Saturday 25th June 2016.
“When my master and I were walking in the rain, he would say, ‘Do not walk so fast, the rain is everywhere.'” (Crooked Cucumber)
Rain, rain, rain. Cagoules flapping like the wings of panicked pigeons as we stamp our galoshes in deep puddles. Later, our bodies, tattooed in charcoal daubings, crash and writhe in haka-like configurations; pounding the sodden earth, bellowing visceral grunts at the unceasing cloudburst.
Michael and Skippy were playing chess all day in the confines of King Edward’s school. Sitting their torturous examinations in the vast shadow of schoolboy ghosts going back long dead generations. I remained sequestered on the living room settee watching that Thai arthouse classic, “Mundane History”. Long lingering shots of window lit floorboards. A dismal masturbation scene; banal, anti-erotic fumbling. A cosmic meditation on the sun’s inevitable death throes. Finally, childbirth by caesarean, the horror of procreation. Funny looking blighter.
Hillsborough Corner, hotbed of the seamy and disagreeable. Wetherspoon’s bouncers flexing and shadow sparring in a malignant early evening gloom. The passing herds pocked with displays of meretricious overstatement. Few minding their P’s and Q’s. We swiftly bundled into The Front Room, ex-public convenience circa 1985: sanctuary.
It’s quite la-de-da on first look: candlelit tables; pristine white tablecloths; napkins cuffed in decorative napkin rings; a modern, clean-cut suavity. Familiar sounding Indian jingles played us in to a back corner table. But immediately it’s clear that the banquette seating is too tall, Michael and I sitting proudly aloft like floating deities, my feet didn’t reach the floor. A haphazard, clumsy waitering experience ensued: crashing plates; tedious hiatuses between courses; uncoordinated servings; where’s this, where’s that.
The six-pack pickle tray was okay. No lime pickle, of course. Yet two chopped onion options. Stylish miniature bowls causing tiresome, re-fill rigmarole. I tried a tandoori lamb chop starter, expertly presented and cooked, just over-spiced to acridity. The onion bhaji’s pleasingly hot but on the dry side. Out of sea bass, I went for the monk fish main. (The menu offering some eye-catching alternatives to the staple curry house script.) Again though, the finished article disappointed. The delicate fishy flavours drowned in a brown, primordial sludge. The naan bread a doughy flop.
The Front Room is a story of blighted promise, summed up by my serving of carrot halwa – an authentic, uncommon Indian dessert. Arriving after Skippy and Michael had long ago polished off their three scoop medleys, the tiny carrot morsel was barely detectable beneath a modest ball of vanilla ice cream. And what of the swanky lavies? Predictably compromised by a treacherous toilet seat.
The end, by the way, is coming in the shape of a big angry zit. Long gone, of course – dry dust on the shrivelled cinder we called Earth – humans will not witness it; nevertheless, there it will hang, our great red giant, the dying sun: a painful, swollen zit.
Judge ‘Gonzo’ Pickles
Fred ‘Skippy’ Pickles