We were sat at a table towards the back which was fine. The hall was done up beautifully, each table had a table cloth and wine glasses and wine and the room was littered with hanging baskets hanging from their own stands. There was a lot of laughter in the hall, some of it from our table but more of it from Waitrose’s table. They roared with laughter every two seconds and that immediately got up my nose but I wasn’t going to let them ruin our night. I decided we needed more laughter from our table so I dropped my favourite joke. “Enrique, what has four legs and goes woof?”
“A dog?” He replied.
“No.” I looked around the table, I raised my eyebrows at Marcel to let him know he could have a guess too.
“A dog?” He replied.
“No, That’s what he just… Paula?”
“It’s not a dog?”
“No. Do you give up?”
“Yes,” said Paula but the other two were still deep in thought. I am rubbish at telling jokes and never deliver the punchline correctly – I think you do it with timing whereas I do it with volume – and I’m not sure if they knew I was even telling a joke but I pushed on. I was committed to seeing this through.
“Piper Alpha!!” I near shouted. No laughter. “The oil rig that caught fire? Four legs and goes woof?” Still blank faces. “Loads of people died on it!” Still nothing. I scratched my forehead as a gale of laughter swept over our table from the direction of the idiots from Waitrose.
I got a shock when the host of the evening walked on the stage. From my vantage point I would have sworn it was Carol. Her jungle gym is located at Fort Regent, sure enough, but that wouldn’t explain why she was on stage. My skin prickled – fearing she was going to propose or tell one of my secrets to everybody – until the host spoke. It wasn’t Carol at all, it was a Northern man named Ross Noble who has been on TV. He didn’t half talk a load of shit. Ross Shitle as he should be known. Shit Shitle is actually a better name.
On the stage people came and went, none mentioned us so we chatted among ourselves and drank the free wine. Everybody was on good form, even Marcel was laughing and joking, apart from when I asked if the Rotunda reminded him of his circus tent that he apparently used to own. It did a bit, so he said, and he went quiet for a spell. He soon livened up again. I even goaded him into shouting out a few heckles. I have a lot of respect for people who you can manipulate into doing things you’re too scared to do yourself.
“Wanker!” I got him to shout during a pause in proceedings and the hall fell about laughing. The Waitrose guys weren’t quite so funny now. We were blowing them out of the water. Even Enrique shouted out the odd swear and Paula delivered a, “suck my dick!” that nearly killed us, I couldn’t breathe I was laughing so hard. Some food came around on a trolley. The waiter asked one of us if we wanted fish. He was going to cut us some but before he could Enrique grabbed the whole thing and started kissing it. It was brilliant.
When the guys from Waitrose won retailer of the year we really heckled the shit out of them. All good humoured, of course. Even Ross Noble joined in. “Who the fook are those nobheads?” He asked the Waitrose guys when they were getting their award. He shouldn’t have done that! “Chu dirty lookin’ fuck!” Shouted Enrique right back at him. I stood and high-fived him and everybody else in our party. We were somehow all smoking cigars. Some very old person asked us to put them out. Paula, who was resting her eyes on the table, roused and told the person to go away. The person did which warranted another round of high-fives. It was our thing that night. And then as suddenly as it had begun it was over. We weren’t done though, we were just hitting our stride and decided to also hit the clubs. Leaving the Rotunda I went and said goodbye to the Co-op people because I felt sorry for them. They didn’t look like they’d had a good time. I offered my palm but nobody slapped it so I turned towards the exit with the other three. A group of men blocked it.
“Who are you?” He asked.
“Spartans, descended from Hercules himself. Bold Leonidas gives testament to our bloodline. His roar is long and loud.” I replied. 300 is my favourite thing ever. I have watched it 300 times, seemed poetic.
“Spar! Of course!” The main one said. They were the dicks from Waitrose, they didn’t need to say it, it was written all over their name badges. “And you must be the Colonel?” He said touching Enrique’s lapel. His colleagues laughed. I smacked away the guy’s hand. He didn’t like that.
“Listen buddy, don’t touch him, ” I told him, “Enrique has killed a man before.” Enrique stared at me, mouth open. I tried to wink at him but I can’t wink. I blinked but he knew what I meant.
“He’s killed a chicken!” Said a Waitrosian. He got fist bumped from his crew for that one. Enrique looked nervous and got his hanky out and started dabbing his face. “KFC!”
“Yeah we get it.”
“It was a zinger! Like the burger!”
“Don’t fuck with him or he’ll get stabby. I’m telling you!” I made knifey motions. They snorted but I could sense their bravado weakening. “Let’s go!” I told my crew. The Waitrose guys parted like that sea that parted and we headed out. “Heston Blumenthal’s a dick.” I said in passing.
“You made idiots of yourselves tonight!” A brave one shouted after us.
“No, you did for that for yourselves.” I replied and we strolled out like the fucking start of Reservoir Dogs. Cool. As. Fuck.
We didn’t get into any clubs and sort of all split up. I ran home. It’s about 7 kilometres, took less than half an hour and my shirt got sweaty. Saved £15 cab fare.