The Guvnor’s been fired! This calls for a trip to a plush club

A text from the Guvnor. This is unusual in itself, particularly as there has been a certain frostiness between us ever since he declined
an invitation to lend me £100 until the end of the month. I had assumed he considered me a financial risk, which I am of course anything but. Well, all right, maybe a little bit, but not with him I'm not: you don't zoom the landlord of your local, especially if said landlord knows all sorts of interesting characters and is obviously a bit tasty himself.

No: it turns out instead that there were wheels within wheels. Unbelievably, he has been sacked from his own pub by his wife. Imagine that - a life-changing argument between a man and his own wife! The mind reels. It is true that the Guvnor has not exactly been a choirboy, but still.

No place like Home

All at once, my heart melts for this man. Also, I cannot imagine the Duke without him. A man with the filthiest mind in England is just the kind of person you want running a pub if you want to be entertained.

He also knows how to run a pub: the place clears an incredible amount in profit every year, even if it concentrates too much on the food at the expense of the beer. (A recurrent complaint. "But we just cleaned the pipes today," is the invariable response, which invites the suspicion that there is more to being a cellar-master than just cleaning the sodding pipes, but as the Duke is the nearest pub in the world, I let it go.) But his text contains, in precis, an enormous amount of information, enough for some kind of family-based saga. Is it Dallas, though, or Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate? We arrange to meet up for a drink and lunch, which he will pay for. "The Groucho?" he suggests. Sadly, until I can scrape together the funds for this year's membership, I can't really step inside its doors unless: a) I am someone else's guest or b) I'm feeling in the mood for a little light humiliation.

In the end he suggests Home House, the staggeringly plush posh members' club in Portman Square, which is at least handy for me geographically (but with its membership fee of £2,000 per annum not at all handy financially). So, even though on the appointed day I am suffering exquisitely from a hangover and would, ideally, rather be in bed reading Sherlock Holmes stories, I feel that not only can I not desert the Guvnor in his hour of need, but that I really must get to the bottom of this.

A little digression, first, on Home House. Even though we are accompanied by the very good-looking fashionista Pam and her mum, it takes about 20 minutes for a waiter to recognise our existence. This gives us plenty of time to notice all the crap on the table. (Well, it's not literally crap, it's loads of crumbs and a damp paper coaster, but you would have thought that somewhere costing a fiver a day before you've even bought a drink would sort this out without prompting.)

Although I cannot fault the whisky sour they bring me apart from the fact that it takes about a year to arrive, we all find ourselves staggered at the waiter's technique with the wine bottle: straight through the foil with one of those rubbish two-armed corkscrews, a manoeuvre performed hesitantly and ineptly, as if it were his first time. The Guvnor, who knows a hell of a lot about wine, watches with the calm but concentrated look of a Mafia boss who has just seen his next hit heave into view.

Barbados revenge

Anyway, although I can't quite bring myself to tell you all the details (I know I have a duty to keep my readers up to speed, but there are limits to how much one can divulge for public consumption), the whole business is sad, convoluted, intractable and, once there is a lawyer wily enough to serve it on him, involves the Guvnor being injuncted to stay at least 100 yards from his wife, and the pub. Which, as he points out, is going to make trips to the doctor's difficult, as the surgery is next door.

He has managed to keep the cats, Thelma and Louise, and the van; and, it has to be said, his sense of humour.

There then followed an account of the kind of ding-dongs that typically happen in this kind of situation, which it is not my business
to air here. Suffice to say it all sounded all very familiar. "I guess I'm now in the same boat as you," he said, although compared to him I'm
in steerage. I'm certainly not in any position to take three people out to lunch at Home House, or contemplate going to Barbados just to piss the ex off.

Can anyone lend me 100 quid till the end of the month?

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 03 October 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Which Tories is it ok to love?