“So what are the rules again?” I ask.

It transpires that I am the only person in the entire world who has not played table football before, ever. I grip my grippy things tentatively as the ball goes into play.

“So…” I continue.

“Gooooaaaaalllll!!!” Big A has launched a punt from one of his back metal men (defender?), which has shot through all my metal men and gone in my goal. “Then I move one of my counters across like this,” he explains helpfully.

We have invited ourselves round to Martin the IT Consultant’s house to watch the big match. Martin’s popularity is soaring since it was discovered that he had both Sky TV and a big table football table, whereas we only have pikey free TV and a shove ha’penny board (and Big A does not even have one of those).

“Right – let’s try again,” says Martin, who is my partner in this doubles game. He puts the ball into play.

“Goooooooaaaallll!!!” This time it appears to be Big A’s goalkeeper who has fired something unstoppable the length of the table. He moves another counter. The problem appears to be my left hand, which I do not normally really use for much and which is struggling limply with both the force and dexterity required to make a model footballer stop a ping pong ball. And my right hand.

“Have you met the New People yet?” asks Big A in passing.

“Well there were vans there at 10.53,” I report, “and I walked past there again at about four minutes past three. But I haven’t actually seen anybody yet.”

“Goooaaaaaalllll!!!”

“But they have a nice car; it’s bla…”

“Goooaaaalllllll!!!”

I am suspicious that Big A does not go to work all day, as he claims, but in fact sits at home all day practising on a private secret table football table that he keeps hidden from the Village. I know that not being able to play table football very well does not make me literally gay (there are other factors involved), but I feel that I return to the television for the second half having acquired diminished manliness.

Much later, having drunk lots of red wine, we are walking home past the New People’s house.

“Do you think we should pop in and introduce ourselves?” I ask.

“Better not.”

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