancied at our first port of call there, but then rejected on the grounds of cost. Never has a couple of hundred quid been better spent. I almost wept with joy when we got back to the peace and quiet of my club and I took the first sip of a deliciously refreshing pint of ginger beer shandy.

After the minimum period of recuperation required by a man of my age, we took another taxi to a rather newer and more fashionable club, with the aim of treating a friend to the lavish afternoon tea advertised on their website. Which would have been lovely, if the staff had not flatly denied being able to provide any such thing. Which just goes to show that you should not believe everything you read on the internet. Who would ever have thought it?

After cocktails the LTCB and I strolled (or, in her case, hobbled) to the Coliseum for Cav & Pag – both works I had somehow managed to miss during more than two decades of pretty dedicated opera-going. Lovely tunes conveying stories of depressing misery and brutality. So pretty much par for the course in opera, then. Someone hurriedly left the middle of our row, vomiting, about 15 minutes into the show. I could not say whether this represented a considered critical verdict.

Afterwards I took the LTCB to her favourite restaurant, where we ate an assortment of oysters and reached the unsurprising conclusion that the largest and most expensive native variety is also much the nicest. Then my girlfriend had to tackle the apparently simple task of eating a baked gilthead bream. Not something that you would expect to challenge a person of allegedly higher than average intelligence, but she managed to distinguish herself by detaching the aforementioned head and flicking it quite some distance across the restaurant floor. Her efforts to retrieve it without making a spectacle of herself, before the departing foursome at the next table stood up and slipped over on it, as though on some casually discarded banana skin, was the absolute comic highlight of my day.

By contrast, staggering out of the restaurant some time after midnight we found ourselves in a world of blackness and horror. Shouting drunks staggered everywhere, urine streamed across the pavements and in Pall Mall, right outside the Reform Club, we encountered a pile of excrement over which the LTCB cast a critical eye before observing “That’s not a dog’s, is it?” Neatly summarising, I felt, the state of Britain after 14 glorious years of the New Labour Project.


Imelda said...

Oh good. Was getting a bit concerned whether your 1,214 days left got cut short or not. Glad to have you back!

Keith Hann said...

Sorry. I did think of posting a holding message to explain my silence, but decided that it might spoil the story if I brought it up to date without explaining how I got here - a bit like watching the latest episode of a TV soap when you have just returned from holiday, and recorded the last two or three weeks' worth to catch up on at your leisure.

Yes, I am sad enough to do that sort of thing. Or at least I was, until I met the Less Tall Cheshire Brunette.

The bottom line is that there have been many time-consuming developments in my life during the last month. All positive, contrary to expectations. But when I started this blog on 12 November 2007 I made a promise to myself that I would write an entry every day for at least a year. And I will, though I cannot guarantee that we will not be some way into 2009 before I reach 12 November 2008.

Watch this space.

Incidentally, any thoughts on the new look, which I created with two whimsical flicks of a mouse on the first anniversary of setting up Bloke in the North? The original design, which I actually paid someone to create, had begun to look a bit tired to me. But everyone who has commented on the change, including the LTCB, has told me that they much preferred it.

A shame, then, that I forgot to save the original template settings, in my technophobic way, before I started messing around with things I do not understand.

Imelda said...

I think when I first saw the change I preferred the old version too, but to be honest I can't even remember what it looked like now, so no harm done! Content is king afterall, or so they say.

I'm looking forward to hearing more at some point... any point. Glad to hear all is well.