Night falls on the Cow & Snuffers.
"Two pints of Strangely Brown please..." The Girl With a One Track Mind is kneeling on a stool at the bar, rocking gently towards the pumps in a slightly retarded manner. She is in full goth regalia. "....and a Drambuie Breezer in a pint glass, lashings of ice, topped up with voddy..." The assembled regulars are staring fixedly at her tights, presumably wondering how she managed to get herslf into a pair consisting of more holes than nylon in the first place, and probably simultaneously trying to picture her wearing a top constructed in a similar fashion. "...packet of cheesey wotsits for the hounds..." Keats and Yeats, her ominously well-behaved Staffordshire Bull Terriers, are dozing threateningly at the foot of Stray Photon's chair. "...oh, and Beeb 4 on the box please - there's a concert on I want to watch."
"That's right," I say, flipping to the TV pages of the Perrywinkle Housing Estate Allotment & Beekeeper's Association Newsletter (formerly the Perrywinkle Housing Estate Allotment & Beekeepers' Association Bulletin), "it's the Sir Harrison Birtwistle Birthday Concert; part of the BBC at the Proms coverage featuring a performance of the Accrington-born composer's most famous work, The Casque Marque of Orpheus." Someone, quite possibly yours truly, has doodled a large number of sausages onto a picture of Bill Turnbull wearing his beekeeping suit and written the word 'MONG' across the visor, making him look, to the casual viewer at least, like a self-proclaimed mong astronaut covered in penises.
"What about him, though but?" Dai the Jar, looking uncannily like a young, pre-custard tart habit Phil Jupitus, nods over at a solitary figure sat across the bar gazing up at the football on the flatscreen who is, judging by his green and yellow scarf, a Norwich City fan. Either that or he genuinely does, as his knitted neckwear attests, love Delia Smith. "I'll take care of him", mutters the girl through a barely suppressed belch, abent-mindedly spearing a cheesey wotsit on one of the long spikes emanating from her leather collar.
I used to know Harry - as everyone close to the Birtwistle clan called him back then - when the family lived just around the corner from us and I used to be a friend of his youngest son. This was well before the knighthood, obviously - although it's quite possible that Harry had already received his by then. I'd pop 'round to the Birtwistles' place and Harry would be there, more often than not still wearing an ill-fitting dressing gown regardless of the time of day, that made him look as if he were understudying for Peter Ustinov on the set of Quo Vadis. He'd sit in the conservatory at a big round table with a long scroll of manuscript paper laid out before him, occasionally emitting a series of loud parping sounds which he'd then, presumably, notate in a flurry of squiggles applied authoritatively to the stave. Of course, he'd soon grow tired of our juvenile banter. I suppose there's only so many times you can answer, "No, I always walk like this..." when someone asks you if you've got the scrolls before the joke wears a little thin. It was fascinating to watch him at work though, and we'd do so for as long as we could before the stench from all the parping became absolutely unbearable.
While I've been reminiscing, The Girl With a One Track Mind has sidled up to the young Norwich City supporter and is now stroking his scarf and whispering seductively in his ear. He's soon smiling and nodding in the direction of Dai the Jar, who's stood poised with the remote looking uncannily like a young, pre-custard tart habit Phil Jupitus about to change television channels. An odd, atonal hum begins to fill the bar - a bit like the music you'd hear whenever members of the Star Trek crew landed on a desolate planet on which all red-shirted members of the landing party would be mysteriously eradicated leaving the blue shirted Spock to be beamed back onto the Enterprise alone. A chorus of heavily made up bald men solemnly intone from the pastorally-themed text:
The fourth arch is a tintinabular monocle of Ferrero Roche Beanz meanz Heinz Oh the Okey Cokey Eldorado Privet spoon cheese wallop Bay of Biscay nose clamps...
"Do you think he'll play anything we know? I ask a clearly transported Photon.
Across the bar, the young Norwich City supporter appears to have got his scarf entwined in The Girl With a One Track Mind's spiked collar and has no choice but to accompany her, neck bent at an alarmingly awkward angle, to the ladies loo. Keats and Yeats, evidently pining for their packet of cheesey wotsits, begin to make little high-pitched whining noises. "It's nice to hear *something* that's in tune..." I offer encourangingly as I make my way to the bar to retrieve the tray of drinks and bar snacks. "I dunno," says Stray, wiping a tear from his eye as he opens and closes his mouth carp-like to the rhythm of the massed band of lawnmowers who are driving the 1st movement to its moving crescendo, "I quite like it..."