You know the situation. You’re standing there drinking a cocktail you couldn’t afford in a month of Sundays, because you’ve been shoe-horned into some corporate hospitality “Shindig” by a friend who happens to know your are “Always in need”, of cocktails at least, if not a square meal, when some dude in a suit so expensive you could have bought a small apartment for the price of it, comes up and sucks you into a conversation.
“What’s your reason for being” he asks, which is odd given this is a party full of Bankers, although your friend says another word but beginning with “W” if you catch my drift.
Should you tell him, “I play the harmonica in a one man street band outside London’s premier tube station,” or would that be too odd you wonder. Clearly it would be, so you decide to lie, the fall-back strategy of the socially uneasy, and say “Administrator” and smile, hoping he won’t ask you another question.
That hope is crushed, because, unknown to you, he has designs on the girl who invited you, and so seeks to ridicule you while he can. “Almost interesting” he says, with just the right amount of dismissal implying “You just don’t cut the mustard.” Then, as your “friend” turns to notice him, he asks you, “And who is your favourite artist” and you are about to say “Van Gogh” which sounds quite near “Van Golf” when you recall some over-dressed presenter on the television referring to him as “Van Go” as though he knew something which you didn’t. Our cocky Banker is almost sneering at your lack of wealth and knowledge now, and Sandra, the friend of whom I speak, is beginning to be interested in your reaction to this being, who is the very picture of superiority.
“I don’t have one” you finally reply, because that just seems safer, and Mr Smug does nothing but raise an eyebrow before turning to your companion, the lovely Sandra, and saying “You do have interesting friends,” in a tone which suggests the opposite, before sliding from your company leaving her looking blank, and then she says, “They really are all tossers aren’t they. That’s why I had to bring you. At least you don’t talk garbage.”
To say you feel happy is really not to nail it, but you are grinning in a mad way when she says, “Stuff them all. Lets get out of here” and you say, “Just a minute” and you walk up to the Smug One, tap him on the shoulder and say, as he is turning, “Van Golf, or Van Go for the pretentious, which I presume you are” before spilling your red drink by deliberate accident down the front of his shirt and saying, “I only apologise when I mean it” before walking off with Sandra.
This was her leaving party, and that was back in 2007. By 2009, your life has moved on a bit, and you are now playing in a band with a growing reputation, and still doing “requests” outside that tube station on occasion for old times sake. Sandra, who now works in PR, plays the banjo with you on some evenings, and you enjoy what politer society calls, “a deepening relationship.”
So there you are one evening, playing on your harmonica, and “lost in the music,” when a faintly familiar face turns up, but much more scruffily dressed and with longer hair and without delay he says, “I wanted to apologise for being a prat when we last met” “Not a problem,” you say, but both Sandra and you are amazed at the change in his looks and manner. Turns out he got made redundant in 2008 after the financial crash, fell into a depression and then re-invented himself as a graphic artist: crazy I know. Just goes to show we are more than our circumstances, although we are so often defined by them. He’s learning the guitar now.