Cleaned myself: Y (potentially identified)
Monkey see, monkey do: 0
Believe in God? Y (devout and pious)
I have three New Year’s Eve options. The first is a return to the rugby club where father and son act Carl Frederick and Abraham are to provide the entertainment. The only clues we’ve been given to their act in the poster are that both wear the same style of hat – a sort of pork pie fused with a gondolier’s worn at jaunty angle; and that Abraham, the son, seems to play the congas. Bacon rolls are to be served at ten o’clock. No, me either. The second is to join the gang in London, where Johnny’s place is to be the start and end of it all. I don’t feel that I’m part of the gang, and I don’t intend to apply any time soon but I think that Saturday night’s revels put me somewhere on the fringes. My invitation came from not via Tim at the fag end of the evening, so I think that it’s best ignored. Besides, they’re the sort of gang who would a) refer to themselves as a gang; and b) be prepared to stand in the middle of a massive crowd on the embankment nowhere near a bar or a toilet, then come home and decide that they’ve had a great time. As I say, no thanks. Which leaves my mother, who has decided to put on a New Year’s Dinner. It will be the same as her Sunday lunches only later, and perhaps jazzed up (her term) with a sea food starter. Like all her other efforts to do things like this it will be left too late, and everyone will have eaten too much and drunk too little to turn it into the party she craves, and by the time midnight comes we’ll all find ourselves watching Johnny and his friends standing on the embankment on TV, glad at least that we decided not to do that. There is a fourth option of course, and that is to do nothing and go to bed early. If it’s early enough I can think about Mrs Lindsay without jeopardising the good card at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
It’s all too close to Saturday night for me, which should of course have just been Saturday lunchtime, had I not been persuaded to stay and watch the match, which turned into drinks after; which, without noticing slipped from obligatory post-match courtesies into evening, whereupon the hard core, of which I was by then a part achieved critical mass and powered on until the early hours. I’m only just coming back to normal now, on Monday, and I’m at the flashback stage. I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t rude to Johnny, though I might have been indiscrete about him to one of his friends in the gang. I’m trying to work that out at the moment. You see, I’m pretty sure that I’m playing this game of poker with Johnny whereby each of us is determined not to blink first. He knows that I know he’s a prick. I know that he doesn’t like me – principally because of the former. All of the rest of them are yes-types and clones, so I stand out. He doesn’t want to be rumbled in both places and I am the only one that brings that risk up here. Oh just a minute, I think I was sick on the way home.
I check my Saturday clothes and they seem OK. My mother hasn’t said anything, and my father does not know whether to be displeased or the very opposite about my behaviour. I heard him on the phone to a couple of people from the club yesterday and he was saying things like, ‘well it’s as good as he can expect at the moment,’ something like that. Perhaps that’s where the idea for the dinner party came from. Oh Jesus, it wasn’t sick, it was worse; on the way home, that thing I sometimes need to do. It was close to Mrs Lindsay’s. No, it was in her garden. I check my Saturday clothes again and hardly dare look for underclothes. They’re not there. A linen basket is a daunting prospect when you live with Aged P’s, but I have to know. They’re not there either. Did I come clean to mother about it when I was still drunk, and she’s stepped in and done one of those things that mother’s do? Or perhaps I DIY’d it when I got in? Is that why the old man’s been off with me? I check outdoors, by the outside tap, by his shed, on the adjoining fences.. Finally I find them on the whirly washing line thing that’s behind the shed and not used at this time of year. They’re pegged up and everything. It looks like mother, but somehow I know that it’s me. How do we manage to do things like that when we’re otherwise so out of control? More to the point is mother a co-conspirator to my crime against unsanitary practices, and exactly what evidence will Mrs Lindsay be able to bring forth? I bring the still wet undercrackers in with me to dry off better on the radiator in my room. Why didn’t I do that on Saturday night instead of hanging them out?
By way of achieving her confidence I ask mother if there’s anything I can do to help with the preparations and she says, ‘you could try eating a few satsumas.’ I think I know what she means. There’s piles of stuff on her sideboard that seemed so appropriate a week or so ago but now looks ridiculous. To try and win her over I open a box of mini-stollens in the shape of Christmas trees and ask her if she’ll have one too, with a cup of tea.
‘Cup of tea? It’s mug of gin I need,’ she said. She’s staring at two dozen economy mince pies and a sort of scouts’ billy can thing full of mulled wine, all of which were prepared for the church carol singers that never arrived.
‘Well that then. I’ll make you a gin and tonic.’
There followed a little silence before she replied, ‘we can’t all live like Walter Mitty, Richard.’
I didn’t know quite what she meant by that, but I guessed that it implied that I was part of the problem, so I returned to my quarters to continue the recovery.
Oh God, what if I was in Mrs Lindsay’s garden with no trousers or underpants and she was watching me the whole time? I seem to remember doing that thing that dogs do on her lawn to clean up. I hurry to my room and say short but intense prayers to St Jude, St Martin and St Bernard who are said to look after people like me.