The evening started as an innocent one. Myself, Jeff and Bob in the pub, discussing ways in which we could improve the world. As you do.

And then someone suggested that we go out clubbing, there and then, and it has already been established that I am easily swayed (well, I don’t think that’s strictly true, but my motto is “don’t say no unless you can think of a good reason why”) so we found ourselves in a nightclub at 10:45 or thereabouts.

Nightclub was dead, vacant save for about half a dozen people, so we grabbed a table and got comfortable. We supped our drinks, chattered about this and that, and went to the toilet every now and then. On one such visit, I bumped into a chap from a nearby town who had brought his compadre over in search of the craic, only to find our humble little town wanting. I explained to him that he had made a big mistake, and should have stayed in his nearby town, for our humble little town has little to offer the thrillseeking clubgoer.

As the night progressed, the nightclub filled up, and I made an experimental excursion onto the dancefloor. I am certain that the entire world was laughing at me, but hey, no change there.

I returned to my seat and nursed my pint. My bladder was full again by now, so I hit the bogs. Once again, I bumped into the chap from the nearby town, and he was increasingly irate because the evening was just not improving, and I reminded him that really, this was a bad idea, and we all agreed.

Back in the main room, with the music playing at an inappropriately loud volume, as it does when you are old, like me, I sat down in a leather chair and nursed my pint once again. Jeff was at the DJ booth, requesting some Bon Jovi. Bob was out on the dancefloor, acting like the 40-year old that he is. And a slightly rotund blonde girl was strutting towards me.

She lowered herself onto my lap and rubbed herself against me clumsily. I, being British, tried to pretend that nothing had happened, and she soon left. Bob and Jeff returned, having seen what had happened, and started probing me for an explanation.

“What the fuck, Pete?”

“Uh, no idea. I kinda assumed that you guys had set that up.”

Had you been there, witnessing their body language, as I did, you would realise that they had not. This was just one of those out-of-the-blue clumsy lap dances that just… happen. Sometimes.

Bob and Jeff disappeared again, to the bar, this time, I think, and rotund blonde girl reappeared and gave me a second showing of her performance.

“Who are you with?” she asked.

“Those two wankers over there, ” I replied.

“No,nononono, ” she said “who are you WITH? Y’know, do you have a girlfriend?”

Chubby blonde lass was leaning in quite close to me by now, ready to slurp up my tonsils.

“Sorry, but yeah. And she’s fanta…”

Whoosh. My lap was empty. I breathed a sigh of relief, picked up my cagoule, and set out to find Bob and Jeff. Jeff was at the bar, engaged in conversation with some utterly drunken chick half his age. Bob was hovering nearby, clearly envious of Jeff’s situation. “Fuck this, ” I thought, shook their hands, and left the building. The night was going rapidly downhill, and I did not want to be a part of it.


A night out with Bob

A combination of events on Thursday found me on the phone to Kathy. “Hey, Pete, here’s Bob” she said, and passed me over.

“Hey, Pete, ” said Bob, “I’m ready to step out into the real world again. Take me to the pub, and please can it be soon.”

We agreed to meet in my local at 9pm on Friday. It’s a 5-minute walk for me, 10-15 for him. It’s a nice place – not too rough, but not too pristine either. I did once have a very unpleasant experience there when a large dog wiped its droolsome mouth on my trouser leg, but I guess that’s my own fault for not bashing it around the head with an ashtray when I saw it approaching.

Bob was already there when I arrived, nursing a near-full pint of lager and watching the cricket. I equipped myself with a suitable drink and joined him. We discussed his ascent to Level 51, and thankfully he didn’t seem to have an irresistible urge to bore me to tears with details. As the bottom of the glass approached, I mentioned that I had only come out with a tenner, so I would probably need to head into town at some point. In retrospect, I wish that I’d kept my mouth shut, had three and a half pints, and gone home when the money ran out.

In town, our next venue was a pub which was, once upon a time, frequently patronised by Karen and I. It’s slightly too pristine for my liking, but it has an excellent menu. It was busy, but Bob and I found a couple of leather chairs in a corner which appeared to be available. We sat and continued to discuss matters of great import until the glasses ran dry. “I definitely don’t want to go clubbing tonight, ” said Bob, “but I would like to go to the nearby Lloyds No. 1 bar.”

Well, he was a recovering WoW addict, and I’d had two pints already, which is enough to blunt the edges of my judgement, so I acquiesced. It was important that Bob have a good time tonight, to realise how much fun there is to be had in Real Reality.

We fought our way into the throng at the nearby Lloyds No. 1 bar. “Crikey, it’s crowded in here, ” said Bob. “Nonsense, ” I said, “there’s enough room in here for another eight people, easy. Fetch me a beer.”

Within seconds, Bob bumped into a very nice friend of his and we got talking. Bob asked her what she does for a living these days, and she said that she was a bait girl. Bob immediately looked very nervous. “Don’t worry, ” she said with a smile, “I’m not working tonight.”

The evening progressed, and soon midnight was imminent. “Hey, Pete, ” said Bob, “I’m having a great time.” I looked over at him, stood by the cigarette machine in his grey fleecy jumper, through which his pot belly betrayed his sedentary lifestyle and encroaching years. And it was evident that he was having a great time, for he was swept away by the music and gyrating to the beat like somebody’s dad (specifically, mine). I had already had too much to drink – I was beyond the point at which the alcohol made me mellow (which we can all agree is the perfect time to stop) and was now at the point where I was destined to feel pretty rough in the morning.

“I am very glad that you are having a great time, Bob,” I said.

“Let’s go clubbing!” said Bob.

I wish that I’d muttered something along the lines of “oh crap” but the truth is that alcohol does funny things to you, and at that point, clubbing seemed like a very good idea. Bob’s bait girl friend had invited us earlier in the evening, mentioning that the bouncers might turn me away due to the fact that I was wearing jeans and trainers, but such things have long since ceased to worry me. In fact, at the time when bait girly said this, I recall having opened my mouth to say “but they are 501s!” Mercifully, the conversation moved on before I had a chance to speak, and make a fool of myself.

We were in the club sometime around midnight. I had no problem getting past the bouncers, though Bob made it hard for himself by insisting on showing ID and then struggling to find his driver’s license in his wallet. We deposited our coats in the cloakroom, and then made for the bar.

I don’t remember much after that, but to be honest I don’t remember much before it either. I remember dancing a lot, doing my best to imagine that I was 19 years old again, and harnessing the energy, purpose, co-ordination and lack of inhibition which I recall possessing in my youth. I’d like to think that I was successful, but to be honest I never really knew what I was doing back then either, so it’s possible that I still looked like a tosspot. I dunno, my friends used to tell me that I was an ok dancer, but then friends tell you what they think you want to hear, so it could mean nothing. One thing I do know for certain – Bob still dances like somebody’s dad (specifically, mine).

I got bored at about half past one. I could feel myself deteriorating, so I located Bob and shouted “I’m off. Are you coming?” at him. I was a little surprised when he said “No” because I figured that he must have been feeling a bit rough too, but perhaps that little pot belly contains magical properties, or it could have been his +3 Enchanted Grey Fleecy Jumper of Alcohol Absorption.

I reclaimed my coat and staggered home. Once indoors, I sat on the sofa and drank water until the worst of it passed.

Saturday morning was a bit of a loss, and I slept through most of it. Mid-morning I treated myself to a “tactical chunder” to cleanse my system, after which I felt much better, and by late afternoon I was feeling human again.


Widow of Warcraft

Karen and I met Bob and Kathy at an ante-natal class. The four of us sat in the back row and sniggered like a bunch of skoolkids throughout the class. Bob was possibly the first person who I had met in the last 3 years (with the exception of people who I have met through the Internet) who laughed at my jokes.

The following week, we bumped (no pun intended) into them on a tour of a nearby hospital. After the tour, as they were walking back to their car and us to ours, Karen and I quickly agreed that we should invite them for a coffee. I changed direction and offered them our invitation, which they accepted. We met up at a pub an hour later, and coffee became a few pints, which then became a curry, and before you knew it the day was over.

This was just the start of our friendship. After the children were born, I’d go to the pub with Bob once a week, where we’d devour pints of beer and talk about blokeish things.

The last such outing was a couple of months ago. Bob was telling me about their new laptop, and how he was going to get broadband so that he could play World of Warcraft, because he’d played it at his brother’s house and it was ace.

“Right, the thing is, Bob, ” I started “I’m not going to tell you what to do, but please heed my warning. WoW is addictive. Seriously, seriously addictive. It dangles the carrot of fake accomplishment in front of you, making you believe that you are actually achieving something, when in fact you are chasing a moving target. It’s fine as entertainment, but don’t let XP rule your life.”

Bob nodded, and seemed to understand. Conversation moved onto other matters.

In subsequent weeks, Bob and I struggled to find a mutually agreeable date for our weekly pow-wow. Each week, one of us would suggest a day, but the other would be unavailable, and such negotiations ended up with stalemate. The following week, discussions would be opened by the other party, which seemed like a nice arrangement which meant that neither of us was doing all the running.

Until I found myself doing all the opening for a few weeks in succession. My text messages were increasingly going unanswered. When I phoned up, if the machine didn’t pick up, then Bob would say that he was a bit busy right now and would call me back later. Deep down in my heart of hearts I knew what was going on, but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. A month ago I invited him for a beer in no uncertain terms, to which I got the rib-tickling response “sorry beenreallybusy”. The omission of spaces had a positively comical effect.

I replied “Okay, drop me a line when things quieten down, or if you need an evening to get away from it all.” or words to that effect. Since that message, there has been nothing.

Today, Karen and Bernard went round to visit Kathy and her baby Martin, who is exactly the same age as Bernard (±2 days). The truth was revealed, and it’s exactly what the eagle-eyed reader has, by now, deduced.

Bob has been playing WoW to a worrying degree. Every evening, after Martin has been put to bed at 8pm, he plays. He plays at the weekends, leaving Kathy to feel like a single mother. He would rather play this game than enjoy an evening of sparkling conversation and fruity ales at a local tavern with me. With me! HE IS CLEARLY STARK-RAVING INSANE!

So what to do now? Should I do something? Should I help? Does he even need help? Is it selfish of me to do nothing? Gah.