Painted Nails and Random Bruises.

This post isn’t all about football. I can almost hear my football loathing sister muttering dark oaths as I type, but really, it’s not about football. This post is a celebration of a perfect day. The kind of day that makes me want to explode with happiness. The kind of day everybody needs to experience from time to time throughout their lives. Whatever floats your boat, be it music, sport, theatre, dance, occasionally that floater (not sure ‘floater’ is quite the word I want, but you get my drift!) feels so damn good.

At the end of the 2004-2005 season my beloved football club, Cambridge United, was in disarray. The club was in administration, the ground had been sold to the vultures and the team dropped out of the league. I cried all the way home from the 4-0 thrashing at Scunthorpe which saw Cambridge all but mathematically relegated with three games left to play. Well, actually I cried until I realised I could make it home in time for Doctor Who, but ‘all the way home’ sounds more poignant. The fact remains that I was devastated.

Fast forward nine years to a sunny day in May 2014. Being a Sunday, my day inevitably kicked off with a hangover, particularly as it followed an engagement party on the Saturday night, but there was no chance of me staying in bed to sleep it off. After all, it’s not every day that my non-league football team plays at Wembley for a coveted place in the football league.

I wasn’t the only one with a hangover, I hasten to add. Some drank through it on the train journey to London, others had a little kip. I didn’t do either, being far too busy painting my nails in Cambridge United’s amber and black colours, much to the amusement of the people around me. My travelling neighbour suggested that I might need some new amber nail varnish, and he had a point. I’m not sure how old it is, but it’s pretty much one solid lump now, and claggy nail varnish is not a good look.

Going to London always gives me a huge buzz, and factoring into the equation a crowd of high spirited football fans, beautiful weather and the anticipation of a big day out, I was hangover free and ready for a beer by the time we surged off the train at Kings Cross station. The excitement was palpable. Forget the image of drunken sunburnt thugs rampaging through Europe that too often taints English football fans; yesterday we Cambridge fans, with our sunny colours and equally sunny smiles, spread good cheer everywhere we went.

I don’t know whose bright idea it was to head for Leicester Square for a liquid breakfast, but we were thwarted from the off by that area’s ‘no alcohol until midday’ policy. Midday? Mid-flipping-day? Luckily, nearby Trafalgar Square had no such dry pub nonsense going on, so off we went, losing one of our party in the process.

‘Man down! Man down!’ Eventually we located him: we’d left him in the toilets of the last dry pub we’d visited in our anxiety to find alcohol. After a brief tour of the sights, he caught us up and we were a group reunited.

Play off 1

You may think it’s a pint of cider, but actually it’s a hairy dog!

Once the hair-of-the-dog pint was safely out of the way, I was back in the groove. High spirits became unabashed jubilation as we drank ice-cold beer, took the piss out of each other (and anyone else up for a laugh), had a sing-song and generally enjoyed the pre-match piss up. The pub contained an eclectic mix of supporters of both play-off teams (Gateshead being our opponents), Royal Marines veterans celebrating the 350th anniversary of that fine institution, tourists of many different nationalities, and a lady-boy. The lady-boy in particular got the noisiest member of our party very excited, and he’s excitable enough at the best of times.

With a couple of hours to go until kick off, we embarked on the next part of our mission. Half an hour and a very hot tube journey later, we were in a pub within sight of Wembley Stadium. I have to admit I still miss the iconic twin towers, but the new Wembley was certainly impressive to behold as the overground ‘underground’ train rounded the corner into Wembley Park. Excitement reaching fever pitch, we had a couple more pints in possibly the skankiest pub ever. Did we care that it was a hovel? Did we heck!

Play off 2

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of walking along Wembley Way to see my little local team play in the national stadium. The city of Cambridge had come together for one day to support the players, and the mixture of excitement, pride and nerves was incredibly moving. The memory is bringing up the hairs on the back of my neck as I write. Once inside, we discovered we were a man down again. One of our group had decided he couldn’t bear to watch, so he’d turned tail and headed back to Cambridge. Having come home empty handed from two play off finals in previous years, all Cambridge supporters know what an awful feeling it is to lose at Wembley, but I wouldn’t have missed the game for anything. Not even a banging hangover!

I’m not going to go into details about the game, as this post is not about football. No, honest to God, it’s NOT! The first half was a bit of a non-event anyway; we were more interested in taking the piss out of the bloke we’d nearly lost in dry Leicester Square earlier, who spent most of the 45 minutes asleep.

Play off 5

The sun shines on Wembley Stadium.

No one slept during the second half. Within minutes Cambridge were 1-0 up and playing well. Midway through the second half the deserved second goal came from a magnificent free kick. What the hell, I’ve got to share. Just listen to that roar, while I go and shed a few more tears of joy.

After scoring, though, things got extremely tense. Gateshead pulled a goal back, and it was as if someone had pressed a mute button in our end of the stadium. Seven agonising minutes of injury time followed the regulation ninety, and I saw grown men weep. Stiff upper lips, my arse. We were so close to the prize of league football coming back to Cambridge, but so used to disappointment that we were braced for the expected cheer from the Gateshead fans signalling an equaliser…

I’m pretty good with words, but I’m struggling to describe the explosion of Cambridge joy that greeted the final whistle. I’ve never felt so emotional after a football match. People were crying and laughing all at once, hugging complete strangers as we celebrated our sporting bond and displayed our feelings in a manner not usually associated with the British. The jubilation then spilled over into a mass sing song; we didn’t know which football chant to air first, and the result was a cacophonous, joyful din of the whole lot merged together.

On the Tube

Happy days on the tube.

This morning I woke up with no voice, chipped (claggy) nail varnish and a random smattering of bruises on my knee. Who knows where they came from! When I told you this post wasn’t going to be about football I was possibly bending the truth a little, but only a little. Football was the reason behind it all for me yesterday, but the result was something to which I hope you can all relate: the sheer joy of celebration.

Nails 2

Painted nails and random bruises: the aftermath of a good day out.

The Monday Moan will return. I’ve not had anything to moan about recently, but I’m sure that will change.

Christmas Reads Day Five – LAST CHRISTMAS by Talli Roland

Welcome to day five, the final day of my recommended Christmas reads feature, and my choice for today is the light hearted, delightfully festive novella LAST CHRISTMAS by Talli Roland. Sorry guys, but this one is pure yummy, scrummy chick lit, and I loved it. Set in areas of London that I know and love – Borough Market and Covent Garden – LAST CHRISTMAS is everything you need to relax you after hectic weeks of Christmas shopping. A happy tale of a budding romance and a broken heart on the mend, with a loyal friend, a wedding, a huge party and a lot of humour thrown in for good measure, LAST CHRISTMAS is an essential Christmas indulgence. So go on; slip into something snug and comfortable, put your feet up, open the chocolates and enjoy. Oh, and I’ll bet the ending will bring you out in goosebumps. It’s gorgeous!

***

Last Christmas - TALLI ROLAND - 1LAST CHRISTMAS by Talli Roland – Blurb

For Lucy, the best Christmas present is forgetting the past.

Eager to banish the ghost of Christmas past – when her boyfriend dumped her on the streets of Paris – Lucy is determined to make this the best Christmas ever. She rallies friends and family for an epic celebration that just happens to fall on the same day as her ex’s festive wedding. Furious at how she’s been treated, Lucy can’t help relishing the party v wedding smackdown.

But when the wedding is threatened and only Lucy can help, can she find the spirit inside to save the day, or will this Christmas be even more disastrous than the last?

***

Talli has supplied an excerpt for me to share.

I pushed back from the railing and away from the Thames. I was desperate to escape memories of last year; to flee the cheery Christmas market and the contented crowd containing my ex and his soon-to-be-wife. If I was a bigger person (in spirit, not arse; I already had that covered), I’d be happy Robert found true love. Instead, the hurt that lingered 24/7 blossomed into anger. How could he have met someone, decided they were right, and proposed in under a year? We’d been together for aeons and the closest I’d got to a proposal was when he’d asked to share my wardrobe space.

Robert certainly hadn’t wasted time separating our lives post-Christmas Day. After returning to London on Boxing Day – me crying all the way and Robert sitting awkwardly in silence – he’d packed a case, saying he thought we should each start looking for a new place to live. And just one week later, he’d come round with a van and removed the rest of his things to a flat in Finchley. Unable to make the rent on my own, I’d scoured Borough for something affordable, settling on the small studio. Leaving the home we’d built together and moving into my tiny cell was the second most depressing day of my life.

Unable to face the sympathetic stares of our mutual friends, my circle had shrunk to family, Mimi, and work. And after endless accusatory questions from my mother: ‘What did you do?’; ‘Was there another woman?’ (thanks, Mum, for putting that idea in my head); I rarely even ventured home.

What I needed now was one huge glass of wine, but the thought of chugging cheap alcohol in my dingy flat didn’t appeal. Digging through my handbag, I uncovered my mobile to call Mimi. Even Christmas karaoke was better than drinking alone.

‘Hello?’ In the background, Let It Snow was being massacred by what sounded like a herd of yowling kittens.

‘Mimi, it’s Lucy. I’ve decided to come out tonight. Where are you?’

‘Ooh, fab. We’re at the All Bar One by Waterloo.’

‘Perfect. I’ll be there in ten.’

‘Hurry, you might be able to catch me singing Santa Baby!’ Mimi clicked off.

I could hardly believe I was rushing towards a Christmas-themed party, but maybe that – along with some very strong drinks – would erase the past half-hour. Several minutes later, I pulled open the door of the bar, surveying the packed room.

‘Hey!’ Mimi raised a hand, antlers on her head bouncing as she pushed through the crowd towards me. ‘You look like shit,’ she said, scanning my face. ‘What happened?’

I sighed, shoving back my hair. ‘I just saw Robert.’ Mimi’s eyebrows rose. She was the only person who knew the whole sordid story – I  couldn’t bear sharing the pathetic details with anyone else. ‘And his fiancée,’ I added.

‘Nooooo!’ Her mouth dropped open. ‘Holy crap.’ Taking my arm, she propelled me to a semi-quiet corner of the room and plunked me down on a stool. ‘You sit tight. I’m going to get you a glass of wine and then I want to hear everything.’

I nodded as the crowd swallowed her up, then let out a long shuddery breath, trying to absorb the fact that Robert was getting married. Next week! When Mimi finally returned bearing a brimming goblet, I grabbed it and gulped.

‘So,’ she said when I was half-way through and already starting to feel lightheaded. ‘Tell me everything.’

‘There’s not that much to tell. I was walking on the South Bank when I ran into the two of them at a Christmas market.’ Even as I uttered the words, the anger inside flared into a burning fire.

‘What she’s like? What did he say? When’s the wedding?’

A corner of my mouth lifted as the questions tumbled from Mimi. This was why I loved talking to her – she craved the minute details you were dying to share but didn’t want to bore the other person. ‘Her name is Greta and she’s gorgeous,’ I answered, jealousy rushing through me. ‘Tall, long dark hair, skinny . . .’

‘And probably a huge bitch,’ Mimi said loyally. ‘What the hell kind of name is Greta, anyway?’

‘They seemed really happy.’ An image of the soppy look on Robert’s face came to mind, and I instantly realised what was different about him: he was in love, in a way he’d never been with me. My chest tightened and I tipped the glass to my mouth. I swear, if they served pitchers of wine, I’d be double-fisted at the moment.

‘Well, of course they’re happy now.’ Mimi waved a hand in the air. ‘They can’t have known each other long, and they’re probably still in the honeymoon phase. That’ll die out soon.’

I forced a smile, wondering if Robert and I ever had that phase . . . I couldn’t remember. We’d always known each other, right from primary school.

‘You’ll never guess when they’re getting married,’ I said glumly.

Mimi tilted her head. ‘Next summer?’

‘Nope. Christmas Day. This Christmas. As in next week.’

Mimi winced. ‘Ouch.’

‘And not only that, Greta invited me to the wedding. She had no idea who I was. Robert hadn’t even mentioned me.’

Mimi touched my arm. ‘I don’t know what to say, Luce. That’s just . . . terrible. But seriously, how selfish to make everyone abandon their own Christmas and attend their wedding! See, I told you she’s a bitch.’

I gave her a grateful smile.

‘What did you say?’ my friend asked. ‘I mean, you obviously aren’t going. Robert must have been shitting himself.’

‘Yup,’ I said, recalling the uncomfortable expression on his face. ‘You won’t believe what I told them. I said I was throwing a huge party with all my friends on Christmas Day, so I was already booked up.’

‘Well, good!’ Mimi gave an emphatic nod. ‘He’ll think you’re getting on with your life instead of pining over him and trying to forget Christmas. In fact, you know what? You should organize a big bash on that day! Get out there again and put this whole thing behind you.’

I raised an eyebrow, her words spinning around my alcohol-induced fog. In theory, a party sounded a million times better than hanging out on my own. I doubted all the cheap wine and takeaways in the world would block out my ex’s nuptials. Desperate measures were needed.

***

To discover more about Talli and her work you can visit her blog, follow her on Twitter or like her Facebook page.

 ***

If you want to treat your Kindle, or someone else’s, to this delightful Christmas novella, here are the purchase links:

Last Christmas - TALLI ROLAND - 1

Click here for UK purchase link

Last Christmas - TALLI ROLAND - 1

Click here for USA purchase link

Last Christmas - TALLI ROLAND - 1

Click for Canada purchase link

Alison’s Advent Calendar

Alison’s Advent Calendar – Day One

Advent Calendar 004It’s the first day of the twelfth month, and that can only mean one thing: it’s time for my advent calendar to make an appearance.

This advent calendar is almost as old as I am. I’m convinced my Mum bought it for me (in Selfridges?) on a Christmas shopping trip to London the year before I started school, way, way back at the beginning of the 1970s, but my childhood memories are a little jumbled. Mum and I certainly went to London on a bus trip from our little village in south Lincolnshire, and I can remember being very excited about seeing the roof garden (at Selfridges?). Sadly, being November, the roof garden was closed for the winter, but a kindly shop assistant let Mum and I sneak up and have a look, a privilege usually closed to the general public. Sod Father Christmas; sneaking up the forbidden stairs and having a peep at a cold dead roof terrace made my day!

Well, that and taking my turn to sit on the back of a huge toy animal that made an appearance on the bus going home. And, of course, my advent calendar.

Every year since that London visit I have put my advent calendar up on the 1 December, and meticulously opened a door every day despite now knowing exactly what picture will be revealed. My favourite picture is behind the 9 December door: a portly reindeer running in the snow, huffing clouds of steam from his nose. It’s hilarious! For the first few years of my advent calendar’s life I had to share it with my brother and sister, evidenced by the list on the back in my Mum’s handwriting, dated 1973, of our names and the order in which we would take a turn to open the door of the day. Now, sadly, I no longer have my Mum, but I do have a little piece of the wonderful family Christmases we used to enjoy in the form of my advent calendar. Roll on 9 December, hahahaha…

On a completely different subject, today is the Winter Wordfest in Cambridge, and I’m very excited about that. I’m due to see some superb guests later today, and I’m sure I’ll blog all about it, but for the moment I’m enjoying the delicious anticipation of getting ready for an event I’ve been looking forward to for weeks.

Advent calendar picture, day one – it’s a little donkey. Well I never!

London to Brighton Walk-Stage Two

Part two of my epic walk from London to Brighton.

 

Almost immediately after leaving Oaks Park rest stop, my new friend Bronagh and I were in open countryside. Walking along a narrow path bordering woodland and fields, it was a little surreal to look to our left and see the central London skyline visible in the distance.

London to Brighton Walk May 2013 034
Open fields, with the central London skyscrapers etched on the horizon

As we were both still feeling good we decided to up the pace, but the terrain had other ideas. Open countryside, although more attractive than the suburbs, meant muddy, uneven paths. Bronagh confessed to a fear of climbing over stiles, but luckily during this stretch of the walk all the field boundaries had gaps in their fences or unlocked gates. No stiles yet; they would come later!

London to Brighton Walk May 2013 038
‘City of London. Farthing Downs & New Hill’. As I was taking this photo Joanne joined us.

Just before we reached Farthing Downs we were joined by Joanne, another lone walker, who had started quarter of an hour before us. She explained that she’d been walking with people who’d had to drop out before they’d even completed stage one; and, nice though they were, they’d held her up to such an extent that she was way behind her group. With the night-time approaching I was very happy to have another companion, and it seemed appropriate that we entered the beautiful Happy Valley at this point. The shadows were lengthening, but it was a glorious evening and we were starting to overtake some of the L2B strugglers. It gave us a real confidence boost not to be bringing up the rear any more; a Happy Valley bonus!

London to Brighton Walk May 2013 047
The aptly named ‘Happy Valley’

As we walked on we encountered more people struggling. One group of three ladies was having a miserable time with blisters, especially the youngest one who could barely walk. Joanne suggested they try walking backwards, which made us all laugh but amazingly seemed to help. However long would it have taken to walk the remaining 65km to Brighton backwards?

We left the three ladies walking backwards and enjoyed one of the most stunningly beautiful stretches of the walk. The evening sunshine shone on picturesque valleys, woodland and houses as we descended a steep track. All was peaceful, all was tranquil, and the breathtaking beauty took our minds off our grumbling knees as we continued downhill.

London to Brighton Walk May 2013 060

Then, in the midst of all this tranquillity, we heard the relentless sound of traffic. Lots of traffic…

We’d reached the M25! London was most definitely behind us. By the time we passed under the M25, making the obligatory silly noises to echo round the tunnel, we were in a fairly large group of people, including a very friendly lady from Leeds walking with her godson and his partner. Leeds Lady (I never did find out her name) was finding the walk rather painful, and her godson was very kindly carrying her rucksack for her. I was delighted to be part of a sizeable group as the sun set over rest stop number three, Hawthorne’s School, and not even the L2B staff stacking up the chairs as fast as we tried to sit down could dampen my spirits.

London to Brighton Walk May 2013 067
Sunset over Hawthorne’s School

Hawthorne’s was the ‘Pick & mix’ stop, and I helped myself rather liberally. Glancing guiltily over my shoulder, I filled not one, not two, but THREE bags with sweets to see me through the night, much to the amusement of Joanne. There were chairs inside the school hall as yet undisturbed by the L2B staff, so I headed in from the cooling evening to give my feet a bit of pampering. The three blister ladies had arrived (backwards?) and were getting checked by the first aiders, and there were a couple of people in tears, obviously unable to carry on. I realised then that it hadn’t once crossed my mind I might not complete the challenge. I’d just kept walking and walking, and eventually I’d rock up in Brighton. Ha ha. Rock up. Brighton rock. Hah!

By the time we left Hawthorne’s, nine o’clock-ish according to my route card, the sun had set and my group had dwindled back down to the three amigos. Nice Leeds Lady and the lads had gone on ahead, and everyone else at Hawthorne’s seemed more intent on nursing their feet than carrying on to Brighton. With a huge moon illuminating the fields, a stash of sweets in my pockets and two cheerful companions, night walking was great! Well, it was until the stiles began. Bronagh wasn’t fibbing when she said she doesn’t like climbing. She approached the many stiles with a look of trepidation, and needed to be coaxed over each one. We caught up with Nice Leeds Lady, who by this point was struggling quite badly. The lads were still with her, and she still seemed in good humour, but I think she’s the kind of person who always has a smile on her face. The three of them were great company, but Bronagh, Joanne and I decided to forge on ahead. We were all still in high spirits, teasing Bronagh mercilessly every time we approached a stile, and attempting to photograph the moon on our phones. By the time I’d put my phone away, Bronagh and Joanne had miraculously managed to get through a gap in a fence no wider than my arm! How? How had they done it?

Voices wobbly with laughter, my companions told me I could try squeezing through the tiny gap if I liked…

Alternatively I could use the huge gap, the width of a farm gate, right next to it!

London to Brighton Walk May 2013 069
The full moon lighting our way, with a little help from my head torch!

As midnight approached, we started to get a little more subdued. My partner Andy phoned as he was getting ready to go to bed, and it struck me that we were out in the middle of nowhere while normal folk were snuggling into their duvets. It was starting to get seriously cold too, and without warning tiredness kicked in with a vengeance. By the time we reached the Rough Beach Farm rest stop the three of us were very dispirited indeed. It was ‘one-ish’ according to my score card; the early hours of Sunday morning, and we weren’t even half way to Brighton. On removing my boots and socks I discovered that the little toe on my left foot had swollen up and was a most peculiar colour. Cue hasty visit to the first aid tent!

Getting my toe treated by the experts turned out to be a wise move. The on site doctor told me it was nothing more serious than an unpleasantly coloured blister, and once she’d bound it up my positive mood had returned. Others weren’t so lucky. While I was being treated, a sobbing woman was making arrangements to drop out of the challenge. Her foot was in agony, and there was no way she could go on. Nice Leeds Lady hobbled into the tent as I was being treated, still cheerful but obviously in pain, and the three blister ladies had amazingly made it this far, but clearly couldn’t go any further. A minibus was on its way, ostensibly to pick up the inured, but it soon became apparent that some people were catching a lift to the next stop, and I was a little vocal about the fact I considered this cheating.

‘The L2B motto is: “100k. Walk. Jog. Run. Your challenge. Your way.” It says nothing about getting a bus!’ I declared to one of the young men accompanying Nice Leeds Lady.

‘Actually, we’re getting the bus,’ he replied, looking a little sheepish.

Oops! Apparently I’m not the most tactful person in the world when I’m tired!

Joanne, Bronagh and I were the only participants to leave Rough Beach farm on foot, and as we set off one of the staff came scuttling after us.

‘You’re getting the bus!’ she said. ‘Aren’t you?’

When we assured her that we were not only fine to walk, we WANTED to walk, she made a hasty phone call to arrange for two staff members to accompany us as back markers. The staff members in question were fast asleep on one of the rest stop tables, obviously having assumed everyone was getting the bus, but before long they had been roused from their slumbers and the three amigos were on the road again.

It’s amazing the difference some warm clothes and a little TLC can make! Even though it was deepest, darkest night-time, we all seemed to have our second wind as we chatted, laughed and planned silly photos at the 50km marker. We were so busy planning that we completely missed the half way marker. In fact, it was only when Joanne and I came to a junction suspiciously lacking in pink direction arrows, glow sticks, hazard signs or any form of L2B guidance we realised we hadn’t seen any markers at all for a while. Retracing our steps, meeting a baffled looking Bronagh head on, we found where we’d gone wrong without too much difficulty and were back on track. The back markers had caught us up thanks to our little detour, and they were happy to keep Bronagh company while Joanne and I forged on ahead, eager to reach the next rest stop and the hot food it promised.

As Joanne and I picked our way to the end of a muddy, sticky path, we encountered the most forlorn looking person I’d seen all day, sitting by herself on the cold ground.  Joanne and I stopped to keep her company for a while, and she explained that she’d been there for half an hour, in too much pain to go on, waiting for someone to pick her up. The back markers were suitably embarrassed that a young woman had ended up walking the night stretch alone, and they did their best to make amends by waiting with her. Like the fading glow sticks marking the route, my spirits were beginning to dim again. It was more than seventeen hours since we’d set off, and we’d only just passed half way. Bronagh was feeling quite ill, and the going was slow. I was tired and hungry, two things guaranteed to make me irritable, and the only thing I could think of was getting to the hot food stop as quickly as possible. Leaving Joanne with Bronagh, I started to power walk.

It felt really good to be making swift progress, and neither guilt at deserting my companions nor apprehension at being alone in a dark, shadowy wood was going to slow me down. I could hear the sound of a PA system and loud music, which I guessed was coming from the hot food stop at Tulley’s farm. I bet the local people had loved that going on all night! As I approached Tulley’s Farm, thinking delicious thoughts of hot bolognaise sauce, another sound filled the air. It took a while for the significance of this sound to sink in as I strode purposefully onwards, but then it rang out again, and again.

The sound of a cockerel crowing, heralding the dawn. The dreaded night stretch of the L2B was over!

I arrived at Tulley’s farm as the compere was packing up, obviously assuming his night’s work was done. The L2B staff were very surprised to see me power walk through the gate, face set in grim determination to be fed. Happily the food was still bubbling away on hot plates, and I pushed aside guilty thoughts about Bronagh and Joanne still walking as I stuffed my face. A friendly group of four, the only other L2B participants left at Tulley’s farm, was preparing to depart as I sat down, and I fleetingly considered leaving my meal and walking with them. No chance! I was ravenous, and I wanted to apologise to Joanne and Bronagh for leaving them behind. It was some time before they joined me, and by then poor Bronagh was feeling faint. Hoping that a hot meal would perk her up, I massaged my feet and enjoyed a rest while my companions ate. Finally, fed and rested, the three amigos set off into the dawn for stage three of the L2B challenge.

Daddy Was A Bank Robber

Something Silly for Sunday

A few years ago, my partner Andy and I were indulging in one of our favourite pastimes: a London pub crawl. After an increasingly merry exploration of the London Bridge area, we ended up in The Old Kings Head off Borough High Street.

The pub was rammed. Tottenham Hotspur were playing in a European competition that night (probably not the Champions’ League), and the football was being shown on big screens. Andy and I eased ourselves into a vantage point to watch the match – and acquired some company.

Or rather, I acquired some company!

‘Do you often drink here?’ said my new companion, wide eyed and unblinking.

‘Well, no…’

‘What are you here for?’

For God’s sake mate, blink!

‘A beer, and to watch the Tottenham match…’

‘You Tottenham are you? I’m a bank robber.’

Really?

By this time a suspicious looking line of powder was sliding from my companion’s nose, and he still hadn’t blinked.

Humour him, Alison!

‘Yes, I have a soft spot for Tottenham.’ Please don’t let him be an avid Arsenal fan…

‘Me too. Me too.’ Sniff.

‘Shall we watch the game then…’

‘I’m a bank robber. I’ve been inside eight times. Seven kids. I’ve got seven kids.’ Dribbly nose. Sniff.

‘Eight times? Seven kids? No need to ask what you get up to when you’re not  in prison!’

‘Yeah. I rob banks.’

‘And make babies by the sounds of it.’

‘Seven.’ Sniff. Stare.

By this time Andy was giggling like a schoolgirl. I ignored him. Resisting the temptation to whip out a tissue and encourage my companion to blow his nose (which may have fallen off had he tried), I did my best to look interested.

Ask him if he robbed banks to feed his coke habit!

Ask him if he’s got a hankie!

Ask him if he’ll flipping well blink!

Realising I couldn’t ignore Andy, the frivolous voices in my head, or the huge bubble of laughter that was threatening to burst out of me for much longer, I excused myself and headed for the Ladies’. By the time I returned, the bank robber had moved on to a couple of visitors with his tales of robbery and his wide staring eyes. I re-joined Andy, moaned at him for being no help whatsoever, and started watching the football.

‘’Ere!’ said a friendly looking bloke, nodding towards my former companion. ‘I bet he told you he’s a bank robber, didn’t he?’

‘Yes, as a matter of fact he did,’ I replied. The bloke laughed and nodded sagely.

‘He tells everyone that,’ the bloke said, his facial expression hinting that my bank robber companion was notorious for being the local joker. ‘Yeah, we’ve heard it all before. Been inside six times?’

‘Eight, actually.’

‘Oh, eight is it now? Don’t you worry about him, love. He’s harmless. Just a bit of a Jackanory.’

Laughing along with the bloke, I assured him that I’d got that impression. How nice, I thought, to have someone sensible to talk to after the bank robber…

‘Now,’ announced the ‘sensible’ bloke, ‘I really am a bank robber!’

There could only be one song to accompany this tale: ‘Daddy Was a Bank Robber’ by The Clash. Enjoy!