Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Article excerpt

I was woken by my phone ringing. My boy.

'What time is it?' I said. 'Ten past one, ' he said. 'How are you feeling?' This was said with a very obvious and unkind touch of schadenfreude. 'Terrible, ' I said. I felt as though I might be dying, and the sooner the better. 'Where are you?' he said. That I did know. 'I'm in the bar manager of the Merry Fiddler's bed, ' I said. 'Oh, yes?' he said, pretending heightened interest. Feebly, I checked under the duvet. 'But she's not here, ' I said. 'And I'm still wearing my suit and overcoat.'

He rang off and I sank back into oblivion.

When I woke next the house was still quiet.

I found to my surprise that I could stand on my own two feet. I tottered downstairs, retched unproductively over the lavatory bowl, then tottered into the sitting room. In here were two sofas, a telly and a glass corner unit, lit from within, containing a large tropical snake - a python, I guessed. It was coiled on the single shelf, its head raised and immobile, as if it was working over a conundrum, or going over past mistakes. On one of the sofas, stretched out on her back under a duvet, breathing gently and evenly, was the bar manager. Another wave of nausea broke over me. I lay down on the other sofa, facing the snake, and tried piecing together the events of the night before.

I'd been to a few pubs and a New Year's Eve party. I'd smoked skunk, I remembered.

And I remembered Tom's partner's brother telling me about the book he'd read that had changed his life. I remembered, too, his telling me the book's main message was that we must try to ignore the negative commentary going on in our heads. I stopped for a moment to listen to the one going on in mine. Today's wasn't a negative commentary so much as a chorus of disapproval with whistling and jeering. To use a footballing analogy, I was Tom Adeyemi, the full back on loan from Norwich to Oldham, standing in front of the Kop. I looked at the snake. It was staring unseeingly ahead. The head was perfectly still, as though its senses were delicately attuned to pitches, registers and vibrations reaching it from both the natural and supernatural worlds. It was not impossible, it seemed to me in my febrile state, that it was also listening to the negative commentary going on in my head. …

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