COLUMN: April 26, 2018

Catherine Isaac (left) at the launch of You Me Everything. I am not on this picture, but I was definitely there as I took it

I LOOKED natty, I don’t mind saying it. It is not every day one is lucky enough to go to a book launch, unless one is in some sort of book publicity business, and even then one would get the odd day off.

I was wearing a sharp grey suit, a shirt that did not look as if I had inherited it, and shoes so shiny I would have been able to see my face in them had I got the hang of my varifocals.

I wandered through town looking to all the world as if I parked my Lambretta somewhere and actually liked drinking espresso. I was even wearing sunglasses, which protected my eyes from the gleaming teeth of women beaming adoringly as I walked past them.

Nothing lasts forever. On turning the corner, I walked into a gathering of seagulls. I don’t know if you have ever done the same, but it is like entering a hostile pub.

We are all used, from childhood, to birds flying away when we enter their space. But pigeons and seagulls stand their ground these days and dare you to bump into them. So I picked my way through the crowd towards the bookshop where the launch was taking place. I wouldn’t bother them if they didn’t bother me, not in that suit.

But a yappy dog on one of Those Leads – a retractable, plausible deniability lead, a jogger’s tripwire – failed to read the room accurately. He unexpectedly bounded into the melange of seabirds and me, spooking at least one of us.

The gulls took flight around me, only my lack of wings preventing me from joining them. From a distance I would have looked as if I had tried to do one of those dove releases they have at ludicrously expensive weddings but on the cheap.

And, inevitably, one of them left its mark on my suit jacket. There was a Mr Whippy-style spatter pattern just over my left hip.

I rushed into the bookshop and into the customer toilet. The launch was 15 minutes away. I whipped my jacket off, grabbed some toilet paper, and turned on the tap to dampen it so I could dab at the affected area.

I had forgotten that you never turn on a strange tap in a hurry. A jet of cold water spurted out at crotch height and hit me at crotch height. In an instant, my problems had doubled.

I was grateful of the convention that there are no CCTV cameras inside customer toilets, as I am not sure how it would have looked as I thrust my crotch under the hand dryer while frantically attempting to remove seagull poo from a jacket in a toilet glaringly free of dry cleaning facilities.

The point is, it is very difficult to remove all traces of bird droppings from a grey suit. It is also very difficult to remove all suspicion of foul play caused by an unexpectedly exuberant cold tap from a grey suit. Basically, grey is the worst colour of suit you can wear if you want to get away with anything.

I decided the best way to proceed was to draw attention to the bird accident, and that way nobody would be looking at my crotch. Better to be a victim of misfortune than its father. I approached the author, an old and long-suffering friend and former boss. “A seagull pooed on me,” I explained, pointing at the residue with one hand and obscuring my other stricken area with the other.

Her eyes did the opposite of a look of surprise. “It’s supposed to be lucky,” she lied, as she bundled me out of the way to speak to other, less faeces-spattered guests.

My current boss arrived. “A seagull pooed on me,” I explained. “It’s supposed to be lucky,” she also lied, on her way to her seat. They must teach it at Boss School.

A former colleague said, “Ooh, lucky!” when I told her. By that time I had had enough.

“How is this lucky? How? A bird pooed on me. That is the definition of unlucky. Even if I’m supposed to be lucky from the second it hit me, my next job is to remove bird plop from my clothes…”

I was warming to my theme, and gesticulating madly, my arms a blur. “That is not how luck works. And I should know because I’ve never had… What?”

“Gary,” she said. “Have you wet yourself?”

You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac is out now, price £12.99, unless you can get it cheaper. You probably can these days.

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