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 truehorror that unfolded that fateful evening; a sequence of events so improbablethat it makes the odds of human existence at 4 trillion to one look like a safebet.
It had all started so innocently. The grand re-opening ofMilton Keynes’ seminal nightspot had drawn a small spattering of desperate nightclubgoers to The Empire disco. The refurbish dance-floor appeared vacuous as ahandful 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 anddistinctly 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. Imade 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 forthe awkward conversation that would inevitably follow. We were pushed togetherunceremoniously by our match-making intermediary in the expectation thatfireworks would soon follow. Shortly after exhausting my full repertoire ofsmall talk, another woman appeared out of the ether.
“Hi, can I have a quick word with you?” She pulled me to oneside. “Just to let you know that my friend is married with two kids. You don’twant to go with her”
Thank God!! I had been presented with a way out of thispredicament 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 keystoneanecdote was born “You’ll want to come with me”
In an act of spontaneous hedonism never to be repeated Iagreed to the proposal. We discreetly left the club without arousing anysuspicion and jumped in a waiting Hackney cab. A short conversation followedand it was soon established that we were going to her house. She also informedme that she had no money for the taxi and desperately needed a packet ofmenthol cigarettes. Before I could respond chivalrously and offer to pick upany 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 BerkleySuperkings firmly clasped in her hand, I was ushered quickly in to the livingroom and pushed back on to the sofa. This whole evening had a very unrealfeeling to it and I wasn’t going to start craving reality just yet. After a fewminutes of what can only be described as ‘pawing’, something caught my eyehanging pride of place centrally on the adjacent wall. From its outline I couldsee that it was either a plaque or a coat of arms and I fortuitously let myintrigue take over my base animal instincts on the sofa. As I cautiouslyapproached the wall, the form began to look distinctly familiar. Throughsquinted eyes I could just make out the motto embossed at its base. InstinctivelyI froze in horror and my defence mechanisms whirred in to action for the secondtime that evening.
Who Dares Win
“You’re married!?! You’re married to someone in the SAS?!” Isquealed.
“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 deadon the picture resting pride of place on the sideboard. The photo was of a verytall, strong and no doubt resourceful man clad in black uniform and nursingwhat 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 ofthe stairs!” I was ordered. I could make out the shape of my equine featuredfriend 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 sleepilytried to work out who had woken them from their slumber. Before I could thinkof how to formally introduce myself to these weary cherubs, their Mum returnedwith some frightful news.
“She’s locked herself out so I have told her she can crashhere tonight. She’s going to sleep on the sofa” I was trapped in this surrealpantomime until at least the morning. Reluctantly and still wearing every lastpiece of clothing I had worn that night I got in to bed with Mrs Elite Forcesand her two bewildered children, adopting the foetal position and facing thewall.
After an extremely disjointed night’s sleep, I awoke at thebreak of daylight to some extremely loud snoring. There, asleep on the flooradjacent to the bed, was a Great Dane that had somehow proved very elusive thenight before despite being the size of a small horse. I sat up in bed to furtherassess the chaos that was unravelling in front of me. As a final act ofdisregard for order and normality, a yellow canary appeared flying skittishlyaround the bedroom freely before landing gracefully on the frame of the bed. Myinaugural act of hedonistic behaviour had led me to a suburban family bedroom,surrounding by a menagerie and had me asking far-reaching questions about mysanity. This nightmare took one final turn for the worse.
I could hear footsteps coming up the stairs; each onegetting louder as they neared the bedroom door. The sound of my heart poundingwas drowning out the snoring emitting from the comatose giant. I had to takeevasive action or Shergar would find out that I had left the nightclub with herbest friend. Considering every last inch of the bedroom was now consumed by amultitude of different species, the only option I could see was to hidecowardly behind the bedroom door.
As the door swung upon I took a deep breath to make myselfas slender as possible. I needed had bothered. The door was immediately closedto ensure that the feral canary was contained to just the one room and I wasreunited 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 instantaneousand sharp response.
My makeshift family went downstairs and I was left to facethe music alone. I manufactured some unbelievable story that was as unrealisticas 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 aloneand tried to kiss me. This madness needed to stop and I had to escape thisirrationality. I went downstairs and proclaimed that I had to leave. For somereason unbeknown to me I made the excuse that I had arranged an impromptuSunday morning driving lesson, despite the fact that I was obviously at least threetimes over the limit.
Whilst I was waiting for my [non-Skyline] taxi to arrive Iwas formally introduced to the rest of the family.
“Kids, this is Uncle Marky and he will be taking us to theBeefeater soon. There’s an indoor play area there” The children exhaled anaudible sign of genuine excitement. “Yay!!”
My taxi took what felt like an eternity to arrive. As itpulled away from the house, I looked back through the rear window at the threebedroom terrace that had provided the backdrop to my adversity, in sheerdisbelief as to the events that had transpired that night. My perception ofreality was being severely interrogated.
What I did know for certain is was that there was nevergoing to be that visit to a mid-priced steak restaurant with adjoining softplay area and I was never going to see recompense for that packet of twentygreen Berkley Superkings. But what I did now possess was a timeless story thatwould forever be my ‘go to’ tale.