The funeral on Saturday went with a real swing. I exaggerate, of course, but frankly I don't think there were too many people there who found the passing unexpected. The younger son had even opted for a fresh Spring approach of light grey strides and a striped Tie of Many Colours. Me? I put my earring in and spent some time talking art bollocks to various interested parties. There was a distinct lack of alcohol at the reception afterwards, perhaps because it was so early in the morning, but the buffet was more than adequate. As I left, I was invited to take a doggy bag, but the awful vision of the noxious couple of freeloaders described in Raised by Chaffinches came to mind, and I declined.
After that, it was into town to see buddies. In the relative calm of Fitzgeralds, I found Buddy K, Big Dave, Will Barrow and the Frootbat, well into a round. I say "relative calm," but in the Toon, all things are relative. Throughout the afternoon, groups of drinkers came and went, with varying amounts of noise. There were the usual gaggles of Fat Slags, giggling and snorting, their tattoos and navel rings on display between the skimpy bits of expensive cloth. Some were accompanied by more sedate blokes, dressed in their finest old jeans with their shirt tails hanging out. Mostly shaven-headed, they exuded Cool, as they puffed on their fags and followed on behind their impressive beer-bellies.
By the time we'd had several disagreeable pints of anything but the even more disagreeable Workie Ticket, and the Frootbat had destroyed the reputation of Islam yet again, we were joined by the women, Suzie Sue and the Apologist. They were carrying a four foot clipped yew tree, which went down well in the pub, and continued to be a source of local entertainment for the remainder of the evening. Almost as entertaining as the Apologist's new uppypusher bra, judging by Big Dave's reactions.
Diabetes and rumbling stomachs called for food, so leaving the Frootbat, we went off to Marco Polo's, where the tree was again well-received. Apart from the chairs, which seemed to be designed for the nursery and paid no heed to the concept of the human back, we had a good time, oiling the wheels of conversation with red and white wine. No, not red-and-white. Red. And white.
What else was there to do after that, but hit the Quayside and sink a few sambuccas at the Pitcher & Piano. Multiple sambuccas have become something of a tradition with Suzie Sue, but I guess I'm coming to the conclusion that one is probably enough. I think she was pleased to have her tree photographed there, though, but tried her best to be out of shot. I assured her that modern cameras would easily have included her with the tree.
"I hate to think that when I'm in my flat," said Buddy K, "that the Pitcher & Piano will be my local." I could appreciate that, so suggested that it might be worthwhile checking out the pubs downriver by the Ouseburn. The Tyne proved a blessing. It's one of those pubs I've never been in before, because in the days when I used to drink round there, it was an S & N pub with no real ale, but now it's excellent. Real ale aplenty, good bluesy music and a lot of live bands playing there several nights a week. My only reservation was that, dressed as I was for the funeral, I did feel a little out of place. I'd have felt better with a woolly hat and a dog on a piece of string.
By then we were euphoric. Scrambling about on muddy shrub-shrouded steps in a fine drizzle, we climbed up to the Free Trade Inn. Which was even better than the Tyne. Good beer, wonderful nicotine yellow walls which any interior designer would give his matching shirt and tie for, and a gents toilet covered in the most eloquent and original graffiti. "When the doors of perception have been cleaned, then we shall see the truth!" "These would be glass doors then?"
On Sunday, I did nothing.