Midnight. I send a text: 'I have lost my keys and am now eating fish and chips on the stairs with my fingers.'
I hadn't eaten anything substancial yesterday (unless you count pub crisps), and I was looking forward to my takeaway until I got to my front door and realised I was locked out. Large Northern Flatmate was inexplicably absent having a social life, so I had to ring the intercom to Moody Female Girls' abode ("Hello, I'm the guy who lives downstairs with the Large Miserable Git and I've lost my keys and was won-bzzzz-, Oh, thanks.)
The day had started with some degree of what was in store. I had awoken sans alarm, regaining consciousness naturally only to notice broad daylight streaming through the thin curtains and lighting up the room. Shit, this isn't 7am. I turned to look at my alarm clock ~ 10.30am. Shitshitshitshitshit. I leaped out of bed and switch my mobile phone on. It buzzes with the frenetic alerts of a series of missed calls.
I phone my boss and apologise profusely. My last day of work this year and I was looking forward to it. I race in and plough through all that has to be done. It approaches 1pm. Our delivery guys arrive so we all head off to the pub next door. Salubrious drinks are drunk (Carling). We chat. I text friends who are beginning to converge in various parts of London. I wish my colleagues a very happy Christmas and head for the tube.
This is becoming tremendously exciting. I am so happy (i.e. bouyed by a couple of drinks), that when I see an old orthodox Jewish guy at Marble Arch, I slap him on the back and wish him a Good Shabbos, it being Friday n' all (Merry Christmas not being applicable in this instance.) He then stops me to ask if I live in London.
'Why yes I do, Sir!'
'And are you Jewish?'
'Indeed I am! Well, my parents are, allegedly.'
'Can I stay at your house?'
I suddenly feel tremendously guilty. No of course you can't stay at mine. Well, technically you can, but a) I'm about to celebrate myself into the gutter and b) Large Northern Flatmate may be a little surprised to find a bearded religious stranger sleeping on the sofa. I felt bad because he was clearly from out of town, and was hoping that by putting his fate in the hands of a fellow co-religionist, he'd be assured that I as a complete stranger wouldn't rob him or take him to a crack den, while for my part I could be pretty confident I wouldn't return home to find him blind drunk on the carpet having soiled himself. That's my job, after all.
So instead I gave him directions to the nearest synagogue I could think of while I got my tube and realised I'd sent him the wrong way. Now feeling less cheerful and really guilty, I met Ali and Luke, who admonished me for taking up smoking again.
In my defence, it's Christmas, ok? An overindulgence of booze, fags, porn, crack cocaine and mass-produced cheap pork sausages are all part of the Season of Goodwill - not that I actually seem to have any goodwill.
We get a black cab to the Blue Posts where the pub clientele have morphed from twats in expensive suits to twats in expensive t-shirts, and meet up with Rob and Hippy Dave, who admonishes me for taking up smoking again. The women are gorgeous and trendy and ignore me more than normal, almost giving themselves whiplash such was the vehemence of their head-turning to face the opposite way when eye-contact was made.
We leave. Some faffing as to what to do next. We go to the Old Coffee House which is rammed and smokey. A cute girl seems to keep looking over, but she's at a table of blokes with tinybeards. Quiz machine. I order 5 lagers, and 5 schnapps. The barman says 'Six Schnapps?' and I reply, 'No, five.' He then repeats 'Six?' and points to himself. 'It is Christmas!' he adds before offering a gap-toothed grin. Oh christ, go on then.
I return to our party. Ali and Rob are having a heated argument about the environment. We all leave.
I get home, buy cod, realise I'm an absent-minded idiot.
I call Large Northern Flatmate to tell him I'm locked out. He's in a crowded bar back in town, and will return to let me in. Not wanting to ruin his evening, I tell him to 'take your time'.
He does, for three hours.
I have to go somewhere and do something. I try no less than five local pubs but despite the new extended hours laws and the fact that it's Christmas weekend, all of them are open enough for me to walk in, yet closed enough for them to tell me they've stopped serving, and 'Get Out'.
I am told to go to The Gallery. I do. It is shit. Obstensibly one large square room that plays music and serves alcohol, upstairs is a tiny balcony with seats that overlooks said room so, despite being tired and wanting to go home, I sit and wait. And then it occurs to me, this is just the kind of scenario when Something might Happen. A girl approaches me and ask for a cigarette. I nod mutely and offer her one. She sits down.
'Are you from around here?'
'What secondary school did you go to?'
'Secondary school? Uh, I don't know. One in Barnet. No-one's asked me that for years. How old are you?' I ask.
'22', she says. Too young for me, to be honest. So when she says 'I'll be back in a minute' and I never see her again, I'm not that bothered.
When I go downstairs for my final drink to pass the time, a man taps me on the shoulder. It is French Ben, a guy who used to live with Large Northern Flatmate a couple of years ago. I notice he is drinking beer which surprises me as I know he's a recovering alcoholic and was in AA. He tells me that his girlfriend has gone back to her husband, so he's hit the bottle.
He seems to be doing ok, all things considered, even if he keeps referring to 'Ze bitch' more often than I liked and bragging that he's slept with 116 women. And then Pete calls. He's at home.
And so begins the Christmas break. No wonder The Samaritans are inundated this time of year.