I know him pretty well, so I was certain, when Boy walked into that bar, that his surprise was genuine. He’s not the kind of guy who habitually fakes stuff; and he lives, mostly, on the surface: not being devious himself, he doesn’t suspect others of it. So the massed choir singing ‘Happy Birthday To You’ (in several different keys) may have momentarily thrown him emotionally, but he bounced back. After handshakes and kisses all round (I got both), he looked at his father and said “Any chance of a drink, then?”
At any party, there have to be a few, er, moments. Bloke provided them. Bloke is an enforced non-drinker, due to recent fatherhood, but obviously grabs the opportunity when it jumps up and licks his face. I’d guess that he’d stoked up the prospect of getting tanked for weeks, and shovelled in more and more fuel the nearer the event drew. Of course, what happens is that you peak far too soon. What happens after that depends on what the booze uncovers. (In my case, I’ve been told, I get mellowly amorous, so I’ve learnt – mostly – to contain that, although being seated between the two most attractive girls in the room didn’t help; I didn’t know which way to turn, but thank you, General…) In Bloke’s case, evidently, it’s Clarksonian banter. You know what I mean. There’s a fine line in there; blokeish ‘banter’ can easily tip over into obnoxious bullying, and the bully, even though he (it’s very rarely, though not never, ‘she’) might still have hazy sight of his behaviour, he has nowhere to go except more of the same.
I won’t go into details, even though he certainly won’t read this. Eventually he was quietly made to shut up. It didn’t spoil anything, and most people probably didn’t even notice it. I intervened a couple of times, and ended up having my shoulder figuratively cried on, at two a.m., when he’d got a glimmering of what he’d done and subsided into faux-remorse. And I’d only met him for the first time that afternoon. But I’ve learnt to deal with that kind of business.
You don’t need me to tell you that Sunday was a bad weather day. Luckily nobody felt much like walking the five mile length of St Ouen’s Bay. Driving back from Southampton airport, through monsoon rain, I heard Boy’s Nana say “Shame it had to be spoiled by the rain.” I’ve learnt to deal with Nana too, so I just grunted and carried on driving.