I was excited today as I was to meet my friend Rob who I had not seen for several months. Rob, like my friends Adrian, Loud Dan, Julian, Rabbit, Byron, Blanks, my best friend Nicky, and others too numerous to mention, is the sort of cartoon-version of a real person that enriches my life. Rob as a muse has many strings to his bow. To wit;
1. He was bi-polar well before Steven Fry made every miserable person in Britain proud of the fact they they too are bi-polar, albeit undiagnosed. Unlike these deluded, plain, idiots, he is Fry-Esque bi-polar; elated and juvenile one minute, depressed and morose the next. His mood swings are a joy to behold, and in my Churchillian 'Black Dog' days I console myself that Rob's day is, in all probability, much worse than mine. Or at the very least, he perceives it to be so.
2. He is a practical joker par-excellence. Not for him the tame practical joke. Like the best comedians he treads a fine line. My favourite example of this was a time when he stayed at my apartment a few years ago. We had spent the evening drinking and he had stayed on my pull-out sofa. In the morning I turned on the oven to make us crumpets. He sat, straight-faced, as I became aware that something was wrong. On opening the oven door, I found a pair of my shoes, hidden away at the back of the oven. I remonstrated with Rob that he could have set fire to the apartment and told him to grow up. As we ate our crumpets he continued to giggle, I assumed at the shoe/oven gag. My girlfriend, now wife, entered the room. She looked at the painting which I had lately been working on. It was a 4ft x 3ft canvas depicting the view from the Aberfan cemetery in which my grandparents are buried, and dedicated to their memory. There is a beautiful stone angel near the gates, who watches, silently, over the valley below. I had rendered this angel on the left side of the canvas, with the valley and rows of typical, colliery-owned, terraced houses on the right. My wife then asked, in a concerned tone,
'Who drew a cock on the Angel of Aberfan?'
I looked up at the easel, and protruding from the angel's praying hands, was a large, crudely-drawn, cock and balls, with a dashed line of semen arching from the japs-eye, and landing on the miners' homes in the distance. It is funny now, but at the time it was perilously close to being Rob's swan-song.
3. He is the unluckiest man I have ever met. To summarise. The wheel fell off his first car. His wife had an affair and divorced him. He was invalided out of the Navy (he was seasick on every voyage prior to that). He blew all his savings from ten years at sea on a new car, then was promptly diagnosed epileptic and had to sell the car at a huge loss. Whilst driving the car to the buyer in Swansea, he picked up a speeding ticket and three endorsement points. This doesn't include the really personal stuff which is even more tragic/amusing.
In addition to all of this, Rob can be relied upon to regularly come out with statements that are as refreshingly honest, as they are unexpectedly candid.
Rob arrived at around midday, and we promptly drank the only beers that were in the house. After watching back-to-back Curb Your Enthusiasms, we started on the vodka. My wife arrived home from work, and it was becoming apparent that we were regressing. She dropped us in town to meet up with Dave and Neil, the non-couple, who were at The Last Resort Bar. Dave and Neil were heading off to watch the Oasis gig, although it transpired that, although making it to the venue, Dave was asleep at his mother's house (he lives there, and is close to her, but is not gay) before the gig had started.
Rob and I continued to drink fairly heavily and he recounted a recent encounter he had had. He'd recently joined a Health Club ,to 'get in shape', and was having a strenuous workout in the Club's jacuzzi, when a Downs Syndrome teenager and his carer, joined Rob in the hot tub. As he was on an 'up' day, Rob made small talk with the carer. Not wanting to be rude, he then said hello to the teenager. I assume that he did this in an inadvertently condescending manner, as the youth replied by punching Rob in the face. How many of your friends have been punched in the face by a teenager with Downs Syndrome? In a jacuzzi? Exactly.
As the night progressed Rob and I headed to the one place that we always promise that we will not end up going to, before always ending up going there, Kiwis. Kiwis' clientele has remained unchanged since the late eighties. As a bright-eyed eighteen year old the prospect of a night club packed with sexually predatory, thirty-year-old women, was a mouth-watering one. These days, due to the absence of new arrivals, those same women, whilst more predatory than ever, are now approaching fifty. And not in a Madonna-esque way. To be fair to them, I am equally sure that they reminisce about the time when the men they prayed upon were eager young bucks, willing to please, not overweight, disillusioned cynics, suffering from sexual apathy.
Rob lightened the mood with two Rob-isms. The first was triggered by us drunkenly discussing the relentless passage of time, and the strange places that life leads us. He related the episode of his life when, having lost his driving license and unable to secure a job in his chosen field, he moved back to live with his mother, at thirty-two years of age. I said that I would find it next to impossible to live with my parents, at this time in my life. He nodded, sipped his drink, looked into the distance and pondered,
'You haven't lived until you've heard your mother take a sh*t at eight o' clock in the morning'
Superb. As the conversation moved seamlessly towards the subject of sex, we ruminated on our differing attitudes to sex and intimacy. Taking another sip of truth serum, Rob confessed,
'I don't like kissing. All I want to do is wank in their bra.'
At the end of the evening I ignored the text from my wife asking me to get a taxi home and called her for a lift. I would never have done this sober, but I most definitely was not sober. She proved once again to be the best wife in the world by picking us up and enduring our giggling all the way home.
On arriving home I fell into my neighbours car, setting of the alarm. I then fell through the front door of the house, thus breaking the mirror in the hallway. Bemused by the fact that my wife didn't find this impromptu slap-stick routine as funny as I did, I negotiated the stairs. Showing a poor grasp of physics, she walked up the stairs behind me to stop me falling backwards. She later admitted that the possibility of being crushed to death had been strangely engaging. Like taking part part in Jack Osborne's Adrenalin Junky. In a way. But inside. And genuinely dangerous.
Once upstairs I passed out on our enormous bed. If I did dream about anything, I don't remember it.
My wife had hidden all shoes and unfinished artworks.