Monday 12 August 2013

Sorry but the plastic dinosaur – sorry, Thai water dragon – belonging to Diogenes the Hungarian dwarf really does remind me of the time when I used to play Dungeons and Dragons. Back then proto ‘shoot ’em up’ computer game designers were cutting their creative teeth on an amazing social concept: friends sat around a table (sometimes with Citadel metal miniatures) and role played Tolkien-inspired adventures in dungeon settings. A world of 20-sided dice, wandering monster tables, Kobolds and frighteningly tight chainmail underwear. In these crazed subterranean adventures one of the magical items your Fighter-High Elf-Lawful Good-Whatever You So Desired-character could acquire was a Bag of Holding. This seemingly innocuous leather bag was actually some sort of trans-dimensional device like Doctor Who’s Tardis, which meant it could actually hold much more than its outward physical dimensions suggested. Diogenes’ dinosaur is a bit like that like that – on the outside merely a medium-sized plastic drgon but after unzipping its belly he pulls out one blessed thing after another. In fact, he keeps going until the table is almost groaning under the Himalayan weight of it all.

     “Blimey,” I say. “Is this the special delivery from Thailand then – the stuff that was saved from that terrible flood?”          

     Diogenes takes a tatty old sepia exercise book from the pile, suspiciously holding the spine between his thumb and forefinger.

     “Yes,” he says. “They’re all old and falling apart. Might as well chuck ’em, to be honest.”

     “You better bloody not!” I quickly take the book from him. “And be careful. All that you see before you – the exercise books, badges, squeezed tubes, caskets, VHS tapes, scraps of papers, postcards, box lids, paper bags, torn envelopes and that weird statuette with the bulging penis – all represent the detritus of a lifetime of pratting about in the sometimes dangerously improbable areas of the worlds’ dark and wrinkled soft bits. So treat with care, my hairy vertically challenged friend.”

     “You’re lucky I didn’t come across this lot cleaning the Budapest streets otherwise it would have gone straight into my dustcart where it belongs.”

     I gently take a train ticket issued in Asuncion and hold it up. “You know what this is?”

     “A train ticket issued in Paraguay?”

     Honestly, I sometimes despair. 

     “No,” I say, patiently. “It is not just a Paraguayan train ticket. It is…it is…like a Ring of Teleportation…but disguised as…as a, err, ticket.”

     “Jack, how much have you had to drink?”

     “Not enough.”

     We both laugh.

     Diogenes sits back in his chair and orders two glasses of full-bodied local wine. Alright,” he says. “I give up. You tell me the story behind a crappy old train ticket that is actually not a disguised magical item.”

     “Only if you insist.”

     “Deal is the same as always: I get the drinks in and you supply the dubious stories.”

     “Oh, go on then…”