I have, on several occasions, alluded to my rather unusual line manager during my time in the Civil Service. He was a pleasant chap, very sociable; but with a mind warped from the boredom of counting cows for the Ministry, inclined to do as little work as humanly possible whilst smoking his way to an early grave.
I would spend many a Saturday afternoon with him on the Tilehurst End terrace at Reading Football Club, way back in the days when they were shit, and he hadn't missed a game for seasons. He boasted "I was here the day of the record low crowd", and I think they actually held up kick-off until he arrived.
The highlight of Mark's life was the annual New Year fancy dress party at his local pub, an establishment so blighted by his presence, it has since closed its doors to paying customers. He would start plannning his outfit in June, and would make sure every last detail, every little nuance of the character was absolutely perfect. He WAS Elvis. He WAS Henry VIII, but most of all, he WAS Marilyn Monroe.
It was utterly freaky. He had that little white dress specailly made in a manly size by an understanding friend (and not, he was at pains to point out, by one of those "From He to She" companies that advertise in the Sunday papers "because I'm not a fucking tranny"), while a realistic Marilyn-type blonde wig was sourced from a theatrical costumiers at great expense.
Shoes were a bit of a problem, simply because they don't do strappy sandals for hairy-arsed cross-dressers. So he was forced to contact one of those "From He to She" companies that advertise in the Sunday papers "But I'm not a fucking tranny".
As for the tits - a marvel of modern engineering in realistic gel-filled containers, topped off with what appeared to be a couple of peanuts. Most of us were under the distinct impression that he had done this sort of thing before, and on a regular basis. Not many men know their bra size, nor are they able to tuck their johnson away to hide that embarrassing manly trouser bulge. Mark still lived with his parents.
Come the big night, and Marilyn Monroe took a taxi from a semi-detatched house in Tilehurst to a local pub. For several hours, s/he partook in heavy drinking, the singing of ribald songs, before mincing off with the first prize in the fancy dress competition for the third year running. The prize was paid in drink. Lots of it, followed by more drink, ribald singing, and unspeakable acts of a disturbing nature.
After that, our hero's narrative sort of gets fuzzy. Those of us who had drunk in moderation were able to stagger home before the sun came up. Mark, on the other hand, wound up at some friend of a friend's house, where a chilli was cooked and more drink was consumed before several people had a go on Marilyn's tits.
A New Year dawned, and with it a home match at Elm Park. I believe Birmingham City were the visitors, but the game itself has slipped my mind completely. That may have been something to do with the fact that Mark had failed to appear at the Tilehurst End, his first missed home match for donkey's years. It was a complete mystery - most of us had survived the Ordeal By Pub, but none had seen him leave.
"Perhaps she's having it off with the bloke who turned up as a mafiosi" someone suggested. Stranger things have happened.
Then, two days later, just as we were giving up hope, Mark turned up in the office, bang on 9am for a hard day of smoking and avoiding work.
"I've come straight from this party," he confessed, and God he looked it.
He was still in his Marilyn outfit. One of the tits was missing in action. The wig was on back to front and one of his manly heels hanging off at a perilous angle. He had been where no man had gone before, and with a bit of luck, would never need to visit ever again.
"Fuck me," he said cryptically, "what a weekend. Anyone got a fag?"
Then, realising he was a) the boss and b) in possession of an entire year's leave allowance, he took the day off.
Mark is now running a petrol station somewhere in the Thames Valley, and has a lovely wig.