Friday, March 17, 2006

New Years Eve 2003

“- and the squashed couchette that dribbles from your throat…attracts a dirty old goat…” he rhymed.
“Don’t forget the rancid stoat…” I added, leaning towards the Dictaphone in his hand, “yeah! The stoat, that sails in a boat… round the fairytale moat…” I said, before hesitating.
“If you’re not careful you’ll be demoted”, Adrian continued, holding the Dictaphone right up close to his mouth, “we’ll rip those stripes right off your coat, from your current position down to a private, and you couldn’t ever skive it, you signed the five year contract maaan!” he sneered to a stop.
The Dictaphone clicked as Adrian turned it off. Our throats were sore as we’d been freestyling into Adrian’s Dictaphone for at least twenty minutes without a break. It was New Years Eve and we had decided to spend it in The Hobgoblin, which is the nearest pub to my house. In the summer its vast garden served us well but we soon realised that in the cold of winter, we would have to escape the elements inside. This is just what we were doing, much to our distaste. For the new years celebrations the pub had a DJ and those irritating coloured disco lights flashing about the empty dance floor. The music was excruciatingly loud. So loud, I thought, that the DJ must have given up trying to attract people to the dance floor. He was now just punishing us because we had failed to do so.
“We probably won’t be able to hear a thing of that,” I shouted into Adrian’s ear over the colossal din and pointing at the Dictaphone, “the music is way too loud”.
He shrugged and then raised an eyebrow ironically. He was just about to shout something into my ear when Dave and Rachel arrived back from the bar with four shots of whiskey.
“Here we go lads,” screamed Dave in an exaggerated cockney accent “all together now.” The four of us (Adrian, Dave, Rachel, and me) each imbibed a small quantity of poison, and each spluttered or hissed according to the ferocity with which we felt our insides were being destroyed and our brains melted.
“Right – what now then?!” Dave shouted at the other three of us, just about reaching the necessary high decibel scream that was required to supersede the musical racket and reach our ears, “This is horrid! Do you reckon we could brave the cold and sit outside?!”
There seemed to be some drunken consensus: a bit of nodding, Adrian put his hat on, Rachel picked up her hand bag, so Dave led the way and we strode out into the harsh, cold, on-the-cusp-of-January air. The sudden stillness, emptiness and relative quiet of the deserted pub garden allowed me to realise how drunk I was. Our ears hissed.

We had been suffering the loud, smoky interior for a number of hours now. Our desperate attempts to enliven this notoriously anti-climatic pseudo-event came in two categories: alcohol and nonsense. Shouting improvised nonsense-rhymes into Adrian’s Dictaphone had been punctuated only by throat-searing shots of refined hedonism. It was now at least ten o’clock, not very long before we were to be blessed with a new year.
“Shall we get a kebab?” suggested Dave.
“Uuuh… I dunno,” I mumbled, shrugging and the beginning to shiver.
We all looked around at each other searchingly and the dull glisten of apathetic intoxication was consistently reflected back by each pair of eyes.
“Well I wouldn’t mind some chips,” said Rachel smiling sardonically, “I suppose its something to do”
“Ok then – shall we all go?” inquired Dave.
I shook my head and looked at Adrian to see what he thought.
“William and I will stay here!” he said in his mock-heroic voice that he sometime puts on when there is little else happening.
“Yeah, we’ll wait here” I nodded.
The couple jumped up rubbing their hands together and hunching their shoulders inwards as people do in the cold, and shuffled off to the kebab house down the road.

“Soooo… William” said Adrian, as soon as we were alone, pronouncing my name rhythmically in his unusual American accent, “what shall we do before this year is in the past?”
“We could go on an adventure,” I said pathetically, shaking my head at the emptiness of my own words.
“We could just go for a walk down some of these streets,” Adrian suggested, waving his hand in the direction of Brockwell Court.
“I suppose so” I said, tracing a route in my mind through the local streets. “But wouldn’t that be boring?” I asked.
Adrian lifted his hands mock-despairingly, “you never know” he shrugged “it could be better than just sitting here”.
“What about the other two?”
“Let’s just run round the block… we’ll be back before they are.”

We ran across the road and I began to feel more excited. Running when I’m drunk is always quite exciting; the edge of my vision blurs and it seems as it gives the impression that I am running extremely fast. We slowed to a brisk walk and entered the Brockwell Court estate. Adrian started singing. Well it was really half singing, half humming. In time with our steps he was repeating a jazz-like phrase, slightly different every time. Around the side of the flats we were skirting, adjacent the large cylindrical bins, there was an old sofa left there to rot. On a whim I jumped on it and climbed up and over the wall it was resting against. The wall was about six foot high. Without a word from either of us Adrian followed suit. We were now in the next estate, I forget its name. We were walking along a grassy alley passing windows in which we could see people celebrating New Years Eve in their living rooms. Adrian was still trumpeting along and I joined in with a simple bass riff. Our alcoholic confidence increased and we began to sing louder. People noticed us and looked up as we passed their windows. First, an old couple that looked like they were just sitting in silence, waiting for something to happen. We obviously weren’t what they were waiting for – they scowled vehemently at us. Then, a Hispanic looking couple that were cooking a meal together looked up as we sang passed their window. The woman, at first, looked shocked but I detected a favourable hue in her surprise and I stopped singing for a moment to shout “Happy New Year” through the window at her. As we walked on swiftly both moved towards the window and called “Happy New Year!” after us.

A minute later, still walking down the alley, we came upon a metal frame fire escape and, again without a word, Adrian began to ascend the steps. Six floors up we reached the top and beheld a beautiful view. The sky of London was alight with fireworks. We stood and watched the sky for a minute before Adrian began rummaging in his pockets. “Here it is,” he mumbled, producing the Dictaphone. Affecting a ridiculous air of importance he held the machine up to his mouth and started singing.

“Ahh den der-tis sen der dih hoss….
Ahh den der-tis sen der dih haaa ho hosen…
Ooh hoo er haa… en-der-dih hoss
Ahh den der-tis sen der dih hoss….”

I knew the song and joined in at the chorus:

“Otis – air-dees – er-ti-hos…
Otis – air-dees – er-ti-hos…
Otis – air-dih hees – er-ti-hos…
Arken Der-ti-hos!”

The song we were singing was by an insane French progressive jazz-rock band called Magma. They had invented their own language called Kobaia and we were, apparently, singing in it. We hadn’t the fogiest what we were singing – all we knew was that it was a tribute to Otis Reading. We both loved the song and became lost in our roof top rendition of it. The fireworks went on beautifully in the distance. At a certain point when it seemed to feel right, we slowed to a stop, ending the song with a duet of high pitched wailing (a faithful imitation, I might add). Turning off the machine and putting it away, Adrian turned to me with a genuine smile, “well what shall we do now?”
“More things!” I said with excitement, setting off back down the fire escape.

Over a couple more walls and across a road and we entered a very different state. It looked a lot more private and perhaps even a little posh. A driveway led us round the large red brick building into a sort of large quad containing a small ornamental garden. It was completely silent and we could go no further. We stood for a moment and looked about at the little garden.
“Look at this” I hissed, walking over to a bicycle that hadn’t been chained up, “its just leaning here!”
“Shall we have a ride round on it?” asked Adrian.
My future conscience kicked in. We’ll never return this if we go for a ride on it, I thought, we’ll end up throwing it in a bush half a mile away most likely.
“No… I – I don’t think we’ll ever return it will we?” I looked Adrian in the eye, “in the state we’re in…”
“No, I guess you’re right” he nodded, sighing.
“Well lets move on,” I proposed, as if we now had some concrete agenda.
“Indeed” he muttered, with his usual whimsical drawl.

We walked back in the direction of the pub, back in the direction of my house. Neither of us had a mobile phone nor any timekeeping equipment.
“I suppose its now 2004” I announced.
“Yes well happy new year… I suppose” he replied, not forgetting to raise his customary ironic eyebrow.
We arrived at the pub but the garden was empty and people were being told to leave.
“I wonder what happened to Dave and Rachel?” I thought aloud.
“I’m sure they’re doing fine someplace,” he squawked, accentuating his accent deliberately (but purposelessly).
“Yeah…” I looked around at the drunken stragglers in the street and realised we had probably been away from the pub for hours. It was the singing on the fire escape that did it. We were too drunk to notice time slipping away. What had begun, as ‘a run round the block’ had actually become, in some oblique manner, an adventure. But it was not to end here. There was to be a final flourish.

Without discussing it, Adrian and I had begun to wander in the direction of my house. It was not more than a hundred metres from the pub. I could tell we were both walking slowly on purpose, prolonging the adventure, unwilling to have it end – as it certainly would on entering my house. Within about 20 metres of my house I became desperate for some one last taste of drunken revelry and jumped out of my slovenly stupor: I leap into the middle of the road. It was currently empty and I could hear no cars approaching so I lay down right in the centre of the road. As soon as I found myself resting comfortably, I wondered what foolish purpose this was supposed to serve. I was just about to get up and give in – ending the adventure – when I heard a chorus of cries. A looked up from my supine position to see a group of six young girls, no older than seventeen, running towards me. They were all heavily made up and dressed in short skirts and tiny low cut tops. Running was clearly difficult for them as they were all wearing stupendously high heels, and they were all, of course, ludicrously juiced. Their collective scent preceded them, carried by the gentle breeze, and I inhaled a mixture of gut wrenchingly strong perfume and the somewhat preferable reek of neat vodka. They were now in a single file line and the leading girl was within feet of me. Suddenly frightened I tensed up a little and held my head with my hands. The girls proceeded to jump over me. Some cleared me completely and some placed a cursory foot on my abdomen during their flight, without any weight. Skilfully done, I thought, for someone so drunk. Relaxing a little, I realised that I was in little danger. The last girl was lagging a little behind and I remained lying in the road, giving her time to have her go. She was running on socks, carrying her high heels in her hands. I caught a glimpse of her face and was immediately aware the degree to which she had indulged this evening. Before I had time to think any further, she leapt into the air landing on one foot with her full weight on my abdomen, then leaping off and staggering away to join her screaming sisters. This girl had just compressed my stomach with such violent suddenness, such frightening unexpectedness, that I was left coughing and spluttering in the road. I managed to get up and join Adrian back on the pavement and exchange a brief glance with him. We were both shaking our heads in cheerful bemusement.

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