Every pub-dwelling male drinker worth his salt has a ‘go to’ story.
It is the story that is pulled out when the alcohol consumption of the collective is at its most euphoric; the cornerstone anecdote to any lager-swilling raconteur’s portfolio. It has been retold so many times that each embellishment of the story-line blurs the distinction between fact and fiction further. Every recount will indubitably have the audience captivated; enraptured by every word reciprocated for the umpteenth time. My ‘go to’ story has always been The Tale of The Loose Canary.
Don’t be fooled by the vanilla description of the title. There is a canary in the narrative but it only serves to masquerade the true horror that unfolded that fateful evening; a sequence of events so improbable that it makes the odds of human existence at 4 trillion to one look like a safe bet.
It had all started so innocently. The grand re-opening of Milton Keynes’ seminal nightspot had drawn a small spattering of desperate nightclub goers to The Empire disco. The refurbish dance-floor appeared vacuous as a handful of middle-aged women bobbed rhythmically to new romantic classics. Ihad been asked to attend this landmark social function by a friend and acollection of his football associates who were atypically loud, raucous and distinctly unchivalrous to the opposite sex. This was going to be a long night– and prophetically I was proved right.
Adopting my standardised pose of leaning rigidly against a post on the periphery of the dance-floor, I was alerted by one my new found acquaintances that I may caught the attention of a woman across the other side of the room.
“Ere, that bird fancies you!” I was reliably informed. I made my first mistake that evening by inquiring as to who he was referring to.
“That one in the red. The one that looks like a horse”Unfortunately he was right on both counts. “I’ll go get ‘er for you”.
My body automatically tensed defensively in preparation for the awkward conversation that would inevitably follow. We were pushed together unceremoniously by our match-making intermediary in the expectation that fireworks would soon follow. Shortly after exhausting my full repertoire of small talk, another woman appeared out of the ether.
“Hi, can I have a quick word with you?” She pulled me to one side. “Just to let you know that my friend is married with two kids. You don’t want to go with her”
Thank God!! I had been presented with a way out of this predicament without the need to pretend to go to the toilet and never comeback. My saviour then changed the course of my night and thus my keystone anecdote was born “You’ll want to come with me”
In an act of spontaneous hedonism never to be repeated I agreed to the proposal. We discreetly left the club without arousing any suspicion and jumped in a waiting Hackney cab. A short conversation followed and it was soon established that we were going to her house. She also informed me that she had no money for the taxi and desperately needed a packet of menthol cigarettes. Before I could respond chivalrously and offer to pick up any financial impediment incurred by our act of decadence,
I was offered a veryparticular sexual favour for the purchase of the minty cancer sticks. I can’t rememberif I agreed to the terms of the transaction before or after I realised thisentire conversation was being picked up the microphone in the back of the cab.I could never use Skyline Taxis again.
Once back at her house and with a packet of green Berkley Superkings firmly clasped in her hand, I was ushered quickly in to the living room and pushed back on to the sofa. This whole evening had a very unreal feeling to it and I wasn’t going to start craving reality just yet. After a few minutes of what can only be described as ‘pawing’, something caught my eye hanging pride of place centrally on the adjacent wall. From its outline I could see that it was either a plaque or a coat of arms and I fortuitously let my intrigue take over my base animal instincts on the sofa. As I cautiously approached the wall, the form began to look distinctly familiar. Through squinted eyes I could just make out the motto embossed at its base. Instinctively I froze in horror and my defence mechanisms whirred in to action for the second time that evening.
Who Dares Win
“You’re married!?! You’re married to someone in the SAS?!” I squealed.
“Try not to raise your voice too loud or you’ll wake up thekids” was her informative retort. They’ve got kids?! What had I got myself into?
I began surveying my immediate surroundings and stopped dead on the picture resting pride of place on the sideboard. The photo was of a very tall, strong and no doubt resourceful man clad in black uniform and nursing what appeared to be a very particular brand of assault rifle.
“It’s ok. He’s away a lot of the year and I have my needs”.
Before I could utter another word of disbelief there was avery loud knock at the door. Surely it couldn’t be my new military eliteadversary? He’d at least have a key or swing through the living room window ona rope in full fatigues.
“It’s my mate!! Quick, go and hide in the room at the top of the stairs!” I was ordered. I could make out the shape of my equine featured friend from earlier in the evening through the smoked glass in the front door.I stealthily made my way up the stairs and slowly opened a bedroom door. Suddenly a night light was turned on and two innocent little faces sleepily tried to work out who had woken them from their slumber. Before I could think of how to formally introduce myself to these weary cherubs, their Mum returned with some frightful news.
“She’s locked herself out so I have told her she can crash here tonight. She’s going to sleep on the sofa” I was trapped in this surreal pantomime until at least the morning. Reluctantly and still wearing every last piece of clothing I had worn that night I got in to bed with Mrs Elite Forces and her two bewildered children, adopting the fetal position and facing the wall.
After an extremely disjointed night’s sleep, I awoke at the break of daylight to some extremely loud snoring. There, asleep on the floor adjacent to the bed, was a Great Dane that had somehow proved very elusive the night before despite being the size of a small horse. I sat up in bed to further assess the chaos that was unravelling in front of me. As a final act of disregard for order and normality, a yellow canary appeared flying skittishly around the bedroom freely before landing gracefully on the frame of the bed. My inaugural act of hedonistic behaviour had led me to a suburban family bedroom,surrounding by a menagerie and had me asking far-reaching questions about my sanity. This nightmare took one final turn for the worse.
I could hear footsteps coming up the stairs; each one getting louder as they neared the bedroom door. The sound of my heart pounding was drowning out the snoring emitting from the comatose giant. I had to take evasive action or Shergar would find out that I had left the nightclub with her best friend. Considering every last inch of the bedroom was now consumed by a multitude of different species, the only option I could see was to hide cowardly behind the bedroom door.
As the door swung upon I took a deep breath to make myself as slender as possible. I needed had bothered. The door was immediately closed to ensure that the feral canary was contained to just the one room and I was reunited with the woman I had absconded from approximately ten hours ago.
“Oh, hi!” I inanely babbled.
“What the hell are you doing here??” was the instantaneous and sharp response.
My makeshift family went downstairs and I was left to face the music alone. I manufactured some unbelievable story that was as unrealistic as the events that had just unfolded in front of me the night before. Regardless,my long faced friend decided to take full advantage of this opportunity alone and tried to kiss me. This madness needed to stop and I had to escape this irrationality. I went downstairs and proclaimed that I had to leave. For some reason unbeknown to me I made the excuse that I had arranged an impromptu Sunday morning driving lesson, despite the fact that I was obviously at least three times over the limit.
Whilst I was waiting for my [non-Skyline] taxi to arrive I was formally introduced to the rest of the family.
“Kids, this is Uncle Marky and he will be taking us to the Beefeater soon. There’s an indoor play area there” The children exhaled an audible sign of genuine excitement. “Yay!!”
My taxi took what felt like an eternity to arrive. As it pulled away from the house, I looked back through the rear window at the three bedroom terrace that had provided the backdrop to my adversity, in sheer disbelief as to the events that had transpired that night. My perception of reality was being severely interrogated.
What I did know for certain is was that there was never going to be that visit to a mid-priced steak restaurant with adjoining soft play area and I was never going to see recompense for that packet of twenty green Berkley Superkings. But what I did now possess was a timeless story that would forever be my ‘go to’ tale.