The train pulls out, and he starts dialling. It's weird how people seem only to use their mobiles once they're on the move: there's good reason for not flushing train lavatories in stations, but this is taking the word "mobile" a bit too literally. He tries a series of numbers without success, beeping like a Gameboy. Eventually, he gets through, and goes "a-hi, it's me. On the train". The voice he uses is, as one expected, effete. I once got taken to task by a Wykehamist - they do so love to show off their classical educations - for misusing this word. "Don't you know, you silly woman," he said, "that effete means worn out by excessive childbearing?" "Yes, darling," I replied. "And haven't you ever noticed that most of the people in the latter half of the 20th century who want to be perceived as sophisticated ape the mannerisms of post-parturition death-bed scenes in 19th-century novels?"
"Mmm, mmm, me too," the tired voice toils on as the weary eyelids bravely flutter, "Do you fancy doing something tonight? Mmm. Go out or something? No. I'm not going there. Somewhere cool. Yes, I suppose so. I'll meet you there about tennish, then. Mmm. Yeah. Bye." He slides in his aerial and gazes at the tweed-effect nylon covering the seat in front of him. I thank my stars that I won't be having to spend the night where he'll be spending it.
Except that it doesn't work out that way. Once I've fought through the Cup-Final crowds and into a taxi, the whole evening turns hideously chrome. The boys have decided we have to go to The Saint: one of those irreversible "but everyone's already in there and we can't get in touch with them to tell them we're not coming" decisions. I whine, I beg, I even try folding my arms and refusing, but the force of my character is unequal to the lure of halogen spots in artistically curved false ceilings.
We get into another taxi. "Please," I say. "Pleeeaaaase don't make me go there. It's Saturday night. We'll have to go across Leicester Square and I'll catch some horrible suburban germ. And I've never gone somewhere with bouncers on the door in my life. And you can never get into the loo in those joints because everyone's queueing to powder their noses and then going straight to the back of the queue because it'll have worn off by the time they get to the front again. And, anyway, I'm not cool. I never have been cool and I'm not going to start now." None of it works. They drag me, wailing and moaning, across the Charing Cross Road, past the queue and up to the door.
The first person I see is Trainboy. Actually, that's not true. The first person I see is Eddie Izzard, who seems to be moonlighting as a doorman. He gives me a look. "Can I help you?" he says, the words loaded with meaning. I'm just about to say "Yes, you can, actually. Would you mind saying that I'm not cool enough to come in here so I can go and have a nice time somewhere else?" when it turns out that we're on the list and I am dragged down a grand-entrance staircase stolen from the set of Sunset Boulevard and into hell.
No, really. If Lucifer gave me a choice between eternity on red-hot embers and eternity crammed into a basement with a group of people who never smile and think that spending six quid on a single drink is a good idea, the old hellfire would win, no contest. Trainboy is in a booth with his identical twin and a bottle of wine. They don't speak, just gaze sorrowfully out at the room. Someone hands me a king's ransom in vodka- and-tonic, and the glass is so heavy it slips through my fingers and soaks the trousers of the man next to me. I find myself at the centre of a Bateman cartoon: eyes roll, 15 people approach, pointedly wielding mops, chicly bobbed heads bow together to comment on my klutziness.
I remember why cool people always have short haircuts: my hair is great in winter, but having a 15-tog duvet hanging down the back of your neck is no laugh in tropical heat. Digging in my handbag for a couple of Biros to pin it up with, I glance up to see a tiny person in pigtails and a gym slip walk past, chained at the wrist to a boy whose yellow hair matches his eye-shadow. They weave their way through a group of identical lace dresses, cast a look of contempt over their shoulders and waltz up the staircase toward the street. I scream after them: "Please! Take me with you!" but my voice is lost in the thrum of Seventies disco remixes.Reuse content