It had been a difficult taxi ride home, as I was drunk enough to be unable to remember clearly directions to where I lived. And my wife was certainly no help being worse than I was. It was as I swayed outside my front door at 2 in the morning, with my wife propped against me, trying to make a key hit one of the 3 locks I could see. Closing one eye only narrowed it down to 2. Then the realization had struck me.
I had just arrived home, definitely the very worse for wear after returning from the evening celebrations of Gill’s wedding, the daughter of my friend Tex who I’ve mentioned before in Fred West The Carpet Layer.
Along with my wife, Jane and I, he had invited Jonny Moonshine and a friend Mark I had grown up with. We were a regular drinking gang and used to meet every-other Friday for a beer and a catch-up. The hotel was a lovely affair in Castleton, in between Manchester and Oldam, and the main room had been hired for the evening reception.
It was a beautiful summer, and I had spent the afternoon sunning myself in the garden, having a couple of cold beers and a relaxing read. I was looking forward to the evening and had already spoken to Tex to see how the day had gone. I think he was nervous but happy that things had run smoothly.
I was due to pick up John en-route to the venue, meeting Mark there. I have worked with Tex a fair few times over the years, and saw him on a regular basis. I’d known him from being 9 tears old, when we moved round the corner from him. Our garden ran the length of the adjacent 3 houses and my dad had converted one of the garages into a workshop at the bottom end of the garden.
Tex had done the same to his garage and his backed up to the side of my dads. Tex always knew when my dad was on a roll working in there, because all he’d hear was Bruce Springsteen thumping out. And when my dad had heard Tex machine wood he had stuck his head over the fence to have a chat about work. The end result being Tex eventually started working with us. Just as I began serving my time as an apprentice joiner.
Tex is always good company. Always talking and fills the spaces. And with work he’s meticulous with detail. Preparation being all. Always neat. Tidy. This is reflected in his personal presentation. Clean and tidy. Shaved each day, with a trimmed moustache. And as long as I’ve known him he’s had that moustache. Not a normal, plain moustache.
It’s a bristler.
When a normal person is a bit indignant, annoyed or happy, the emotions are standard fare planted on their faces.
Tex’s has a moustache which adds to his facial expressions. It tends to reflect whatever mood he’s in. I don’t think he realizes. Its up, down or bristling, going which-ever way his lip takes it. Happy, sad, shock, indignation, angry… Every shape his mouth makes as circumstances dictate, his moustache is an extension of that current situation. It actually works like a 3rd eyebrow..
Its a very visual attachment on his face and adds gravitas to almost every expression he has. He’d look naked without it.
He always has something to talk about. Its like every day is a lesson in information when your in his company. He as an eclectic memory, and relates every story to you with a whole list of additional information and side-trips into other tales before finally getting back on track with the original train of thought.
The main thing with Tex is names. He remembers a persons whole name. I struggle to remember first names. Shit. Some days I can’t remember mine. When Tex is telling you some story from his past, he’ll tell you about a certain person and I think he knows their first, last, middle and confirmation names. And the names of the that persons dog. A conversation could go something like this.
“Saw Old Billy Mcglocklin the other day. Still going. He used to deliver meat to all the big hotels in town. Billy used to drink in the conservative club. Liked a pint of stout before a game of snooker. Said it worked like ballast. Always ordered in 3 pints just before the bell for last orders at 11. Would order a taxi for quarter past and down the last pint and be walking out the door to climb in it at 14 minutes past. Lived on Broadway. By that butchers. You know George? George the butcher? Had a brother called Albert? George lived down Crab lane, No 4- no No 5, off Swan Street?. Was a miner for 18 years before he started in the butchers. Married to Mary. She used to be a Finnerty before she married George. Then she became a Flannigan. Always said she preferred being a Finnerty. Didn’t sound so Irish she said. Don’t know if I agree with that mind. Well Billy went to school with her dad, Albert. Years ago mind. You know Albert? Albert Finnerty?….”
And the mustache would work along with the stories.
Eventually he would stop for breath, and you would be able to throw a question in that you had being trying to hold onto from about ten minutes ago. If, that is, you could remember what the start of the story was about.
Tex could have told you though.
It was the same with street names. He will tell you a tale about a job and you’d be able to drive there yourself by the end of it. There’d be some verbal side trips off to another place, as he’d remember something else mid-way through what he was explaining about, and you wouldn’t get back to the end of the original tale till you’d travelled to Wales, fished a beach, then travelled back (M56/M60 junct 18 etc) to, “Oh aye, that job over in Didsbury.”
And then know enough about it to be able to do the job yourself..
His ability to remember information is unbelievable. Someone could explain something to me and I’d be out the door ten minutes later and be stood there bewildered, wondering,
where was I?/how had I got there?/and wtf is this leaflet in my hand about improving my memory???
Tex is the most informative person I know. I’m extremely close to him and think of him like a 2nd dad. He’s one of the few people in this world I’d think of first to confide in if I had a problem.
I’d have made myself comfortable when he stood up to make the father-of-the-bride speech is all I’m saying.
He’s fantastic company and as your coming to understand, has so many tales to tell. And he can’t move on in a story until he’s nailed down an elusive name that’s on the tip of his tongue. So he be circling round the tale, not moving forward until he suddenly snatches the missing name from a distant memory, and everyone can take a breath again.
You wouldn’t want him as your pilot. He’d have a moment of hesitation, where he knew he could see the airport, but would be sure he had forgotten something, and would be patting his pockets and couldn’t land until he finally remembered what it was. There would be some flights you’d be circling round on fumes until you finally land and taxi to a stop on the runway. (And Breeeeeathe)
Anyway. Back to it.
We eventually arrived at the venue having collected Old john on the way. We met mark and went in to find a table and get settled in.
“I’ll get the first round in.” I offered.
We got the drinks in and made our way into the room, muted lighting and already busy with people who had been at the main event during the day. Sitting down at a table, covered in a lovely table-cloth with a flower arrangement and candle lit, we settled in and took stock.
Everybody had obviously had a good day. Its always stressful for the bride and groom, just the sheer nerves of the day. But it looked like they were finally able to relax and enjoy the evening. We managed to say hello to Gill and her new husband Pete, congratulating them both, then briefly catch up with Tex who was still up in the air but enjoying himself.
We carried on talking amongst ourselves, taking turns to buy a round. Then I started to complement the round with a shot of Vodka, from the bottle I had brought along. In the end we were just buying cans of redbull to add to it. Jonny Moonshine slid out his hip flask and began to compound the situation by adding his trademark Tennessee Potcheen. Which had an alcohol content of some where around dropping a hippo, just shy of killing it.
Definitely comatose level.
As you can imagine, things became unsteady. Old john seemed to be on a mission. Mark on the other hand had caught the eye of an attractive woman and had reigned in his drinking in an attempt to be able to communicate with her. Jane, who normally just doesn’t drink, seemed to be going for gold. I should have known things were heading in the wrong way when she demanded to dance with me when a slow number came on.
“S’dance. S’go dance. Now!”
Now normally I’m the last person she’d want to dance with. As I only dance from the belly button up. Everything below that point kind of becomes glued in place. Have you ever watched a football game with one of those wind-blown, tubular figures behind the goal, with air blowing through the torso so it stands upright? But really, the only parts that really move are the arms that are waving around its head like some sort of demented Mexican wave.
Yeah. That’s me.
Not that Jane cane write home about her dancing. But, well, I wouldn’t want to dance with me.
So I should have known she was blind drunk by that point.
Getting to the dance floor was an achievement all by itself. We were both weaving our way over to the crush, and I think our drunken staggering took us off in opposite directions of each other at one point. We were of the same mind you understand. But no actual coherent hand-eye co-ordination. And it was only by fortunate pin-balling off people in the direction we each took, that we were just plain lucky in bumping into each other on the dance floor.
Because, much as I love my wife, at that point I’d have clung to the bride if she landed in front of me.
We managed to get a firm grip on each other and gently swayed along to the slow tune.
What I believe happened next was, we actually fell asleep, each one slumped, propping the other upright. Because I suddenly came to with a start, with no-idea how many songs later, with the music half-way through some high tempo, Bee-Bop tune, and with bodies bouncing around our gently swaying postures.
Obviously it was time to go.
We made our way to the taxi’s outside and I’m still unsure how we got home.
It was there, at the front door that I suddenly realized we had forgotten Jonny Moonshine.
What could I do? There was no way I could leave my wife. I couldn’t walk straight myself. Ah well. I’m sure he would understand. How drunk was he anyway? Nahhhh. He’d be finnnnnnne.
I was too drunk to worry over-much and I say with a little shame it didn’t take me long to go to sleep.
The next day dawned painfully. I took myself downstairs and made coffee. Lots of coffee. I was probably on my 3rd cup before I began to seriously sort out what had happened last night.
“oh shit! John!”
I was straight to the phone.
“Hello? John? Oh thank Christ for that! You OK? I’m reeeeeally sorry about last night John. Can’t apologize enough. You get back alright?”
As I connected with John and Mark that day, I managed to piece back together what had happened and they filled me in on their side of the evening.
Mark had spent the evening with the young lady, staying reasonably sober, even, arranging a date. John on the other hand was near paraletic. To the point of Mark realizing Jane and I had left, going in search of him to make sure he was ok.
He eventually found him in the men’s toilet, feeling his way around the walls. John unable to competently find the exit, had decided it was a process of elimination and was working his way around the toilet by feel alone. Along the wall, into then out of the first cubicle, into then out of the next and so on. Reasoning that one of these doors would lead to sanctuary.
Mark came across him just as he was feeling his way across the urinals.
Anyhow, it was a case of putting him in a taxi and sending him home. John told me the next day,
“The only thing I remember, and I have the bruise to show it, was trying to focus and lean forward to put my key in the front door. Only I completely missed and went head first into the bottom panel and nearly head-butted my way through it…It bloody hurt I know that.”
Jane didn’t even get out of bed the whole of the next day.
I know 3 things with confidence out of all this. Tex, would have taken a deep breath through his nose, and squared his shoulders, his moustache rising and bristling as he did so, and he most certainly would have remembered his way out of the toilet – for sure.
And, he’d have remembered his own street – definitely.
But, he sure as fuck, would have remembered Jonny Moonshine.