Jeremy Clarke

Time to fight back

A social leper tells you of his miserable existence

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Right, that's it. On the morning of the 87th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme I'm lying in bed listening to a news 'update' on our local commercial radio station. Last night, apparently, our latest batch of MPs voted, in an overwhelming fit of moronic vindictiveness, to ban all hunting with dogs, full stop. And if the Lords reject the Bill, it is likely to be railroaded through Parliament, apparently using something called the Parliament Act.

I'm stunned. I really can't believe it has finally come to this. Who are these fuckwits? (Am I missing something?) What do they want? If it's an ideological class-war thing motivating them, don't they even realise that your caricature toffs constitute an insignificant minority of the total number of people out hunting with dogs? And if it's a pseudo-ethical concern, they've no business trying to make me good by police coercion. I'm English: I don't recognise these fundamentalists. Nor does my brother, who is one of the big incorruptible policemen they'll send to arrest me when the time comes. It's time, I reckon, chaps, that we raised a volunteer army in memory of the 1 July 1916 boys and started shooting.

To this end, I pass the cap round in the pub that evening. For donations to finance an armed struggle to rid ourselves of this alien government, I say. It's a bit of a druggie pub, my local; the response is mixed. For a start, by 'alien government' many suppose I'm suggesting there's been a coup by creatures from outer space. ('Wicked, man!') The initial circulation of my cap nets £1.60 in loose change, a small quantity of 'green' (hydroponically cultivated marijuana), a First Direct cheque for £10 million, and a lighter.

Soon, Sharon comes breezing in with her latest. I offer her the upturned cap and make my spiel. She introduces me to her new man and fumbles in her handbag for her purse. Henry used to be an actor, he tells me, and now he's a student of 'performance writing'. 'You'll get plenty of material in here, mate,' I tell him in all seriousness.

Henry's a good deal younger than Sharon and obviously has no idea what he's letting himself in for. He doesn't realise, for example, that Sharon's sexual adventures have involved at one time or another virtually all the male regulars, who are openly sizing him up as we speak. Henry hasn't any money on him, he says, bless him, and anyway he can't believe I'm serious about this.

Then Trevor comes in. Sharon and Trevor were together for some years, then she left him to go on the sexual spree that has enlivened our pub so marvellously for the last year or so. Trevor took her departure badly and still does. His main objection, he claims, is that by her behaviour she's 'letting herself down'.

At first, if he saw Sharon out with a new beau, he'd simply whack the bloke there and then. But as it dawned on him he'd eventually have to whack just about every male customer in the pub, he came to adopt a more philosophical attitude to the problem. 'The girl's nuts. I'm better off out of it' was the soundbite during this phase.

More recently, though, having pretty much exhausted the pub's potential for supplying her with men under 40, Sharon has cast her net wider to include pretty boys from the art college, and Trevor's dishing out the fourpenny ones again. Last week I was round at Sharon's getting wrecked after the pub and Trevor came strolling in, sploshed her astonished new boyfriend on the bugle and strolled out again. 'Woo! Bad vibes!' said someone. 'Trevor, stop it,' Sharon shouted up the garden path after him. 'You're behaving like a fiend!' This, in my opinion, was shouted more in gratitude than anger. Sharon likes violence and you don't get so much of it around pretty boys.

So Trevor comes through the door and goes up to Sharon and says, 'Hello, gorgeous,' and to Henry, 'All right, my handsome?' Henry laughs and puts this unconcealed 'and who, my dear, is this illiterate bumpkin?' kind of smirk in Sharon's direction. And Trevor immediately sticks the nut on Henry. Nuts him right in the gob. Claret everywhere. Claret on the table, claret in my contributions, claret on my new Ben Sherman. Farm boy 1: Performance writer 0.

Then there's a sort of Mike Tyson weigh-in scene involving the landlord, the landlord's coterie of fat bastards, and Trevor. 'Go on! Laugh at me!' yells Trevor, hemmed in by beer bellies now but still manfully striving for a second bite at the cherry. I make a visual joke for the onlookers by touting my cap around the periphery of the scrum for contributions to the cause. Exit Trevor, backwards, foaming at the mouth.