Tuesday 18 March

To Sir Dempson and Lady Sparkles’ town house in Jill’s hatchback chariot. Herself and Conrad have moved into a new apartment (nay, love nest – I can say it) in Chorlton village and wish to get fully furnished before a Far Eastern trip. A sagging spare table, holed up at my former halfway house, is donated to the cause; apologetically I blame my old half-ton typewriter for the damage, while wishing the resulting words had been weightier. Having viewed their new abode and advised them not to mix their upper lips with their sundowners, I am soon making tracks with a cardboard box of ancient matter: footerball albums from twenty years ago. What became of that obscure centre-half with the once luxuriant hair; the hope, if not the need, for recognition and fulfillment still apparent in his fast-fading eyes? More pertinently, where is my face within the numerous school rags I have inexplicably held onto all this time? Here are the doers, the movers and shakers, not those who push numbers around the soporific bedspreadsheets that adorn the walls of the cotton exchange. These rugby types may have hung up their boots but I doubt they’ve lost their lust for success, just as I’ve avoided it like the ball (once for an entire game, against Thongrash in the house cup).

Balancing my box of bittersweets against a psychological prop, I am surprised to hear noise coming from what was, until recently, flat 13. Since boarded up and covered over with Dave Gorman’s out-of-date publicity materials, there is no obvious way into the apparently accursed abode. I had assumed that the occupants of flat 14 had simply nabbed the extra space but Bjorn and Cindy are out here with me, both as white as that Falkirk midfielder in Football ’22. Come to think of it, I did see Arthritic Albiston in the street with all his possessions last month - they must have thrown him out of apartment 99 when everyone else was shunted up a number. So which nameless imposters lurk inside the numberless flat? I rap my knuckles against Dave Gorman’s crinkled forehead. ‘Who’s in there?’ I demand. We back away and quickly there is the sound of someone running, thudding against an interior wall. Then the long, low hiss of a large and angry cat. I turn to my neighbours, expecting them to be smiling with relief, but they are running down the corridor, self-propelled by fear gas.

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