The bowls is off.

“It’s off.”

“It’s off.”

“Off.”

“It’s off.”

A succession of players pass us with the news that it is off. This is not entirely unexpected.

“What now?” asks Big Andy, leaning on the door that leads in to the bar.

“Don’t know really,” I reply, looking through the glass at the welcoming pumps and optics.

“We could pop in for a pint while we’re here?” offers Eddie. Nobody likes to say ‘no’ to him. We should not have let him join our gang. He is a bad influence.

Three pints later and we are still gazing out onto the monsoon swamping down upon the bowling green. There is a nagging sense unease coming from somewhere. The rain drives and flurries, it sweeps down, it churns. It pounds away like an Abi Titmuss, wet, relentless and everywhere.

“There will come a point,” I observe, “when the LTLP will cease to believe that we have been playing bowls.”

The others nod worriedly. We order a fourth pint to consider this.

After a while I realise what is bothering me. We are sat in a busy Social Club, and nobody is smoking. It seems all wrong. And I haven’t smoked for years, since when it was cool.

Big Andy is twice his normal immense size, due to all the patches he has on under his shirt. Eddie, meanwhile, looks just weird without his cigar. He has the air of a man who has gone to the pub without his trousers on, and fidgets like one who’s just sat on a colony of beetles.

Short Tony gamely drinks coca cola, having given up alcohol in solidarity.

Across the room, other people look odd; out of place. An immense social change has taken place, and one day Baby Servalan will ask me what it was like.

The rain pours down. And pours. And pours.

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