One Thursday when we went to The Cosmopolitan Bar in the centre of town, the Rastafarian had suggested we pop over the road to a newly-opened karaoke bar. One of his Rastafarian friends was already there and whereas he usually looked kind of dead, when I dropped my love of karaoke into the conversation, his face was resurrected to life and he suggested a duet. Fortunately, the Rastafarian was at the bar and so didn’t hear this faux pas (which wasn’t really, of course, but it would have been to him) so I quietly rejected the suggestion. However, I put my name forward to sing on my own and as it wasn’t busy, within 5 minutes I was on the stage. As I walked back to the table, the Rastafarian went to the loo and so I was left alone with Rastafarian Mark II.
‘You can sing!’ he enthused.
‘Aw, thank you!’ I was quite pleased with my renditions of Beautiful South’s Don’t Marry Her followed by The Velvet Underground’s I’m Sticking With You, although it was difficult to sing the male part of the latter.
‘Join my band,’ he invited, ‘because we need a female vocalist.’
The Rastafarian was heading back towards the table and so I hurriedly rejected the second offer made by Rastafarian Mark II that night and whereas I wanted to stay in The Karaoke Bar for longer, suddenly we were going. And then there was a row. He hadn’t even heard Rastafarian Mark II make some arguably controversial suggestions to me but apparently my behaviour was unacceptable because I dared to sit next to him while the Rastafarian was in the loo.
So, I was both suspicious and surprised the following Thursday, when, after he’d played in The Cosmopolitan Bar, he said ‘let’s go over the road’. The previous week, I’d asked the karaoke chappie for a particular song and although he didn’t have it, he promised to have it by the following week. As we walked in, Karaoke Chappie came straight over and announced, excitedly, ‘I’ve got that song! Shall I put your name down to sing it?’ I said ‘yes’, of course and the Rastafarian looked bemused. I did not expect him to have either recall of my singing the previous week or interest in my singing that week. If Karaoke Chappie hadn’t been so obviously gay, he would have had more than a passing interest in the way we interacted with each other though.
A short while later, Karaoke Chappie stopped me on my way back from the loo to say that I was next. The Rastafarian had been sitting at a table when I’d stopped to talk to Karaoke Chappie, but by the time I’d finished chatting to him, he was by the door, jacketed and scarfed up, holding out my coat.
‘But I’m about to sing!’ I protested.
‘But I’ve got you a drink over the road!’ he argued.
And he had.
Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t just stay. Not only had I listened to him sing countless times, but also I had praised him and immortalised him on video and in photos. But anyway, this is leading somewhere other than just another Rastafarian anecdote. After the winter of Rastafarian discontent, one of the first places I planned to visit was The Karaoke Bar. I invited some friends along to trill with me and warned them that we might run into the mythical (they’d never met him) Rastafarian. We met in a pub near the bus stop where we planned to catch a bus into town. They were well on their way to carefree drunkenness by the time I arrived so, as Friend 1 appeared to have a whole bottle of fizz all to herself, I felt like I was the welcome band of reinforcements to aid in the serious business of alcoholic libation. We were feeling a little fizzy ourselves by the time we alighted on the bus but a bracing walk from the bus-stop to The Karaoke Bar composed us a little.
I shot a quick sideways glance to check that the Rastafarian wasn’t outside The Cosmopolitan Bar on the other side of the road (he wasn’t) and we made our entrance into The Karaoke Bar. It was very busy, but filled only with the noise of chatter, not singing.
‘I guess they haven’t started yet,’ I explained.
It seemed like a function; there was something unusual about the intensity with which people were chit-chatting.
We made our way to the bar, wondering why everyone was wearing stickers.
‘Is there any karaoke tonight?’ I asked the barman, before investing in drinks we might not want if we were to be disappointed.
‘Why are all the men looking at us?’ said Friend 2 to Friend 1, simultaneously with my question to the barman.
He smiled, realising our mistake:
‘No. Speed dating tonight.’
‘Stay for speed dating!’ a blonde woman with a slightly manic look in her eyes commanded my friends, whom, evidently, she viewed as fresh meat.
Friend 2 and I looked at each other as if discussing the matter telepathically, then shook our heads whilst grimacing apologetically. We looked round for Friend 1 but she was already part of the speed dating scene, chatting to people at a table. She might even have been sporting a sticker. We went over to rescue her but she was difficult to rescue.
‘Let’s do speed dating!’ she cried.
‘Nah. Let’s not,’ Friend 2 and I agreed to disagree.
We managed to extract Friend 1 from the clutches of Paul 2 but she showed no gratitude.
‘But I liked Paul 2!’ she insisted.
Looking back, Friend 2 and I were a little harsh on Friend 1 but she was out-voted so we continued our search for karaoke. We’d had a tip-off that it was all happening on the other side of town so off we went, only to be let down again. We went to the nearest pub instead and a group of men heard our woeful story of the fruitless search for karaoke and said that they would listen to us sing outside. But it was a bit nippy by then and we weren’t blown away by any of them so we passed up their offer and I took Friend 1 and Friend 2 to The Folky Pub for a final drink.
Friend 1 wanted another whole bottle of fizz, of which I partook no more than a soupcon and I’m ashamed to say that half of it was left behind in the pub, but we didn’t want the walk of shame to the bus-stop to be made more shameful by swinging half a bottle of booze. To round off the evening, Friend 1 showed me her new dating app which looked very complicated, but maybe it was just because it had been a long evening.
I didn’t sleep well that night; my phone kept pinging but I was too tired to acknowledge it. In the morning I picked it up and I had a ridiculous number of notifications in . . . my new dating app . . ? I didn’t get it – I hadn’t engaged with this app at all so how did I have notifications? (I didn’t even remember downloading it to be honest.) I went into the app and after my eyes had adjusted to being open, I understood. You got notifications just when someone viewed your profile. I had a quick scroll through but no-one was knock-your-socks-off amazing and even if they had been, I couldn’t be bothered. I needed time to lick my wounds so I held down the app until it wobbled and with a tap on the cross I cut dead any potential relationships before they became so much as a nod in the right direction.