“That looks like my husband's.”

Life I’ve just got back from a festive night out with Chris. Our first stop was the Philharmonic Hall Bar, which is one of the nicer places to have a drink in Liverpool. It’s only open on concert nights (and presumably when there are films) but if you time it right, you can be in and out during the parts of the performance when there’s music and listening. It’s nice and empty and you can get served super quickly even on a Friday night.

Tonight, we didn’t time it right. At all.

Seeing the audience enter from the stairs was a like being the first people at a party with the rest of the guests entering on mass. It’s odd watching the interval ritual from the other side, as Chris noted the bizarre rush to find a seat after having been sitting down for an hour. Not realising we’d still be there, we’d sat at a table for four and it wasn’t long before, just as we were about to leave in fact, someone asked if the other two were free. A balding man, late fifties wearing a cashmere coat.

“Well,” he said, “Would you mind watching them while I go to the bar?” Before we could answer he’d toddled off, leaving his scarf on one of the chairs.

We sat looking at the empty chairs, knowing that it wouldn’t be in the Christmas spirit to up and leave. “Are these taken?” “Yes.” “Are these taken?” “I don’t know. He might come back. Well alright, Yes.”

Time passes. The queue at the bar is huge. Why didn’t these people pre-book their drink? The system at the Phil is amazing with its pigeons holes and assigned numbers and prepared booze.

I hatch a plan. That we’d tell the next people who solicit for seating that they can have our spaces but ask them to watch the scarf instead. But by then, the seats had been empty for so long that people were obviously assuming that our friends were at the bar or something. I wonder about simply asking someone standing nearby, except they’re all threes and fours.

Time passes. We wait some more.

Then a couple of older women, in overcoats and scarves approach and try their hand. By now we’re definitely thinking about leaving whatever so we explain to them what’s been happening. One of them looks at the scarf:

“That looks like my husband's.”

Chris is clearly having the same thought I am. Could this be a ruse to steal the chairs? Could someone be that desperate? What happens to the scarf afterwards? Are they prepared for the confrontation when the person who’s seat they stole questions their motives?

Then the man reappears his arms laden with drinks. They are together.

Thank god. We leave. If this was a twenties novel, our exit would probably described as ‘making our apologies’, but for once we didn’t have anything to apologise for…

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