I came up to London last week for a four-day jolly: two football matches, two parties. I can’t afford London hotel prices, so I booked myself into a youth hostel behind Portland Place. A smiling Uruguayan beauty checked me in to an eight-berth dormitory on the second floor. I laid claim to one of the top bunks by leaving my self-help paperback, Solitude, on the pillow. Then I stowed my wheelie bag in one of the lockers, set my shiny new four-number combination padlock to the year of the Peterloo Massacre, then went to Plaistow for a few shants before the first of the football matches.
A liquid evening ended at about three in the morning, in a cellar in Soho, with an argument. The bouncer wanted to throw me out for falling about all over the place. The proprietress wanted to let me stay because in her view I was only enjoying myself. As an impartial observer, I could see the validity of both points of view. In the end I left of my own accord, leaving with as much dignity as a man can muster when he can’t walk in a straight line or pass through a doorway at the first attempt.
Back at the youth hostel, I pushed open the dormitory door and was welcomed by a masculine fug and the peaceful dissonance of heavy, international breathing. I was relieved that I’d made it safely. Soho to Portland Place is half a mile at the most, but at three steps forward, one to the side, and one back, progress was slow and anything but smooth. The ordeal was behind me now, however. All I had to do was get up that ladder and tumble into the Land of Nod.