17 AUGUST 1985, Page 36

Low life

A friend indeed

Jeffrey Bernard

It may be more difficult to make new friends as you get older but it is some consolation to know how easy it is to lose them when you are young. Take George. He was befriended by a terribly nice old lady who upon seeing his socks through the soles of his shoes invited him down to her country estate for a gentle weekend party. It went swimmingly and with some grace until late in the evening and after a splendid dinner when George crashed out on the sofa. They kindly left him there to sleep it off. He awoke in the middle of the night — desperate for a pee — in the pitch-dark room and began to grope his way around in search of the light switch. At one point he stuck his hand into a glass object which was very wet indeed. Still he went on groping until he eventually found his target and when he did get the lights on he beheld to his horror that he had put a hand in an inkwell and that the subsequent groping had covered the walls, including a tapestry, with ink. He surmised, probably quite rightly, that the tapestry might be worth a shilling or two and he fled into the night and drove back to London. Two weeks later he was strolling along the Kings Road, as silly young men are wont to, and he bumped into his hostess's son. He confessed. The truth poured out. The son told him not to worry so much and that she was really very fond of George. 'Just write her a letter of apology and it'll all be forgotten in no time.' George sat down in his club and did just that. The old lady was very pleased and she wrote back to George asking him to come and have tea in her London house the following week. George arrived at the appointed time and there were crumpets and China tea on the table. All very pretty. She then directed George to a sofa and upoh sitting down he felt a strange wriggling under his bottom. His fear of seeming eccentric or difficult again determined him to stay firmly rooted to the spot. Anyway, all was forgiven and they were friends again. Even the wriggling subsided into a warm stillness. When the time came for George to take his leave the old lady got up to summon a maid to show George out. He turned around and saw that he had been sitting on her chihuahua which was now very truly dead. In another blind panic he stuffed the dog into his bag, took his leave, and then put it in the next door neighbour's dustbin. I can't help making conjectures as to George's subse- quent career but I like the cut of his jib.

He could possibly be related to the other man I heard about last week as well who was extremely drunk at his own wedding in a church. He'd had so much the night before at one of those ghastly stag parties that he stood in front of the altar swaying. He was then suddenly sick over the bride. No one said a word or moved a muscle save the dear little bridesmaids who solemnly dipped their hankies into a flower vase. (You will note that nothing disturbs the English middle class. They go on through anything as though nothing has happened.) The service continued a while and then the groom was sick again, this time over the vicar. Now all this was seen by the sweet choirboys who, strangely squeamish for little boys and not as used to adult middle- class behaviour as Spectator readers, all began to be sick themselves one after the other. Perhaps, and I fear, we shall never know how the couple conducted events on their wedding night. I would like to think that George and the nameless bridegroom share a flat. They could well swap roles but although I have a deep-rooted hatred of chihuahuas I think we should draw the line at being sick over them.