A Right Gude Willie-Waught

So here’s something no one ever likes to admit. When I was a kid my parents threw New Year’s Eve parties that no effort of my own has ever come close to. Even as a kid I knew they were good and despite my feeble body’s protestations would try to stay up hours beyond my bedtime. I remember being furious at my nine-year-old self for falling asleep at ten and snoozing through the good bit with the party poppers and the bubbly wine and stuff. They held a New Year’s party pretty much every year, but I refer to my nine-year-old self because that’s the year I remember best, and it’s all because of a grudge I think I probably, subconsciously, still hold. I took umbrage with one of my dad’s friends. He asked how old I was and when I told him he replied “Double figures next year!” I spent the rest of the evening convinced I was going to be morbidly obese when the clock struck midnight.

At a Campbell Knees-Up, sheet music would be handed out because apparently there are more words to Auld Lang Syne than just those three. Liz, a Bettie Page beauty and 1960s pop aficionado would lead, Minty Moore would bring his bass guitar, Dad would play the violin, a begrudging Wee Hayley Campbell would make heinous noises on the alto sax, and all the while Mum would try to tie all the racket together on our knackered piano. It sounds like the usual kumbaya shit I’d go out of my way to avoid, and it was and I did. But for some reason it worked. Right up to Dad shouting “HAP-py noo year!” like Joe E. Brown in Showboat, except of course I didn’t know it was a movie reference till several years later.

It was also imperative that at some point in the evening someone would upset Mum by dangling my delighted baby brother off the front verandah by his ankles, his homemade Batman cape brushing the bushes below. These were things that happened. You could set your watch by them.

Now I’m technically an adult, though I still can’t drive and I mostly eat cereal for dinner. My parents are on the other side of the world and who knows what they’re doing, I certainly don’t. Left to fend for myself I have ended up at all sorts of subpar events, and more than once I’ve gone home with an idiot because they’re fractionally more attractive than the idea of waiting for a nightbus beneath Nelson’s Column with a thousand vomiting drunks.

Last year could have morphed into a cock-up of epic proportions had I not had the good sense to veer off the path of polite invitation acceptance that almost led me to the latex Mecca of pretention, Torture Garden.  Walking down the overlit Underground tunnel I halted dramatically, said aloud “What am I doing” and looped back on myself like they do in the movies. I ended up in my pal Gregson’s front room draping a Snuggie over my head and shouting “Take a picture! Take a PICTURE! Don’t you think I look like that hot Afghan bird on the cover of National Geographic?”

He took a picture. It won’t be appearing below.

Criswell predicts that in the dwindling hours of 2010 I’ll walk down the road to my favourite pub in London, The Wenlock Arms. Built in the early 1800s it somehow survived the bombing of the area and thus its innards look much like they always did. It’s full of old guys with noses the colour of aubergines and has carpet that makes the noise of rapid Band-Aid removal as you walk across it. Someone’s drawn a picture of Max Wall, which they’ve stuck on the wall. There’s a local dog who has his own barstool. He sits on it and laps at a bowl of bitter. I feed him peanuts. He likes Dry Roasted.

I remember the first time I went there. It was Jamie McKelvie’s fault. The Brazilian comicbook artists Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon were in town, and McKelvie wanted to show them a proper East End boozer. The twins arrived late tailed by several other people, Italians maybe, that they’d picked up at the tapas bar down the road. By the time they arrived the band had already begun playing their old ragtime tunes in the corner – three old guys on trumpet, banjo and my favourite, the piano guy, who sticks his bottom lip out so far in concentration he looks like Snuffeluppagus. The banjo player’s a geriatric mix between Burt Bacharach and the headless doctor in Re-Animator. I’m yet to break it to him.

As the night wore on Fábio managed to dance with every girl in the bar. A trained ballroom dancer, when he pitched a girl backwards and planted a perfect Hollywood kiss on her chops the band stopped to applaud him. It’s probably a law that only people called Fábio are able to pull this kind of shit off.

The most recent time I barely remember at all, though evidence on my phone suggests I had a run-in with a guy who boasted a fine head of hairplugs. Fine? No, quite the opposite of that. There were our friends The Many Pints, and basically what happened is [FOOTAGE MISSING] I am now friends with a four foot tall Russian guy called Slava who demonstrated how they wear hats in his country. In Russia they wear hats like we wear hats. Buy I like to think that as I gazed down at him from my obscenely lofty height I looked suitably amazed as he put his hat on his head.

But whatever, the point is it’s going the way of most things in London and probably being knocked down early next year to make way for some hideous apartments. So I’m seeing in the new year in a place that’s not likely to see out the new year. When Auld Lang Syne starts up chances are we’ll be sat on stools with our heads in the future dust cloud. And maybe it’ll be as good as my parents’ parties, though I doubt anyone will be upending Batman over the verandah.

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