Sad but true, she’d said.
Sad. But. True.
From this, I deduce (incorrectly, as it turned out) that I should tell her a lie to cheer her up (what with the truth making her sad, and all that).
“I once had a number 1 hit in Norway,” I say. Norway? “I mean Denmark,” I correct myself. Denmark? What’s the sodding difference? Norway, Denmark. Denmark, Norway. They’re completely interchangeable in the minds of people who haven’t read their history books, especially ones about the Second World War (me, for starters). I may as well have stuck with Norway. “Actually, I think it was Norway and Denmark,” I elaborate, digging yet deeper. “I think the Scandinavian countries decided to collate their record sales in the 70s or 80s,” I say, inanely, “after ‘Norwegian Wood’ became Denmark’s best-ever selling single; it only reached number 11 in the Norwegian charts, thanks to a campaign not to buy it, orchestrated by the Norwegian Society of Ironists. The Norwegian Phonographic Industry were hugely embarrassed and persuaded Denmark to jump into bed with them, so to speak.” I’m quite bored (or possibly exhausted) by all my lying, so shut up.
“Well then, you must have had a number 1 hit in Sweden as well,” she says.
“Why must I have had a number 1 hit in Sweden as well?” I ask. “That doesn’t follow.”
“Because Sweden is a Scandinavian country…” she says in her ‘Derr, ficko!’ voice.
“So what,” I say.
“Well, you said that the Scandinavian countries put all their record sales together, or something,” she answers.
Geography books as well as history books. Oh, dear. “Sweden refused to join in,” I explain. This part, at least, is partially true (not the refusing to join, but the fact of not joining; there was nothing to join, so how could they?).
She looks at me with her ‘Oh, yeah?’ face, eyes wide with incredulity (not to mention the folded arms, the leaning back in the chair: the Full Treatment).
“Denmark and Norway refused to buy any records by ABBA as a protest…” against what? Think! “…against Sweden’s continued involvement in the slave trade, which meant that ABBA would never have had any number 1s on their home soil – which is mainly rock and ice, I think – and the Swedish Pornographic Industry would never have stood for that.”
“Sweden’s Pornographic Industry?” she squeals, emphasizing the ‘graph’ in pornographic. I consider making an inappropriate, graph-based joke, but decide that enough is enough.
“All right, all right,” I say. “I didn’t really have a number 1 hit in Scandinavia; I was just trying to cheer you up.”
“Come here, you,” she says in her you’re a lap-dog voice.
I do as I am bid, but as I get up to cross to her, she gets up and leaves.
“Twit,” she mutters, leaving me dumbfounded, or it confounded?
By the time I have gathered what passes for my wits, I call after her, “No, but I really did once have a number 7 hit in Romania!” but she is out of earshot, so I ask the barman for another pint of bitter. “Only, this time, leave out the freshly squeezed lemon juice,” I say. “As far as fusion beverages go, I’m not sure it worked.”
“Would you like the freshly squeezed juice of a kumquat with that?” he asks.
I laugh at his suggestion, but nod my head in agreement.
“Let’s go mad!” I shout, and jump off a cliff.
Although, now that I come to think of it, it might have been a bar-stool.