I’m in the Jack Horner with some of Academic Editorial drinking a Guinness and it tastes bad and costs me £4. I should have gotten a London Pride like Andrew ordered. Poland score a goal. We take a table that’s not meant for us and are moved. Two more people arrive but I have to leave. It’s 6pm and I’m in Jerusalem Bar and Tavern and I’ve paid £8 for these two Kronenbourgs and they taste bad. My date likes the 1664 and continues to drink it. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I think I’m going to have to get drunk,” she says. I laugh, unsure as to how I’m supposed to respond.
I find Alice at the bar, or rather Alice finds me, her with kohl eyeliner and she’s watching the football. I sit down and the dude from the postroom is on our bench with a friend called Marco. Last Friday, hungover, at the Soho Theatre Bar, I’d bid them goodbye outside at 8pm and walked past The Nellie Dean and The Toucan as the rain started to fall. “We went on”, he says. “From bar to bar. Yeah. It was good.”
Alice is sat with Pete on the big table and as I go over and ask her why she didn’t come to my 30th birthday party her chips arrive in a square bowl. Artisan-trimmed and cooked just right. They smell good. I haven’t eaten. “I was actually out of the country but I thought I’d keep you guessing being as you didn’t come to mine,” she says. I smile, go to the toilet, go to the bar. I ask for a red wine. I’m buying Deuchars IPA for my date as it comes in bottles and she claims it ‘tastes of Christmas’. That’s new to me, although perhaps that’s how Christmas should taste. Of ale. In bottles.
We move on, to The Bricklayers, she lights a cigarette and we play 501 on the dartboard with hilariously bad mental arithmetic. “I did Maths at A-Level” I say.
“What went wrong?” she replies. Comedy and dart flights and some of my throws don’t even reach the board. She wins despite not finishing on a double. We mercifully put the game to bed and it dawns on me I’ve had a fair few drinks.
We go to Bradley’s on Hanway Street and it’s shutting and the toilets are predictably foul, I did warn you, and they make us pour our drinks into plastic glasses and drink and smoke on the street in the warm June night air, cloud cover keeping the heat in. I’ve seen taxis run over people’s toes on this road. This is what I say.
We move on: restless and in motion, to Point 101, and I pay to get in, and she’s had enough booze, but I order a particularly bland lager and we go upstairs where I see some escorts descend on some men and the toilet guy is cheerful but I don’t stop by and it’s pretty much time to leave but not before I find out why she is wearing a ring on a necklace around her neck —
The night bus is the ordeal. I drop her off at hers and wait for the bus to come, and only then walk down Charing Cross Road after a hasty Subway Oriental Chicken Teriyaki, as if there’s any other fucking kind of teriyaki, that the guy fucks up because there’s a policeman behind me in the queue demanding a foot long with a bit of everything. The stale bread falls apart in my hands. I pay, I eat, I am disappointed and I leave. This is a theme. I walk past the chicken place and get some wings and walk past Trafalgar Square and roll into the shop and get a litre of Perrier in a glass bottle that crushes the apricots I bought that morning for a pound, an entire, fragrant, overripe punnet and my headphones get detached, Koss Pro Portas, and I clip them back in, and the wings were freakishly large, which bird has wings like that? I don’t think too hard about that one and I think I might have found some Tic Tacs at that point, but eventually the bus comes and I go upstairs and sit next to a massive black guy who is spark out asleep and I feel safe and comforted by his massive presence and I too drift in and out of sleep and predictably I miss my stop and I buy a crate of fries from Dixy on the Barking Road and eat them on the way back down Central Park Road and get in and it’s basically dawn, and I take some water with me to bed and read a bit of William Carlos Williams before I go to bed —