Monday, April 23, 2007

Golden Slumbers

It was Larry’s birthday on Saturday and some of his friends decided to come together for an appropriate celebration.

The slumber party began at teatime. Maude and I arrived at Larry’s lodgings with a tasteful something as a gift. A queue had already gathered on the staircase. Guests had thrown themselves into the ‘theme’ and were all in their sleepwear – lots of funny fluffy slippers, Disney T-shirts and pyjamas.We’d thought it wiser to opt out – I wore my navy Paul Smith 2-piece and Maude turned heads in a simple black dress she’d picked up in New York.

It took half an hour or so to get close to Larry’s bedside to wish him many happy returns. He was propped up on a large bolster, like a Gateshead Proust, so that he could play the guitar to his assembled friends. Dink was circulating with nibbles. Just ahead of us in the queue was one of Larry’s German friends – Helmut. Helmut is an academic and has just finished 5 years of very hard work researching the decline in the British work ethic. Larry’s existence had formed the basis of Helmut’s PhD thesis. On the German’s many ‘field trips’ to Gateshead, the two men had become firm (if unlikely) friends.

Helmut has always been too busy to master a musical instrument. Larry, in contrast, had become a virtuoso guitarist in the comfort of his own bed and Helmut is inclined to make musical requests in circumstances such as these. I was, as ever, impressed with Helmut’s sartorial effort – his silk Paisley pyjamas were topped off with his usual Fedora (at its usual cheeky angle). However, my heart sank as I heard his clipped German tones:

‘Happy Birthday Larry and I have a special request – I want you to do ‘Abbey Road’ Please!!!’

Larry falters in all physical endeavour and prefers to stay in bed, but in music he has remarkable recall and stamina. I knew that at this point Larry would perform his party piece: a complete rendition of the ‘Abbey Road’ album by The Beatles (which has no gaps between tracks). Larry smiled and protested briefly.

‘I’m sure that no-one else really wants to hear that Helmut man!’

Dink was just leaving the room to replenish her tray of lightly buttered Ryvita and seconded Helmut’s request.

‘Oh Darling, go on – you know you want to.’

As the performance wore on, I could sense that Maude was losing the will to live. Helmut had begun to dance. Larry’s landlord was heard ransacking an upstairs cupboard during ‘Here comes the sun’. Larry’s landlord is also called Larry - usually known as ‘Lively Larry’. As Helmut harmonised with more enthusiasm than tunefulness on ‘Sun King’, Lively Larry reappeared with a pair of bongos.

When the epic medley reached 'Golden Slumbers' many of the employed people in the room seemed to be singing with some gusto. Maude tugged at the back of my jacket and we were soon on the landing. It was then that I heard a racket in the hall below. I peeped over to see Archie bounding up the stairs with his miniature snare drum strapped to his front. Leap giggled in his wake. Arch bounded into Larry's room and beamed at his bedbound host. As we passed the doorway to descend the stairs, a jiggling Archie had his sticks poised to join in. Larry struck the dramatic closing chord of 'Her Majesty', the final track of the album. As we trod softly down the stairs, the room above fell quiet, but for some whispering and a stifled giggle from one of the guests. I paused and saw Archie's diddy figure framed by the spindles of the stair rail. Dink gave him a consolatory hug. Archie was jiggling again, but I suspect that this time he was tearful.

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