25: The Time And The Place – Stevenage

The First Pub Of The Evening.

The First Pub Of The Evening.

It was Topman who gave birth to the idea that led us to Stevenage.

There are four of us in our work team; all live quite a distance from each other so arranging an evening after work isn’t all that easy. Topman lives in Newport, Wales, Thinker lives in Beaconsfield, I live in Swindon and Sunny lives in Stevenage.

‘Why don’t we just have a night out in each of our home towns?’ suggested Topman.

We chose to do Sunny’s hometown first because he was the newest member of our team. Topman selected a reasonable hotel for the three members of the team who were playing away, in a manner of speaking…

The date decided on was the 19th July 2011. Topman played chauffeur and drove me to Stevenage just after mid-day.

Topman asked: ‘What d’you reckon on Sunny then?’

Sunny was the latest member of the team and replaced Smiler who left earlier in the year.

‘In what way?’ I asked, ever cautious.

‘I’ve got this feeling he could be a lager drinker.’

I frowned. It was a little disturbing. I’m sure a dark cloud appeared overhead.

‘Might not be…’

‘Well, when you gave him those two bottles of Black Sheep he seemed a little puzzled.’

‘I thought it was because he didn’t know much about our beer club.’

Within our team we often exchange bottles of beer we get from our travels.

‘No, he knew something about that…’



We got another fifty or more miles along before Topman spoke again.

‘I could be wrong…’

I nodded. ‘Yeah,’ I said, hopefully.

Once we got to the hotel, I took a shower and unpacked the change of clothes and bathroom toiletries. I was quite pleased with the room. It was spacious with large window, letting in plenty of light. The only problem was breakfast. When we booked in we were told we would have to have breakfast in our rooms. The dining room was to be used for a photo shoot early the next morning.

'What A Lovely Room'

‘What A Lovely Room’

I showered and changed, then, at around 5pm, we decided to go for the first beer while we waited for the others to arrive.

Topman was dressed into casual top and shorts. I couldn’t ever remember wearing shorts except at school. Lots of blokes these days do when going drinking. Having legs like albino twiglets I always tended to refrain from wearing them…

I located a place just round the corner – almost literally – called The Chequers. We made for there and found it was a Greene King pub; which is hardly surprising in a Greene King Dominated area.

Not a bad place, large bar and plenty of Rugby photographs about the walls, it brought back some memories for Topman. Being a Welshman, Rugby featured quite prominently in his life…

We both had the IPA. It wasn’t bad. But it would never hit my top ten. Actually, probably not the top twenty…

We were there for ten minutes when my ability to attract irritating little tics kicked in. He looked about middle to late thirties. His hair was short and dark. He was wearing jeans, trainers and a shirt along with some sort of sleeveless jacket. There was a white plastic bag by his feet. From the look in his eyes I guessed he’d been there a while.

‘So where do you come from?’ he chipped in as Topman was in mid-sentence.

‘Swindon,’ I replied.

‘Newport,’ Topman said.

He frowned as he digested the information.

‘You know each other?’ he asked, again interrupting our conversation.

‘We work together,’ said Topman; to try to deflect supplementary questions he added. ‘We’re meeting up with our work colleagues. One of them lives in Stevenage.’


He took some more time to digest this latest piece of information, then piped up again. ‘Who do you work for?’

We told him. Then what did we do. Then it a dissection on whether there was any point to it.

After about fifteen minutes, which seemed more like an hour, he got up, insisted on shaking our hands and wobbled his way out.

‘Sorry about that,’ I said to Topman.

‘No need for you to be sorry, it’s not your fault.’

‘Happens all the time, dogged by it; irritating little tics seem to latch onto me.’

We put away a second pint then Topman decided we should move on. We walked on towards the old town centre. It was only about five minutes before we got to the next pub, the Coach and Horses.

I wasn’t too keen on this one. Noisy; lots of shed-building music (thump, thump, bang, bang), no clips on the beer pumps; and a barman you almost expected to do a couple of Saturday Night Fever moves before he served you.

Greene King again and food!

Greene King again and food!

‘Any real beer?’ asked Topman.

‘Sorry, waiting for a delivery….’

I suspected he’d been waiting for that delivery for years. I would’ve left at that point but Topman convinced me to make do with John Smiths.

We went outside with what the pub dubiously called beer and sat at a bench.

We were just discussing when we thought Thinker and Sunny might turn up when Thinker rang.

‘That was Thinker,’ he told me.

‘Is he at the hotel yet?’ I asked.

‘Um, he’s in the car park at Tesco’s,’ replied Topman.

‘O.K.’ I frowned, ‘Doing the weekly shop?’

‘He’s a little lost and I’ve given him directions…’


‘Better get back to the hotel, in case Thinker needs further help. Sunny should have arrived by now,’ suggested Topman.

Before we got any further let me explain some things about Thinker. He’s in his early thirties, around five-seven and of a very pleasant disposition. He is probably one of the most intelligent chaps I have ever met, but sometimes the minutiae of life can cause him a little trouble. Topman and I agree he has all the attributes to make a good Doctor Who.

As we’re approaching the hotel Thinker turns up in his car.

As Thinker stops alongside us, Topman leans towards the open window.

‘Found us then?’

‘Um, yes. The map I used took me to Tesco’s car park. I saw the hotel from the road but took the wrong turning.’

Topman frowned. ‘Why didn’t you use your SatNav?’

‘Ah, um, well, I’ve, er, lent it to my sister.’

‘Ok. Anyway, the hotel is just round the corner, opposite the front of this big building,’ said Topman pointing to the large building across the road.

You might think not a lot can go wrong in three hundred yards but one has to remember it’s Thinker we’re dealing with here…and to continue the Doctor Who analogy, like the TARDIS, Thinker’s car may not always end up where it should and rarely at the correct time.

We get back to the hotel, Thinker is just arriving in the car and Sunny is there, sat in the garden. He looked quite relaxed, casually dressed in polo shirt, jeans; no jacket.

Thinker tells us he’ll be about an hour, he wants to have a shower and get changed. So, rather than wait, off we went to the Chequers for the second time.

As Topman got the round in he glanced at me, then the lager pump, then Sunny. I knew what he was getting at. So when Sunny looked at the beers on offer and opted for lager, Topman gave me a ‘I told you so’ look.’

Well, no one is perfect.

It was while we were putting away the second round of a second visit to the Chequers when Londontaff joined us; Topman’s friend.

Shortly after, Thinker arrived and bought our fourth round. Shortly after disposing of that we were on the move again. Deeper into Stevenage old town where restaurants and other shops and more importantly, pubs lay in abundance…well, there were quite a few anyway.

The Pub That Did For Topman

The Pub That Did For Topman

The next pub was the Red Lion where we also ate a meal; nothing fancy just a steak and chips job for me. After this we made our way to a place called 2 Dry. For the first time that evening we got away from Greene King beers and moved to McMullen’s.

It was this pub that will always, in my opinion, be well-remembered by Topman. It was the wide-open staring eyes, not seeing, with so much sadness in them. Then the almost whispered:

‘Five pounds a pint!’

I patted his shoulder in sympathy, as did Londontaff and Thinker. We all hoped we’d move on before the next round.

‘I didn’t realise that when I asked for it,’ said Sunny, feeling a tad guilty.

The most expensive drink on the round as the beers came in cheaper, even Londontaff’s Guinness…

‘Five quid a pint,’ Topman mumbled again. He was still staring almost unseeing.

‘Anyway, McMullen’s makes a change from Greene King,’ I said, trying to move the subject along.

Topman looked at me, took me by the shoulders and shook me. ‘Five pounds a pint.’

Being a friend of long-standing, Londontaff, stepped in turned Topman around slapped him around the chops.

Topman shook his head, looked at his own beer, down to half a pint. The spell was broken.

I was feeling a little tired as the old pins for some reason were giving me a little trouble. There was a small table next our group and one chair. As the oldest I lay claim to it.

‘That’s the good thing about the beard going white, young kids give up their seats for me on the bus. I could also crap myself now and get away with it…People would just say, ‘poor old sod, getting old, can’t control his functions anymore…’ I told Londontaff.

Londontaff grinned…

Mrs Londontaff joined us and we stayed another half hour before the party went their separate ways. Sunny off to his house somewhere in Stevenage, Mr and Mrs Londontaff back to London – Mrs Londontaff driving, being the sober one, and Topman, Thinker and I to our hotel…

I awoke at about 8am the next morning and within half an hour was showered and dressed. I was about to ring down for breakfast when the telephone rang. It was reception.

‘Breakfast in the dining room,’ a voice informed me.

‘Oh, I thought it was to be in the bedroom.’

‘The dining room is now free. The photo shoot is not going ahead.’


I put the telephone down and shrugged. Although it might be a novelty having breakfast in my room I preferred it at a proper table.

I rang Topman. ‘Breakfast in the dining room.’

‘I thought we were supposed to have it in our rooms?’

‘The dining room is now free. The photo shoot is not going ahead’


I then rang Thinker.

‘Breakfast in the dining room.’

‘I thought we were supposed to have it in our rooms?’

‘The dining room is now free. The photo shoot is not going ahead.’


I began to get this terrible bout of déjà vu. It rather disoriented me for a while.

Unsurprisingly, as there was food involved, I was the first one down for breakfast. There didn’t seem to be anyone else. Either we were the only guests or the only ones who were having breakfast.

Within five minutes a waiter appeared and I went for the full English with coffee and toast. Well, what other choice could I possibly make?

Shortly afterwards, Topman arrived and about fifteen minutes after him, Thinker.

As soon as Thinker sat down both Topman and I thought he didn’t look all that good. But he bravely managed a full English washed down with lots of black coffee. It took him a bit of time but he got there. A real trooper.

Mine slid down rather quickly and I’m embarrassed to say I could’ve put away another quite easily….

114 comments on “25: The Time And The Place – Stevenage

  1. ‘Appen I could make a suitably smug and superior response to your comment if only I knew the French for ‘Eeh up aye tha knows’. I’m sure I’d enjoy the novels if only I could get over the fact that they were written by Melvyn Bragg.

  2. Jack Proust in and read some Melvyn Bragg: honest northern English fare. I’m hugely enjoying his series of novels about the Richardson family. Reading them has been slow work on account of other things but I think I would say they are the finest modern novels I have read, brilliantly anatomising the way the post war dream and its attendant welfare state settlement came into being from a human perspective. You’ll like to know that a pub is central to the story.

  3. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you’ve lost your neighbour with all that SHOUTING!!! you’ve been doing of late. I’m currently digesting Vol.4: Sodom & Gomorrah and, I must confess, things are becoming rather repellent. You’ll have to forgive me for not cogitating and ruminating too much during the sodomy section. I shall rush headlong towards Gomorrah without drawing too many conclusions

  4. Pah, Blameworthy, pah! Any class of mind can cast its over a text. The first class mind digests, cogitates, ruminates and arrives at some sort of conclusion. What is the point of Literature else? And that’s a low blow about my not understanding love and love and loss. Love I have never really known but loss now my neighbour.

  5. I sense jealousy again, GloomLaden. I have the time and leisure to read the whole of Proust without being encumbered by intellectual pride, which might compel me to strive towards some degree of understanding. We are not all fortunate enough to have your god-given ability to absorb great literature by that mystical form of cerebral osmosis which, conveniently, bypasses the tedious necessity of reading any of the individual words. Sadly, though, the process is too simplistic to give you a proper, grown-up understanding of Hardy, or the love-and-loss element in Proust.

  6. But my point still holds true: you are reading Proust but evidently learning nothing from his philosophy. Some might say – not I, not I – that you are only reading the sickly little Frog at all to prove the point that you can attain a greater Parnassian height in literature than certain of your acquaintances (I mention no names). If you’d been paying attention when reading Hardy, you might have noted the folly of his characters only really overwhelms them when they affect learning as you are doing. A pattern emerges whereby you read a book without ruminating fully upon it. I’ve ‘done’ Proust, you doubtless tell the ad hoc club of early retired gits down your far from local local.

  7. Your words barely penetrate the dense, luminous green miasma of envy that surrounds you, GloomLaden. At least I will have experienced a few of those long awaited retirement days and not journeyed instantly from office desk to pearly gates without passing go. Decrepitude is bearable, as you well know, being part way down the greasy grdient already.

  8. Ah, Blameworthy, you wish all those years at work could be so easily dismissed as nothing. But Proust would have been the first to disagree. Our lives are what they are, not what we want them to be. You cannot excise such a hefty chunk of your own existence any more than Nelson Mandela could say his incarceration was all in the past. These longed for retirement days will not be your best and they end only in decrepitude and Death. Well, they end in Death, the decrepitude being penultimate.

  9. Not sure how I came to have the wrong date of death for Bob in my outlook diary. You can neither trust technology nor those who don’t know how to use it. Nevertheless, he is still dead, so don’t doff those armbands quite yet. here should, in any case,, be a period of mourning for Blameworthy’s ‘career’.

  10. Get your facts right, GloomLaden. Robert Robinson died on August 12th 2011 which, coincidentally, is also the start of the grouse shooting season – the glorious twelfth. So I’m wearing my black armband out of respect for the dead birds, while holding my shotgun cocked and loaded in case the ghastly, ghostly quizmaster should make an appearance.

  11. The Oswestry Disbability Index: superb!

    Today, someone came around at work with Mr Blameworthy’s collection and leaving card. I bunged 50p into the former, an illegible comment into the latter and thereby a lengthy associated reached its terminus.

    Anniversary of Robert Robinson’s death tomorrow : black armbands to be worn when commenting here, please. Although I shan’t be commenting out of respect.

  12. In the midst of gloom, just occasionally, a little light shines through. I received, today, another report from the consultant who has been dealing with my back problem. At the end of each report there has always been an ODI rating, but I’ve never queried what the initials stand for. So I looked it up today and – I kid you not, Gloomers – it’s the Oswestry Disability Index. Sounds like something invented by the surgeon treating Inspector Malmsey.

  13. Alright, there’s no need to shout. Your voice sounded so loud in my head as I read those words that those around me claimed to have heard it themselves. The Deaf Bloke says he could easily have been deafened by the volume, but for obvious reasons… he wasn’t.

    Suggestions for future (quiet) discussion include: the psychology behind Fitrambler’s aggressive approach to pub debate, and GloomLaden’s bizarrely extreme – and somewhat ambiguous – attitude towards gays, lesbians, people with disabilities, and the French.

  14. I hear what you’re saying, GloomLaden, I really do. When I read your words I hear a voice in my head, too, but it’s not yours; it’s more like me doing an impersonation of you. I remember meeting the deaf bloke now, as well, although I didn’t realise he was deaf at the time, I just thought he was ignoring me. But what has all this got to do with Stevenage?

  15. It is your voice he hears. He saw you once in the Glue Pot many years ago and, although he didn’t actually hear you speak, he was a sufficiently good student of human physiognomy that he could construe the voice from the torso and head carriage. We can never verify this, of course, and you are at liberty to believe whatsoever you wish. But it is your voice he hears, yours alone, urbanely broadcasting your comments like Charles Nove at the sort of Soho voiceover gig Robert Robinson would not have touched with a bargepole.

  16. But how does he know what my voice sounds like? I don’t recall having ever met him, and even if I had he wouldn’t have heard me speaking. He might see my name against the comment but the voice in his head could be that of Robert Robinson, or even Marcel Proust, for all we know. So, as far as The Deaf Bloke is concerned, I still can’t be said to have said it, so to speak, that’s what I say.

  17. Indeed, you didn’t say it even once unless you really were moving your lips while typing. But in at least some sense you must have input it twice for it to appear twice. The Deaf Bloke tells me he read it twice and that when he reads a thing, he ‘hears’ it in his head. If he hears you reading it in his head – as opposed to, say Robert Robinson or Petula Clark – then there is a sense in which you might be said to have said it without your knowledge.

    Quicker we all shut ourselves in cork lined rooms the better.

  18. If a thing’s worth saying, it’s worth saying twice. Unfortunately, I accidentally double-clicked on something which wasn’t worth saying once. And when I say ‘say’, I do, of course mean type, or write, rather than say, although I may have been moving my lips when I typed it. Or should I say input? And when I say ‘say input’, I do, of course mean input input… or type or write input. And in fairness, I didn’t actually type, write, input or say any of it twice. Until now that is.

  19. All right< Blameworthy, no need to repeat yourself; we heard.
    Well, the Deaf Bloke didn't, but then no amount of repetition is going to sort that one out. And when I say 'heard' I am being metaphorical for comic effect, knowing perfectly well that the Deaf Bloke will have read your comment twice.
    And you wouldn't even have to write it twice.

  20. It has been suggested that I make an official apology here to: Mrs. Blameworthy, Mrs. Sunshine (in case she’s reading on the other side), Mr & Mrs.Gowithit, Mr.Smartcar and whatever that bloke was called who made a brief appearance at the Duke of Wellington before it closed… and to you, yourself, GloomLaden. All my other colleagues were nameless, although I suppose I could give them all names for the sake of a good story. Perhaps I could even give them all a good story.

  21. It has been suggested that I make an official apology here to: Mrs. Blameworthy, Mrs. Sunshine (in case she’s reading on the other side), Mr & Mrs.Gowithit, Mr.Smartcar and whatever that bloke was called who made a brief appearance at the Duke of Wellington before it closed… and to you, yourself, GloomLaden. All my other colleagues were nameless, although I suppose I could give them all names for the sake of a good story. Perhaps I could even give them all a good story.

  22. Now you are falling into the error of thinking that only the gentry have character. And I thought I was the snob – or at least that you thought so. I’ll wager my everyday actions as worthy of literary consideration as any. After all, if it is only the aristocratic nature of the Compte de BlancMange that makes the order in which he picked hairs from his nostrrils with a silver nose clipper interesting, then Proust is a good deal shallower than I imagined

  23. Making allowances for the fact that you have yet to read a word of Proust, Gloomers, I should point out that, before he retired to his cork-lined room, he moved in rather different levels of society than those I was used to during my working life. He socialised with Princes and Comtesses, while my colleagues and customers were – at least for the purposes of this blog – by-and-large nameless.

  24. But here again you are hoist by Proust’s petard – something the repellent little Frenchman might well have gotten off on. As I (imperfectly, and from the position of not having read a word of him) Proust basically says we should pay greater attention to the detail of life if we are to understand or (more likely) appreciate it. And here you are, throwing away decades of lived experience as if it counted for nothing. That you didn’t enjoy work should not exempt you from dwelling on it. It seems to me that dwelling on it should be the more possible because you don’t have to go in and do itt. Get thee to a cork lined room, Blamers!

  25. Apologies to regular readers who might think my last comment was edited in some way. It was – by me – for obvious reasons. My final three volumes of Proust have just been delivered by a team of couriers in a pantechnicon. Should keep me quiet until, at least, Christmas.

  26. In retirement, even thinking about my working life is all behind me; I don’t wish to recall any of it, even in my worst nighmares. Except for Mrs.Sunshine, of course, whose memory often gives rise to nocturnal disturbances of an intense supernatural luminosity. Besides, if you don’t need to read the booklet, there seems little point in me writing it.

  27. Blimey, Proust really could churn it out. And you baulk at a short monograph on English pubs. Actually, now you are retired and it’s all behind you, maybe you could hone your skills of Proustian recall with a thinly veiled autobiographical novel about your working life; the early years at the Brunel with all those in-jokes involving stuffed toys and Mrs Sunshine, the later years grinding out the same interview to hundreds of indifferent skivers (not strivers). The real benefit of this would be that, being in it, I wouldn’t need to read it.

  28. In Search of Lost Time contains 4,112 pages in 7 volumes. The quality of our comments being so consistent, I feel they would need to be published in their entirety, but only when the total word count exceeds that of Proust. End of next week, I reckon. Selecting the best comments would be an impossible task, even allowing for the bar being set very low.

    Even allowing for the depth of the bar, unsupported.

  29. Perhaps the problem could be neatly solved by your editing an anthology. Collected Blog Comments from Fitrambler Tales. The Deaf Bloke has already signed up for the audiobook.

  30. I’ve been out to see John Barnard, landlord of the Red Lion at Ampney St. Peter, today. His mystical heart is still beating at the age of 85, and he knows more about the English pub, and the English countryside, than I, a retired office worker, could ever hope to understand. He insisted I sample one last pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord before I, finally, sign the pledge.

  31. Oh, I’m aware of my own limitations. Aware of little else. I am no more a writer than you are an acrobat; what pretentions I had in that direction (not all that) longsince having fallen away to the darker realisation that what I thought the vocation to be a writer was in fact just a refuge from the business of not being anything else.
    Thinking about it, I have always believed you would be better at writing non fiction. A book on pubs that doesn’t merely categorise them in a trainspotterish way but actually gets to the almost mystical heart of the English love affair with drink.

  32. Because – in the words which John Lennon didn’t think to use in ‘ All You Need Is Love’ , or if he did, he deleted them from the original version for fear that they would somehow invalidate his efforts – ‘Nothing you can write wot’s not been wrote’ (There being more options rhyming with wrote than written). Why waste time writing about the little you already know when others are certain to misunderstand it, or ignore it altogether? Does anybody need another odd-ball, lone-wolf detective, swanning about the city in a retro car?

    Besides, unlike some, I’m fully aware of my own limitations, literary or otherwise.

  33. And because the life of the retired is interminable, it doesn’t matter whether you’re dumping hardcore – ahem – or tackling an especially arid stretch of Swann’s Neck of the Woods. Whereas Fitters and I are still having to grind out working days, our scant time off never sufficient to go in for such massive projects as reading Proust. If it was your intention to make us jealous, it has worked at least in my case. Why not write a novel, now you’ve the leisure for it?

  34. For the love of God, GloomLaden! I fear my dire warnings couldn’t have come soon enough. I’ll wager you’ve been up, well past eight in the evening, necking that expensive wine you’re so fond of. It all comes from the same vat, you know, whatever may be printed on the label. Take the pledge right now, this morning, and preserve your soul from damnation.

    Ahhh… but, dear, old Roger Hodgson. Now, there’s a man who might have understood Proust, if he’d found time to read him. Some of those Supertramp albums made life seem interminable, don’t you think? Crisis? What Crisis? Have you noticed how, in the lyrics of the Logical Song, he seems to be holding the birds in the trees – the ones that were singing so happily, joyfully, playfully watching him -responsible for sending him away to teach him how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical. So, one can only assume it was the very same feathery dictators that showed him a world where he could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical. I wonder what type of birds they were; most likely magpies, they seem quite clever and heartless.

    I’m going back to Dorset in a few weeks time, so I may hold fire on giving up the drink to allow me time for ‘just the one’ in the Square & Compass. But then it’s temperance until the end for me. Meanwhile, I need to take some surplus hardcore to the tip this morning.

  35. Blameworthy, having failed even to hit sixty yet, you may very well have another twenty plus years left on your graveward trudge. If sickly Marcel had spent less time in search of lost time, he might properly have lived the time he still had. His point seems to be that we don’t pay enough attention to the details that actually make up our lives – those little habits and observations we tend to leave beneath our own notice while we contemplate issues we imagine to be larger – and that observing, chronicling and remembering such material is a way of lengthening life, or at least having it seem longer because enriched by these experiences and our responses to them. At the back of this, there is, I imagine, the implication that life is short. And yet doesn’t Proust actually make it seem interminable, as with the stroke afflicted granny episode? The truth, which he must have known perfectly well, is that – like our sessions – it is both ridiculously brief and horribly interminable. simultaneously. I am now far more frightened by the life I (presumably) have to come than the death, which I obviously won’t know about once it has happened. The best is over and I didn’t even enjoy that much – that Supertramp’s Logical Song was my favourite when I was nine tells you I was onto melancholia even then. Oh, I don’t know what I’m even on about by this point. Steer clear of the late Beethoven piano sonatas; they make me angry with their hints of tunes taken up and abandoned for huge emotional chords and deceiving silences.

  36. Speaking as a world-weary senior citizen, I fear, for me, those days of bacchanalian excess must now be confined to the drip-tray of history. For reasons of health and austerity, I intend to pursue a policy of strict abstinence from alcohol. Reclusive and predominantly housebound, I have been seeking solace in Proust and a boxed set of the complete Beethoven piano concertos which I received today. I shall spend my final years in search of the lost time which I foolishly sacrificed to the demon drink. I am filled to the brim with shameful remorse for having led you down the path towards intoxication, and for the many times I have led you, in cavalier fashion, back home in the wrong direction.Take heed, GloomLaden; save yourself while there is still hope of a better life to come.

  37. Ah, that was a wonderful day out, was it not? I’m certain Proust wold have concurred that you don’t want to try repeating such adventures. As Mark E Smith so rightly observes ‘Same again? You can never have the same again.’ And so you can’t. But there is still the Pewsey Vale to go to, unbesmirched by earlier happiness. Too soon yet, of course; I am still getting over the last session. Maybe sometime in 2016 or 17. Meanwhile, I think we should lay off our revels (if not our Revels). The anniversary of Robert Robinson’s death approaches. Naturally, you will want to don black armband and join me in a metaphorical – well, metaphysical,. since I’m not shelling out for the train fare – walk down Cheyne Walk.

  38. The mental image of you behaving in the manner of a dog has reminded me that the Worcester Beer Festival is taking place today. Had you been running on all fours, the last time we were there, instead of lying on your back, waving your legs in the air and barking incessantly, we might have got back to the station in time to catch the last train home

  39. Yes, that bid of Proust does sound inviting. I love accounts of senility in fiction; Stan’s Mother’s Boy and Arnold Bennett’s Clayhanger novels being noteworthy examples. In real life, however, I advise running like a dog away from such stuff. Until it happens to you, when you can’t.

    Oh no, I seem to have strayed from the middlebrow. Isn’t Alain de Botton clever?

  40. Just been reading another chapter of Proust, and I’ve got to the bit where his grandmother has a stroke, goes senile, and dies. Gripping stuff with lots of little witty asides. the action (?) takes place over a period of two weeks and I reckon it’s written in real time because it’s taken me that long to read it. Just up your alley, Gloomers; you’d love it.

  41. I’d have thought something by Ken Dodd might have been more appropriate. Not Happiness, obviously.

  42. …And I’ve just received a request from Mr.Fitrambler, who’s on his way back from North Wales with the Pink Lady today. They would both like to hear the song ‘Crystal Chandeliers’ – and perhaps all you listeners would like to singalong with Charley Pride:


    The Crystal Chandeliers light up the paintin’s on yer wall…aaahhhh!
    The marble statuettes are standin’ stately in the ‘all…aaahhhhh!

  43. Oh dear, Blamewrthy, your comments are starting to read like Alan Partridge. And that’s surely Fitrambler’s job – well, it was when he penned that piece about Roger Moore.

  44. All joking aside, though, Gloomers, I believe, quite passionately, that we need to introduce more popular topics for discussion. Gardening, cookery or antiques, perhaps. What do you know about creating colourful hanging baskets? Those 1980s lyrics from the likes of Phil Collins and Chris Rea have a lot more depth than people realise, as well, you know. ‘ I’m going to Texas. They’ve got big, long roads out there’. Epic.

  45. I’m not sure you have being doing terribly well at attracting middle of the road readers. Richard Madeley, Alan Tichmarsh and Judy Tzuke remain conspicuous by their absence. I have a strong suspicion, meanwhile, that a large lurking coterie of Proustian scholars lurks out there – by which I mean in here – hanging on our every word. Can’t you hear them breathing. Well can’t you?

  46. But we must consider our target audience, GloomLaden.The future of this blog will not be secured if you persist in aiming your comments at a select audience of one person: yourself. I’m sure you garner considerable amusement from your own remarks and resent the intrusion of others, but it simply will not do. My aim is to attract a more middle-of-the-road readership. Fitrambler, on the other hand, with his repellent references to twiglets and kebabs, would have us slide, predictably, down a steep camber into the gutter, from whence the sewers ultimately beckon.

  47. I thought the discussion on Proust was very entertaining, particularly my side of it. If the Regular Reader failed to garner considerable wisdom and not a few wry smiles therefrom, I suggest he give up reading – regular or otherwise – and take up another hobby: Japanese Noh theatre suggests itself given his taciturn manner of late.

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