Once upon a time, I did something I didn’t want to do, and it worked out okay. Strike that, it worked out great.
The year was 1986 and I didn’t want to go. No way, nuh huh, ‘didn’t fancy it, ‘wasn’t doing it, leave me alone.
It was Saturday and I had my weekend all planned out. I had been living in London for two years by then and I was well into my life there. Work hard all week, take it easier on the weekends whenever possible. I was never what you would call a ‘Party Animal’. (Somebody called me that at a party once and I threw them down the stairs, but that’s a tale for another day.) I liked a visit to the movies, maybe a bite to eat out somewhere. A pub visit, okay. Just, please, no parties.
There was a party that evening. Everybody was meeting in a pub down Borough High Street. ‘The George’, you might even know it. After that, there was going to be a party in a nurse’s flat right beside Guy’s Hospital.
I just wasn’t into it. I had plans; you see. I had got a free ticket from ‘Time Out’ for a free preview screening of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ in Leicester Square at 10.00am on Sunday morning. That was the plan. A quiet night in, on Saturday, then up early for a nice traffic-free drive into central London. Park down at Carlton House Terrace (there always seemed to be a parking space for me down there) then a leisurely stroll over to Leicester Square for the movie. A nice morning, requiring a fairly nice early night.
So, no party for me, no way. 'Not a party animal anyway, me.
I had the car, and I didn’t really drink. There were people in my household who really wanted to go to this party. And the going wasn’t even the problem. The ‘getting home’, however, therein lay the rub. So, I was cajoled and pleaded-with, begged, bribed, and bastardised (maybe not that last one).
“Okay, Okay. I’ll go.”
I reluctantly revised my plan. I could go, suffer the party until around two, round up the tipsy lads and hit back across the city to Ealing. A couple of hours sleep, and I could still make the free movie in town.
The George was packed. There was no comfort for me in it. I don’t like being in crowds like that. I don’t function too well. It was your typical ‘crowded room’. And, across that crowded room… there was a girl. She looked really cool. Who was she?
I don’t think we ever got talking in the pub. It was too crowded. But I was suddenly more motivated to go to the party afterward. I have a memory of walking through Guy’s A&E with a plastic bag full of cans which belonged to someone I’d never met. It was a long time ago; I don’t really know.
We got talking at the party, this girl and me. I gave her a lift home. I had a casette of 'One Trick Pony' by Paul Simon on the car stereo, and she knew all the words. The lads were in the back. She was staying in Hounslow, so I dropped her home. She was new in London and I asked if I could show her around a little some evening. She said, “How could I refuse such a kind offer?”
Thirty-five years later and she’s over there in the kitchen now, reading the Saturday paper which is spread out on the table. I’ll have to get off this computer soon as she wants to do some work on her essay. I never did get to that free preview screening of Little Shop of Horrors. Never mind, I saw it when it finally came out. She’s lovely.
I'd better wrap this up.
Perhaps that 'moral of the story' I gave you at the start wasn’t really the right one. Sometimes you have to follow the story all the way through to the end know what the real moral is. Maybe it isn’t as simple as just sometimes doing something you don’t want to do, although that still applies. I think, in this case, the moral of the story might be that we should never lose sight of the miracles that stay in our lives. The amazing things that are right there in front of us, all of the time. The things we are singularly gifted with and, without which, we would be simply adrift. I think that’s the real moral of this story.
It’s essay time, apparently.
I've got to go.