Watch out, Wilbert, I'm coming to get you

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The Independent Culture
Well ... we made it, nearly. Only a few days to go and that's it: another year under the belt, to be sifted for tolerable memories and then filed neatly away in the box marked "What on earth was that all about?"

How was it for you? Quite. That's what I thought. But that's your problem and you won't get any sympathy from me. I have other fish to fry. Right now, compliant Twicity - hey, sweetcakes! - is splayed on the sofa, a confection of wilfulness and Agent Provocateur lingerie, one ankle cocked behind her slender neck with the sort of insouciance which can only be mustered by a woman due to inherit pounds 275m when Daddy croaks. Should I complain? No; not when my new platinum wristwatch is ticking away nicely, the bills are all paid, Lobb are working overtime on my new pair of shoes, the Concorde tickets are nestling next to my AmEx card - upgraded from Platinum to Black just in time for Christmas - in the breast pocket of my favourite Huntsman suit.

The new Clerkenwell loft - you could entertain 250 people for Christmas Eve drinks (as we did) - is, gosh, lovely. The floors are waxed and glowing, the tree hasn't dropped a single needle, there's a delicious smell of money and cigars and beeswax and Connolly hide, but soon it will be time to step into the Ferrari and head off for Heathrow, and if I write another word of this filthy, envy-sodden tissue of lies I will throw up.

But it would have been nice. It would have been nice to have made it through a whole y ear without once waking up, queasy and despondent, worrying about everything, without once having to hide from anyone at all, without once wondering why I haven't the guts to sell everything, buy a big gun and a pair of Revo shades and sneak out under cover of daylight to rematerialise under a false name in the Florida Keys.

It would have been nice not to have thought, even once, how pleasant it would be to find a bond trader who had just received a pounds 1m bonus, and punch him in the sodding funnel, and rip his insides out, and stamp on his head until (though it might take some time) his brains trickled out onto the blond-wood flooring of whatever rotten Conran-style boozer he was infesting with his filthy, snipe-faced, vulgarian gobshite blathering, and shut him up for ever.

It would have been nice to make it through an entire year without feeling envious of everyone at least once ... because it has been a bad year for envy, believe me. Things got so bad that in the week before Christmas, on the Clapham Tube (though God knows what I was doing on the Clapham Tube) I found myself envying an obvious fool, a trainee loser, an unarguable Wilbert. There he sat, with his pink face and his watery eyes behind aquarium glasses, in his terribly traditional pinstriped suit, with his black Oxford shoes neatly polished, and his clean hands clutching an old-fashioned briefcase as though it were the Ark of the Covenant.

You could see it all at a glance. The horrid little house on the terrible huge mortgage. The fur-niture, shabbily twee-bohemian. The bookshelves, racked with original orange-cover Penguin editions, embarrassingly annotated meta- physical poets from his University days, the odd volume of Victorian pornography. The smell of meat - proper meat - and porridge. The woolly socks, and the Rituale Romanum open on the prie-dieu, a reminder of the time when he thought he was going to be a priest. You could see the dinner- parties - Wilbert presiding over his ex-University friends, discussing impanation and Vizigoths before going into the icy little drawing-room to listen to Gilbert and Sullivan on the old Dansette Bermuda. And then the nervous couplings in his narrow bed, witnessed by his military hairbrushes and his bottle of Trumper's Eucris ... and the cold waxy mornings ... the difficult goodbyes with thin nervy girls, already late for their jobs at Sotheby's and Asprey and the BBC ... the bitten thumbnail, the scrawny cat called "Cat", the bottle of blue-black Quink, the scarifying shave with brush and old-fashioned safety-razor.

Poor Wilbert. I was so jealous of him, and simultaneously wanted to gently remove his spectacles and hit him in the eye, and I think it was because he was just another poor bugger who had no idea how it was going to turn out. There he was, thinking he was getting it right with his careful Englishness and his Catholicism, his serious-mindedness and asceticism and his terrible hunger for the Old Ways, when all it was, was that he was secretly ravenously frightened and had read too much Evelyn Waugh ... and it wasn't doing him any good at all. Soon it would all disintegrate. The man-of-letters stuff would not work out, the little house would be repossessed, God would desert him, he would come to feel silly in his clothes and wonder whether it wasn't too late to start being a bastard and getting some money and having some fun.

I know, because I used to be a bit of a Wilbert myself, and what happens is that, when your Wilbertism evaporates, there's bugger-all to put in its place ... and what I envied was not what Wilbert was now, but the fact that he wasn't yet what he would become. He was still secure in his fustian cocoon, God and Class anchoring him, his mistaken Chestertonian Englishness sheltering him from harm.

Three days to go. It's been a bugger of a year, but I can at least try and change things for Wilbert. I propose to burn his house down, pour his Quink down the drain, poison his cat, tear his hideous suit from his back and squeeze him into a pair of black leather trousers and lock him up in a terrible Hanseatic bordello until he learns to be a manipulative rude aggressive bastard who doesn't give a hang for anyone else. Then it's a clear run to the money, the Ferrari, the loft, and Twicity's welcoming thighs. There's my good deed for 1997 ... and as for my own resolutions, they're the same as ever: become someone different, and live their life to the full.

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