Saturday 10th December

Topless union gear for poet (8)

It’s official then. The bastards have hung me out to dry. Phil and Marie-Claire really are tying the knot on December 30th and told everyone that I am to be the best man at their modest nuptial gathering aboard the Folly Bargères (sic), departing from Folly Bridge that lunchtime.

The canal barge in question is expected to potter serenely up and down the Isis – hardly an arduous journey, although I am sure the proprietors of the Marchioness said much the same thing in 1989. We are unlikely to be rammed by a passing dredger (although you never know, do you?) and I wonder what kind of personal grand folly I will inadvertently perpetrate to precipitate not only my own demise but also that of my fellow passengers? Should I turn the invitation down or simply fail to turn up? Surely that would be the fairest thing to do.

But would it make any difference? If it is written in the stars that four men ride out and only three ride back, that I must drown on that particular day, does it make any difference whether I struggle to avoid my fate or actively embrace it? Sooner or later we all have to die.

Should I have myself admitted to a secure mental hospital and kept under 24-hour surveillance until the day is past? No, I could be strait-jacketed and locked inaccessibly away when, due to a freak plumbing incident and a sudden outbreak of sleeping sickness amongst the supervisory staff, I am engulfed in a roomful of icy water. Whether I hide out at the top of Mount Ararat or take a holiday in the Atacama Desert where it has not even rained for several millennia, there is still no guarantee that I won’t fall victim to some one-in-a-trillion concatenation of events. Once the President of the Immortals has decided to end his water-sport with me, there will be no effective appeal to some Higher Court of Arbitration.

No, I will steer a middle course and hope the Folly does likewise. I shall not encourage my watery nemesis but I will not run away from it either. I tell myself that it is an honour to be Phil’s best man (again). It may be that I will be the first best man ever to make his speech while wearing a life-jacket.

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