It was Winfathing’s birthday and we’d all gathered to help him celebrate. He was meeting up with his old man for dinner and then the plan was to go to Placemate, have a groove and then either to the Conti for more drinks and dancing, or to the Plaza on Upper Brook Street for a curry.
Someone said that neither the Conti or the Plaza were the way to celebrate a twenty-first, but us impoverished lot said it would be just fine, Winfarthing rarely came out with us, he’d love it. In anticipation of heavy drinking, we caught the bus into town, meeting up at The Oxford. Someone had suggested Tommy Duck’s, but that would mean a bit of a trek back to Placemate, ditto going to the Old wellington in Shambles… so the Oxford would suit us fine.
We arranged to meet at nine, plenty of time for a couple of drinks than a stagger along Whitworth Street to get into the queue into the disco. We knew Winfathing was meeting Winfarthing senior at six so we anticipated he would be there before us, lurking nervously, looking anxious and awkward. Would he be dressed as we had suggested? Oh how we hoped he would. The trousers had been a gift from his old man when he came back from Australia and we had insisted, with as straight faces as we could, that not only would Mr Winfarthing be tickled pink seeing his son wearing them, but also they were so trendy he’d have the women queuing up to dance with him. He’d blinked myopically through his thick horn-rimmed specs… would he wear them, would he wear the trousers.
Fortunately for some reason the Oxford was pretty empty and we had the saloon to ourselves, We settled round a couple of tables, Jack, Andy, Sheila, Kath, Jen, Mike, Sheila, John and me. It got to half nine and we began to wonder if birthday boy had chickened out; no-one knew or remembered where he’d been going with his father, otherwise one of the lads could have gone along to see if he was still there.
The door of the pub opened with a dramatic bang… was it Winfarthing? But no-one passed the doorway into the main bar… there was a crashing noise and Andy got up to investigate… he almost reeled back into the saloon laughing – yes it was Winfarthing, and yes, he was wearing the trousers. We all got up and squeezed through the doorway, and there was Winfarthing, untangling himself from a bicycle of all things, and wearing the kangaroo skin trousers. They had fringes down the side and instead of zip or button flies they had leather laces… the prospect of him trying to undo them when he needed a pee was cruelly funny!
Jack and John untangled him from the bike and he was propped up on one of the bench seats. His glasses were sparkling and he grinned toothily… he’d had a wonderful meal with father, we understood from his intoxicated burble, a wonderful birthday present… he took a gulp of the pint in front of him.
We wanted to know what the wonderful birthday present was; he seemed no longer capable of speech and jack told us it was the bike. It certainly looked a very splendid bike, blue and silver with lots of gears and extra features and very shiny spokes and a very shiny bell which Mike kept ringing until the old fellow collecting the glasses told him to stop it off as it was annoying the other customers. What other customers? There were none… but it was time to go so we trooped out of the pub into the night, Kath carrying Winfarthing’s pint… snakebite apparently, half of mild and half of scrumpy.
Halfway along Whitworth Street Winfarhting needed a pee, and helped by Andy and Jack he climbed over the iron railings, fell into the small park and then righted himself to find a tree… John had to climb over with his trusty pen-knife to cut the laces of his flies otherwise a very nasty accidnet might have occurred.
We had almost reached Placemate when Jen remembered the bike! The birthday bike! it had been parked against the railings! John ran back to get it and we joined the queue. Some of the people we recognised as regulars, and i caught sight of the man i fancied with his beautiful girlfriend…, She was wearing a very short dress and very high heels, and was very blond and very beautiful.
We had a dilemma over the bike. No-one had a lock – no-one goes on a night out with a random bike lock and chain. I don’t know how Jack does it, but whenever this sort of difficulty arises, he always manages to solve it and somehow he aroused the doorman’s sympathy enough with the tale of the twenty-first present from a father, and the bike being suck a wonderful gift, and it was wheeled in and into the cloakroom. It cost sixpence the same as a coat.
To be honest I can’t really remember very much… the DJ was playing loads of Tamla we all danced, and drank and smoked and laughed, and I just remember Winfarthing having a wonderful time, his glasses steamed up and slightly awry and his flies now held together by a tie Jack had acquired. He was too full of dinner and drink to eat, but we all had plats of chips. I remember the good looking bloke dancing next to me, and I pretended he kept looking at me. He was wearing a cream jacket with the sleeves pushed up his arms, and a white shirt…
It was heading towards two and people were drifting away and the DJ was putting on slow, smoochy songs, so I was perfectly ready to go, not having anyone to smooch with and not wanting to watch the good looking guy smooching with his slim, leggy girlfriend. The queue to collect coats had subsided and we got out almost straight away… which is why we forgot the bike until we were walking past the fire station. We deemed it Andy’s turn to go back and get it, Winfarthing seemed past conscious thought let alone conscious speech. He was beaming ecstatically, he was having the best birthday ever!
We had decided to go to the Plaza, a curry was just what we all needed after a night of bopping. We staggered along London Road, talking, laughing, singing, and it took a while to be aware of someone shouting… it was Andy, trying to catch us up with the birthday bike, sparkling in the light of the yellow street lamps.
“Get on and ride it!” Jack shouted.
“Can’t ride a bike!” the reply came in gasps and pants.
We arrived at the Plaza and Jack negotiated with the man who opened the door to let the bike come in with us. Usually we went upstairs, up the rickety stairs, but because of the bike we had to sit in the small, filthy downstairs room. Sheila was sure she saw a mouse but only Jen took any notice, the rest of us were working our way through the shared biryanis. Winfarhting didn’t eat, just sat smiling, his glasses for some reason smeared with curry sauce. Between us I think we had everyone of the curry sauce options, mild, medium, hot, killer and suicide. Mike who didn’t like curry had liver, onions, mash and gravy.
The inevitable happened; as we wearily began our walk back to Withington there were shouts from behind us, and riding along ringing the bell was Abdul on Winfarthing’s bike…
The next morning we sat drinking coffee in the union… would Winfarthing show? Would his hang-over defeat him? We had concocted a story to tell him, that he’d been sick in a policeman’s helmet, he’d stolen the curry sauce recipe from the Plaza, he’s pinched someone’s girlfriend in Placemate… Jack had cycled in on the bike and it sat with us, waiting the arrival of its master.
“Hey Winnie!” Kath shouted.
Winfarthing arrived looking tired but very happy, and amazingly well for a man who had consumed so much alcohol less then twelve hours ago.
He thanked us for a wonderful, unforgettable evening and squeezed in beside sheila, nearly knocking over the bike. Someone got him a coffee and a bacon balm and we began our stories, working up t the policeman’s helmet and the stolen recipe…
“I say, whose is the bike? It’s rather splendid, isn’t it?” Winfarthing asked and bit into his balm.
“You idiot, it’s yours! Have you forgotten? Your dad gave it to you!” Mike said and we all laughed.
“No it isn’t… Dad gave me this watch,” and he stuck out his arm and showed us a Rolex… a real Rolex, not a copy…
“But he gave you the bike, didn’t he?”
“No, dad gave me this watch… so whose is the bike?” Winfarthing looked round at us. “So whose bike is it anyway?”