It's a choice between me and Mr Mellor

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The Independent Online
IT HAPPENS that I am writing a book about the future of the world. This is mildly daunting, though I have until Christmas to do it. There isn't much that cannot be said in six months. But to be truthful, I do sometimes find myself tossing and turning in the pre-dawn hours, as unbidden arguments rehearse themselves. There is the almightiest noise in the eaves on account of some family of nondescript birds continuing their squat, and the wider dawn chorus seems in these frenzied moments to be lined up on an electricity cable strung inside my own forehead.

Perhaps as a relief to the existential horror of sitting alone all day and wrestling half the night with these rebellious thoughts, I have taken to partying with something of a vengeance. Little realising how illustrious was my role model, I took a bottle of Oddbins pink fizz into my bout on local radio with Bodacious (as the local MP's gorgeous son has taken to calling himself in honour of his outing in this column a fortnight ago; 'The cheque's in the post,' he said). David Mellor, the Minister for Fun, is reported to have taken a similar gesture into his encounter with Sue Lawley. Poor chap, he won't be heard locally because at 12 noon tomorrow everyone around here will be tuned in to me.

Anyway, Bodacious wasn't riding his Harley that day, so I didn't get a chance to try out the 'bitch pad', which is what the real men who get their legs across these throbbers call the pillion. Instead, he was driving a radio car more emblazoned and vulgar than a Grand Prix racer, and wouldn't drink more than a thimble- worth of the fizz. So I got drunk while being recorded talking about my favourite records (can you imagine a better buzz?), and then couldn't resist smoking some of his Camels when he lit one up in the little continental-style cafe, where an amiably forward teenager doled us up crepes which looked like army blankets but tasted a lot better. I was moaning about how bourgeois the kids in this country city and perhaps the whole Western world are, about how they've got nothing to argue about, when I realised that the girls are wearing exactly the sort of scruffy clothes English teenagers have affected for the last 30 years, so things can't be so bad.

Soon after that, I had to go to bed. One way or another, the parties just haven't stopped. The people who ran the best pub in the world left, so there were some late-night shenanigans - and blubbing - to be had there. The man who helped to paint the house has been gigging far more just recently, so I hitched a ride into town on an artic to see him strut his stuff amidst much misplaced jossing that he needed a zimmer not a microphone stand. Talking of zimmers: a weekend guest and I were offered a substantial slurp before and after we wheeled a party of elderly people around the flower festival. They are coming out here again soon, partly because they love the tea and cake, and partly because the slightly improbable saint who organises these outings is not remotely averse to sending them back to matron with a sherry or a scotch in them if that's their idea of fun.

DO YOU know that Old King Cole-style mock medievalism with which Cardiff Castle was done out earlier this century? Well, we have something very like it just near here, and the midsummer ball was held in it as usual. The band was wonderful, and some of the posher villagers partied there with an almost dangerous will. Things were whispered, eyes flashed; one or two couples went home flushed. There was unfinished business. It all went to prove that nothing will stamp out passion. For all that its voice is a soft burr, this place is as hot as a Brazilian favela.

One curiosity: the landscape is full of places dear to this or that villager as the scene of al fresco lovemaking. One man delights in the story of taking his wife out to a spot where they desported under the moon's silvery gaze. The next day she declared herself to have been too sozzled for the full perfection of the event to be with her, and demanded a repeat performance the next night. He duly obliged, a little tickled (but less than her) by the discovery that the farmer had in the meantime combined the field, which was now rougher than designer stubble against her cheeks.

After about a fortnight of excess, of gossip, of secrets and indiscretions as thick in the air as a swarm of bees, it was time for healthy exercise. I cleaned up a couple of bikes and have taken to pedalling into town instead of using cabs. But the real improvement came with a Saturday night barn dance. Being Herefordshire, this was conducted in a vast shed in which the ammoniac smell of cattle urine did battle with the burger and onion fumes.

Barn dances are in any case astonishing events. The drills look homely and relaxed, but get stuck in there, and you have to concentrate like fury while hurling yourself and other people around in a way which makes disco dancing look like a Japanese tea ceremony. We missed the goings on at the gate, when a youth decided to sort out some problem with his girl by picking up a crowbar as a persuader. The women who seemed to be hosting the do said that it had come to nothing. Being from round here, they'd seen it all before.

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