On Monday evening, I was sitting at home (I know!) feeling vaguely sorry for myself. There are a number of reasons (or at least rationalisations) that I might present to explain the ennui which was gripping me.
Firstly, I had just finished my current book (of the fictional variety) which is always a bittersweet moment. It is always nice to know what happened and achieve the dreaded ‘closure’, but I am also wrenched from the company of my new fictional friends and don’t know when we’ll be reunited. In this case, I believe the next book in the series has finally been translated from French after a mere 20 years – and, before regular readers ask, no I was not left in charge of its translation.
Secondly, I think I am reaching my limit when it comes to coping with cold, grey and wet weather for this winter. Sadly, winter has other ideas though, perhaps in an attempt to improve the morale of the wider populace, the Met Office are currently forecasting a degree of improvement in both temperature and the availability of sunshine for the denizens of Southampton over the next few days. I haven’t even seen a single snowdrop yet this winter, though I have seen a lone daffodil displaying its cheerful yellow trumpet, despite the unfavourable conditions.
Finally (for now), I have acquired an odd subcutaneous lump in the palm of my right-hand. At this stage, it is unclear whether this is a physical injury I don’t remember inflicting upon myself, my body’s response to some sort of infective agent or whether I have been drugged and some sort of tracking device has been fitted by a curious spying agency or alien power (it was always only a matter of time!). Until the forces of medical orthodoxy take a look at it on Friday morning and deliver a diagnosis (I’m hoping for something other than murder), I have had to suspend training for the human flag as a precautionary measure.
Having established the emotional state and underlying motivation of our hero, I can now reveal that it was at this point that my mobile phone rang. Yes, unusually, I actually had the sound switched on and so I heard it call out (terrible attention-seeking behaviour which I probably shouldn’t encourage) rather than letting it sob silent and ignored in whichever location I had last left it languishing. Taking this is an omen, I answered and was greeted with a question which I shall paraphrase (sadly, my calls are not recorded even for the all too necessary purpose of training) as ‘are you coming to the quiz?’. The distant voices also seemed keen for me to generate a name for their team using my basic skills with the pun. I hadn’t planned on going to the quiz (though I’m always up for a pun), but I had nothing particular planned and the rain was temporarily in abeyance and so agreed to haul my sorry ashes to the Talking Heads for some light-hearted interrogation.
It is quite a while since I last went to a pub quiz and I will admit that my hopes were not high. However, my re-casting of my mother’s advice (dating from when I was reluctant to go to school) to propose that I will feel better if I go out was once again proved to be on the money. I had a really great evening out – and my team (‘Natural Quiz-aster’) came within a gnat’s crochet of winning, if only I’d been more confident about my guess as to the name of New Orleans International Airport! I don’t need to expound upon the cruelty of the penalty shoot-out – or in this case, sudden-death anagram. Still, this last gasp defeat in no way prevented me from having a jolly good time.
If I were to analyse why I had so much fun, I might start by pointing to the replacement of my fictional French friends with some live, real British ones. There was also a much lower risk that my real friends would be topped by a psychotic failed opera singer than their virtual counterparts. I would also have to admit that the pub quiz format certainly offers an excellent opportunity for me to show off the vast morass of useless knowledge that I have accumulated (and failed to lose) over the last half century or so. Sometimes even I don’t know where the answer comes from, I’ve just learned that I should usually trust the source.
Finally, I can point to the return to the bar of a real ale from a source other than Palmers: a brewery which fails to bring joy to this drinker’s heart, except by its absence. Even better, the guest ale was Mosiac from Red Cat: a brewery which has brought a lot of joy into my recent life with an almost infeasibly good range of decent ales. I think they may be my favourite brewer of the moment! In researching this post, I have discovered that Red Cat do offer tours of their Winchester brewery with what looks like unlimited ale included in the ticket price. It is way past time that I found 5 friends (or, at a pinch, total strangers) and availed myself of this opportunity!
I was also the recipient (or victim) of a portrait by one of my team mates. This was drawn without looking at the paper or removing the pen from the paper – but with lots of eye contact with the sitter. I, naturally, enjoyed being the centre of attention!
Following the quiz, my team repaired to the green room of the Talking Heads (a place I have never visited, but will obviously be returning to with my band and our rider in the not too distant future) to watch the last episode of the current series of Inside No. 9. This really is a consistently well and interestingly written 30 minutes of television. However, it was only the following day that I realised that the series has a connection to my own life…
I shall leave you to ponder the baroque, often macabre, twists of my life that might connect it to the works of Messrs Shearsmith and Pemberton. Instead, I shall leave you with the thought that going out with friends is an excellent cure for accidie.