“Zulus?” I ask.
Simon nods. He points. “Thahsands of ‘em,” that’s not in the film, not said by Bromhead anyway but Simon’s on a working-class kick with the baggy trousers and braces. He’s already done a little dance. He winks. It was his turn to choose where we went and bless him, for the old dear is fifty this year. I’m probably missing something but we’re almost certainly going to die unless we leave, and soon, but Rob’s already digging about in a crate by the door.
“I don’t want to be stabbed,” I say, “by a spear.” No one’s listening.
“Martini?” this was Maurice. I’m not sure this is the right one. He arrived in a Rolls that smokes now outside where he shot it in the face with an elephant gun. Not a gun for shooting elephants (for that would be cruel and he hates cruelty to animals). No this was a gun such as he found to equip elephants in order to deter ivory hunters. He says it again, “Martini?”
“Henry!” says Rob who starts to hand out rifles. “Breech loaders, accept nothing less.”
We don’t, there’s only the elephant gun as an alternative and that takes nearly an hour to prepare. I’m hung over. I woke up only an hour before with my bladder halfway to the toilet and being very stealthy in case my stomach noticed. We all have off days. At times we have off us, if we find the wrong one. We’ve been stuck flitting about between 1955 and 1989 since 1986, and it’s now... I ask.
“1991,” say Simon. Then, “’Ave a banana.”
In the 80s they were all at university flunking a variety of degrees, apart from Maurice who studied Librarianship And Salem, and who not only made it to the exam, but passed. We only found out later that the reason degrees were so sparse was that Sarah had them all. Sarah-world is a nice place to visit, only not for too long. It’s like Sex & The City, only in three week blocks and in the shadow of Glastonbury. More sort of three-weeks on, three weeks off, in the sticks. Her army of lovers work the oil rigs, and they’re all called Roy.
At university the boys all took Blue Sunshine, or so Simon says, but given all includes Jerry that seems a little unlikely. And that’s why we can do, what we do. Jerry would be here preparing to fight off thousands of Zulus but he’s skiing. He found a world where it’s always winter and never Christmas, and off-piste (we’re told) is to die for. He means it too; if you go off-piste he hunts you down like a dog with his packs of politically-minded grumpy fighting-badgers. It’s a very unlikely life we lead. There’s more, and it’s not very complicated, but I’ve got this hangover.
I don’t know where we are either. Rob sent round a maxi-cab. He doesn’t hold with mini-cabs, they don’t have the legroom. And they need the legroom because they’re always driven by one of his legion of giant super-models, not named but numbered. I was picked up by Number Nine. Literally, as like I say I’ve got this cracking head on me and Number Nine had her orders, and me by the scruff of the neck. Maurice says they piss Pinot Gregio and shit croissants, and everything is out there somewhere so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility, in these infinite realms of possibility. Number Nine didn’t say where we were going, I ask and Rob does, it’s Hampshire. I answer, “Zulus, in Hampshire?”
“Zulus,” says Simon, “ravers, either one.” And then, “Guv.”
There used to be a villain, not my villain, but there was one. He was called Firth. He had a first name but Rob was already taken so he changed his to ‘Mr’. He’d decided that we were spoiling things what with having all the fun, traipsing about like teenagers given the chance to go anywhere, anywhen, anywhy. So he tried to kill us and somewhere he probably succeeded. But he was very firm on rules and the big one was we couldn’t go further than 1989. So he didn’t, and became a solicitor, and us?
We’re somewhere in a field in Hampshire, and Rob’s making notes. Maurice wants to do a bunk. He says, “Let’s all meet up in the year 2000?” and Rob’s pencil is feverish.
“Monday morning?” and the pencil snaps.
Simon’s going to stay with the common people.
We’re a different class.