Friday 28 December
Back in Manchester, home of industrial drinking and steam-powered socialising, I attempt to tiptoe my gentlemanly stead through a miniature maze (think Tatton Park, not Chatsworth House) of friends and maybe more, all the while trying to spare the ladies from its massive Christmas underbelly. But the gents must be considered also and not for the first time I find myself at amiable loggerheads with good friend (he groomed me as best man while marrying Lady Izzy Sparkles last year) Sir Dempson Makepeace. For while he and his visitors from ‘that there’ London appear set on touring the old men’s pubs of their youth (The Doom-laden Crevice, Cockfighters, The NoNigNog Bar) Mimi Pixel and her exotic writer friends are veering towards town’s newer, ‘trendier’ unlicensed premises (The Peveril, Lion Lion, The Briton’s Protection). Here, female to a man, the artistes will have the freedom to discard their moustaches (most of them) and enjoy the intoxicating rites granted to us universally by a fuzzy-headed God. Having worn a moustache since childhood, and with the quality of ale now belying the utility of such a filter, I for one do not begrudge them their (strictly nocturnal) liberation.
So what comes to pass? A compromise of sorts – the nearly-new Stranger bar is located on Oxford Road, not too far from the station, and when London boys Damon and Bluntie arrive we find them randy as bullocks (Southern women don’t cut, darn or knit it we’re told) and equally incomprehensible (Damon has returned to the Express having found the worldwidewotsitworkerswoopsies). Thereafter it takes not too much persuasion, or Moll Flanders for that matter, for the two groups to intertwine. Or at least to talk with Venetian-masked sincerity of dating and workplace matters (thank you the bloody French!) While absorbing the news of Mimi’s split with her own London boy, I am drawn (as only those in love or utterly self-absorbed may be) to a face across the table. It must be love! To avoid violating Tattetta Tizwaz’s virginal visage, or further confusing her with my intelligence, I wisely opt to get progressively drunker - cranking my engine slowly down through the gears as it were. I am therefore humming, rather than throbbing alarmingly, on the descent to the Bar that Twas a Bog. It works – she suspects nothing, barely remembering my name upon parting – and the gents are free to drink the entire contents of the New Year drinks cabinet back home. There is one moment of weakness but, vigilant friend that he is, Dempson resolves it manfully. From the corner of his eye-patch he spots me mumbling an amorous message into the soft ear of Pepé and as the fine bird sails into the night sky, Dempson whips out his pistol and splatters him to the ground. Yes, we’re agreed, it’s always best to play it cool.