Earlier he overheard a woman telling a stranger where she lived. She reminded him of a young Miriam Margolyes. “I always have one whisky before I read,” he told his friend and then regretted it as he made his way clumsily through a valley of legs. These were not the poems he meant to read but everyone else was keeping it brief. Too brief. And not brief enough for others. I should recite more often, he thought, I should know my own words. There was an invasion after the break. The Poetry Group had come en masse with anger and anecdotes, amateur Marxism and all out sentimentality. They were all headliners. Or told themselves that. They talked so much between poems. Disco balls dangled from the ceiling. Different sizes. Too much, too much, it was all so over the top. All their exposition reminded him of the time he was with the other poets, The Cruel Poets, and their laughter at Andrew Motion’s stories. Motion’s father in Normandy. Stories of the distance between generations. Forgotten stories. They played a recording of Motion reading but, crucially, only his talking between poems. Never the actual poems. “They’re longer than any of his poems,” one of the Cruel Poets had said. “What’s the point then?” said another Cruel Poet. He didn’t laugh with them but he got it now. It was happening tonight because The Guardian were there. Fame has come for us, that’s what they must have been all thinking. The boy shouting nob head over and over. The woman going on about sex. The girl overdoing her accent. The mock theatrical fool. The toilet offered refuge and later when he was too drunk he came home and remembered what he’d said to the famous writer. “Say something that will make him raise his eyebrows,” the camera man had said. And when he told the famous writer that he hated his last book even though he’d never read any of his books he regretted it immediately. A second regret. Or a third if you count the poems he didn’t read. The famous writer knew it was a joke, he must have. But it was good to be home even if there was no milk to make tea. He threw his blazer over the bannister, calmed the dog and opened the living room door. The cat was there. The floor was covered with shattered pieces of the green vase.