The Toby Hunt

Shortly before the end of term there had been a day when, for some reason, I’d felt a little sorry for myself. It was a Friday and I had gone to the pub with colleagues after work and the sun had smiled on us, so all the ingredients were there for a jolly start to the weekend, but although the sun warmed my face, my spirits remained cool. I took Rusty down to the beach on arriving home and whilst I was there, my lovely boss messaged me to ask if I was ok. I explained I was just having an off-day and after a few interchanges, the idea of a Toby Hunt was born. We earmarked a day in summer for the occasion and it would be an all-day event, the purpose of which was to scout around for a titian god-like creature called Toby and perhaps have a bit of fun along the way.
By the time the day arrived, it had turned into a expedition involving around a dozen of us, all from work. Of course, some things had changed since the idea was first mooted, like my wrist breaking. Actually, that was the only thing really, but it was enough. It meant I had a good excuse for having a wash and blow dry for the event, at the hands of The Italian. I decided that it would be the last time and I would struggle through somehow after that, as I was concerned that wrong ideas were flying around with abandon. I’d become friends with The Dude again, too, after emotions had become less raw and I had concerns there, too. He’d actually regretted ending our relationship and tried to claw back the hurtful words that had been thrown my way in the heat of the moment, but for many reasons I wanted to stick with the relationship ending.
So anyway, we met on the boardwalk and The Toby Hunt kicked off with a jug of Pimms. We moseyed around down on the seafront for a while, enjoying the sun and eventually, slowly, made our way into town and hit the cocktail bars. At some point we ate some food, because we were downing copious amounts of booze and someone sensible (one of the science department, I believe) pointed out that it would be prudent to cushion the litres of alcohol sloshing around inside our stomachs with some food. I think we settled for something very hip like nachos which probably didn’t help much at all, but by the time they arrived even the science department were necking 2-4-1 cocktails and so there was no-one left to look after the proceedings in a responsible manner.
In the initial stages of The Toby Hunt, it seemed that our number multiplied with every bar we visited, until there was a sort of crescendo around 6pm, when I wasn’t sure if I was seeing double or if there really were lots of people in attendance. Then the opposite happened; with every bar we visited between that time and midnight, we seemed to lose people, until very late at night, when we actually ended up in the folky pub where it had all happened and there were about 4 or 5 of us left. 1 or 2 people really needed to go home by then, but of course, the more people need to go home, because of drinking to excess, the less they realise this fact, or want to go home, even if they do realise.
So, there we were, relaxing with one last drink before going on our homeward journeys. I started to recall the night I’d met Toby, as he was the reason for the day out in the first place. We were at the bar and one of our number thought it would be a good idea to interrogate the barmaid about Toby. He didn’t run this past me at all and when I realised the situation, I gave him some stern looks that said ‘N0! No! No’. But he ignored me. Another friend had done that exact same thing in the early days, but that was different; since then, I’d become a bit of a regular and I felt known in the pub for that reason and I didn’t want to become known for being a mad, needy weirdo! Gosh, I thought, if I’m worried that that’s what I’ll seem, maybe I am a mad, needy weirdo . . .
‘Erm – excuse me – do you have a regular in here called Toby?’
Argh! The embarrassment! And of course he isn’t a regular, I thought . . . I’m in here so much, I would have met him by now if he was!
‘Hmm . . .’ she replied, ‘there is a chap who comes in here sometimes called Toby.’
What? No way . . . Is this Toby Hunt actually going to prove fruitful?
Colleague turned round and winked.
‘He’s a friend of the Rastafarian guy who plays reggae in here,’ she continued.
‘Oh -I know him!’ I commented. I didn’t actually know him, but I knew who she meant.
I felt slightly light-headed for a couple of seconds. I saw the Rastafarian playing reggae in The Folky Pub every Sunday. I’d got to know a few of the musicians, so it would be easy to get an introduction. Original Blues Guy was the obvious choice, so I texted him.
‘Can’t remember his name,’ he replied to my text, asking what the Rastafarian’s name was.
‘But you chat to him every Sunday! I’ve seen you!’ I replied.
‘Can’t keep up with you,’ he retorted, ‘First it’s Toby, now it’s the Rastafarian.’
No! This is all still about Toby!’ I struggled to hide my frustration.
So I left it. I can introduce myself to him, I thought . . .

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