On my way up to Manchester the other day, Dean walked, by coincidence, into my train carriage with his two dogs. On the day of storm Ciara I ended up in Chorlton catching up with him, along with Nathan, Ruth, and Mat. We consumed vast quantities of red wine and a whole family of chickens.
Dean waited for me to get my shit together the next morning and we traveled back to London together. “I’ll call you when I get to Hampstead,” I told him, knowing I’d be house-sitting this week.
I didn’t feel very sociable this evening. London is a big place though, and you can be very efficiently alone in public. I felt like letting someone else cook, so I grabbed a graphic novel – (Necropolis from 2000AD if you must know) – and I wandered down to The Garden Gate. My plan was to get a quiet plate of sausage and mash, read an iconic story that I’d missed from my childhood, and then roll home tipsy and full of sausage.
I had been in the pub for less than a minute when someone clocked me. Turns out Dean was there with some other old friends for pub quiz night. “You’re usually on the winning team!” says Ruth. “I just came for a quiet drink and sausage and mash…” “Join our team!”
I join them. I sit opposite Dean. Again. The world is tiny and strange and wonderful. We are following each other around.
I have sausage and mash and social anxiety. The anxiety passes quickly and I get stuck into the quizzing.
Yes it’s true what Ruth has noticed. We frequently win this quiz. It’s Mel’s local and Mel is good at quizzing. But Mel is in New Zealand and suddenly I’m moonlighting on the quiz with other friends. London! I’ve been in this city so long there are people everywhere who I’ve done stuff alongside. Sometimes I see them in supermarkets or on buses. Sometimes I say hello. Sometimes I hide. This evening I had no choice but to muck in when I was feeling antisocial.
It was Ruth that clocked me. She pulled me from a deep thought where I was engaging with an article on my phone, and more or less oblivious to the world. I had to completely recalibrate my evening plans for myself. It turned into a great night.
We didn’t win. But second comes right after first, as Buzz Aldrin said.
Our team ended up being called “Sausage and Mash” and just by chance there were a lot of questions that my weird memory held. We won wine for the table, and it’s memorable winning a prize in a pub quiz. Too often it’s just the one same team of four old blokes winning week after week, year after year. The one I used to go to at The Magdala, right near The Garden Gate, they had such a team. The quizmaster solved their monopoly by giving an excellent prize to the team with the funniest wrong answer.
We played to win tonight. And came close enough to winning that we can feel good about it. Especially because it’s almost certain that the winning team Shazammed the music round. Bastards.