George rarely ceases to amaze. The cheek of him! Just this morning, while I was semi-recumbent on the divan, suffering from Tabasco poisoning as a consequence of an OD of Bloody Maries, in he saunters with all the insouciance of a female codfish about to cash her child benefit giro. He must have breakfasted on coco-pops and amphetamines for immediately he ejaculates ‘Green is the new blue!’ in his usual fortissimo whisper, and then pauses for effect. Given my state, I was fully prepared to believe him, and breezily wished him happiness in his latest discovery before rolling over.
‘Don’t you see,’ he continued. ‘I’ve given some thought to your suggestion, about getting policies and all that rot. And I’ve hit upon this idea: Green is the new blue!’ Though freely admitting my knowledge of the physical sciences was not fully up to snuff, even I could smell a three week old kipper under the carpet on this one. But he was thick with it, a la molasses.
Anyway, once George got on his soapbox I was completely won over. Saving the planet is a bit of a wheeze. It seems to amount to keeping potato peelings in a bucket and peeing on them from time to time. I had an uncle in Derbyshire who was something of a pioneer in this line. ‘Recycling’s the name of the game,’ said George, in summary. ‘I’ve got all this old Ecology Party literature we could re-use.’ That clinched it. It would be an awful bore to have to sit down and think of policies of our own. Not sure the old bean’s up to it, especially as I was struggling with a thorny issue of my own.
‘Would it be better to start cocktails with a Between the Sheets rather than the customary Monkey Gland?’ I asked him. Dashed clever is George, under all that make up, but too unworldly. He looked at me as though on a fog-bound November day in one of the bleaker seaside resorts of Nova Scotia, with hail coming on, I’d just offered to buy him an ice cream.
‘May I raid the club funds, for research purposes?’ he replied, ignoring the issue.
‘Yes, yes, of course, old boy,’ I said, wafting him away.
Boris would know. ‘A Between the Sheets before seven, Bozzer?’ I’d croon, ‘De rigueur, would you say?’ More of an extra-curricular man is Boris. Finger on the pulse and all that: keen on cocktails; and sheets, for that matter.
On calling round to get verification, Boris dropped a bombshell.
‘What do you mean, you’re not packed?’ I said, looking at his collection of bandanas strewn across his recently vacated bed. ‘We’re off on a beano up North within the hour.’ We were invited to an away fixture somewhere left of the Pennines.
‘Sorry, old top,’ Boris replied. ‘Afraid I can’t make it.’
‘But you’re our ambassador to the North. You’re big in Bolton. Your name is legend in Preston. And correct me if I’m wrong, but did not the people of Liverpool fete you at a reception?’
‘Indeed. They gave me quite a reception,’ said Boris, nursing, it seemed, an old riding injury. ‘Much as I would love to fill my lungs once more with the smog of our industrial past, it is a pleasure I must forgo. Wee Willy’s taking my place, and he’s one of their own.’ True enough, no doubt - he was known as Wee Willy, on account of his coming from Scotland; or somewhere on the way – but this was a bit rich.
‘Wee Willy?’ I snorted, in consternation, ‘The tweed-wearing, octogenarian, pre-teen rapper? The man who bathes in formaldehyde and wears polyester next to the skin?’
‘The very chap!’ Boris replied, a bit too breezily for my liking.
‘But with whom am I to chinwag on the way? I can’t understand a word the blighter says.’ Willy was no doubt very eloquent and erudite, but completely incomprehensible to anyone equipped with a normal human ear. He had too, a tendency, in his childish bursts of over-excitement, to drool; particularly in the presence of Auntie Margaret.
However my protestations were to no avail. Boris remained unmoved. He gave me one of those stares of his, as though he was getting a bead on an unsuspecting pheasant two hundred yards from a spot on the back of my cranium. ‘Wooah, yah, yes, now hang on, one minute,’ he said, by means of explanation. He did, though, try to sweeten the pill with a little guide he’d put together for a magazine article. ‘Quite startling, from an anthropological point of view… an unusual belief system seemingly based upon the totemic value of car spare parts… Hubcaps play a key role in the local economy, and, in an emergency, can be substituted for more usual means of exchange. I’ve tried to give some impression of the local dialect at the end here.’
As I was loading up and adjusting the booster seat, George chipped in with a picnic he’d prepared, ‘So you won’t have to sample the natives’ ghastly cuisine. It’s amazing, though, the versatility of lard.’
It has not been a successful trip thus far. The bally North is dashed confusing, with so much more of it than I’d expected. And now I’ve ditched the charabanc, mistaking Wee Willy’s regional drawl for travel sickness. In an attempt to revive the old spirits I turned to the useful phrases at the end of Bozzer’s guide. ‘Why aye, man,’ I started, tentatively, ‘I’m right clemmed, tha’ knows. Gizza Newkie Brown.’
When I gave George permission to dip into the subs tin, I little thought he’d be using both mitts with quite such assiduity. He’d left a note for me in the hamper. ‘Off to Cambodia for three weeks on a fact-finding trip. Child exploitation in the Third World. Terrible problem. Sorry there’s no foie gras.’
I turned to Willy in despair, ‘Deep fried Mars bar, anyone?’