I endured the sods for a while but then they began to talk about sport. American Football. There was only one American at the table, a snivelling little wisp of a man with a runny nose and an orange suede safari jacket, and I expect for some reason they were trying to suck up to him, because, next thing I knew, they were all claiming to actually play American Football, boasting about how much they enjoyed playing it, and getting cold and wet and muddy, and the smell of liniment, and the beastly, beastly ball.
Obvious nonsense, of course. Nobody really likes American Football. Nobody, in fact, likes sport at all, or any of the other manly things they pretend to like: fighting, drinking lager, being music industry executives, being interested in cars. Do you know anyone who is interested in cars? Oh. Well, next time you see them, you ask them, straight out. "Are you actually interested in cars or do you just pretend to be interested in cars so that people won't think you are a limp-wristed aesthete and shun you in the pub?" I bet you a million pounds that they go bright pink, shudder a little, then fall upon your shoulder and sob like a baby. It's the relief, you see; that terrible weight lifted from their shoulders, of having to pretend to like manly things, and next time you see them they'll be looking absolutely lovely, bathed and freshly-shaved, dressed in the most gorgeous Italian cashmere coat and exhaling a soft, gorgeous miasma of Tabac Blond or Habanita de Molinard, a voluptuous, aristocratic woman of unfathomable venality clinging adoringly to their arm, and with no interest any more in cars, beer, sport or even politics.
And that's the worst one: politics. Of all the archetypally imbecilic Manly Things to pretend to be interested in, politics is the worst, the spiritual home of duds and phoneys, people without lives and people without feelings, men who can't get it up and men who can't get it down again. Petty procedural squabbles, the defence of randomly-adopted pseudo-moral "principles", endless arguing, not about things or ideas, but about arguments, and the hideous pursuit of self-regard at the expense of all else.
But that's what I want to do. I want to pretend to be interested in politics, because that's where the money is. The money and the fame. Writing this sort of stuff gets you nowhere. If you want to get rich and famous, you have to write about politics. Look at that frightful man on the Daily Mail. Bad-tempered, grumpy valetudinarian bollocks, yet it goes right to the hearts of the aspirational suburban voyeurs who lap it up like mothers' milk. Write that sort of stuff and people call you "penetrating" and "irreverent" and "controversial" and "incisive", and they give you awards at big dinners, all the important media and political figures turning up to shovel down their Chicken a la King and egg you on and applaud and invite you round to their elegant homes to suck up to you. Corrupt and appalling? Certainly, but I want some of it. The fact that I have slept with half their wives, to my satisfaction and their wide-eyed, astonished delight, is not enough. I want to be a public figure and, simultaneously, an eminence grise. I have a charcoal grey suit now (bought for Mother Bywater's funeral, and she'd have wanted me to get the wear out of it) and I can dissimulate a fruitily plausible manner with the best of them. I am more than happy to allow my immaculate vowels to slip a little, and I am sure that, with a little practice, I could manage to attach my tongue, with a remora fish-like little "plop", to the nearest advantageous rear.
What is lacking, however, is a political theory, but I think Toe-nee Blaaaair may have played right into my hands with his assertions that we are all middle class now. It could prove to be his undoing, a declaration as politically inflam- matory as announcing that we are all body- subjects of the Queen, and our sons but cannon-fodder for Her Majesty's expansionist desires. He may have his reasons; he may believe that we all secretly yearn to polish the car on Sunday, abide by all laws no matter how foolish, count our change each night, make provision for our infirmities and our age, know our place, educate our children by giving them pterodactyl lessons in utero and sending them to expensive forcing-house schools the minute they turn two ("Yah, Ichabod's reely enjoying his astrophysics, this marvellous little man gives him two hours each Thursday - squeezed in between his Tantric Sex class and his Aikido - and says Ich is quite exceptional") and availing ourselves of the National Pro-Family Counselling Scheme at every crisis in our lives: hubby poking that slag Jules at work, wife feeling trapped, Ich going off the rails and sneaking off to Heaven with a nose-ring and a pocketful of GHB, sudden change in bowel habits and whatever you're having yourself.
But are we happy with this? Do we all want to be middle-class? Do we, particularly, all want to be middle-class on the grounds that it will please Toe-nee and make his job easier? Or do we feel that we might like to make his life hell on earth, and that we're damned if we'll be shoe-horned into some market-researcher's fantasy category for the short time we are on the planet? I know what I think, and next Sunday, having spent a week raising my political consciousness, I shall reveal the True Way Forward. Watch this space; and if in the meantime you hear a nasty wet plop, don't worry: it'll only be my nose. !