Monday 31 December

Tickle my toes! A new year’s eve during which I need not move from the ottoman but to secrete on Miss Jordan her holiday pay. ‘Don’t drink too much!’ she shouts up merrily. ‘Don’t fornicate too much!’ I reply gaily, and by doing so realise I’m already close to breaking her withering commandment. A re-stocking of the pantry following Friday’s Viking raid sees me with much tipple to impair. And by avoiding Percy’s and shopping at Market Street’s new ‘Eurodeli’ the coffers are sufficiently loosened for me to sit side-by-side, rears-to-fire at the Briton’s with work colleagues old and new, Christian, Muslim and Jew; so proving that the many fibres that make up cotton need not be white (though they generally are to meet acceptable trading standards). I sup up and make the brief preparations for my modest party, congratulating myself on purchasing that multi-pack of water biscuits, serving as they do as both delicious snack and mixer for the two-and-a-half litres of gin. Swarthy Erick is first to arrive, appearing from the downstairs water closet before I’ve noticed him come through the door. In fact, he later confesses, he has been hiding there since Thursday having been ‘run ragged’ by his rampant new lady friend (I pretend to remember what he means before changing the subject to share prices, the fate of Cleopatra’s needle, and locomotives entering tunnels).

The warehouse has certainly thrown up some odd sorts, and its elevation device does likewise tonight – the delightful Margot Von Carmen, a Bavarian co-worker of old, I forgive her superior wine (they’re so competitive!) and sparkling company, for once being content to choose the music (though no other pigeon can hit top A like Pepé) and let her entertain the other guests – Bateman, my vaguely psychotic foreman, Sasha, my rebellious forewoman, and her rebelliously youthful-looking dancing partner Jools. A rum night (considering it’s the one spirit to which we have no access) is given further punch by the arrival at 3am of Mimi Pixel and Tattetta. All having gone to ‘bed’ and Sasha grinding her teeth in a way so supernatural that it’s all I can do to prevent Margot transporting her to her Great Aunt’s famous Swiss spar, I do my best to resurrect the affair, assuming the transparency of the dwindling water biscuits as I try to impress Tattetta with a remix. What luck! On departing at five they find not one free carriage in the burning street and return for shelter and simple pleasures (actually just the shelter but I spend a while in the hallway trying to persuade Tattetta otherwise). As we fade - two on the ottoman, four in the bed - and the new day struggles awake there is just one sound remaining to unsettle the pigeons and ruffle the feathers of my friends: the noise of a contented young man exhaling the old year and inhaling the new. His old friend pinches his nose to no effect, his new love flings him violently to the floor but still he remains, your city chap, Batson, at well-earned rest.

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