It is 19.45 in the picturesque market town of Sherborne, northwest Dorset. I sit alone in a curry restaurant, waiting for an entry-level jalfrezi to arrive and listening to chutney classics from behind an MDF-constructed jali, separating me from the next booth. And I am midway through authentically enjoying an authentic Indian lager brewed in Luton, when Grant and Phil Mitchell (sic) burst into the neon with a disgruntled lady in tow, demanding a table:
Phil: Oi Oi! Haas abaht a bladdy ruby, me ole cobber?
Grant: And make it sharpish! We’re proper Hank Marvin!
Waiter: Good evening, gentlemen! Taking a seat, thank you please.
Phil: And the missus wants it girly tonight ‘cos…
Both: She caan’t handle it!!! (peals of hysteria)
The gruesome threesome are ushered to the next table (despite the restaurant being completely without custom bar my own) and begin to peruse the menu. Tonight, Phil will opt for a vegetable thali (because he’s been suffering from meat sweats), six masala poppadums, three naan breads, an assortment of side dishes (curiously, almost exclusively meat-based), and several pints of said authentic beverage. Grant, on the other hand, is taking no prisoners. He’s having one that “blows yer bladdy doors off” and a plate of chips to complement. And several pints of same, natch.
Grant: And daan’t hang abaht, neeva!
My vantage point behind the screen allows me a discreet glimpse at Phil’s long-suffering bride (let’s call her Goldilocks, even though she’s a brunette). She is caught deep inside a vortex of bravado and common sense, knowing the evening’s outcome depends heavily on her choice of dish: Too mild, and she faces mockery on a scale hitherto uncharted. Too hot, and…well, probably the same but at least she’ll be spared the Ring of Fire. But she cannot drag her heels, for the waiter is hovering:
Waiter: And for you, madam please?
Goldilocks: I’ll…er…What do you recommend that ain’t too ‘ot?
Waiter: For you, the chicken korma, madam. Very popular, thanking you please.
Goldilocks: Go on, then. I’ll ‘ave one of ‘em.
Phil: A korma? Wassa blaady point in that?
Grant: She’s a woman, Phil. Don’t you know nuffin’ ?
Phil: Samtimes I wander what I bladdy see in ‘er, you know what?
And so it goes on. However, Goldilocks’s ritual humiliation is cut mercifully short thanks to the timely arrival of Phil’s poppadums, which he proceeds to fill to bursting with the complimentary pickles. This has the secondary effect of creating a brief lull in conversation, for in order to save face, Grant cannot be seen to be siding with the enemy. To bridge the gap, he gestures through the screen in my approximate direction, as if to coax me into his nirvana:
Grant: Oi Oi, mate! How goes?
Experience has taught me never to engage in such affairs, no matter how alluring. With my cover now blown, I make a hasty beeline towards the bar and settle my bill, leaving an unnecessarily healthy tip to secure my anonymity. Although Phil, it seems, already has me down:
Phil: ‘Kin nonce.