Maude and I went on a date last night – to a 'gig' in Newcastle.
We hadn’t seen Larry since Maude’s birthday back in December and just presumed that he had hibernated for the winter.
‘Perhaps he’s having an extra long sleep this year. Perhaps he’ll burst out into the world with more energy than ever and, well, a direction.’
Maude is always admirable in her optimistic take on her friends’ capabilities and motivations.
There was the usual long gap between the moment when the support act finally succumbed to boos and groans and left the stage and the moment when the main act deigned to appear. It was during this window that the familiar figure of Larry came into view through the chattering crowds around the entrance to the hall. Maude had inadvertently spilled her drink on a huddle of sixth formers to create some space for us at a rail on the mezzanine. We could see the stage and the door from one vantage point.
Larry has a distinctive gait – part shuffle, part swagger. He rarely looks where he is going – preferring instead to scan the room for familiar faces and pretty girls. On this occasion, though, he seemed fixed on a point in the distance and his movement was more shuffle than swagger.
Maude waved. Larry, however, didn’t respond or deviate – instead he maintained a steady pace in his shuffle into the room.
‘The idle swine is ignoring me.’
I tried to reassure Maude that Larry didn’t seem to be himself. Maude rapidly called Miles, a mutual friend.
‘I just saw Larry in a public place and he ignored me! Have you spoken to him lately?’
I detected something slightly odd about Larry. As he drew closer I could see profound irregularity in his outfit. Larry habitually wears black – he expends less energy on choosing outfits that way. Tonight, he was a riot of stripes.
Maude nudged me. ‘Miles wants to know what he’s wearing…’
Larry emerged through a wave of dry ice and came into clearer focus.
Maude passed the phone to me:
’The last time I was fixing Larry’s Teasmaid', Miles said, ‘he told me about the ‘pyjama caper’. Whenever he needs to get into a club, a gig - or anywhere really - without paying and he can’t get Dink or Helmut to pay, he puts on pyjamas and ‘sleepwalks’ in. Glazed eyes, pyjamas. While the bouncers are laughing and pointing he's in past them and runs into the crowd.’
‘Yoo-hoo!’ Maude was unfazed by the cool attitudes of those around her and thought it best to adopt her grandmother’s way of attracting the attention of a passer-by.
Maude’s cry roused Larry from his ‘sleepwalk’ and queered the timing of his routine. The house lights dimmed. As the crowd began to show its appreciation for the imminent arrival of the main act, Larry’s muffled whimpers could just be heard under the weight of a heavy man who had proved himself to be deceptively light on his feet. The conqueror rose to his feet and a broad back showed the legend ‘STEWARD’. Larry was leaving the building - with his head held high, and his feet held higher.