Jeremy Clarke

Serene, spent and sober

A social leper tells you of his miserable existence

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Sunday afternoon and I was going home with that 'making love and walking home alone' kind of feeling. A blowy Sunday afternoon and the high street strewn with litter. What I really fancied next was a nice cold pint of lager. Lately, I've switched to Fosters, and Fosters and I are still in our honeymoon period. Ideally I would liked to have drunk Fosters in a pub that was showing the pay-per-view match, Man City v. the Hammers, on the large screen.

It was a must-see game. West Ham had to win to stay in the Premiership. And as the manager, Glen Roeder, had collapsed after the Bolton game last week, there was the added interest of seeing the legendary Trevor Brooking temporarily in charge. (The official version given out by the club is that Roeder has suffered a minor stroke. My friend Mick, however, a season-ticket holder with friends in the know, says that Glen Roeder is actually rumoured to be suffering from Sars – Sudden Awareness of Relegation Syndrome.) But I wasn't optimistic about finding a pub that was showing it – not in this small new-age rugby union-oriented West Country market town.

There are five pubs in the high street. None had the football on and all were more or less empty. The only one with the telly on was showing Leinster v. Perpignan. My last hope, a faint one at that, was the Fortune of War, just off the top of the high street. The Fortune of War is a smallish hick biker pub. Heavy metal belting out of the juke box. If you smoke pot in the beer garden they turn a blind eye. The landlord has big gothic tattoos up his arms and his wife, who's got some terminal illness or other, sings with the band on Friday nights. She and her husband are reputed to be big in the local BDSM scene and when they occasionally host one of their fetish parties in there, anything goes, they say.

The curtains were drawn. I pushed diffidently at the door. It gave way, and – yes! fantastic! – they had the telly on in there and it was 0