more interesting way home than the adjoining roads, and if you suddenly realised you
needed a pee, well …
I think the Drunken Urban Climbing thing all started when there was some work be-
ing done under a bridge and the towpath had been closed off with a wall of wooden
boards; I was annoyed that my route was blocked, but then just went hand-over-hand
along the top of the boards, legs dangling over the canal, until I got to the far end and re-
sumed my walk. Another time I climbed over a wall into a factory yard and up this piece
of industrial paraphernalia that looked like something out of an oil refinery and smelled
like a tannery; it was about six or seven metres tall and had some sort of series of stepped,
shallow open tanks at the top into one of which I inadvertently put a foot while standing
up to get a better view. The boot concerned fell apart over the course of the following
week and that sock was never quite the same again, but my foot was all right.
I had, perhaps foolishly, confessed this eccentric but relatively harmless pastime to
Ann, who proceeded to persuade me - with a degree of forthrightness I had not previ-
ously credited her with - that Drunken Urban Climbing was, basically, unbelievably stu-
pid. When I was sober I realised this myself, of course. Anyway, I made a promise to her:
no more climbing.
And I kept my promise, I'm proud to say, until, standing on that balcony overlooking
the pebbly beach of Brighton as the horizon went from black to grey and that clear sum-
mer's night becoming morning, I spotted a loophole.
While Dave Holmes held my drink, I swung my legs over the side of the wrought-
iron balcony, reached across for a handhold or two and made the easy traverse to the bal-
cony outside Toby's sitting room. A traverse, you see? Completely horizontal movement.
No height gained at all. And therefore, by definition, not climbing! Promise unbroken;
Dave was still looking for a place to put down both the drinks he now held, and Rog
Peyton had, after staring open-mouthed, not entirely believing what he was seeing, made
a grab to stop me, but I was already gone, holding onto the outside of the railing on the
other balcony and looking in at the sitting room where I could see John Jarrold sitting
on a couch talking with a young lady. The couch was positioned at about 45 degrees to
the opened balcony doors, and this is where the slightly stupid bit comes in. I said, 'Hey
there, Mr Jarrold,' and waved.
When I had John's attention I switched hands and waved with my other hand, then
did this again, each time leaving a short interval when I had both hands off the railing and
was, effectively - feet not quite balanced on the outside edge of the balcony's stonework
- starting to fall. Before I caught myself and waved. Wave, switch (start to fall back-
wards), grasp railing and wave; wave, switch (start to fall backwards), grasp railing and
wave; I did this a few times before John, staring at me, worked out what was wrong with