Neil was blazingly good company when we lived together in the first half of 1979, seeing out our last six months at Birmingham University. He would emerge from his pit in the morning wearing a splendid silk robe, just about covering his vitals. A decent cook, he could rustle up exotic-looking curries using a barrow load of the interesting vegetables found at the many Asian shops around the city.
Big Dad had a way of holding a pint against his heart, for all comers to see where one of his greatest loves lay. Apropos of nothing, he would declare: “I’ll be glad when I’ve had enough!”
On other occasions, he would explain aloud to anyone in the vicinity that “for all the good those suppositories did me, I may as well have shoved them up my arse”. It was such a pleasure to be in his company. He referred to the barmaid in the Sir Harry as “the piece”.
If you got to know him well, he would pull out a picture of himself kneeling bare-chested in a field, grappling with a wild boar, holding a knife that he was thrusting down towards the beast’s neck. Or tell the tale of a rugby club tour, when a stag’s head and antlers was lifted from a clubhouse in France. The driver of the mini-bus would somehow strap on this upper fauna kit to make it look as if the vehicle was being driven down the motorway by a clever deer.
His best story could hold a group spellbound. It went something like this.
You think this winter is cold. One time back in Manchester my knackers were frozen for about three months solid. Some nights only a piping hot curry would get you warm.
I remember this one night when me and some mates got rat-arsed down the local. The lads had to be up for work in the morning, but I knew where I was headed. We had this little local curry house that did takeaways. I fell through the door, and told Abdul that I wanted this curry to be a hot bastard, as fierce as the fuckers in the kitchen could make it. I said I wanted it so hot that it would make a vindaloo taste like a vanilla yoghurt.
“You sure boss?” asked Abdul.
“Have you been outside? I need megatons of heat. Now get that order in.”
Abdul shook his head, and disappeared. I could hear the bastards laughing in the kitchen, and sat for 10 minutes listening to the noises coming out through the connecting door. Bubbling and steaming sounds that made me start to think about what I’d done. Fuck me, every time that door opened the windows of the shop fogged up. Abdul emerged in a while, looking scared, and handed over a carrier bag that seemed to be twitching of its own accord.
Anyway I took the fucker home. Got some funny looks from passers-by at the noise my supper was making. Gurgling and fizzing sounds that were really starting to worry me, like all the chillies were walking around inside the container. I got indoors, emptied it out on a plate, and tried a mouthful. Jesus fuck it was hot. I was hopping round the room, and realised I needed a slash.
So I emptied my bladder, washed my hands and got myself back to the table. That’s when I thought I was hallucinating. The plate was empty. And there was the bloody cat, sitting next to it, licking its lips.
“You little fucking bastard!” I shouted. Grabbed the little shit by its neck, picked it up and opened the back door. Tore the top off our water barrel, shoved the cat in, and banged the top back on. “Serve you fucking right, you greedy bugger.” There was enough in there to drown it umpteen times over.
I was fuming. What the fuck was I gonna eat? In the end I fried up some sausage, egg and bacon, but I couldn’t get over how the bastard fuckpig had stolen the bloody curry. Opened a beer, turned the telly on, and was about to tuck in when there was a knock at the back door.
“Who the fuck’s that at this time of night?” I was getting more and more pissed off with things.
Opened the door, looked out, but nobody there. What the fuck? Was about to bang it shut when I looked down ….and there was the bloody cat, looking up. “Fuck me, what do you want, you little bastard?”
“Have you got any more water please?”