Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Article excerpt

I was invited to the local garage's postponed Christmas party this year not just because I'd been a good customer. Perhaps more importantly I'd spent a good deal of time in the tiny office, leaning on the counter, chatting to Jim, the owner. It's warm in Jim's office if you keep the door shut, and his arthritic old lurcher, dozing fitfully in his basket, adds a homely touch.

We've been talking books, Jim and I. Jim has read only one book in his life, he says:

Michael Schumacher's head mechanic's biography. Recently, he's embarked on a second, Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. He ordered it after seeing it at the top of an online book - store's bestseller list.

So I was invited to the postponed Christ - mas party for social as well as for business reasons. I might be only a self-employed columnist, but I was proud to be accepted and embraced as a valid and valuable member of the local business community. I was also invited to the party, I think, because there was a very good chance that there was going to be a fight with the bouncers this year, and it was too good an opportunity to miss. I think the feeling was that I needed cheering up after the Cow Girl debacle, and that, as nothing cheers people up so much as a good fight, it would be therapeutic for me.

Every year Jim hires a coach and the Christ - mas celebration is held at a ten-pin bowling alley and amusement arcade. And every year, he says, there is an acrimonious dispute with the bouncers. The argument is always about closing time. Jim books the bowling lanes until midnight, and the bouncers always try to kick them out at half-past 11, when the coach hasn't even arrived to take them home. So they have to wait outside in the cold. Last year matters came to a head and there was a confrontation in the car park. Handbags were exchanged.

The bouncers were too few to take on a coach - load of mechanics, vacillated at the moment of truth and retreated. But before leaving, Jim said, the bouncers had said they were men of honour, and that if Jim and his friends were ever to return to the bowling alley, the bouncers would call on colleagues working at nearby establishments, who would be only too happy to nip round and even up the numbers a bit. …

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