“There you go,” I tell the LTLP.

We have spent all morning tidying our bedroom. It has been a good joint effort, with me sorting things out that should be moved, whilst she lifts them up and carries them down the stairs.

“One room,” she insists. “One room. That’s all I want. One room in this house that isn’t some form of clutter dumping ground Pig Sty.” She surveys the newly pristine boudoir with satisfaction. There is a scrunch of gravel outside.

My parents have arrived!!! I greet them with enthusiasm.

“I have brought the stuff you asked for,” says my father. “It took me ages to get it out of the loft.”

He presses a button on his key and the car boot bursts open. Crates of computer hardware! Bulging chests of software cassettes! Binders upon binders of Sinclair User magazines, and Crash!, and Micro Adventurer, and Your Spectrum!!! I gaze, agog.

“There is rather a lot of it,” he says.

“Don’t worry,” I reply. “We have cleared some space.”

I haul the first box past the LTLP. She is bearing the expression that went down so well during her keynote address to the Institute of the Thunderstruck. Luckily there is some space upstairs in our bedroom, so I lug it up here and return to the car for some more.

Her features are alternating between cyan and magenta as I walk through with the next batch. “There isn’t as much as there looks,” I reassure her, waving a Currah Microspeech in her face. Meanwhile, my father backs up the forklift truck to start on the magazines.

“All done!” I say when we have finally emptied the car and the man has finished reinforcing the floor joists. “It must be good to get that lot out of your attic.”

“Yes,” says my father, looking warily between us.

 

 

A quick aside of a promotional nature – the ebook version of Sex and Bowls and Rock and Roll is available free of charge now for a limited period (probably just ’til the end of next week). Thank you to HarperCollins for arranging that.

So if you want something to read on your hols, or know somebody who might want something to read on their hols, or are just one of these people that likes something for nothing then your best bet is:

Kindle version (via Amazon)

Version for your iPad/iPod/iThing via iTunes

I’m told that people overseas still have to pay full whack – booooooooooo.

“Go on,” I urge her. “You will enjoy it.”

It is Child #1′s first day at brownies. I have been encouraging her to go, as it will make her community spirited, being selfless and a good citizen and all that. I am quite into that at the moment, ever-striving to be a better person.

“I will be just next door,” I reassure her. “In the pub.”

“You just need to sign her in on thi…” Says Brown Owl.

“Yeah, yeah.” I make a scribble on the bit of paper and zip next door to the pub.

The pub is not busy at this early hour, so I am able to strive to be a better person in relative peace. It is good that my daughter and I are both able to do our duty to god and to the Queen etc. together as a family like this. It is a bonding experience.

The Brownies seems to have progressed in the days since my sister, RonnieB, was a keen attendee. The uniform is now all trendy, and they appear to offer activities that are not exclusively interesting to children from a South Lincolnshire family of Methodist farmers in Victorian times. Plus there is a residential camp thing which sounds very encouraging, although sadly lasts for a mere three days.

I return to pick her up an hour and a half later.

“Did you enjoy that, then?” I ask Child #1, whilst attempting not to breathe on Brown Owl.

“Excellent, I knew you would,” I continue, before she has a chance to reply.

“Where’s Short Tony?!?” demands the Chipper Barman.

I sigh. “He has had to drop out,” I explain. “Due to some unpleasantness.”

There is a brief conversation whilst I go over Short Tony’s situation. The atmosphere in the car becomes subdued.

We are on our way to the final snooker fixture of the year. It is a vital game, as it will decide how many points we finish below the second-from-bottom team in the league. We are grimly determined as we park up and enter the club. It is a cold night, but we have warm coats to insulate us from the chill Norfolk air; we lob these in a pile in the corner.

Big A, famous for dropping pints of lager, goes to the bar.

Shaun has not arrived. I am cross. Even though we are not very competent at the actual playing bit, we are well-known for our professionalism as a team. I chide him as he walks in.

“You are late,” I say. “This is not the sort of professional approach that we are known for. Anyway, Short Tony isn’t here, so you will have to play twice; once pretending to be him. They have not met him, so I have told them that you are twin brothers.”

“Eh?”

“Just get your cue.”

Shaun gets his cue, ready to play.

“What happened to Short Tony?” he asks as an afterthought.

“There was some unpleasantness.”

Shaun starts playing his frame, pretending to be Short Tony. There is some discussion on the sidelines about Rule 1.1. This is the only rule in the snooker club, and is to do with what our wives are expected to do on our return, should we win our frame. It is not a rule that crops up very often and, to be honest, we have had difficulty enforcing it in the past.

The evening passes without incident, although at one point Shaun has to move his car to allow access for the ambulance. The final result confirms us once more in an honourable last place for the season, although we have bowls to look forward to the following week, which should lift morale a little. I text John Twonil with the match report. Big A drops his pint of lager on the pile of warm coats.

The snooker reached its nadir when Marky shat himself at the Crucible.

“The thing was,” he told us some time later, “they don’t let you out of your seat until the frame has finished. So I’m sitting there in real distress, like. And I’m waiting, desperate to bomb it out of there, like. And…”

We digest the scene as Eddie pots his white.

“It must be your worst nightmare,” chips in Short Tony. “You’re in that state, and you hear the announcer boom out: ‘now, ladies and gentlemen – please welcome Peter Ebdon!’” It is a sobering thought. But tonight we are players, not spectators.

Eddie pots his white again as Marky sips his lager reflectively. This was shortly before he retired from the team, disconsolate at his transformation – solely through his association with us – from being one of the top amateur players on the tough, hard-as-nails Midlands club circuit to a man incapable of constructing a break of more than five points or, indeed, completing a frame without requiring a visit to the toilet.

“We are probably the worst snooker team in the whole of Great Britain,” I think to myself with pride, as Eddie misses the object ball completely. But I do not voice my thoughts out loud for reasons of team morale. You always have to focus on the positives in a team sport situation like this, and Short Tony has gone to the bar, and there is only one more frame before there will be some sandwiches.

Eddie now requires three snookers, yet soldiers on unfazed, despite there being only the pink and black left on the table. It would be good to see an unexpected comeback, but unexpected comebacks are few and far between in our world.

“Are you staying for one more?” asks the Very Well Spoken Barman.

I ponder this, from the comforting womb of my barstool. It is getting late, and I suspect that it is best not to.

Short Tony is at home, with the lurgee. Big A has long-departed, as has Len the Fish. Eddie stayed for a couple, there has been no sighting of John Twonil. “Nonononono,” I say, shaking my head with some resolve.

The thing about going to the Village Pub is that it goes through stages. At the beginning, it is childishly exciting to be there, with all new people to say ‘hullo’ to and the sense that anything might happen. Then you settle down into a nice routine, and there is a long, comfortable period whilst you savour the environment. And then it begins to get late.

I peer through to the other bar. There is hardly anybody left in there: an old geezer sat in the corner; a lady from the boaty set. It is probably time to go. At least I have kept my dignity and not embarrassed myself at all.

“Not having another Cinzano and lemonade?” asks the Very Well Spoken Barman.

I consider the bottle that he is waving at me. But knowing when to go home is something that I am very good at, like coming up with clever metaphors. Deep breath.

“No. It really, really is time to go,” I reply.

The sky is utterly clear when I leave; the stars and moon look down upon me, magnificent in their celestial twinkliness. I pause before crossing the road. No, it really, really is time to go home. Pulling my jacket around me, I turn my back to the Village Pub’s warm lights and start the short walk down the hill to the Cottage.

There is a knock at the door!!!

“There you go,” I say to Child #1 as I reach for the handle. “It sounds as if the first of your friends has arrived.”

There is a loud whooshing noise. Seconds later I am scraping myself off the carpet and staring behind me at a room packed with six-year olds.

We have agreed to hold Child #1′s birthday party in the house this year, as it is a lot cheaper than going out, and it cannot be that difficult. The arrangement is that the LTLP will look after the parents whilst I organise the children, as I am good at that sort of thing, being funny and resourceful. “They are here,” I tell her.

“Received,” she replies, on the walkie-talkie from the Panic Room.

I have put the iPod docking thing in the corner, for entertainment; Child #1 has selected ‘Blood on the Tracks’ to make the party go with a swing. I tell the parents to go through to the other room, to be looked after by the LTLP. Instead, they sit around on chairs, sofas etc., studying me.

There is a short lull.

“Right, erm, you have to all dance around now, to the disco,” I say. “Or do musical statues. We will do musical statues.”

I am getting the hang of this already. We play musical statues. I look at my watch. 0.000001 minutes have passed since the alloted party commencement, which means that there will probably be time for another game, even if I eke it out and allow the cheating kids to resume playing even though they have clearly been told that they are out. In the end I give most of the kids some sweets because it is easier and it seems to keep them quiet for another 0.000003 seconds, which is valuable time used up.

We play musical bumps. Again, I have to say that musical bumps is a much shorter game than I remember from when I was a small child. I distribute more sweets, as I am running out of the extensive repertoire of games that I have planned. The parents continue gazing at me, no doubt getting tips for their own parties.

“Right. Now, erm, dance around for a bit. It is a disco,” I command.

The children dance around for a bit, to the disco. I run into the next room, where I find the LTLP hiding in a kitchen unit.

“Get out of there,” I order.

“I am doing,” she responds, haughtily, “the food.”

I have a bright idea and draw a big picture of Prince Charles on a flattened cardboard box. Carrying it back into the lounge, I announce that we are playing a game of ‘Draw the Nose on Prince Charles.’ I see one of the parents shake her head sadly.

The children draw the nose on Prince Charles. Most of them get the nose in pretty well exactly the right place, which is probably something to do with me not being used to blindfolding children, well not in these circumstances anyway, so I give most of them some more sweets and order them to dance around again. I look at my watch once more, but due to some temporal warp, the time is now seven minutes before the party is due to start. The children dance around, although it seems that dancing around is becoming less interesting as the afternoon wears on, so I give them some more sweets.

“Erm, now you need to sit round in a circle,” I say, giving them some more sweets. “And we will play pass the… erm… cushion.”

“How do you play that?” demands one of the children.

“How do you play that?” demands one of the parents.

“It is very simple,” I say, giving them both some sweets. “It is a bit like, erm, pass the parcel, but you use a cushion. But when the music stops and you have the cushion then, erm. It is an exploding cushion. So you have to shout ‘boom’.

“Boom?” says the child.

“Boom?” says the parent.

“Boom.” I confirm.

We have a trial run. I stop the music and the children shout ‘boom.’ They seem to enjoy doing this, so we play ‘pass the cushion’ for two hours, shouting ‘boom’. I give them all some more sweets. The LTLP arrives with some tea.

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