21: The Morning After

Leaving the hotel....

Leaving the Hotel...

As befits a man of middle years I got up about three times in the night and each time reminded myself that I was in London. It was to stop myself from having a Patrick MaGoohan moment. However, one look out of the window would show me I wasn’t in a village I couldn’t recognised, with some over-grown balloon chasing me through the streets. Besides, I hadn’t resigned from my job as yet. Finally, at just after 9am, I got out of bed for the final time. Although I was up several time during the night the bed was surprisingly comfortable. I felt I could have slept on another couple of hours. I finished off the orange juice I bought last night, and decided to have as shower. It’d been a hot night. By the time I was dried and dressed I’d mapped out what I was going to do until my return train left at 2.27pm. One of the most important things was to get breakfast. It wasn’t included in the stay so I needed to find somewhere to eat. Yesterday, on the way to the hotel I’d spotted quite a few places to eat although most were mid-day and evening meals, so I wasn’t sure where I was going to have the breakfast or what I wanted, although the full English did cross my mind several times. One of the other things was to walk to Paddington at a reasonable pace so that I could have a good look round; I wasn’t sure when I’d get the opportunity to come to London again. I’d been to that part of London but it was some years ago, and I believe it was a booze-hound trip with Blameworthy. By about 2pm on such trips I’d be hard pressed to work out where I’d been all morning and be barely sober long enough to remember much about the evening with any geographical clarity… Ah, those were the days…The 1980s… It was the feeling of size that always went through my mind, the amount of floors the house had, the very width of them. Kensington High Streethad been no exception when I walked it yesterday. The there was the noise, the smell of car fumes and lots and lots of people. It’s always been a place I like to visit but I wouldn’t ever want to live there. It was 10.30am and my time was up in the hotel, time to check out and leave. As before I walked down half a dozen flights of steps, due to my phobia about lifts. I always felt they would get trapped between floors, which would be bad enough if they did, but going in a lift with someone you know… Well, friends tend to view me in slightly different light. It’s probably down to the way I stand in the corner of the lift, eyes two inches from the wall and whimpering incessantly throughout the ride…

Three attempts and still a car got in the way. The Goat.

It was a bright but cool morning and I decided I would get breakfast at the first place that took my fancy; somewhere not too busy. I set the iPhone to show me the most direct route and headed towards Paddington. I stopped a few times to take some pictures. Of course the ‘spoil-a-picture-taskforce’ was on hand to get in the way, so the potential for a decent photo was reduced to a bare minimum. I only managed a couple of shots of pubs in Kensington High Street, before I turned off to go through Hyde Park to Paddington. I did managed to get some decent pictures as I went through there, along with some of the Albert Memorial. Despite feeling hungry, it was approaching twelve midday and I still hadn’t eaten. Most of the places I passed either didn’t look open for business, just cleaning themselves after the previous night’s activities. I ended up in Paddington before I made my choice. There was an Angus Steakhouse, and for a while I toyed with the idea of combining breakfast and dinner. But on looking at the prices of the steak I settled for the full English. It seemed reasonable at around eight quid. I found a seat, although not by a window, gave me a view of the bright sunny outside world. Not overly picturesque, but certainly better than staring at a wall. I ordered the full English and an orange juice, then pulled out the old Kindle and downloaded the Sunday edition of the Independent. Thought I might as well catch up on what was happening in the world. There weren’t many people in the Steakhouse. There was a chap near to the door at a window seat. He was quite fidgety, and gripped a knife and fork in each hand, seemingly ready to tuck in as soon as the plate was shoved in front of him. He seemed to have that sort of look, the one you see in the eyes of monkeys at a zoo when they realise there’s humans outside with food. He made me feel I was glad I wasn’t the waiter; I would be in fear of losing part of my arm as soon as I put down the plate, if I didn’t move it back quickly enough. Of course, having an overactive imagination it also went through my mind that he was some sort of terrorist and had planted a bomb nearby and was just waiting for it to go off, just to see the results of his actions. Hence why he was so nervous. There were two others a few tables up from the nervy bloke. They were caught up in a really animated conversation. They made me think of the Eric Sykes film Rhubarb, Rhubarb, where all the people seem to be saying was, well, rhubarb. Except it was just noises I could hear, not really anything that sounded like words I could understand. I began to think the old lugs might need their regular rebore… The orange juice arrived, then ten minutes later the full English. I have to say it wasn’t as good as the breakfasts the Pink Lady and I have at Brooks in Highworth, but it wasn’t bad. Two hash browns, mushrooms, beans – in their own side dish -, egg, half a good sized tomato, sausage, short but fat and bacon, topped off with two slices of white bread toast. The bacon was quite thick and the sausage was really good. The Pink Lady, I believe, would have approved of the sausage; and believe me she’s fussy about the type of sausage that passes her lips! It was pleasant, a nice respite and with the sun shining I felt rather good. It made me wonder why I didn’t do things like this more often. I also reflected it would have been rather good if the Pink Lady could have come along. We could have extended both Saturday and Sunday; that is book an earlier train for arrival and a later train for departure.

The Pride Of Paddington

Unfortunately, the Pink Lady is not a fan of The Persuaders!Still, nobody’s perfect, so I’d made the arrangements without including her. The breakfast filled the gap rather well and I ordered an Americano afterwards. The coffee being rather good, I took my time over it and in between reading The Independent and watching the world go by. By now the nervy bloke had been served with his steak and was tucking into it as though it was his first meal in ages. Such gusto and enthusiasm must have served as a good advert for the Steakhouse. Although I’d been in there for around half an hour, the other animated blokes still hadn’t been served with food; still working their way through what looked like a couple of mineral waters; either that or half a bottle of vodka each… Of course, had they ate like they talked then must people around them and the windows would have been given a share in their meals. I paid up, the final bill coming to £13.25. It wasn’t bad, I thought as I packed up my things and left, not for London. Outside I checked my watch and found I had just under two hours to go before my train would leave. I decided to walk round, work off the breakfast and take some pub photos to take back to show Blameworthy…

The Dickens Tavern

The pattern was very much like earlier, every time I tried to take a photo cars or vans got in the way. Bloody things; damn well think they own the roads! Still, I suppose, if the quality turns out ok then a little messing about in Photoshop might correct the problem. One photo, the one of the Dickens Tavern, I rather caught a young woman by surprise. Probably who the old fart was with the camera; either that or frightened she’d just got herself a stalker…

The Mitre

As it came up to 1pm, I realised I’d been on my feet – with a half hour exception in the Angus steakhouse – for about three hours. I needed to find somewhere to sit, especially as it’d clouded over and was beginning to spit with rain. I found a spot quite quickly and sat down. From a shop on the way I bought a thin notebook and wrote up a little about this weekend. I should have brought the iPad with me for making notes on but I didn’t want to leave it unattended in the hotel. While I was there a touch of mischief descended on me and I bought a stamp and a postcard. I found a post box, wrote out a message to the Pink Lady and sent it. I felt it might amuse.

The Sawyers Arms

It began to rain, and didn’t stop for about twenty minutes. Luckily bench I was on was under a tree; I kept quite dry. I completed some blog notes and about fifteen minutes later the clouds moved away and the sun was out again. It was about twenty minutes after this I was in Paddington station. Not as clouded as yesterday but crowded enough. As I checked the train times I decided I needed a coffee, which was a little bit of a mistake because I then saw food; hunger suddenly echoed in the old brain box, although probably a fake hunger and I succumbed to an Italian meat ball sub, coated with a tomato and herb sauce. The departure boards told me that the train was now ready for boarding and I went to find my seat… It was time to go home. I told myself I should make a trip to London more often…

109 comments on “21: The Morning After

  1. It’s just the other side of Old Town in a south-easterly direction past the Co-Op. We can pray for our souls in the cathedral, and I’ve always wanted to visit the hospital and almshouses of St. Cross, where they still uphold the tradition of Wayfarer’s Dole. Travellers are entitled to claim bread and ale to sustain them on their journey. Admittedly they are unlikely to provide enough ale for the likes of us, but there are six Good Beer Guide pubs in the city as well, where we can slake our post-festive thirsts fit to bursting.

  2. Winchester? WINCHESTER??? If you were talking THE Winchester, fictional club of Minder fame, I’d be there like the proverbial shot. But Winchester? Not only do I not know where that is, I don’t even know what direction it is in from here. East would be my guess.

  3. This constant shilly-shallying and vacillating flim-flammery is taking its toll on my frail, burnt out constitution. A dozen daily festive sessions in a row could not have left me feeling so drained and full of despair as this week of your weak and weedy woeful weasel words. I have a hankering to go to Winchester, by train on Thursday. You may go to hell in a hand basket for all I care.

  4. Obviously, I’m starting to have concerns about the do-ability of the December 2012 session. The weather is a worry: the mild climate we’ve endured this year may not be there next and the line between Swindon and Stroud is notorious for delays and cancellations in inclemant times. Is it already time to consider changing the venue? Better still, could we not simply declare that the session took place last week? We could conflate an account of said session from our memories of earlier sessions and save ourselves having to go anywhere whatever.

  5. Good God, man! I can’t wait until April to blow hot and cold; I’m blowing cold already with almost twelve months remaining. The Woolpack is a very substantial stone building, so I’m fairly confident it will still be standing in December 2012. No beer though, I’m afraid. Cafe Macchiato, anyone?

  6. With the Decamber 2012 session pencilled in – don’t worry, I have programmed in plentiful opportunities for ‘blowing hot and cold’ about going for as ealy as April – we can give out full attention to staying alive long enough to attend. Trouble is, with the state of the hospitality industry what it is, will the Woolpack still be there? And if there, will it be open?

  7. Watching the mummer’s play was a splendid way to spend Boxing Day afternoon. The biggest cheer of the day was reserved for the brave English knight, as he fought the French villain, Beau Slasher, and ran him through with his wooden sword. A pint or two of amusingly named Christmas ales rounded off the proceedings nicely. I’ll make a note in my diary for the 2012 Christmas session, Gloomers. It only remains for us to survive another year.

  8. While Blameworthy goofs around like an outsize eight year old in the company of nasal folkies and their fey haired, wholmemeal wives, I have been setting my mind to the more vexed question of whether and where we should go on our forthcoming festive session. Long hours of deliberation, poring over maps and consideration of the CAMRA wbsite have led me to the conclusion that we should indeed have a festive session. The venue must be Slad and the timing? Why, the week before Christmas 2012, of course. There: we’re all happy now. Except tat I might not be able to go.

  9. Oxfordshire, actually, GloomLaden. But, yes, I shall be strapping a well-used pair of stag’s antlers to my head and pulling on my short corduroy trousers – the ones with the bells decorating the hems – and a large pair of clogs, to make my annual foray deep into the countryside, where the pastoral peasants inhabit a different world to your sophisticated environs. I may even take my new ukulele along this year. Ironically though the barbed darts of your mockery have inadvertently hit an entirely different target and raised my folksy hackles. The play takes place in the market square of a small country town, directly outside a disproportionately sized branch of Costa Coffee. No Wetherspoons though … yet.

  10. Yes, Christmas is over for another year, but there is still the little matter of Boxing Day. Fox hunting aside, what is one supposed to do on Boxing Day, most nugatory of festivals? I daresay Blameworthy will be off to some appalling Mummers Play in a South Wiltshire pub, hobnobbing with wassailers and imagining that storing up memories of such pastoral pleasures will the better stock his mind for that future day when he is walking the streets in a demented state, imagining bygone greensward where in fact there is only another branch of Costa Coffee.

  11. Can there be anything more vulgar and (counter intuitively) less festive than ordering stuff from amazon on Christmas Day? No.

    And never mind there being no Malmsey and Sewidge, there wasn’t even a festive Fitrambler blog post. Or, come to that, comment.

    As for Slad on Wednesday, I am not going to commit myself yet awhile. . .

  12. Go easy on the cranberry sauce, GloomLaden; the day is yet young. You should, by now, be old enough, and wise enough, to know better than to mix the crusted port with the Shakespeare. The forecast is now for hail rather than sleet on Holiday Wednesday. Slad sounds a good bet to me though; we can dry out in front of their splendid log fire. I was given an Amazon voucher amongst the festive gifts and have ordered a selection of Shakespeare DVDs, including the Branagh, Hamlet.

  13. Well, I have been given books and booze and a couple of CD’s: not a bad literary trawl and the drink will come in handy to get me thruough the gutting disappointment of BLAMEWORTHY’S calling off cour Christrmas session on account of an inclemant weather forecast. Fie, sir! Let’s go Slad on Wednesday and Devil take the hindmost!

  14. No Malmsey & Sewidge? So another Christmas tradition dies. The weather forecast is for blustery high winds and sleet on Wednesday, so the post-Christmas session may be in doubt too. But I don’t care because I’ve been given a ukulele and a pressure washer for Christmas, so I can accompany myself ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’.

  15. Alas, no Malmsey and Sewidge this year. Those days are over. I’ve actually just been for a walk around Old Town. With no traffic to speak of and encountering only 4 people on my travels, I couldn’t help rather enjoying it. Being able to cross Kings Hill without having to risk death had something to do with it. I was also reminded of how Stanley Middleton’s final novel starts with a miserable bachelor going for a walk on Christmas morning. The rest of the book is below par, but the opening scene captures the imagination. Dogs give many the excuse to walk in towns but when you do so alone you are immediately suspect.

  16. To hell with Santa Claus, I’m up early to see if Malmsey and Sewidge have been. Have you started digging up the garden to find your stash of Christmas booze yet, Gloomers?

  17. Of course we remember There’s A Hole In My Bucket. It was one of those songs Ed Stewpot Stewart used to play regular as habit on Junior Choice, Radio 2 Saturday mornings.

    Hold down your gorge, Christmas is nearly over.

  18. But, we can’t be sure the Wheatsheaf opens at lunchtime. I suppose we could stand outside for half an hour then walk to the Carter’s Rest, which will also be closed, and return via the Duke of Wellington, perhaps. Does anyone remember the old song ‘There’s A Hole In My Bucket’? No, I thought not. Well, you’ll have to take my word for it that this conversation is like an extended version of the song.

  19. With impeccable bad timing, my father entered yet another phase of UTI related dementia on the day of my Uncle’s funeral, causing me to wish it was him in the coffin rather than – or at least, as well as – my Uncle. Just when you think things cannot possibly get any worse, they confound your expectations.

    It was never Holiday Wednesday, but Tuesday being a Bank Holiday must be Holiday Tuesday. Which is why our session should be on Wednesday at least, so that we can pretend it is a ‘normal’ day and not part of the festivities. Half an hour in the Wheatsheaf should suffice, don’t you think?

  20. While visiting my mother in the care home today, I was trying to explain to her that I might be going for a Christmas drink with you next week. I tried to tell her about the death of your uncle. She can’t hear me, so I may as well have been reciting from the telephone directory, but I feel I have to try to engage her in conversation notwithstanding. Inevitably, there followed a complete misunderstanding and we talked at cross-purposes for a few minutes, rather like one of those 70s sit-coms. The upshot of it was that she thought you were the one who had died, which seemed to render her speechless with grief. She was so overcome I almost had to call a nurse for assistance. It’s typical of this country today that people get overwhelmed with sentiment for those they have never met. When I told her you were still alive, she was mightily relieved. Strangely enough, your uncle’s death seemed to make little impression upon her.

    Shall we not bother next week then? I wouldn’t want you to miss You and Yours. And since when has it been Holiday Wednesday?

  21. For the record (a scratched copy of Sidesaddle by Russ Conway) I suggested Basingstoke as the venue you would be most likely to object to.

    Bath is very jolly before Christmas, but going there on Holiday Wednesday – thus, doubtless missing a Radio 4 You and Yours special about leftovers – feels a little wrong, like tucking into the game pie before Bozing Day. But if the Carters is not open, there is really no point traipsing out to Wroughton. So Bath it probably is, unless I get a cab out to The Southbrook. No, let’s not start that again.

  22. Hang on a minute; I never said I wanted to go to fucking Basingstoke! I was merely going along with, what I thought, were your wishes to prevent you from being found on the Old Town cycle track, in the early hours of Christmas morning, waiting for hypothermia to set in, despite an ambient temperature well above freezing. (It really is mild for the time of year, don’t you think?) I would love to suggest a suitably bucolic, festive venue but I’ve no doubt you would come up with a plethora of reasons for not going there. The sensible option is Bath (09:41). The Blameworthy Wild Card is: London (09:11). Or we could follow the new footpath to Wroughton, but I’m not sure if the Carter’s Rest is open on Wednesday lunchtime.

  23. Regular readers – especially those who visit these comments exclusively for my irregular status updates on Robert Robinson’s post mortem exploits (still dead, by the way) – might be surprised to learn that I, too, wish them a happy Christmas. I will be listening to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols as ardently as the next man, hoping to experience the ghost of childhood festive epiphanies. GloomLaden is not what I am – or was – but what life has made of me

    As for the session, I was hoping Blameworthy would come up with a slightly more bucolic venue, but if it must be what Mark E Smith once called ‘Basing in the county of Stocks’ then so be it.

  24. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. To Fitrambler in particular, although we’ve not actually met during 2011, but also to Mr. & Mrs. Gowithit, those original Fitrambler ‘gang’ members, who we’ve not seen, or heard from, for even longer. Despite it being the season of goodwill to all men, it may still be too early to suggest burying the hatchet. I know from experience just how busy it is in the local casualty department on Christmas Eve and, quite frankly, I’d rather spend the night at home waiting for Santa to come down my chimney. I’m excluding GloomLaden from this seasonal comment because, somehow, the words ‘merry’ and ‘happy’ seem singularly inappropriate in his case.

  25. If that’s what you want, Gloomers, and if it makes you feel a little less gloomy, then who am I to argue. I believe there are two Wetherspoons pubs in Basingstoke though, both of which have won the same award. Which one would you prefer? I’ll meet you at the station on Wednesday ready to catch the 09:11 to Reading.

  26. Or how about going to the Weatherspoons in Basingstoke – the one recently voted ‘most similar chain pub in a chain priding itself on exaxt similarity’ by the National Vertical Drinking Outlet Federation – to drink denuded Spitfire while joining in a conversation with replica Man U shirted regulars about the shortcomings of Manchester City?

  27. Ahh-ha-ha-ha-haa-haaahhh! Fooled you with my spot of festive role reversal there, Gloomers. Of course I’m ready for a session; you just name the date, time and location. Might I suggest the small Hebridean island of Benbecula; there’s an excellent little alehouse out there in a converted crofter’s cottage, where they do a range of ales from Devon and Somerset. Naturally, we’ll have to make an early start, and it will involve five train changes, six different buses, a ferry, two paddle steamers and a light aircraft, but if all goes to plan we should be back in time for University Challenge in the evening. Let’s not rush into it today though, I want to sing-along with Carols From Kings later this afternoon.


  28. You make me sick, Blameworthy. Today I have endured a funeral, the further decline of my father into senility, relatives I neither recognise nor like, the High Street Club in full, foul festive flow and utter despair. I lament to admit it, but even I need the occasional infusion of good times to wash down the inevitable bad. Life is fucking ghastly but we must wrest something from it, we MUST.

  29. The festive season is almost upon us and I am feeling laden with gloom, GloomLaden. December is a dark, damp, dismal and dead month, when I can barely summon up the enthusiasm to raise my head from the pillow in the morning. There is nothing to be gained in attempting another session of boozing and shouting; it will all go wrong. Wild weather, transport disruption, crowds of people everywhere; a recipe for unrelenting misery. We’ve done it all before; it will never be as good as in our younger days and, if truth be told, it was never much good even then. I shall remain at home for the duration, sitting in front of the fire with a cold turkey sandwich and a mug of tea, studying Beckett and reciting Larkin. Soon it will be New Year. January – the month of my birth many, many years ago – is a dark, damp, dismal and dead month. Another year will have passed me by. Another year closer to the grave.

  30. On second thoughts, let’s stick to pubs. They’re less likely to throw Blameworthy out for his appalling Dylanesqye singing. My Mark E Smith impersonations would be fine, of course, probably earning us an invite to the drunks Christmas Dinner at the vicarage.

  31. I’m sorry, GloomLaden, but you’re on your own this time. Nearly twenty years striving to be pro-active, in the teeth of your persistent soothsaying and doom-mongering, has taken its toll and left me totally deflated. The wind has been whipped from my sails, rendering me devoid of direction and purpose. Your critical, world-weary sideswipe at the Cornish micro-brewers was the last straw. The scales have now fallen from my eyes and I accept with reluctance that the bulk of my adult existence has been frittered away in pursuit of the perfect pint in the perfect pub. Boozing in beerhouses, tippling in taverns and imbibing in inns is, without doubt, an unworthy pursuit for a man of strong moral fibre. My mind is now made up and I shall never touch another drop of the evil fluid as long as I live. I shall seek to redress the spiritual balance, in advance of departing to meet my maker, by spreading the gospel of temperance and sobriety. My enthusiasm for medieval churches must surely stand me in good stead, and I may even determine to become a man of the cloth. Perhaps I could render myself speechless by joining the Trappist monks. With pure, clean, alcohol-free blood flowing through my veins, such as it has never done since the age of seventeen, I shall become a pillar of society and my life will cease to be sordid and futile. I feel sure that it won’t be long before I can look back on my time as a drink-sodden wretch and say, with pride: those days are long gone.

  32. Christopher Hitchens wasn’t one of ‘my’ writers. Clever and contrary, I always felt he was more concerned about being controversial than about being right. Also, he was a vocal dead ringer for his pal Martin Amis, which somehow counts against both of them.

    As for our Christmas session; there must be one and I will go. I always used to say to Fitrambler about our Glue Pot sessions that ‘I turn up.’ Until, of course, I stopped turning up.

  33. I’ve decided to change tack. You have a tendency to say you will go somewhere and then not go; from now on, I shall always say I’m not going, but will go. So on Wednesday December 28th I’m definitely not going to Bath, Great Malvern, the Wheatsheaf or anywhere else for that matter. But don’t let me stop you from saying you will be going.

    It took me most of my two hours in the pub yesterday to read the Telegraph which seemed to be full of writers reminiscing about Christopher Hitchens. I would guess he was your kind of guy, although I don’t remember having taken much notice of him until his death… now, let’s have a look at YouTube.

  34. So now YOU’RE backing of a drink between Xmas and New Year! There really is no pleasing some people.

    And do check out on YouTube – where I came across it – The Fall’s version of Hark The Herald Angels Sing.

  35. I know you too, GloomLaden. It’s all very well saying you’ll go for the pre-Christmas drink after Christmas, but when I come knocking on your door at 5:30 on the morning of December 28th, it will be to find you stripped naked and shackled to your cast iron bed frame in that dingy, Dickensian room of yours, having deliberately swallowed the key to the padlock. Perhaps we should wait for next year’s traditional trip to Slad; I know you will join me willingly on that one, without putting up a fight.

  36. Ah, I know you Blameworthy, trying to draw me out from my Genoa velvet tombstone of an armchair with concocted tales of easily navigable routes between Old Town and Swindon! It is all nonsense, naturally. Suffice it to say that I am going exactly nowhere on Christmas Day but am up for a session at The Wheatsheaf – or Perseverance Hill – anytime between Christmas and New Year.

  37. It never ceases to amaze me, GloomLaden, how you can be so knowledgeable and perceptive, without ever leaving the safety of your own dark and dismal bedroom. One of the best beers at the festival was, the disappointingly punless, Coastal Brewery Christmas Ale, at 8% ABV. I’ve searched for details of where it’s made, and the address is: Unit 10B, Cardrew Industrial Estate, Redruth. No need to look at Street View, your words have given a perfect impression of the place. I can imagine the aggressively contorted features of the man in the Iron Maiden tee-shirt, staring threateningly out at the Google team, from his corrugated iron, ramshackle workshop; pit bull straining at the leash. I’ve no problem with the quality of his beers though; finely crafted as they are.

    There’s a newly surfaced footpath from Old Town to Wroughton which appears to have been planned by someone who has drawn a straight line from your house to the Carter’s Rest, through the new estate. Easy, non-slippery yomping all the way home; no falls; no distant ghostly laughter. The Wheatsheaf is open again, by the way, which gives us a wider choice of places not to go over Christmas.

  38. A town of the Cornish interior. Dangerous dogs distantly bark their woes across an industrial landscape of low concrete ‘units’. In one such unit, a middle aged men with a beer gut sporting an Iron Maiden T-shirt is brewing beer in a stainless steel vat to the tinny sound of Radio 5 Live. Little can he know that at least some of his brew – a concaternation of Chinese hops and Cornish drainwater – will end up being swilled down the credulous gullet of our own dear Blameworthy. Blameworthy, ensconced in a Wroughton pub, will doubtless imagine his rustically monikered pint to have been lovingly crafted by a team of ruddy cheeked wassailers. And when, replete with this post industrial effluvia, he makes his unsteady way home and comes a fatal cropper on the ice, he will hear – else fancy that he hears – laughter. For him, it will be the warm, welcoming sodality of the revelling dead. Regular readers of these pages will know what it is the sniggering of the man on the Cornish industrial estate.

  39. I was glad to see your remarks late yesterday evening, Gloomers, because it meant you had arrived back safely from the office Christmas party and, more importantly, you were still capable of composing a coherent comment. Perhaps you’ll be feeling well enough to join me on the long hike to Wroughton later this morning.

    I shall try to get all those Fall songs downloaded between now and Christmas day, so that we can play them in the car on the way to Herefordshire for the annual Yuletide Yomp. I also have my Bob Dylan Christmas album from a couple of years ago, with a version of ‘The First Noel’ which sounds as if it has suffered the vocal equivalent of being plucked, stuffed and roasted.

    I’m considering digging the old bike out of the shed and ‘doing a Fitrambler’ all the way to Wroughton, instead of walking. I rather fancy a few pints of Blue Anchor Christmas Special, which goes completely off the scale in terms of alcohol content. Should make the ride back along the Old Town railway path and the Wilts & Berks canal more memorable. If you don’t hear from me later, make sure they play ‘Tending The Wrong Grave’ at my funeral. I don’t want anyone present to hear it, of course, but it’s the principle of the thing.

  40. First of all, The Fall did release at least two Chistmas singles, Christmastide and We Wish You a Protein Christmas. I say at least because they made other festive themed recordings. Mark’s Peel session cover version of Jingle Bell Rock was hilarious, while Feeling Numb is about the subject of family Christmas.

  41. Did the Fall ever put out a Christmas single? … No, I didn’t think so. Well now’s your chance to make up for it by penning your own version of what it might have been like. I’ll bring the camera to film the promotional video, if you like, while you bark and yelp the lyrics, in the manner of Mark E. Smith; crashing through the snow wearing a Val Doonican festive cardigan; it’ll be a hoot.

    …and they thought Noddy Holder was loud!

  42. As long as you don’t mind my leavening the carols with the odd Fall song – Medical Acceptance Gate, for instance, or WMC Blob 59 – the you’re on!

  43. Oh, what a wonderfully romantic notion, Gloomers; we’ve got to do it. Mrs. Blamers has already offered to cook my goose on Christmas Eve, and put it into sandwiches, to sustain us during our festive yomp. We can chuckle merrily at the jocular wit of the local brewers as we order pints of ‘Your Good Elf’, ‘Turkey’s Delight’ and ‘Santi Freeze’. Later, as we weave our way over the Worcestershire Beacon, and the driving sleet and storm force winds start to blow in from the west, we will indulge ourselves in a lengthy carol singing duet, including the old favourites ‘Ding, Dong Merrily On High, and ‘Silent Night’. It will, surely, be a day to remember. Don’t let me down this time, I’m so looking forward to it.

  44. What an egomaniacal theory the theory of all those alternate Universes is! And yet it is equally egocentric to imagine that our selves are unique, which somehow inclines me to want to go out for a festive drink. We should go on Christmas Day in the morning, as per the song, yomping up a Malvern or two before taking in a pub during its scant hours of lunchtime opening. Of course, we will have to get the train down on Christmas Eve and there’s no way I’m doing that.

  45. In the universes where no such people exist, the bar staff will still be waiting patiently for us to arrive. Where there are only slight differences in character, the reasons for not going might be slightly different, but we still wouldn’t go.

  46. As I (mis)understand it, there will not only be many Universes where the GloomLaden’s and Blameworthys are the same as us but also millions where slight differences in the characters make other possibilities – er – possible. And millions more where there are no such people. They’re the ones I envy.

  47. However many alternative versions of our lives there are – and I accept there may be millions – if they all contain two characters who are just like GloomLaden and Blameworthy, then the events won’t take place in any of the other universes either.

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