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The Wedding Party




The Chess Tournament

There were 34 of us kids. And 19 were girls. All in the last year of primary school - which means we were around 10 or 11 years old... what they call year '5' these days, I believe.

One day the teacher, a burly affable guy named Beadle, announced that he'd decided to organise a chess tournament. So, as often the practise in those days, he separated us into girls and boys. Then we were put into pairs, and instead of normal lessons we played chess.

(nicked from banksy)

First, each kid wrote their name on a tag which was placed in a box. These were then removed one at a time so each subsequent same-gender tag would make a pair. This resulted in 16 pairs - 9 of girls and 7 of boys, plus a boy and a girl over who had to just watch for the first round.

For the second round the winner's tags were placed again in the box, but now including the two who'd had to watch for the first round. These were then re-selected for 9 pairs - 5 of girls and 4 of boys.

The third round, selected in the same way, ended with 2 pairs of girls and 2 of boys with the girl whose tag emerged last having to watch.

The fourth round comprised just two pairs: 1 of girls and 1 of boys, once more the girl whose tag was removed from the box last, had to watch... except this time the girl who'd watched before kept her tag so she wouldn't be last twice.

Finally, after an extra game played by the last two girls, the winning boy played the winning girl. And what a game! Everyone crowded around - as they had too for the last match between two boys and the last between two girls.

So that was the procedure...

And this, incredibly, was the result:

I announce this ~55-years after the event, having hardly played chess since.... maybe a dozen games at most, but not for more than a decade. And if memory serves, I think I won about two of that dozen.... perhpas three, all played many years after that fluke tournament result. Here's a shot of the prize:

I remember well my last two games of that tournament. The last boy I played should really have won. He was a good friend too. Luckily the match didn't change that. It's a rule in chess that once you touch a piece, then you have to move that piece. This was his mistake. He knew the instant he touched it that it was the wrong piece. But everyone was watching. He was trapped. Otherwise there's no way I'd have won. And the girl, she got the consolation prize of a smaller book. Her name was Susan, and she was easy to beat - though I'd wager it wasn't from being less skilled than me, but because she was intimidated by the gender bias which in those days was as powerful as the anti-black and anti-gay prejuduce that seemed to dominate society then. No one ever mentioned these weird 'accepted' prejudices, but to me they were all elephants-in-the-room, as large and obvious as many other irrationalities of the authorities that supported them. Perhaps I was alone in my observations (or perceptions), as in so many other things at the time. Luckily, forward-looking pioneers like Germaine Greer (and James Baldwin, and later Peter Tatchel) put the dampers on a lot of it, though still those repugnant prejudices lurk. They're like a pernicious slime that worms itself into many places, invisible to most, but thriving well and most abundant amidst Fascist or half-wit groups who for some reason prefer to dwell on how they might increase hassle for the world - a bit like so many absurd religions.... if there's such a thing as a religion that isn't absurd?

But that chess book is one of just two prizes I've 'won' during my life. The second was another book (this time of my choice) and another weird fluke, but also a total surprise. I didn't even know such a prize existed until it was awarded... not that it was anything especially outstanding, either achieved by me or issued by those giving the prize. Looking at it now, it strikes me as extremely trivial, but I gained a fine little book from it that would have been beyond my budget at the time, and on a subject that greatly interested me then:


And this is the book:






The Deception

I was delivering a memo to the News spur when I first saw Toby Foss. He reminded me of the great dancer Nureyev .... I noticed him watch me cross the big open space of the studio. Returning a few minutes later, I could feel my heart pound as I told myself to be bold. Then I gave him a friendly smile and called 'Hi.'

To look at, Toby might really have been a ballet dancer. His camp posture and striking countenance was a definite attention grabber, then you'd notice the poise, the sleek black hair, glowing black eyes, pale skin... not exactly what one associates with a journalist.

He nodded back. OK, I thought, here we go. So I went over and said why I was there, adding with a sweep of my arm that this struck me as a very fine area to work in.

'I suppose it is.' he said, quietly, 'But probably like anywhere else, once you get used to it.'

'True,' I said, 'but you should see where I hang out.'

Lucky for me he knew nothing of my department, so within a few days I showed him around and we began to get to know one another.

He'd joined as a 'Training Investigative Journalist' a month earlier after completing an intensive two-year course in journalism. He'd also spent a year as a freelance on several newspapers when still a teenager.

We were in the bar about a week later when he told me how glad he was to know someone from another department at last, and how his first assignment in News had turned sour even before it had got off the ground.

'The chief editor aborted it.' said Toby, 'That was a few days before your auspicious visit to the spur.'

'Must have had his reasons.' I said.

'He had those all right.' said Toby in a tone of acute scepticism, 'It was an elaborate deception, and it failed. Most likely all the commands came from on high.'

'On high?' I said.

'Government.' said Toby, raising his eyebrows.

'I'm listening,' I said.

'To start with, the task had looked innocent enough.' he explained, 'Even a bit of fun. The mandate was to answer lonely-heart ads in 'Time Out'. The editor would analyse responses for certain clues, which he refused to define, then select the clients he thought I should meet. My part was to attend, then write a detailed script - or story - around each meeting.'

'Sounds like he was hoping for some kind of nouveau-style drama-documentary?' I said.

'If I had an imagination,' sighed Toby, 'I'd write drama. As it is, I'm useless at it. That's why I went in for journalism instead of fiction... believe me, I've tried.'

'I mean, maybe he didn't want imagination.' I said, 'TV is stuffed solid with it already. Maybe this was to be totally authentic.'

'That might fit the theory.' said Toby, 'In practice one needs at least some augmentation; reality usually needs sprucing up a bit.'

I nodded, 'A traumatic childhood is the secret, so they say. Like for writing any good fiction. I guess a wealth of experience in powerful emotions to draw-on is fairly crucial.'

'You need a certain arrogance too.' Toby replied. I glanced at him and smiled. For a moment he looked bemused, then he grinned, 'Not to be confused with vanity... And you need to be a good liar as well, another skill I lack.'

I laughed, and we both took a drink.

'Not much in my childhood was especially painful,' he continued shortly, 'nor especially uplifting... what I remember above all is a kind of tired boredom with no incentive to change anything or to try and develop or move in any particular direction.'

'Same here,' I said, 'more or less; an easy life at home and a difficult time at school.'

'An interesting contrast,' he said, 'I guess as a kid I was a bit of a conformist, which I now regret. When there's something to fight for, one has to fight. I never did that.'

'Or something to fight against,' I suggested, 'which I did a bit. All good experience, if also harrowing.'

'People who avoid conflict are inclined to be objective... which is precisely what's needed for good journalism.' he added contentedly.

'So what happened then?'

'As I say, the intention was to attend several meetings, and write an appraisal of each. My first lonely-heart the editor handed me was someone called Ali.'

'For Alison?'

'I was hoping a female,' he said, 'or at least someone unusual or exotic. Ali was a guy. He'd responded with just his phone number and the message 'Call me'. When I asked the editor how he could decide from that alone, he said the clue was in the location, revealed by the number: not far from Chelsea, he said.'

'One of the wealthiest areas in London,' I mused, 'probably with quite a few Arabs, hence Ali.'

'You'd think that,' groaned Toby, 'But this Ali guy turned-out to be totally English - and even worse, middle class. I nearly hung-up on him. I'd been misled. I felt cheated. I thought: this won't make a story.'

'What do you mean,' I said, 'by middle class?'

'Accent, for one thing,' he said, 'but where he lived too. It wasn't exactly Chelsea, but in one of those Victorian terraces just south of the Thames; within walking distance of Westminster.'

'Even so, must be worth a few million?'

'I suppose.... anyhow Ali was quite bossy, though in a cheerful kind of way. He instructed me to bring a bottle of Chablis, not less than a tenner, he emphasised. I told him I'd never forked-out more than a fiver. He said he'd know if it was less. For some odd reason, after a while, I began to kind-of warm to him. Not like him... I definitely didn't like him. I put that judgment on hold - objective, you see? He seemed interesting though; a little strange, maybe eccentric, but the more we talked the more I was intrigued. I began to think my first impression was wrong, that he might after all make a good story, so the classy accent began to seem irrelevant.'

'You mean, in an unusual way, he sounded weirdly exciting, or cultured even?'

'Precisely,' snapped Toby 'That's it, cultured. But weirdly so, as you say. An ideal subject for study, I thought: intelligent, sophisticated... very knowledgable, but above all weird!'

'And probably dangerous,' I said, sportively.

Toby made several nods, 'Which in hindsight I guess he was. And gawd, if I'd known the half of it! I just thought: will this make a good yarn? Will I have to make anything up? Answer: probably worth checking out. So I went along with it and....'

He paused, gulped and shook his head then took a swig of beer.

'Go on,' I said, 'and...?'

'The moment he opened the door I felt like I was staring into a morgue. It was just something I felt: the dimness, and a waft of stale air made me shudder. The place looked neglected, not dirty but drab, Ali too; small and kind-of grub-like, in a drab grey cardigan... slippers... you know the score. Nothing at all like I'd imagined. No sign either that he'd tried to smarten himself for our little soirée, and I'd say at least a decade older than the 30 he'd put in the ad. Balding too. What a twister, I thought. He took the Chablis before he'd even said to come in. Why I didn't scarper then still puzzles me.'

'You didn't though?'

'I hesitated. But I wanted to sample that wine, and most of all, as I say, to get a good story. So I let him lead the way through this dingy hallway to the gloomiest kitchen ever: old wooden cupboards, badly-plastered dark-green gloss-painted walls, everything dark - and kind-of shoddy. Can you imagine it? One small high-window above the sink looked onto a courtyard overgrown with ivy. A single unshaded bulb glowed dimly above a big rough-looking table in the middle. Cracked oilcloth covered its top; would you believe people still use that lousy plastic? And there were three badly contorted dining chairs with the stuffing falling out around the seats.'

'Sounds positively charming.' I said.

Toby grinned, 'So he said to sit, which I did, then he said he had to phone someone and would only be a minute. He left the room, but was back almost straight away. Then he fetched a couple of glasses and opened the wine. Before pouring he brought several little dishes across from a worktop: green olives, cherry tomatoes, mini cheese biscuits and one or two other things. nothing in the least appetising. Then he put a couple of saucer-sized plates on the table. One for me, one for him. I wondered at first what he was going to do with them. It reminded me of when I was about seven and played teatime with my little sister. Lucky for me I wasn't hungry.'

'Maybe he was in his second childhood?'

'Well, either way he was nutty, that's for sure. He sat down opposite me and poured the wine. That's when he started to tell me about his former lover. Apparently, he'd killed himself only two months earlier. He didn't say how, and I didn't ask. Nor why, but I felt I was learning the answer to that as I sat there listening to his dull monotone voice. The drone of him talking and the wine made me sleepy, and I fell into a weird kind of trance. It reminded me of a ghost film I once saw about an old mansion with loads of big dusty rooms and these spine-chilling moaning noises echoing indeterminately around as the trapped protagonist wandered from room to room in a vain attempt to distance himself from the noise and locate a way out to escape.'

'Maybe he murdered the guy and rigged it to look like suicide?' I said.

'Who knows?' said Toby, 'It wouldn't surprise me. Nothing would surprise me. I did feel a bit scared, though, I have to admit. But at least I discovered what Chablis for a tenner tastes like. I thought: Now all I need is the rest of the story. It doesn't have to be real, it doesn't even have to be horrible, though maybe it helps if it is. And it doesn't have to be nice either, just a sodding story! Then I can leave happy.'


'It was good. The wine, that is. I might get another sometime.'

'I mean: then what?'

'He said he was expecting an important visitor, didn't I know? Weird, I thought. No, I told him, how could I know? He responded with a kind-of foxy smile, as if there was some secret I hadn't been let in on, but that it didn't matter; I'd find out in good time.'

'Weird.' I said.

'Wait till you hear the rest.' he said, after a swig of beer, 'We finished the bottle and went upstairs. The staircase was narrow, but was solid with bookshelves both sides. Old books mostly, paperbacks, no real order that I could see. Though I was a bit tipsy by then, of course, so I guess that stands to reason. He led the way into a small untidy lounge, also full of books - mostly on shelves. We sat either end of a long sofa, soggy and ancient, and covered in a huge tartan throw. He sat first, and I sat as far away from him as possible. I felt a bit uneasy so said I couldn't stay long, had some things to attend to. He didn't seem to like that and reminded me about the visitor. He said it would be extremely disappointing if I left.'

'That alone would have made me nervous.' I said.

'It did me.' said Toby, 'Then he asked me about myself. That's when I regretted my lousy imagination. I didn't want to tell him about my real self, and I'm a lousy liar. So I just skimped over things, shrugged a few times then asked about him. Of all things, he said he was an author...'

'Appropriate enough,' I said, 'Journalist meets author.'

'I asked him what he'd written, anything published. Apparently, he used a pseudonym and I wouldn't have heard of him anyway. Try me, I said. But he was vague and dismissive. A bit like I'd been, I guess. His vagueness wasn't out of modesty either. I could tell that much. More that he was making it up.'

'Probably like millions of other aspiring writers,' I said, 'ashamed of failing.'

'Probably.' he said. 'But that's when the doorbell rang. He said to wait there, and went down to the hall. I could hear talking and after a moment he called for me to come down. The visitor had gone ahead, down another flight of stairs from the hall. So I followed Ali and soon entered a huge cellar room.'

'Now that sounds scary.'

'Just the opposite, in fact. It was all smart and bright in there. A high ceiling with a big chandelier. Everywhere nicely decorated, elegant even, and no musty smell or anything of the sort. A plush Russian carpet covered the floor. Must have been worth thousands. And a fabulous grand piano stood in the middle of the room, its black mirror surface gleaming with reflections from the chandelier. Several antique chairs upholstered in pale green were placed along one side, and opposite were bookcases with glass doors and sets of neatly arranged hardbacks inside. The visitor was sitting on a big chaise-long beyond the piano, slightly in front of the bookcases. I recognised him immediately, and almost gasped. Of course, he hadn't seen me before... so I thought.'

'You mean, he had seen you.'

'Apparently, as it turned out.'

'Who was it then?'

'Only a bigshot government minister.'

'Blimey!' I said, 'Which one? And bloody hell... in that cretin's cellar? So what was he supposed to be doing there? Or is that a stupid question?'

'I guess it's a stupid question.' he said, grinning, 'It was a very nice cellar, though... But if any of this got out, especially to identify the minister, it could lead to trouble. If only for me.'

'Why only you?' I said, 'The innocent party? What seems most odd, though, is that of all people they choose a journalist? You'd have thought, if you want something kept quiet, that just about anyone else would be preferable.'

'It's not really a paradox.' said Toby, with a laugh, 'You see, in normal life no-one is trustworthy, except maybe solicitors and accountants and Catholic priests, but for a journalist everything's secret unless it's obviously OK. The risk of contempt-of-court or of pre-empting something and spoiling what might otherwise make a much bigger sensation, is deterrent enough.'

'There's always rumours, though.' I said.

'But nothing goes on-air, or is printed, without some big-shot editor's approval. And if anyone fails to keep to that, they're out - for good, tainted. See? So journalists are the safest for keeping their mouth shut. Being just at the start of a career, I reckon I'll play it safe for the moment.'

'Fair enough,' I said, 'So have you written-up any of this?'

'No no!' said Toby, with a dismissive wave, 'I told you, the whole project was aborted. The minister was under the impression that I'd been fully briefed. I should've been informed. As soon as he realised I knew nothing, he was out of there. I never saw anyone move so fast, or look so put-out.'

'So how long did it take him to realise?'

'About twenty minutes, I guess. Ali disappeared as soon as we entered the cellar. The minister and me chatted for a while, then he took hold of my hand. I withdrew it immediately. That was my big mistake, apparently. But it was just so creepy. He wasn't bad looking, nor old, it was just the shock of it. I mean him being such a bigshot and all. I guess I was a bit overwhelmed. And he kind-of moved so fast. Didn't give me time to get used to the idea. That's when we realised, both together, that I was totally ignorant of the whole set-up. It seemed to really shake him.'

'I suppose it should have been pretty obvious.' I said.

'I know,' said Toby, 'I was a bit slow to realise. I thought it was a friend of Ali's who'd just popped round, and that Ali would return any minute. As he got up to leave I told him about the project and my real reason for being there, as I saw it. He said I'd been enticed under false pretences. I told him no one had said anything about meeting anyone except this Ali guy, whoever he really was, and nothing was specific or spelled-out. For me it was merely a kind-of preliminary lonely-heart meeting of two people, on the surface all quite banal and innocent.'

'What are you going to do now?'

'Not sure.' said Toby, 'The editor must have circulated pictures of me to certain high-up people. Then invented this crazy scheme to get me to meet them for sex. He must have just assumed I'd be up for it.'

'He must have been charging a big fee too.' I said, 'or why else would he do that?'

'Obviously.' said Toby, 'Or some other favour, like passing stories to him first. The thing that gets me is why didn't he tell me what he was doing?'

'I guess he assumed you might back out,' I said, 'Whereas faced with the drama of the moment you'd be more likely to acquiesce?'

'He doesn't know me at all.' said Toby, 'People like him think they can just stereotype people. They assess someone from a few simplistic details, and then take advantage of them. He might be good at his job, but otherwise he's an arrogant prick.'

'Those big-shots won't trust him now.' I said, 'He'll have learned his lesson this time, at least.'

'I doubt it.' said Toby, 'Blatant deception is what I call it.' He swallowed the last of his beer.

'Too right.' I said, taking his hand.

Toby gave me a big smile, took my other hand in his, and whispered, 'Let's go to your place.'


------------ // ------------








There was Ron and Steve and Jeff and Mark and Calum and me, and together we represented Hugh's friends from back home in Huntingdon. Hugh was the groom, and we were all about 24-years old. Me, I was in my first year at polytech and my last week before ceasing to shave for life - so far (this story goes back more than 40-years).

The wedding was to be a big one, mammoth, you might say... gargantuan. It was taking place in Nottingham where the bride's father Norbert ran a popular florist near the centre of town. He was an incredibly successful florist too, and was rolling in it. In the provincial sense he had both fame and fortune. But the family were traditionalists and clung to certain 'values' that most people had ditched long before. For one thing, the invitations had instructed formal dress: pinstripe suit with waistcoat and a top hat for men... and I can't recall what it stipulated for women.

Clearly, Norbert was weird. This was quite apart from the unsavoury amalgam of Jeeves and Uriah Heep, of which - unctuous in the extreme - he acted both parts admirably: outwardly the subservient butler, inwardly the scheming viper. He even resembled them: tall and impressive, yet with the obsequious curved back and dipped head. Upon greeting, you'd be presented with his little wince-inducing bow and oily smile, as if to say: Nothing would please me more than to serve your outrageous wishes... you bastard! And then, so it seemed, calculating how he might manipulate everyone and everything in accordance with what best suited his aims... and if he could do someone down without them pinning it on him, he would do so just for spite. At least, that was my impression...

Although immaculately turned out, and attentive in snatches, Norbert was actually quite dowdy, and for most of the time distracted - presumably cooking-up one of his underhand schemes. But one thing was certain above all: he tyrannised his family.

Though he'd overseen the planning of this pending extravagance, it was clear to me that he resented it. The one traditional onus that goes with a daughter, as opposed to a son, is having to fork-out for the wedding. Nothing could have conflicted more with his miserly disposition. To preserve tradition, however, and with it some notion of pride and esteem, he'd conceded on this occasion to splash-out. Though in truth, the term 'splash-out' does the situation an injustice: despite himself, he seemed determined that the event would be the most elaborate, lavish and indulgent possible, never mind the expense. It was as if the more excessive he could make it, the more people would attribute him with having a generous heart. Yet at the same time he went around in a state of perpetual 'economising' panic, ordering this, cancelling that, dictating and insisting on all kinds of micro trivia to be attended to without delay. None of which made a scrap of difference to anything. I remember watching him. He'd have been a great asset in a Jack Lemmon film.

As to the groom's side of the equation, his family was ruled by mother. Like Norbert, she was tall and domineering, the latter less furtively than him. And instead of dowdy distraction, she emanated confidence and cheerful attention. She was composed, always with a faint, knowing smile, and was tastefully decked-out. Even so, issues that threatened conflict would be dismissed without hesitation, not even the briefest discussion. She ruled with her eyes. On this occasion, though, Norbert's power was paramount - she had conceded to acquiesce.

The reception was at the most expensive hotel in town: The Hilton. As well as, I believe, for most of his visiting family, Norbert had booked rooms there for us guys (though as it turned out had no intention of paying for them - absurdly up-market as they were!). That is, all except Ron. Ron had his invitation, yet for some reason he alone had not been booked into a room for the night. I had a impression that some months before, he'd inadvertently offended the bride? Either way, I, being Best Man, enquired of Norbert. Not only did he give no opportunity to explain, but responded as if my petition was on behalf of the Devil. Merely to address the issue amounted to impertinence. I had no doubt he well knew what I was talking about.

Always the 'lateral-thinker' (at least, so I like to believe), it was up to me to correct this little anomaly - and to do so with the stealth of a master magician. As it turned out, this was astonishingly easy, though was not achieved without a few strange interludes and situations.

The reception began around lunchtime. This was held in a huge banqueting room in the hotel. The set-up was the standard strictly formal one: long tables with chairs on either side, every place with its name label, the white three-tier cake in the centre.... white ribbons flowing, the whole elaborate spread as tradition dictates.

After a strangely hushed period while we ate, observing, so it seemed, all the etiquette and decorum reputedly of the Victorian middle class a century earlier, it was time for making toasts and speeches. Eventually, my turn came to be prompted, to get up and expound on Hugh's less known past, and in the process entertain, enlighten, amuse, annoy... I glanced around at several unhappy faces on the bride's side, obviously expecting trouble: previously un-revealed indiscretions of the past, no doubt, they assumed? And then I saw the groom's big weird smile in anticipation and anxiety. What might I say? This Best Man guy is so unpredictable - except his affinity for mischief. Then I looked at our pals from back home, all staring at me and grinning, poised on the edge of their seats.

All I remember of the speech, sadly, is that after about 10-minutes of laughing and groaning going on around me, according to which side of the room I focussed on, Norbert had had enough. He started banging the table and announcing that it was time to cut the cake. Then I was drowned-out by the bride's side all rising and moving back, and beginning to talk among themselves. I caved-in and took my seat again, and suddenly there was loud applause from the groom and our friends across at the other table, all beaming happily. Looks like a job well done after all, I thought. The groom's parents appeared unmoved, wearing expressions of indifference.

Apart from a brief unpleasant exchange with Norbert a while later concerning Ron's accommodation (as noted), for the rest of the time I was there not one of the bride's family even looked at me - except the bride herself, who for all the weirdness of her family, was at least respectful and kind. But she really belonged to a different ilk from her new husband, and I wondered how they'd get along.

As for Ron, he would have to 'disappear' after the reception, maybe around teatime - ostensibly to catch a train home. Fortunately, being Best Man, I was given an en-suit. Despite it being probably one of the most expensive rooms, it was a horrible room too. There was only one window, which was small and of frosted-glass. It looked onto a dark central service duct. When I opened it briefly, I was hit first by an abominable stench. All I could see was dirty black walls rising from far below towards an invisible sky way above, all covered in a network of dripping sewage-pipes from upper floors, with thick grey stalactites at most of the joins. Here and there an air-conditioner, black with dust like everything else in that shaft, whirred, and clicked randomly (most noticeable at night). But the room was stuffy, and without artificial lighting was almost pitch dark. It did have a TV, though, and a huge double bed.

So we sneaked Ron into that room for the evening while the tedious post-reception entertainment - which I think was a lousy disco - took place.

And poor Ron received several startling unannounced visits from hotel officials that evening. They entered - or rather, burst in - using a skeleton key. Each time, Ron told them he was me, of course. I guess his reaction would have been passive, even deferential, whereas had the occupier been the genuine one - ie, me - the reaction would have been anger, certainly after the first intrusion. Hence the uncertainty of the staff of whether or not to believe him. But not knowing what I looked like, how could they have judged? It was obvious they were suspicious that something odd was going on.....

And in his state now of heightened alert and suspicion Ron didn't even trust me. So when I eventually returned late and half tanked (what else?), he'd manoeuvred the mattress from the bed onto the floor for me to sleep on, while he was dozing on the main bed... I guessed he assumed there was some risk in sharing a bed with me. He needn't have worried: he was definitely no Adonis, nor any kind of turn-on from my perspective. But then, what youth - as I think we still considered ourselves, even at 24 - would have seen themselves otherwise, vain as youth generally is?

In the morning the six of us packed our stuff and were ready all together, so we would all walk out as one, with no need to return. We went as a pack down to the lobby and paced with a kind of determined and unstoppable momentum past a couple of hotel staff then the doorman, who watched powerless as we charged past them and out into the street. And whew, we'd made it.

So after brief parting good wishes etc., we each made tracks for our prospective homes. In my case, the long drive back to Portsmouth in the mini-car I had then.

A year or so later I learned that Norbert had refused to pay for the rooms that he'd booked for friends and relations of the groom. Instead, the groom's father had been somehow persuaded to cough-up. He was none too happy either, I heard. And I wasn't surprised, since we could have all stayed somewhere modest, and far more pleasant too, for maybe a tenth of the cost of that rip-off hotel.... with which, I've no doubt, Norbert had some kind of contract regarding the supply of flowers.

So much for pomp and show! Because on top of everything - and also of no surprise to anyone (that is, anyone I remained in touch with) - the couple divorced within a year or so. After that, who knows? Despite admittedly half-hearted efforts over the years, I've been completely unable to locate Hugh. Is he still alive, I wonder, travelling the world on those super-tankers as First-Mate? I like to think so... though now, of course, he'd be retired. Maybe - and hopefully - he's living in Jakarta or Singapore or Bangkok... in some kind of paradise, at least... as I say, who knows?

If you're reading this Hugh old mate, it would be good to hear from you...


(Autumn 1973... yours truly extreme left, as ever)

---------- // ---------

(I won't be going, but in connection with Nottingham, the first international Colin Wilson Conference will be held at the University of Nottingham on July 1, 2016 - incredible how far ahead something like that can be booked?)