The years are flying by much too fast. Every December I meet my friend Lisa and her kids for Christmas lunch in a pub in Holland Park. It feels like about 5 seconds since the last one, but even if I thought my calendar had gone haywire the unstoppable progress of childhood development makes the passage of time clear. The youngest child is now chatting away happily and colouring in and creating makeshift hairbands out of bits of paper and the oldest one is in school. My friend might have some special child-growing greenhouse and access to the clock on my computer, but otherwise I have to conclude that twelve months have flown by without me really noticing. It feels like tomorrow's entry will be about next year's lunch.
We were meeting at midday and I got there bang on time, but was surprised to find the pub doors locked. I pushed and pulled on it, assuming that I was being stupid as usual, but it wouldn't shift. I must have looked like a very desperate alcoholic. "Come on, it's 11.59 and 30 seconds, why aren't you open?" As I stepped away from the door another customer came up behind me and also tried the door, perhaps assuming that I was so jittery from not having partaken of booze for one whole morning that I had lost the ability to enter buildings. But it was definitely locked. "It must open at 12," he ascertained correctly. He too felt self-conscious about his desire to be inside a locked pub. "I'm not an alcoholic," he told me, "I've just been to the doctors and when I came out I thought to myself that a beer would be nice."
"You don't have to explain yourself to me. I am seemingly desperate to get in there too," I smiled.
"I'm 76," he told me, which was surprising as he looked a lot younger. Perhaps booze has some kind of fountain of youth quality. "It's all right if I have a quick beer at lunchtime." We bonded like addicts outside a close methadone clinic. I liked him, though feared I had made a new friend and he might expect to have lunch with Lisa and me. But would that be a bad thing? I am not getting any younger and by my reckoning I will be 76 in 30 days time. I need all the drinking buddies I can get.
Feeling a bit self-conscious I decided to go to the bookshop rather than wait like a crapulous dog at the gate. And thank goodness I did because when I came back I bumped into Robin Ince. What if he had seen me standing impatiently outside the pub at midday on a Thursday with a red-faced 76 year old man, furiously trying the door and banging on the windows? The news of my alcoholism would be all over the industry within an hour. TV companies would refuse to employ me (do they know something already?), the British Comedy Awards would ban me from ever attending (hold on, who has been fucking blabbing about this? I will fucking glass you).
Robin is possibly the only comedian who works harder than I do - he seems to tour about eight different shows simultaneously. We compared diaries for the new year and he conceeded that I had won February (where I am on tour and doing Meaning of Life and RHLSTP), but he said that his March schedule would defeat mine. Maybe the two of us should call it a day, admit we're washed up old hasbeens and neverweres and just spend every lunchtime sinking pints in the pub. If I was in there every day then Lisa could just turn up any day in December she fancied and have lunch with me and maybe it would seem like longer since I'd last seen her and her fast-sprouting children.
And once the pub was open I stuck with lime and soda. I am not giving up the ghost just yet. But soon. Soon for sure.