the decay of lying

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The Zen of Touring

 

Neatly sidestepping the tourists Rob hurried over Hungerford Bridge. There was no doubt about it: London looked pretty good. It always did after a tour. He looked on it with a sense of pride: this was his... Manor. Those hurrying past would have seen a half smile flit briefly across his face, if only they were to glance in his direction, but they would never know whether it was in pleasure at the scene around him or faint disgust at his shocking mockney affectation. “His Manor”... what was he thinking? He was within a stereotypical whisker of going up West with some bit of skirt he'd picked up before, not a moment too soon, he got a grip of himself: C'mon son, pull yourselff togevver... His wide-eyed touring gaze was replaced by a harder, more focused demeanour. He knew where he was going, knew the back streets well. Liked to keep clear of the main routes. What looked less good were the faces all around him. Strangers, where for the last month he had only to look up to see a member of his touring family. Suddenly he was on his own again. After a few moments struggling in the press of Villiers Street he peeled off to the right along John Adam Street and was immediately away from the crowds. Turning left, he paused briefly outside the Adam Street Club; checking his reflection in the highly polished brass he allowed himself the indulgence of recalling one of his more sophisticated drunken evenings - they had after all been wearing  suits, LOUNGE suits. The choice of attire, it occurred to Rob, was absolutely pivotal in placing and defining an evening's drinking. A lounge suit clearly marked the occasion as an extremely civilised social event. A pleasant soiree that might just get ever so slightly and untidy-ly out of hand (and he had the dry cleaning bills to prove it). A football shirt and clearly the occupant was intent on nothing more than pouring as much fizzy yellow larger down their throats as possible before getting lairy and having a good old dust up. A dress suit – Rob was at work, alcohol in that context wasn't a luxury but a necessity, an acceptable, tax-deductable means to a temporarily painless end.

 

He remembered the conversation and the detailed reasoning which had set him and whassisface on that slippery drunken slope. “You a member of the Adam Street Club?”

“No. Are you?”

“No. Shall we go?”

“Sure.”

 

The evening had gone without a hitch with very little offence caused to anyone and Rob still maintained that Matthew Perry was a dead ringer for Kyle MacLachlan...  At least he'd said he'd liked him in Twin Peaks... ah, showbiz...

 

Still, enough reverie. There were more important matters at hand. THEY'D KISSED... Yep, that was it... and suddenly Rob didn't feel quite so relaxed. What goes on tour stays on tour? Guess it was time to find out. After weaving between the stationary vehicles on The Strand, moments later he ducked up Bull Inn Court where the Nell Gwynne Tavern waited to receive him. He had no idea what to do: Should they talk about it straight away? Should he not mention it at all? Had it just been a clumsy late night thing? Drunken? Well he knew that was true on his part at least... but that didn't mean it was a mistake. But drunkenness was a handy way of explaining it should she take him to task. If she laughed it all off then OK – it was silly, they were just drunk. Nothing in it. He knew however that he felt differently. “Drunk” was just his cover story but he remembered the moment well. Not that he wouldn't readily agree to his memory being refreshed... He couldn't believe it – they'd kissed...

 

Pippa was already there by the time Rob arrived, a novelty in itself! But there was no way he was going to consider the fact that he might be late. No, she was probably just extra early, atoning for her previous sins. What he did consider however, with gratitude and relief, was the warmth of her smile as she looked up from her drink. That helped him relax... a little.  They'd just spent the best part of a month together - they might find that suddenly they had nothing left to talk about. Oh no, they'd kissed remember? There was plenty to talk about. That made him nervous again. It was ridiculous but they'd not toured together before. All those years of work and friendship but no tour. There was every chance that once she'd seen him staggering about the bar at four in the morning that that might have put a different complexion on their relationship. They'd kissed – but that was earlier. And if that hadn't done it, once she'd seen him crawling around the departure lounge three hours later, it seemed a reasonable assumption that his devastating charm was probably wearing a bit thin. Still, at least he hadn't done anything to embarrass himself... probably. I mean, he couldn't recall doing anything to embarrass himself but on reflection that was probably not the most reliable of guides on which to base his assumption. And now he came to think about it, he couldn't entirely place that smile... it seemed warm enough but was she smiling on him or smiling at him? Rob started to feel nervous. Probably with good reason. The whole thing just seemed so... improbable.

 

“Well, look who it is. I'm surprised you've found time in your social whirl to catch up with your old life!” This did not dispel any of his growing doubts.

 

“Yeah, err, correct me if I'm wrong but weren't you just on tour with me?” Faint sarcasm, Rob's familiar approach but in this instance possibly a little risky. “Remember, we got to take our lunch rendezvouses to all those exotic new locations?”

 

“Aberdeen, you mean? Oh I was there alright... and I expect bits of you still are.” OK – make that: Very risky. With a nervous hand he clutched at the proffered pint of London Pride and clung to it for dear life.

 

“Well that wasn't the exotic location I immediately had in mind...”

 

“Don't worry dear, I can understand why that one wouldn't be in your mind anymore!”

 

 Nope, she's definitely not making this easy. Oh god this is hell just keep going and pretend you didn't hear that bit. Rob's doubts were now rapidly reaching levels of certifiable paranoia as he pressed on “but... a tour (and lunch) is what you make it!”

 

“Except we didn't lunch much did we? You were far too busy playing with your new friends...”

 

Rob was feeling smaller by the minute. That smile now looked something more akin to a wolf baring its teeth. “No I wasn't; well, not on purpose. It's just that when I'm on tour lunch tends to revolve around beer more than food.” Even Rob was unimpressed by this observation. Sheepish summed things up nicely. “Hello Pippa, you alright?”

 

“I'm fine thanks, doll. C'mon... give us a hug you idiot.” And now the relief really did sweep over him as he relaxed into her embrace. It was a warm smile. The warmest of smiles. The smile he loved. “Are you alright? You seemed a bit tense?” Pippa smirked.

 

“Well, you had me a bit worried...”

 

“Me? Surely not?” The butter in her mouth promptly froze.

 

“Yes you, you big bully...  I can't exactly say why as I'm a bit hazy on certain aspects of the other night as you so kindly pointed out and you're no help!”

 

“Aww, well let me try and help you now. Which “certain aspects”?”

 

“Errm... well, most aspects after about 1am really!”

 

“Don't worry... after 1am you did nothing to disgrace yourself... most of the damage was done long before that!”

 

“Yeah, yeah, very funny. You're loving this, aren't you?”

 

“Yes thank you. And can you blame me?”

 

“I guess not. It's bizarre. It all seems so long ago. Just a vague memory – and that's not even taking the alcohol into account. It's like another life. I'm not sure I'm quite ready for reality again.”

 

“Well it's another world anyway. Touring... It's all a bit surreal, isn't it? Maybe you were quite within your rights to get a little carried away.”

 

“A little carried away before the bouncers carried me away?!” Despite everything Rob was pleased to note that dodgy puns had not deserted him.

 

“Well fortunately you didn't get that bad. And so what if you had? If you can't be reckless on tour when can you be? There were even moments when I was in danger of slipping from the Zen to the Gin of Touring myself. You were great – quite the social force of nature!”

 

The Zen to the Gin of Touring – Rob was rather taken by that one but he couldn't help wondering into which of the two categories their impassioned clinch had been consigned. “Well... I couldn't have done it without you. It was a lot of fun.” And Rob wasn't sure if he was referring to the tour as a whole or that one lingering moment. “I think I was ready for it to keep going. Am having trouble getting back into the normal routine – you know, daytime telly and hoping for a gig. If I want to go out and have a laugh I actually have to phone someone up and ask them. It's not the same, when you have to put that much planning into something the pressure starts to get to me!”

 

“Don't be daft. You've got to keep it going. Keep up the momentum of your new found communication skills!”

 

Rob wondered, as Pippa sat there so blithely, whether she really appreciated the difficulty that his new found communication skills were causing him. As yet unaccustomed to their powers he found them notoriously unreliable so far and now just as he needed them most they seemed to desert him. Right now conversation was not coming easily to him. The minutes ticked by. He'd heard tell that actions speak louder than words but there was no way he was about to stumble blindly down that path and instead lapsed back into “So is it good to be back?”

 

“Yeah... I think I'd been away long enough. It was fun, but knowing it's short-lived is what makes it so fun. You'd soon tire of it. It's nice to be back. A chance to relax a bit. Recover. Detox! Drink? You look like you could do with one.”

 

“Err sorry, yeah, that one seems to have disappeared, Must've been a fault with the glass...”

 

As his eyes followed Pippa to the bar, Rob wondered what on earth he'd got himself into here. There she was, everyone's friend – even sharing a smile and a laugh with the bar staff. Could the smiles she favoured him with really be any different? He could feel those powers of communication returning – ok, he knew he wasn't gonna be that suave, knew that subtlety was beyond him, but knew also that he was about to, had to, communicate. After all what was the worst that could happen - besides crushing embarrassment?

 

“There you go. Another pint of London's finest! Drink up, cheer up and SAY something!” And let's be honest that seemed a pretty encouraging smile, surely he should risk it. He raised the glass to his lips, swallowed his Pride and prepared to swallow his pride...

 

“I was just thinking...”

 

“Well that's ok – you're good at that.”

 

“Yeah, thinking about the tour. I guess, yeah, I'm happy that it's done but some bits are harder to forget than others.”

 

“Well have another pint and you'll probably start to forget those ones too.”

 

“That's not really what I meant. The bit I've thought about most is Aberdeen.”

 

“That's not something a girl expects to hear every day.”

 

“True. OK...” Time to up the stakes now. “Here's something I don't expect to say every day: The bit I've thought about most is you.” That's it: cards on the table.

 

“That's not something a girl expects to hear every day either.” And that seemed to be that. The silence hung heavy in the air between them. Rob feeling the colour rush to his cheeks, stared into his pint, at the table, at the motes of dust highlighted by the afternoon sun, anywhere in fact that meant that he could avoid meeting her gaze. He needn't have worried: Pippa's gaze was fixed firmly on the bottom of her wine glass. Suddenly she wasn't feeling quite so in control of the situation – this was crunch time. “You know what they say – what goes on tour, stays on tour.” Rob nodded weakly. His gaze flicked back to his pint as a shadow fell across the dusty table top, blocking out the sunlight. Pippa leaned in close. “Well, there's an exception to every rule.” Now this was promising. “Your communication needs a bit more work though...” For the next minute Rob preferred to concentrate on actions.