Am I alone? In what I’m about to say, I mean, but take it how you wish. There were a few years in my thirties when I went out six or more nights a week, more than a Hollyoaks starlet. The pub, for dinner and so on. Out. It’s a bit of a surprise that I survived it. But as I grow older I go out less. Far less. There are reasons, I’m sure. I, undeniably, have fewer friends now I’m in the second half of my fifties. I’ve moved to a more suburban part of London. There’s only one pub within walking distance and I don’t really like pubs anyway. I’m invited out to dinner far less. Has dinner become unfashionable? Maybe I’ve become unfashionable. I don’t invite people here more than six times a year. With notable exceptions, I don’t really enjoy the theatre and films really were better when I was younger. I go to a club once in a while, but, oh, I don’t know, just typing it embarrasses me slightly. It’s a club for Hogarthian fellows and those that appreciate them. Us. I don’t feel out of place. Perhaps it’s just that I’ve grown lazy. So what else is there to do?
Amanda invited me to a cabaret at Crazy Coqs, which is in the place that was called the Atlantic the last time I went. It’s quite glamorous, quite well done. We were going to have dinner after with the artiste, too. Why not, I thought, in my say-yes-to-everything mood. You can take that look off your face if you think I’m going to tell you the artiste’s name, but I’ll scatter clues. I will say she had a big hit in the 1970s, one that you’ll know. She was the lead in the second or third tour of big musicals and on tv occasionally; the Val Doonican Show, things like that. You can tell me on a Sunday if you get her name. She was ok on stage. I’m not going to see her again. She had that way of signposting jokes that only the truly humourless have. The lyricist Don Black was in the audience, he’d written songs for her. A ripple of excitement ran through the room when she said she was going to sing the theme from Howard’s Way. Amanda, generously, paid for the drinks.
Also with us was Amanda’s friend Peter, who was wearing a Chinese silk jacket the colour of midnight that I envied, and who had recently returned from eighteen days floating up the Mekon with Biggins. We waited for the artiste to sign things for her fans and spend twenty or so minutes chatting to them before we went for dinner next door, at Zedels. We ordered and the artiste began talking. About herself. It was a shame the noise of the restaurant drowned out so much of what she had to say. I had time to noticed how tiny her hands are, like the rain. She’s 72 and looks 50 and should have sold tickets to herself, which I suppose she had. £26.50! I once or twice got to say something, but I may as well have been invisible to the artiste. Peter insisted on paying for dinner. Brilliant. I gave little resistance. The taxi home took ages to drive down Regent Street as the Christmas lights were being installed.
The next night I went to a party for the fifth birthday of Great British Chefs, who I’ve been writing for. It was held at a smart Marcus Wareing restaurant in Covent Garden. The evening was like a boozy, glamorous symbol of my new life writing and taking pictures.
I gorged on white wine, canapés and young editors, all half my age and twice as lovely. People were so kind and generous about what I write. I met the utterly gorgeous Kyle, who I know likes this blog. We talked about all the places we’ve been and all the places we want to go. I met several other bloggers. One told me about blogger camp, which sounds like somewhere I don’t want to go. I drank way too much and forgot the word for macaron, which was vital at that moment because I was eating a mince pie flavoured one. I regretted that, but made up for it with all the others I ate. In a perfect world I would only eat canapés served to me on wooden boards by handsome waiters and only shop in the departure lounge of Terminal Five at Heathrow.
The taxi home smelled strongly of almond oil and the cabbie wanted to discuss which was the sexiest Spice Girl. He chose Scary, because she looked, to him, like a ‘right dirty northern bird’. I’m still deciding which is mine, but It’s probably Ginger.
The next evening I’d arranged to meet Martyn, with a y. I asked myself, I can’t resist, why. He’d noticed me, in that Hogarthian club, months earlier, and had sent me messages on Gaydar. Every week or two I’d get a text saying hello, we must meet soon. And now we were. I waited at Swiss Cottage tube.
It is a gay cliché for a gay man to say he doesn’t like gay clichés. And I liked that Martyn wasn’t a gay cliché. He’s an electrician, for one thing, and gay electricians are rare. Was there a spark? We sat in that handsome pub within walking distance. I had to work quite hard to get him to start talking, but I managed. (Maybe I should sell tickets to myself). He likes Scary best and for exactly the same reason as the cab driver had the previous night. He loves the style and music of the Mods. He goes to northern soul weekenders and Vespa rallies and was deciding whether to buy a thin-lapelled maroon tonic suit or a thin-lapelled purple tonic suit. He plays five-a-side football and looks like Alan Ball, who helped win the World Cup for England in 1966. He is, patently, a nice man. But these things can’t be rationalised. You can’t tick items off a list and say yes, that one will do. I came home from my first date and, what do you know, First Dates was on tv. What a week! It was the best I’ve had in a long time. And that’s why I love going out.
Oh, blimey. Must I include this? It seems I must. Sorry.