Social Extravaganza

Its not all doom and gloom round here, despite it all. A long week has been topped off with not one, but two evenings out with friends – so it’s not surprising I’m feeling shattered today.

Friday night we were out with the motley crew from the local gym – or at least those hardy souls who brave the various classes each week. The local Chinese restaurant echoed to laughter and chatter all evening, and many calories will have to burned off in consequence. I may be protesting too loudly there.

Then last night we finally caught back up with Sir S and Lady W in a pub not far from Waterloo station. He’s been utterly caught up in his opera courses and shows, while Lady W has been completing her studies, so this was our first real chance to catch up in some time.

As an ex-chef, Sir S always has an eye on the food in the places we visit, so it should come as no surprise to hear that the apparently spit and sawdust pub he introduced us to had some of the best burgers I’ve had in quite a while.

We stayed until almost the last train home and stumbled home in a refreshingly light rain through the deserted Sunbury streets.

I’m exhausted, but for a change its for a good reason.

Short Story: Regrouping

We regrouped at a distinctly grotty pub just across the road from the flats to take stock. Boris reluctantly got a round of drinks in while I grabbed a semi-private table in the corner furthest from the toilets. This wasn’t due to concerns about people hearing us as they went by, the toilets just smelled awful.

Dyson hovered nearby briefly. Once he saw Boris gainfully employed, he drew up a chair and sat with his back to the wall and an eye on the door. We didn’t say anything to each other until the drinks arrived. Some behaviours can survive anything, and few things are as strong as the near reverence of the approach of the first drink of a session.

The first sip of what turned out to be a piss-poor fizzy lager was still conducted in silence, and then i pushed my pint aside. Boris and Dyson were united for a moment in appreciation of their own drinks at least.

“Well, that didn’t go to plan, did it?” I said. Boris’ face flushed with what I took to be anger. Dyson was still looking confused, but then we were well outside his comfort zone here. In some ways that was good. The longer he was off balance, the longer it should take him to remember that technically I was under arrest and that therefore he should be doing something about it.

“What happened to her?” Boris said. “There’s burn marks but no body.” He prodded at the tabletop with each word, presumably for emphasis.

“My best guess?” I paused a moment to make eye contact with each of them. “Your little helper has a new home from home.”

“What?” asked Dyson. The drink seemed to have settled his nerves a bit – at least enough that he wasn’t scratching at the bloodstains on his clothing so much. “I don’t understand.”

“Boris and his girlfriend have been very naughty people, quite aside from anything criminal you may have been investigating, haven’t you?”

“We broke no law.” His accent thickened, but he did look abashed.”

“Well, that’s a matter of debate. It was an unusual weapon but the intent was pretty straightforward wasn’t it?” I was trying to rattle Boris; I was reasonably certain he’d never been the brains of the operation.

“We…” He began to answer before self preservation kicked in and he remembered who Dyers was. For his part the detective was watching us both over his pint. He seemed a lot more composed suddenly and I remembered my previous feeling that he was a lot smarter than he appeared. Judging books by their covers again, I thought.

“They’ve been using magic to eliminate rivals.” I said. Part of that was our party-crasher, who you’re still wearing bits of by the way.” I gestured to the rips and stains he was trying to conceal. Boris was looking slightly ill. “When you did that, the thing they called up got pulled back to where it started, but you weren’t expecting anything like that were you?”

“I wasn’t there, she called it herself this time as I was busy looking for you!” He sounded sulky.

“She was over-confident and didn’t wait, stepped out of the protection, so when your pet demon or whatever it is got hauled back on a spiritual bungee cord it slapped straight into her. That’s what happened!”

Dyson looked at me as if I’d grown a second head. Boris looked aghast. “Really?” He rasped.

“Well, it’s just a guess, but I’m pretty good at those, and from what I’ve seen so far you’ve both been sloppy enough to be as big a danger to yourselves as anyone else. How the hell, pardon the pun, you got this far without it blowing up is anyone’s guess.”

“We had a book.” He said quietly.

“And this is why I should have become a librarian,” I said, “it always comes down to a book.”

Short Story: A Fix Too Far?

There’s man down the pub who can get you anything you like, as long as you’re not too concerned about its provenance, its container, or the occasional blood stain. Walk in on any given Thursday around two in the afternoon with a shopping list, and come back around ten thirty. Whatever you asked for will be there, provided you’re willing to pay the price.

For the most part he supplies the usual white goods and personal electronics that are the stock in trade of any of his counterparts around the world; but what sets him apart is that when he says he can provide anything, he means it. Nobody is quite sure how he manages it, and I’m pretty sure he’s on every watchlist going. I suspect he hasn’t been picked up by the authorities because they’re all just a little bit curious about how he does it, and can’t quite prove anything.

Just to be sure here, we’re not talking about drugs, or weapons; though I’d be surprised if someone hadn’t asked him at some point. That just isn’t his style. We’re talking about really obscure things – first edition copies of books, rare import vinyl records of forgotten jazz musicians, and sketches by renowned writers have all been seen at one point or another in the slightly shadowed booth he likes to use to do business.

And then, there’s always someone who just has to push his luck just that little bit more than anyone else:

There’s a guy down the end of the street who asked him for a unicorn, and now has to build a stable in his back garden and invest in some taller fencing. His daughter thinks it’s amazing; his wife less so after it skewered next door’s cat and ate her best pillow cases. You’re probably not going to be too surprised to hear it doesn’t poop rainbows.

What’s worrying me is that it was wearing a saddle when I saw it in the pub garden. A single letter ‘T’ was embroidered in the slightly scaled leather, and I really hope the owner doesn’t come looking round here for her lost property. This has the potential to be as bad as that time the tall hairy guy came round asking about three-headed puppies.

Short Story: The Invitation

“Just turn up and be nice” the invitation had said, and as I walked in to the bar of the Magpie, I wasn’t entirely sure if this was either a general aspiration or a likely outcome. The place wasn’t heaving, but it was full enough of neutral parties that at least some might fall into the category of witnesses if this all skipped a track.

The Magpie is a building with many levels, only some of which are literal or even visible. For this visit, at least, we were in the public bar. You enter it by walking down half a dozen wooden steps in a dark-panelled stairwell. Then, through a glass-panelled door, you find the bar itself.

It opens up into a dark-panelled and irregularly spaced area of booths, tables, and low raised areas, all dominated by large glass patio doors. These overlook the river terrace beyond, and fill the room with light while simultaneously making the dark corners darker.

It’s the perfect place to be seen not being seen, if you know what I mean. Most people assume that the steps are just to compensate for the height difference between the road and the river. They’re only partially correct. There’s a hidden mezzanine for those with the Sight, and for those only seemingly human, but I’ll tell you about that another time.

As it was, this time, the office party was going to be out in public. How bad could it be? I could play nice for a while, maybe that would do

Short Story: Ploughing A Furrow

The band was plinking out something approximating a traditional folk reel while the customers bent over their drinks and tried to ignore them. It was a fairly typical evening, truth be told. The bartender was holding court in his deeply impenetrable accent with a small entourage of regulars. The pub dog had annexed the best sofa, and was busy snoozing and farting in front of the open fire.

Revelsond knocked his pint back and wiped the froth from his mustache with the back of his gauntlet. Then he belched for good measure and laughed. He looked round, as if hoping to catch someone disapproving. Beside him, Arno tutted under his breath, and sipped the last of his wine.

The table before them was just as much an indicator of the differences between them. Revelsond’s platter was covered in the debris of disarticulated bones, while Arno seemed to have barely picked over his salad. This wasn’t a comment on the food’s quality, but more on the elf’s rarefied palette.

“We should get more beer!” Revelsond grumbled, but Arno was watching the wait staff closely, and ignored him. The burly human clicked his fingers at the nearest waitress and she scurried over, consternation on her face.

“Is everything alright Mr Revelsond? Can I get you anything? There aren’t any problems are there?” She smiled, but there was a brittleness to it that didn’t reach her eyes. She bobbed in a kind of half curtsey. Revelsond glared at her.

“My glass is empty, what kind of establishment are you running here?” His voice carried over the sound of the band, and everyone tried to ignore him. They also tried to listen in of course, leading to an even more strained atmosphere. Arno frowned and waved the waitress away, and she retreated gratefully. “Why’d you do that?”

“Because we’re leaving. We’ve a deadline and the meal is done.”

“You’ve not even touched yours.”

“The cuisine appreciation is your arena. I was watching the staff.”

As they left, the landlord sidled up to Arno and thanked him. “How was it Sai Arno?”

“You’ll have to read it in the paper tomorrow like everyone else.” Arno replied, urging his partner towards the door. “Deadlines wait for no one, but I’m sure you’ll get a lot of interest soon enough.”

And with that, Revelsond and Arno, gastronomes and food critics for the Lanhark Chronicle stepped into the night.

Come Along Darlings

There are many things that I cherish about #Tuesdays, and mostly they are to do with the mix of irregulars who make the evenings what they are.

We’re all, as I may have mentioned, a little eccentric, but even more importantly we’re all reasonably secure in ourselves, each other, and the web of different relationships that connect us. Our banter ranges from teasing and flirty, through silliness and support, geeky, nerdy and aspiring – often all in the first ten minutes.

I think that goes some way to explain the contentment and comfort last night while trying to wind things up at the end of the night. I could happily call out:”Come along darlings!” as a general summons to the stragglers I was driving home and know it would be appreciated. 

It didn’t matter who it was: if they were a wife or ex-wife, friends, partners past or potential, relatives or casual hangers on, I had the confidence I would be greeted with smiles and a lurch towards the door. In the event, Lady M and Lord S laughed, tore themselves away from the bar staff and away we went.

The landlord has long since stopped looking bemused at our antics. Maybe it’s the cakes and brownies we keep feeding him.

Things Lady M Says: What Day Is It?

We had a packed evening for #Tuesday last night, and as ever once conversations got going and plans started to be laid, things got complicated.

We’ve all known and taken part in those freewheeling torrents of laughter and chatter that cut back and forth, switching partners in a frantic dance. Perhaps then that’s why, when asked if she would be at the pub again next week, Lady M asked: what day is that?

My answer that it would also be a Tuesday, same as it usually is, was met with laughter and a salutation of single digits. What Lady M had meant was to ask what the date would be, so that she could consult her mental diary and compare it to the many demands on her time.

She keeps this mental list carefully corralled – a marching order of dates and times of almost encyclopaedic volume – but I suspect that for some time to come, she will be reminded that Tuesday happens every week on a Tuesday.

Bank Holiday Weekend

wpid-IMG_20120731_233143.jpgOh it’s been a good weekend – between the trip to see friends on the South Coast and an afternoon and evening on Monday of good company, good entertainment and comfortable levels of refreshment. If I hadn’t thrown my back out, it would rank as a pretty much perfect start to the week.

The back injury – before anyone gets excited – is pretty minor and just across the base of the spine around hip level, rather than the major spasms I occasionally get that lock up my entire upper torso. In a landmark of heroic actions, I was merely bending down to pick up some clothing off the floor when the muscles went ‘twang’.

Fortunately I have a healthy supply of painkillers, muscle relaxants, gels and heat pads to hand, as well as the skull-topped cane which always fascinates onlookers. Handy hint, dear reader, if you are tired of people asking what you’ve done to yourself, use an ostentatious cane and let them get distracted by its appearance.

The Wessex Pistols – I may have mentioned a few times before – have a cowpunkabilly sensibility and the flyers for the event had suggested people dress up to join in. This may or may not have been prompted by conversations with the band at their last gig where our cosplay contingent got very excited about the thought of us all just turning up as a motley collection of characters. We considered the gauntlet thrown and so most of us went for some variant of cowboy/girl, pirate or punk in our dress. Well, most of us at our extended table anyway. The Ladies M and Lady A went cowgirl, Lady P went punk, Lord S went Skapunk, I went piratically Assassin’s Creed, Lady G declined to dress up, and my daughter (The Charleesi) went as a bored teenager.

This is what good times looks like
This is what good times looks like

The gig started in the pub garden and moved indoors at half time when the weather turned, and I have to admit I was flying somewhat with the combination of painkillers and beer which made me really not care about the bad back any more.

It was a grand afternoon of silliness, in-jokes, refreshments, and good company – especially when the band set up right next to us for their acoustic-ish second half of the session. There were a fair few people who hadn’t dressed for the occasion, so it was good to have several of the band come thank us for making the effort. We’ve all been there so frequently that it would seem that they were not even remotely surprised that we would.

Eventually people had to drift away as the evening drew on, but it felt too soon to let it end. So that’s why we went and saw Civil War afterwards. Good film, great fun, plenty to geek about and it has fuelled more than a little conversation at the subsequent #Tuesday.

A good time had by all

Another Rowdy Night

image

When you wake up to find your social media feed includes your local landlord ‘liking’ the pictures of the previous night, replete with scorched beermats, carbonised fruit peel, and inventive wax dribbling on all the candles, well, I’m not sure whether to be pleased or concerned.

Our #Tuesdays have become the stuff of legend in some circles, mostly due to the generally unfettered and freerange conversation topics rather than the burgeoning pyromania exhibited last night.

Case in point last night was the unusual experience of hearing the ex-Lady M recount recent issues with one of her exes, surrounded by Ladies G, M, P, and the Charleesi. Once more the cry went up, asking why the one person in her romantic history who had bits of paper saying he was unwell was the most sane and stable person of them all.

Okay, a little close to the knuckle, but being #Tuesday it got a laugh, and then I was directly asked: “so why does she keep attracting these people? Go on Tim, you’re the expert here.”

You know how time can subjectively run like treacle as your brain goes into overdrive? Yeah, try that with the full attention of the assembled Ladies M and your daughter fixed on you. After a subjective aeon, I smiled and reached into my jacket pocket: “Let me just get my notes…”

Oh how we laughed. And changed the subject.

Quotes taken out of context are guaranteed to turn heads, but the staff and locals have at least got used to the sight of us all gathered around a table nearish the musicians. The amount of abuse and applause may vary, as well as the volume, but we keep spending our money so much is forgiven.

After all, as irregular as we and our lives are, we’re Regulars. I don’t think I’ve ever had that before.

Laughter Is Definitely The Best Medicine

inspiredSo, last night we went back out for #Tuesday, gathering around us the usual crowd of reprobates and trouble-makers to pretend to listen to some music while unwinding from the chaos of life. I was on driving duties because, let’s face it, I wasn’t going to even try to justify getting between Lady M and a couple of pints of beer.

The upside is that I have perfect recall of everything that happened last night, and will be leveraging this knowledge mercilessly for as long as it’s funny.

Lady M and I were joined by Lord Danger and Sir S, and in the spirit of shenanigans and partial gallantry we swiftly rescued the ex-Lady M and Lady G from the conversations in which they were enmeshed. As they came across to join us, I could see musicians flinching in anticipation of a loud night to come. How could we disappoint them? By the time we reached the half-way point in the evening, there were quiet appeals from the frazzled musicians, who claimed to be unable to hear themselves play over the sound of an increasingly tipsy opera singer, the Ladies, and the occasional bemused smirk from myself and Lord Danger (who was regaling us with tales of his own return to work this week).

These appeals of course, in the style of school children around the world, provoked the sort of semi-hushed giggling and pretence of compliance hated by teachers wherever attempts at quelling hilarity are encountered. Out of deference to Lady G, who has to live with one of the aforementioned musicians, we did tone it down – a bit.

Rowdy, bawdy, and generally heavily invested in just having a good night out, it was definitely the spirited tonic we needed. Roll on next week…