Chapter 28

Tuesday 30th November

Although I am the proud owner of a brand new double bed, I have been persuaded to sleep on the futon in order to give Tomoko and preborn a restful night following complaints of my snoring and slightly disturbing habit of mumbling in my sleep. Tomoko has so far failed to produce any evidence of my nasal fog horn, although the incomprehendable mumbling I am aware of. I explain that I am simply exhaling my worries and woes and that they would turn into a malignant "worry ulcer" if they remained inside. My excuse is rejected with a mere flick of the hand and so I remain tucked up in my threadbare sleeping bag on the futon, which lies at a 10° incline so that I awake in an unnatural, catatonic posture, with a hand over my eyes to shield myself from the inexorable glare from the streetlamp that beams straight into my face.

I enter the bedroom to find Tomoko cocooned in cumulus of white duvet and scan the clothes rail for something sartorially appropriate for my rendezvous with Jancis Robinson tonight, perhaps something casual, something bohemian that would appeal to her liberal sensibilities? The problem is that my wardrobe is very limited, with approximately 80% sourced from sales at Gap. That limits me to a small army of cloned white t-shirts. I must be careful to avoid the one with the fossilised ketchup stain, my new smart(ish) trousers that upset me because I had to go up a waist-size (due to a build up of woe in the duodenum) and my Merrel trainers that already look close to a nervous breakdown of the inner sole. I bid Tomoko adieu and assure her that I will send money through the post in the event of our eloping tonight. She barely bats an eyelid and sinks beneath the duvet.

At around 5.30pm I realize that I have not formulated any structure to my interview, in fact I have not the faintest clue what to ask. I mean, what the hell am I going to ask her about?
Reality TV?
Why not...I bet Decanter are not going to probe her on that one.
Once I have bribed my digital recorder to co-operate with the promise of new batteries, having spent hours bashing it against the corner of the desk, and compiled an impromptu list of semi-intelligent questions, I make my way to La Trouvaille restaurant. I boast to their French staff that I have dinner with a ViP, Jancis Robinson no less, but they shrug their shoulders with Gallic ignorance/indifference. I bet if it was Michel Bettane they would have perked up.

HRH Jancis wafts in at 7 o'clock sharp and I conduct the interview as best I can, scribbling her answers down whilst masticating on a guinea fowl whose juice speckles my paper. She responds to all my questions, even the most peurile about Big Brother and she leaves at 10 o'clock. I settle the bill, after which I peruse my notes to check they are legible. HRH Jancis never hinted at eloping to some French vineyard, so it's back down the Victoria Line to Brixton and Tomoko, who counter-threatened to abscond with Tim Atkin. But obviously the Observer`s wine columnist did not call for she is tucked up in bed when I come back. Tucked up alone I might add.

Wednesday 1st December

Anti-natal class. I finally get to read my essay on epidurals. Fortunately I am the last to make my presentation, which gives me time to work out what the hell I wrote about three weeks ago. My page is scrawled with medical terms interconnected by curlicues of arrows and archipelagos of percentages. Somehow I find my way round this maze and pray that in the event any women in the audience undergoing an epidural, they will not have been misinformed by my lecture.

Thursday 2nd December

Tonight, for once in my life, I watch quality TV (i.e. not reality TV that currently occupies about 97% of programmers' schedules.) Although I know this is an inappropriate moment to tune into "The Edge of Life", a documentary on two premature babies fight for survival born after just 24 weeks gestation, it makes for riveting TV and I cannot abandon them for Joe Pesquale in the jungle. Anyway I might as well accustom myself to the messy glory of birth, plus the added bonus of a sanguinary caesarean section that I view over the precipice of a cushion. As the program approaches its denouement, as the babies' chances of survival reach single figures, I begin to regret ever tuning in. Miraculously, after invasive, touch-and-go surgery, cardiac arrests, countless injections, drugs and being hooked up to a lung-destroying hyper-ventilating machine 24-hours a day, both babies choose life. It goes to show that however much shit may hit the fan, there is always a ray of hope.

Friday 3rd December

Day off to prepare for baby. In the morning we go to Purley Way in Croydon but rather than acquiring essentials for our impending arrival at Mothercare, we go for some dim sum instead. Afterwards we head over to the Chinese bakery as Tomoko has the munchies for a Red Bean Muffin, but is thwarted by a nefarious Oriental lady who overhears our conversation and maliciously orders the last one (boo! hiss!). Tomoko glares with murderous intent, but it is futile, Mrs Muffin must have her anti-murderous glare shield on, and hoards every delicious cake on display just to spite us. She will probably feed the delicacies to the birds in the car park so that we can wallow in her Ming-like malevolence. Fortunately no Crouching Tiger-like scenario develops, the samurai sword remains unsheathed and we buy a coconut tart instead.

Feeling that we really should prepare for the the baby, we reluctantly traipse around IKEA looking for more baby items: furniture, utensils and so on, but again we end up buying things for ourselves. Still, new born babies cannot focus their eyes more than 30cm away, so as long as destitution remains beyond that proximity, what cannot be seen cannot hurt.

Saturday 4th December

I would just like to comment on X-Factor. Tonight, mock-rocker Tabby was voted out and the future of pop rests in the hands of opera troupe "G4" and pub-singer, smiley "Steve" (who I admit has quite a pleasant timbre to his voice.) But I mean, they are not exactly Jim Morrison, Johnny Rotten or God forbid, Robbie Williams, are they? I would rather go to a G8 summit rather than a G4 concert. Their take on Radiohead's "Creep" makes me want to weep. Smiley Steve just asks for us to pity him, flashes that irresistible cheeky chappy smile for the ladies. At least Tabby could play a guitar and had attitude, at least mad Rowetta had soul and unpredictability. Did the producers learn nothing from Michelle McManus? The only true "Pop Idol" who actually did have X-Factor was Will Young. The rest are destined to go back to stacking shelves.

15 minutes of fame? More like 1.5 nanoseconds.

Sunday 5th December

Drive over to Acton for my friend Kim's birthday. Kim is always late, so it is no surprise to find her absent when we walk through the gastro-pub doors. In fact, if she had been there, I would have assumed it was her stand-in. There are about ten of us here to celebrate her birthday, including Tomoko in one of her last ventures outside before she is incarcerated with the screaming baby, smelly nappies and puke. Unfortunately her tagliatelle seems to have been marinated in the Dead Sea for ten weeks: salt with a hint of pasta. I play safe with Cumberland sausage and mash: a recipe that you simply cannot go wrong with in publand.

My brother turns up with his boyfriend; they are both off to tennis later. My brother is peeved because his partner has been promoted from "green" (practically the lowest level) to blue, which probably means he is serving underarm into the net. Despite my brother's titanium, aerodynamic super-racket and my parents having spent a fortune on tennis lessons in some vain attempt to turn him into the "Jimmy Connors" of Leigh-on-Sea, his tennis ambitions remains strictly on a networking basis.

Monday 6th December

Tasting of 1983 and 1985 Bordeaux at CECWINE. Some lovely bottles on show, including Rauzan-Segla 1985 and Cheval Blanc 1983, although I do not stay long because I am still trying to recover from my eternal cold, which I feel is turning into Yellow Fever.

Tuesday 7th December

Sven the Hippy calls unexpectedly: he is in town and wants to know if I am free for lunch?
Well of course.
I suggest meeting outside Benetton, but being a long-haired lover of lentils, he is unfamiliar with such a pan-global capitalist brand, so I explain that it is a clothes shop. At first I do not recognize him, since he is cunningly disguised in a shirt and holy Moses, a tie!, instead of a moth-eaten Greenpeace t-shirt (with lentil stains). I suggest gluttony at greatest pizza-parlour in the world: Maletti in Soho, which he is suitably impressed by, especially due to its vege-friendly array of pizzas. We then pop over to the pub for a drink to discuss his new "wild gardening" venture: horticulture with an enviromental twist, Capability Brown meets David Bellamy. I advise him on developing his website to promote it and rest assured Wine-journal is 100% in support of Sven`s green-fingered pursuits, as well as his viticultural exploits that are ageing behind his sofa. I am thinking of sending a bottle to Robert Parker to assess, although I note that the suburbs of Brighton are not mentioned in the "Wine Advocate". Still, Haut Brion is located within an urban sprawl, so why not Chateau Sven?

In the evening I go for dinner at Harry's Bar. It's one of those nights with awesome wines and bugger-all luck. I'll write about it in a separate article soon. All I will tell you for now is that I returned home reeking of Montecristo.

Wednesday 8th December
Man in the Moon

Today at ante-natal class we discuss how to cope with sleepless babies. Maria conducts the discussion to the soundtrack of a wailing child. If only it was as simple as pressing the "Stop" button. My first idea is to turn on Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" at full-volume to drown out the sound of the child, but then again that my encourage him/her to mimic Lemmy.

I write up the methods of placating a restless pup and e-mail it to the rest of the group. I publish them here as some kind of public service announcement: -

Strategies to cope with wailing babies

Pick the baby up
Give the baby a cuddle
Rock the baby
Check its nappy
Walk the baby round
Feed the baby
Talk to the baby
Sing to the baby
Entertain the baby
Pass the baby on to someone else
Go out of the room
Give the baby a bath
Massage the baby
Read to the baby
Check the baby's temperature
Go for a drive with baby
Close the curtains tightly
Is the baby ill? (Check colour, breathing, vomit, kind of crying)
Put the baby down
Swaddle the baby
Play music to the baby
White Noise e.g. hoover, washing machine etc.
Put baby on eBay.

Good luck new parents everywhere.

Thursday 9th December

Attend an auction at Christies for Dylan who died earlier this year, procedes of sales going towards his children. There is a good attendence from the wine trade fraternity; a sense of conviviality and joviality, even though we would rather Dylan be with us here to share them. I stay for just a little while since my throat insists on impersonating a sewer of phlegm, my sinuses are throbbing with malevolent glee and roadworks are esconced in my cranial cavity for the foreseeable future.

Saturday 11th December

We have elected to spend this weekend apart, since we will be super-glued together as struggling parents from January onwards. It is our last chance for hedonism, wild abandon and frivolous partying so I am driving down to Southend for a night of debauchery whilst Tomoko is staying at her friend's pad in Chelsea for as much debauchery as you can get up to when nine months pregnant.

This brief sojourn has an alterior motive; to surreptitiously dump the more vinyl records in my parents' attic on the supposition that they are attending my brothers Yuletide concert in some freezing cold church hall in London. It all goes tits up when I discover their Mondeo occupying my intended spot on the driveway and smoke billowing out of the chimney. Bugger - they decided not to go. I need time to formulate a Plan B, lest I explain to Tomoko why our tot will be spending her first night of slumber on a bed of Duran Duran twelve-inches.

I spend the afternoon chilling in front of the fire, although most of the heat is absorbed by two felines chargrilling their flee-ridden fur by the hearth, accompanied by Frank, the world's most idiotic dog, who is masticating on lumps of coal before dumping them on peoples' laps. Charming. My brother John, he of eternal saturnine temperament, has also returned home from Brighton to moan about his Dickensian student life. He is sporting a rather odd haircut that belongs to 1974 instead of 2004. I am aware that I am the pot calling the kettle black, since I spent most of the Madchester years with a greasy pony-tail that was excommunicated as soon as Ricky from Eastenders began sporting a similar appurtenance.

Having ridiculed my brother enough, I call round to my friend Carolyn's to commence our bacchanalia...after we have seen who won "X-Factor" of course. Once we have witnessed Steve smile and croon his way into the nation's hearts, we walk up the road to the local Indian for a curry. Alas, the demands of reality TV have used up precious time and it is about ten thirty before our dishes even arrive. Feeling adventurous I choose not to order chicken korma and opt for one of the "chefs specials" instead, which is interesting although the meat is cooked as dry as the Gobi.

By midnight we are beginning to flag and we procrastinate whether to catch a taxi into town to dance the night away at Saks (a smokey underground bar that sweats until the early hours of the morning.) We are supposed to rendezvous with Vik but she has not called (turns out the inebriated Vik was unknowningly leaving messages on my phone in London instead of my mobile). Meanwhile Justin has texted HQ with news that he has succumbed to alcohol-abuse in front of the (Reality) TV and is unable to make it past the front door. With the fatigue sapping our lust for life and faced with the scenario of waiting ten weeks for a taxi in Southend High Street, which tends to become Fallujah past a certain hour, we surrender to middle-age and return back to Carolyn`s with an unfinished bottle of house white (spirit). I do my best to finish the bottle but fall asleep on Carolyns sofa watching Flatliners.

Sunday 12th December
Frank

Wake up around eight and order mums special full-English fry up with all the trimmings. Frank, the worlds most moronic mongrel pulls his "abandoned canine" expression so I toss him a mushroom. Dad informs me that Frank does not like mushrooms and indeed the pernickety pooch sniffs the offering with indignation.
Since when did beggers become choosers?
What does he want?
A dollop of tomato ketchup on the side?
White truffles flown in fresh from Piedmont?
I ignore Franks incessant whining for the duration of my breakfast and taunt him with the remains of my sausage to teach him a lesson. It is for his own good.

Before I depart, myself and Tom manage to transfer two boxes of vinyl records from the car into family loft, where they will remain until I find myself a larger abode, big enough to house a couple of thousand records. And a couple of kids of course. When I return home, I discover that Tomoko actually went ot bed later than I.