One of my very best friends came down to visit on the weekend. I picked her up from the train station. She had an enormous bag. I assumed she had heard about my new house policy of bringing one’s own toilet paper. I was tremendously pleased.
‘Where are we going?’ ‘Oh- a good friend’s birthday party. It’s in Islington. I’m not 100% sure where, but you know, somewhere. Islington.’ ‘OK.’ We arrive in Islington. I check my invite. We pop along to a bar populated entirely by old men and drunk women. I am delighted. ‘Sit down,’ I tell my friend imperiously. ‘I will get drinks.’ I scooch past a large 60-something chap singing ‘I will survive’. I considerately remember that my friend may not have had dinner, and buy some crisps with her shots.
My little sister arrives and joins us. (We were meant to travel together, but her chicken wings didn’t arrive in time, so she stayed at an earlier bar. ‘Can’t you just get a McDonalds on the way?’ ‘Ugh. How can you eat like that?’ ‘You’ve just ordered chicken wings! I’ll see you in Islington.’ ‘Do you know where?’ ‘Yes, I just said. Islington. Gosh, stop harrassing me’). ‘Are you sure this is the right place?’ she asks as she returns from the bar with a pint of water and tequila slammers. ‘Are you a camel?’ I ask. She ignores me, so I presume she is preparing to take a pregnancy test in the toilet later. I think about how much my grandparents are going to prefer me when my little sister gets knocked up out of wedlock.
I start mentally re-appropriating previously shared gifts from them. I wonder what face I should make when my sister announces her misfortune, and am subtly working on my concerned-yet-quietly-gleeful look when my friend asks if everything is alright. (See above image for approximate). I look up, puzzled. ‘Of course. Oh look- there’s my friend.’ I wave enthusiastically across the pub to my friend at the bar. He ignores me. I wave again, and shout his name. The chap standing next to him gives me an alarmed look and turns away. ‘Um, are you sure you know him?’ my friend asks. ‘Well, yes. I am sure.’ I redouble my efforts to catch his attention. ‘He really seems pretty certain he doesn’t know you,’ my little sister points out. (I think smugly about how little attention anyone is going to pay to her once she is showing. And wonder if it’s too early to ask to have her non-fat clothes). ‘This is pretty embarrassing. For you, I mean.’
I notice that my friend seems to know the chap standing next to him, and wave frantically at him, then point dramatically at my friend. He looks at me quizzically, and then turns to tell my friend. My friend, with the loyalty that comes from 10 years of friendship, looks at me briefly, shakes his head and continues to flirt with the barmaid. ‘Oh dear,’ my visiting friend says kindly. ‘There’s no party here is there. Never mind, it’s really nice to see you.’ ‘No no,’ I splutter. ‘Honestly, there is a party. With friends. My friends. Who I know.’ I look round the pub for support. Unfortunately the old man near us has started to bump and grind against the table while singing ‘I will survive’. It doesn’t look great.
At this point my friend pops over from the bar. ‘Oh, didn’t see you there,’ he says by way of greeting. ‘You were blocked by that chap singing ‘I will survive’. Odd place this, isn’t it?’ ‘See!’ I turn gleefully to my sister and visiting friend. ‘I do know him!’ ‘Congratulations,’ my visiting friend says drily. ‘I’m still not convinced,’ my little sister says. ‘I don’t want to be friends with any of you,’ I say crossly, and stomp off to talk to my new friend, Mr I will survive.