Saturday 15 March
The road to recovery is surprisingly marked ‘Wigan’ and it is at the town’s beer festival that my senses finally return from vacation, having slung their little holiday bags beneath each eye. Immediately they face ambush by enormous men with enormous appetites drinking enormous amounts of enormously strong ale. But a few days of warm baths with Miss Jordan offering her steaming cups of goodness have me sufficiently fortified. I am likewise buoyed by the news that Larry got home with his Pekalowski still in tact, encountering only yawning officialdom en route, and not the trap-jawed secret agents I had feared; I leave the flat with prune-like fingers but otherwise far from shriveled.
Like a cherry amongst so many nuts, it is a joy to find Jefferson Cake accompanying myself, Swarthy Erick and Sir Dempson Makepeace to the latter’s hometown, though the Lancaster lad, despite his teaching trade, finds my concerns for world peace as difficult to swallow as the others. Misguidedly, the chaps seem to believe that my fast-brewing idea to open an English pub in Naples would reap far greater destruction on the continent than any number of insidious insurgents. Damon is up from London, making a well-fortified defence of his newspaper despite the recent revelation that its proprietor kidnapped a child and murdered a Princess simply to boost sales. More surprising is his wild-eyed brandishing of a bloodied kitchen cleaver, though his justification – ‘just let anyone try to get me on the cider’ – makes perfect sense. Sir Dempson and I choose to ignore his example and with the locomotives on strike, the next thing we are aware of is being transported back to Manchester in the back of his parents’ carriage. Why do we do this to ourselves each year? To have time away from the ladies (when we have them)? Undoubtedly. To sample unpurified, unperfumed beverage? Of course. To catch up with old friends? Is there anything better? But what if not one of us should choose to tell the others when it’s clear we’ve become too old, too fat, too married to be doing this? Then they, my dear Batson, are truly one of us.