Thursday, June 05, 2003

Leaving Do

Dave was a jockey. He came down from Liverpool with a talent for stealing the hubcaps off horses and got a job at one of the famous stables in Lambourne in the Berkshire Downs. However, it soon became apparent that this Stable Lad had one handicap - in the world of horse racing, small is beautiful, and this jockey wouldn’t stop growing. And that is how Dave left the world of gee-gees behind him and ended up bored out of his skull in the same office as me at the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Horses were never far from his mind. On a typical day, you’d find him at his desk, hiding behind a huge pile of files, on the phone to his bookies, a copy of the Sporting Life sitting in his lap.

In a fit of anti-gambling fervour, we eventually confronted him over his habit.

“Dave,” we said, “You’re wasting your money on the nags, you’ll end up in mounds of debt.”

“Oh yeah?” he said.

“Err... yeah.”

So we kept a tab on his gambling habits. He ended the month seven hundred quid up, and handed in his notice.

“It’s no good lads, this isn’t the life for me. I’m off to see the world.”

He worked off his notice period, his feet getting itchier by the day, racking up even bigger wins on the horses, while selling of his huge record collection to pay for his world tour, mostly to me.

And so, come his final day, he sprung a surprise on the rest of the office. He’d put three hundred quid behind the bar at the Hexagon, and anyone who would like to come and help him drink it would be more than welcome. It was a no-brainer. Spend a Friday afternoon writing letters to Irish beef farmers in a dull concrete office block, or get stupidly drunk in the cultural hub of Reading? Mine’s a large one. A very large one.

The Hexagon is actually a theatre. A horrible concrete theatre of absolutely no character whatsoever, whose annual highlight is Keith Chegwin doing the panto every Christmas. It does, however, have one redeeming feature. It was the bar closest to our office. And as news of Dave’s generosity got round, the place was heaving with civil servants happily knocking back the free booze.

The place was heaving, and pretty soon it was nigh on impossible to move. A trip to the bar could take up to twenty minutes, so we ordered three rounds at a time. With the amount of alcohol being consumed, it was inevitable that sooner or later somebody was going to need to go to the can.

And that’s where the trouble started. The toilets were a good thirty yards away across a bar full of tightly packed and gently swaying civil servants. Dave, who’d been drinking since the place opened, was in no fit state to make the trip.

“Ladsh!” he slurred, “I needs a pish!”

Fair play to him, he made a brave attempt to force his way through the crowds, but the sheer numbers, the constant interruptions from his new drinking buddies attempting to wish him well and shake his hand and his total inability to put one leg in front of the other soon saw him back at our table. A desperate man, he looked around for an alternative.

There was a pot plant. It was a big tub on the floor with a small tree, which may or may not have been plastic.

Dave looked at the plant. We looked at Dave. Dave staggered to his feet, his intention clear.

“Dave mate,” said our boss Chris in his scariest voice possible, “I wouldn’t do that if I was you.”

Unfortunately, Chris’s warning had absolutely no authority whatsoever. How could you take the bass player from a Blues Brothers tribute band called Bluez Cruize seriously? This is a man who could recite the words to “Shake Your Tailfeather” in his sleep, and was therefore put in charge of regulating beef and pork cold stores by the UK government.

Out came Dave’s old man, and with a palpable sigh of relief he watered the plastic pot plant. He was lucky - such was the crush that the management didn’t see what had happened. He slumped back in his chair to see our shocked faces.

“Where’s me drink?”

The bar management had certainly missed Dave’s golden shower, but other boozers had not. Faced with the same impossible task of reaching the Gents, they too followed their leader’s example, headed for our corner and happily wazzed away. After the fifth or sixth punter, a river of piss was now gently flowing across the floor to our feet in a miniature tribute to Wembley Stadium.

Then Dave dropped a bombshell. Literally.

“I need a shit.”

We were mortified.

“No. Dave. Don’t.” “Put your cork in.” “Wait until we get back to work.” “Don’t even think about it.” “I can’t look.”

We looked.

Emboldened by his great liberating wazz and the example of his followers, Drunk Dave dropped his trousers - and those of a delicate disposition had better skip the next line or two - and laid a hefty log and the plant pot. He was just wiping up on one of the plastic leaves, when he was grabbed from behind by two bouncers with trousers still round his ankles and carried through a mysteriously parting crowd to the door.

What was previously a packed, noisy bar was deathly silent. People were already making for the exit. The manager was in apoplexy.

“That’s it! All you Ministry people - you’re all barred!”

Being just about his only lunchtime customers, we remained barred for a whole week.

Dave, as good as his word, went off on his world tour, getting as far as a potted yucca plant in an Australian bar before the money ran out. Within three months he was back at his desk, hidden behind a pile of files on the phone to his bookie. Broke as I was, I sold him his records back.

He is still barred from the Hexagon.

His poo, however, forged a successful career on stage and screen under the name Michael Barrymore. "Make some simple changes to your computer and have Michael greet you every time you start up." That's true class, that is.

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