I wrote this a while ago; it’s a fiction but some of the characters bear a resemblance to people I really did know and were very fond of!
It was Winfarthing’s birthday and we’d 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 nor 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. We arranged to meet at nine, plenty of time for a couple of drinks then a stagger along Whitworth Street to get into the queue for the disco.
We knew Winfarthing 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 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, and we settled round a couple of tables. 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 meeting 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? There was a crash and Andy went to investigate… he reeled back into the saloon laughing – yes it was Winfarthing, and yes, he was wearing the trousers. We squeezed through the doorway, and there he was, untangling himself from a bicycle of all things, and wearing the kangaroo skin trousers. They had fringes down the side and instead of a zip or button fly they had leather laces… the prospect of him trying to undo them when needing a pee was cruelly funny!
He was separated from the bike and propped up on one of the bench seats. His glasses were sparkling and he grinned toothily… he’d had a wunnerful meal with Dad we understood from his intoxicated burble, wunnerful birthday present… he took a gulp of the pint we’d bought him.
So what was the wunnerful birthday present? Jack told us it was the bike – a very splendid bike, blue and silver with lots of gears 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, it was annoying the other invisible customers. It was time to go and we trooped out into the night, Kath carrying Winfarthing’s pint.
Halfway along Whitworth Street Winfarthing 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 kangaroo skin leather laces of his flies otherwise a very nasty accident might have occurred.
We had almost reached Placemate when Jen remembered the bike! The birthday bike! It was parked against the railings! John ran back and we joined the queue. I caught sight of the man I fancied; his beautiful girlfriend was wearing a very short dress, 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. Somehow he aroused the doorman’s sympathy enough with the tale of the twenty-first present, and it was wheeled 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 danced, and drank and smoked and laughed, and I just remember Winfarthing having a wunnerful time, his glasses steamed up and slightly awry, his flies now securely held by a tie Jack had acquired. I remember the good looking bloke dancing next to me, and I pretended he kept looking at me. He was wearing a cream jacket, the sleeves pushed up his arms, and a white shirt…
It was nearly two, and people were drifting away, the DJ was putting on slow, smoochy songs. I was ready to go, not having anyone to smooch with and not wanting to watch my good looking guy smooching with his slim, leggy girlfriend. The cloakroom queue had subsided and we walked straight out… which is why we forgot the bike until we were passing 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, it was the best birthday ever!
We were going to the Plaza, a curry was just what we needed after a night of bopping. We staggered along London Road, talking, laughing, singing, and it took a while to realise someone was shouting – 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!” Andy shouted back.
Jack negotiated with Abdul at the Plaza to let the bike accompany us. Usually we went up the rickety stairs, but thanks to the bike we sat in the small, filthy downstairs room. Sheila swore she saw a mouse but we worked our way through the shared biryanis. Winfarthing didn’t eat, just sat smiling blissfully, his glasses smeared with curry sauce.
The inevitable happened; as we wearily began our walk back to Withington there were shouts from behind, 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; he’d been sick in a policeman’s helmet, he’d stolen the curry sauce recipe from Abdul, he’d pinched someone’s girlfriend… Jack had cycled into college on the bike and it sat with us, awaiting the arrival of its master.
Winfarthing arrived, tired but very happy, and amazingly well for a man who’d consumed so much alcohol less then twelve hours ago. He thanked us for a fantastic, unforgettable evening and squeezed in beside Sheila, nearly knocking over the bike. Someone got him a coffee and a bacon barm and we began our stories, working up to the policeman’s helmet and the stolen recipe…
“I say, whose is the bike? It’s rather splendid, isn’t it?” Winfarthing interrupted, biting 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…
“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?”