“How are you, then?” I sympathetically enquire.

Short Tony is depressed about his upcoming 40th birthday. I can understand this; I will probably feel the same when I reach the same point in many years time. I explain this to Short Tony, but it does not cheer him.

“Plus I’ve lost my karaoke tape,” he adds.

I send one eyebrow ceilingwards, a more-than-usually puzzled look crossing my face.

“I had a few drinks last night, and decided to sing some karaoke,” he explains. “I’m surprised you didn’t hear me?”

I shake my head. I can hear nothing over the LTLP’s snoring. Meteorites could have devastated Earth for all I know.

“Anyway, I usually record myself, so I can listen in the car the next day. Except I couldn’t find the tape anywhere. Then I realised – when I traded in the old car I must have left it in the tape machine. So there’s a tape of me singing Meatloaf numbers on some garage forecourt in Norfolk somewhere.”

I look at him and shake my head sadly.

“You do realise,” I say slowly and kindly, “that there wasn’t a single word in that speech that reflected anything other than horribly badly on you?”

“I know,” he replies miserably.

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