Monday, November 14, 2005

A Night Out

Having planned to spend the evening attending a meeting of the Clapham Nihilist Society and then at the last minute dismissing the whole idea as an utterly pointless waste of time, I was returning my coat to the peg in the hall when there came a knock upon the front door. It was young Benjamin from across the street and he was clutching a small package.

"Good evening, sir," he said respectfully. "I do hope I'm not disturbing you but I've brought you a present."

"Come in, Ben, what a pleasant surprise. And what've you got for me in there then?"

It's an incontrovertible fact that all adolescents, in the eyes of decent, civilized people of good manners and taste, are revolting and vile, spotty and repugnant. They'll steal your bicycle, poison your cat and burn down an old people's home without so much as a thought during the course of an average Tuesday evening and then they'll shrug gormlessly when their behaviour is confronted, taunting the authorities, spouting on about their rights and threatening to sue for compensation.

How I envy them!

When I was their age I had no option but to content myself uncomplainingly with an austere recreational programme of sex, drugs and the collected works of Gustav Mahler, though I suppose there's no telling what sort of mischief I might have got up to if Mother had allowed me out of the house.

"It's a sort of herbal tea made with native English mushrooms. My mates and I have been out on the common all afternoon picking them specially." What a charming and thoughtful boy! And such old fashioned chums! Imagine, teenagers picking mushrooms in this day and age. Why, it could almost restore one's faith in humanity.

"I suppose it's a bit late for blackberries, isn't it?" I said, trying to make conversation, but he seemed not to understand and merely looked nonplussed. "Well, anyway, I'd better get the kettle on." I ruffled the young scamp's hair as he unwrapped his parcel, a curiously enigmatic smile forming on his face as I headed for the kitchen.

An hour or so later I found myself striding purposefully along the street feeling most unusually jovial and uncharacteristically sociable, having decided to pay a visit to a public house in search of alcoholic refreshment and some agreeable female company. As I approached the Princess Diana Tavern, renowned for its accommodating and reasonably priced young ladies, I noticed an enormous shaven headed man wearing a dinner jacket positioned in the doorway in the manner of a sentry guarding the entrance to a palace, and beside him a gorilla, dressed identically and striking exactly the same pose, the sight of which set me giggling uncontrollably.

"Look! Look!" I accosted several bemused passers-by, pointing at this hilarious spectacle, almost speechlesss with laughter; it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen. "Look! They've dressed it up in a dinner suit!"

I came round on a trolley in the A & E department at St. Bernard's with two black eyes and a broken nose and what felt like several cracked ribs to find a solitary, sad looking old tramp in a curious kind of cap just standing there watching over me and I was overcome by a warm wave of compassion for him, so I stood and walked over, opening my heart and my tobacco tin.

"Would you like a roll-up? Go on, make a few for later; and here, get yourself something to eat." I took out a shilling and proffered it, but he gave me a very stern and hostile look and replied curtly in the negative and I realised then that he wasn't a tramp at all but a security guard with a beard.

I decided to forgo the seven hour wait to see a doctor and walked back out into the night, pondering the nature of futility and wondering if I might not after all catch the tail end of that meeting.