Sid was wearing a hideous new jacket that Veronica gave him for Christmas. I can't imagine what Veronica was thinking about. It's about three sizes too big for a start. And the two-inch red and black checks make Sid look like a retired lumberjack. But she chose it for him, so we mustn't say anything. "Lovely jacket, Sidney," said Little-Eyed, stepping back to feast his eyes on it. "Must have cost a bit."
"No sense in being poor and dressing poor, is there?" said Sid, maintaining a poker face.
We sat down at one of the window tables and Little-Eyed's wife Maureen joined us. Eyeing Sid's jacket she said, "So what time does the carnival start, Sid?"
Then turning confidentially to Veronica, she said, "Babe, how can you bear to be seen in public with a man who dresses like that? He looks like CoCo the Clown. You ought to smarten him up a bit."
"Permission to give your missis a red head?" said Dad to Little-Eyed, only half jesting.
"Men. Aren't they pathetic?" said Maureen to Veronica.
"You can try if you like," said Little-Eyed, opening his menu.
We looked at the menus. "What do you fancy Maureen?" I said. "Oh, I eat anything," said Maureen airily. "Anything except red meat and fish."
"Well, that don't leave a lot," Sid said, rapidly scanning his menu. "Looks like you're going to have to go straight in to the ice-cream, babes."
We had a fair few bottles of wine between us during the meal, and a big bottle of brandy after it. Then the the two Rachels turned up. Then Outside Tony and Wobbling John with a few of their villain friends and their wives. And then Little-Eyed Dave got behind the bar, put on one of his Supertramp CDs and got busy with the cocktail shaker. And before we knew it, we had ourselves a jolly little pre-Christmas party going.
At one point one of Wobbling John's villain friends got out a polythene bag filled with marijuana and put it on the table.
"Anyone mind if I skin up?" he asked as he licked the gummed edge of a Rizla. By way of indicating that he was among broad-minded people, I snatched up his bag and crammed it in my mouth like I was some sort of a madman.
Fascinated, we watched him build his joint. Clearly someone who took pride in his ability to roll a decent joint, he took time and trouble over it so that we might appreciate the meticulous craftsmanship that went into its construction. Just because it was illegal didn't mean he had to be unprofessional about it. Eventually he produced an immaculate, cone-shaped, six-skinner, set fire to the wider end, took a long drag on it, and offered it to Sid, who was sitting beside him.
Sid shied away from it like a spooked stallion.
"No fear, pal: I might get 'ooked on it," he said. Taking it delicately between thumb and forefinger Sid passed it on to Veronica, who also refused it by folding her arms tightly, closing her eyes, pursing her lips, and shaking her head. I didn't bother either. The old Bob Hope makes me paranoid for one thing, and for another - call me old-fashioned - I wouldn't have felt comfortable smoking it in front of my old man. Everyone else had a toke on it, including Maureen, which surprised me. "As it's Christmas," she said, putting it to her lips. When she dragged on it she went cross- eyed and her eyebrows shot up.
The most immediate effect it had on those who smoked it, was that they all became fixated by Sid's jacket. There was a sort of awkward silence and then one of the Rachels said to Sid, "That's some jacket you've got there, mate" - and they all fell apart, as if she'd spoken for them all, and it was in fact the funniest thing they'd ever seen. Maureen was braying like a demented donkey.
"Bloody load of 'op 'eads," he said, getting up from the table.Reuse content