As a committee member I had been invited to a specially conformed conference to discuss matters of the utmost international importance. Held as it was within the solid imperial splendour of Victorian limestone, the entrances watched over by uniformed staff, ex-military, ex-police or even ex-G4S, my expectations rose to dizzying heights as to not only the outcome of the conference but my own status which I had always thought to be of a rather doubtful nature, skirting as it did both the gutter and the lower ranks of the aristocracy. Now this, I thought optimistically, now this is where I belong, and squared my shoulders as the commissionaire held out his hand so that he might examine any documentation I might have. My first attempt was a failure because he merely shook his head and moved as though he intended to send me marching back out the door that I had so recently entered through. From my voluminous pockets I was able to produce some other papers. I could see he was sorry that he didn’t have any latex gloves to handle such a doubtful offering but he was willing to take a chance and drew them towards his highly trained nostrils. After many dramatic contortions involving all his extensive facial musculature he cleared his throat. I had assumed he would then return my papers but his hands were now empty and he withdrew into an official indifference as to my existence and if I did indeed exist what actions I might take.
There was no reception desk and no receptionist but fortunately I had been informed my text message that the conference would be held on the ninth floor so I cast about for the lifts. As you well know the public transport systems in that distant city do not include much in the way conveniences so it was imperative that I discover the whereabouts of the gentleman’s conveniences fairly hastily. But I now seemed to be alone so seeing some stairs descending off in the shadows to my left I decided on that course of action. Two flights down I had the notion that a Virgil was needed to guide my steps. Did I have to go down in order to eventually end up on the ninth floor? Had I once again made the wrong decision? But, no, there is a door, heavy dark wood, perhaps mahogany, and though there was no sign on the door my spirits were lifted at the prospect of relief of urinary pressure. And what a delight it was to see a long row of gleaming urinals arrayed along the length of one wall, with gleaming copper pipework and glass splash guards to protect my admittedly unpolished shoes. Unzipping, as one must, in such circumstances, I was surprised by a low cough behind me. And then a woman’s voice:
‘Are you Pring, the poet?’ Almost a purr, even a hint of growl.
‘N-n-no,’ I stammered.
‘Are you Peliot the poet?’
‘No,’ no longer a stammer, but in fact a hint of anger that I was being delayed in self-producing the wished for relief.
‘Are you a poet at all?’
‘No, no, no I’m not a poet but I have to get to the ninth floor.’
That might just have been the wrong thing to say.
(To be continued)