"No," I said. "I went out for a night on the town with Snakey. It's entirely different. He was very popular at Stringfellows."
"That's exactly what I mean," she said. "You took a draught-excluder to Stringfellows and you believe he was very popular."
Theo is one of my oldest friends. Don't you just hate your oldest friends? Just because they've known you forever they think they don't have to show you respect. They make... well, you know: remarks.
"It's terribly sad," she said. "You used to be my most interesting friend. There I am, in the sticks, but I could always come up to London and we'd hang out with fascinating people. Good conversation. Ideas. But you've gone to pieces. I don't meet anyone when I come to see you now."
"I'll introduce you to Snakey when we get back to the flat," I said. "You'll like him. He's - "
"He's a bloody tube," she said. "Just a tube, stuffed with kapok. If you ask me, Snakey needs a damn good kicking and so do you."
It had all started so nicely: a bottle of the house white, a plate of farfalle alla putanesca, the mad piano-player fixing me with his basilisk eye as he gave his interpretation of what was either The Girl from San Jose or Do You Know the Way to Ipanema, a man in the corner, blotto, who kept trying to work his mobile phone and dropping it in his zuppa del giorno. (Someone once asked a waiter in New York: "What's the zuppa del giorno?" "You a wait," he said and scuttled off to the kitchen. A minute later he came back. "Is a soup of a the day," he beamed.)
So there we sat, denouncing our old friends, gloating in their downfall. You know the sort of thing. "He's 20 stone now and completely impotent." "Hadn't you heard? Her husband ran away and now she's in prison." "They went off to Vienna to start a new life but she drinks all day and he's having an affair with a one-legged Nazi astrologer." "No!" "She is." "His trouble is, he's obsessed with potatoes." "Three PhD's and he mows lawns for a living." "The Spanish police are after him for timeshare irregularities." "Their fourth child was almost completely spherical and never stops talking." "Him? He's a Scientologist now."
Then we got on to marital breakdowns. "The thing I'd find hardest to deal with," I said, "is that I'd never see Snakey again, or M'sieu Hompe, or Other-a-Sponge, or Hubert or Urchie or - "
"Hang on," she said, "Who are they?"
I explained. "You mean they're soft toys," she said; "That's disgusting. Throw them away. You're vile. You're like those men who put advertisments in, `GSOH, own home and teeth, no emotional baggage', and then you find they've got all these soft toys."
"They aren't soft toys," I said. "You mustn't say that. You'll hurt their feelings."
"THEY DON'T HAVE SODDING FEELINGS," she shouted. The restaurant fell silent. "THEY'RE STUFFED! WITH KAPOK!"
You have to stick up for your friends. "In that case," I said icily, "perhaps you could explain why Snakey was such a success when I took him to Stringfellows."
Which is where we came in.
We argued back and forth but she didn't see my point at all. "You've been violating them," she said. "I bet you're at them in the night," she said. "So you not only hang out with a draught-excluder," she said, "you also hang out with a bath sponge. And you claim they're your friends." "I am outraged," she said; "this isn't just affection. This is commitment."
Well... I put it to you: am I so wrong? Am I so strange? If you could see Snakey and Other-A-Sponge through my eyes, you wouldn't see a draught- excluder and a bath sponge wrapped in a flannel. You would see a brave staunch fearsome manly snake. You would see a loyal affectionate penguin given to melancholy and introspection, one who has suffered, who has been hurt and learned to expect blows and betrayals but still hopes for the best. "It's just bloody projection," she said, but that's nonsense. It's not me; it's them.
And as for mocking Snakey because he is a draught-excluder, that's just contemptible. Categorising him like that. It's true that he has been trained as a draught-excluder, and if you were unfortunate enough to have any draughts, he would willingly exclude them with no thought for his personal comfort. But to say he is a draught excluder is as vile as saying I am a... well, whatever.
So: am I wrong? Am I mad? Do I need to see some snivelling therapist who will tell me that I must learn to love the little boy trapped inside me, and charge me sixty quid for the privilege?
Of course not. Look: we've just had a general election and look what happened there. We'll regret it for the next five years, just as we would have regretted it whatever happened. Look at those awful people, lying their heads off, grinning and gibbering like apes, trimming their disreputable jibs to the prevailing breeze. That's the sort of people we have to put up with, just like we have to put up with that frightful woman from Stagecoach, and Bernard Matt-hews, with giggling vicars and Richard Branson and fund managers and yelping oafs in Por-sches, with property consultants and Internet salesmen, with Royal Commissions and the great-and-good, with Islamic fundamentalists and Benjamin Netanyahu, with people getting off and getting away with it, with abusers and football gits and professional Lads and 23- year-old political analysts, with think-tanks and fashion pundits and experts and shags.
It's time for a change, but we haven't had it yet. What we need is incorruptible: Will Self for Prime Minister, and Snakey for King. Between them, they would carry us into the broad sunlit uplands. You know I am right.