The friendship between Paul and I, unlike so many university friendships, lasted into our so-called adult lives. This was probably helped, in part, by the fact that I left Keele two years before he did and so was able to use his flat as a bolt hole when I wanted to go back and visit people.
After graduating, Paul and I followed one another around the country for a few years. His first job, like mine, was in Manchester and we ended up living a couple of streets from one another with our respective girlfriends. Then he moved to Bromley (which is the sort of effect that Manchester has on people) and so was handily placed to help us move when Helen and I ultimately moved to London.
After that, he moved to Nottingham, where my parents were now living, so we still saw each other regularly. By then, he had split from his girlfriend Jane and had resumed his old student lifestyle, only this time his pursuit of women and alcohol was combined with his pursuit of a decent job and an accountancy qualification.
Which is how what became as The Natalie Incident came about.
For some reason, we had decided that Helen, Paul and I should go for afternoon tea at Simpsons in the Strand. Paul took a shine to our waitress, Natalie, but was reluctant to do anything about it. After we left, we walked the length of The Strand whilst he ummed and aahed about the problem, no doubt hindered by huge helpings of conflicting advice from Helen and I (we were good at that).
Eventually, we reached Trafalgar Square, whereupon Paul decided to buy a card from the book shop on the corner of the Square and write a note to Natalie. Which meant we then had to walk all of the way back up The Strand so that he could deliver it.
That night, we were getting ready to go out for a few drinks when the phone rang. To everyone’s surprise, it was Natalie. Unfortunately for Paul, the only phone was in the most open-plan part of the building, so we got to hear him fixing up his date for next weekend before he could actually ask if he could come and stay the next weekend.
Next Saturday came and Paul arrived. After some extremely girly fussing over what to wear he was packed off to meet his waitress. Helen and I stayed at home and took bets on when he might return. And then we waited. And waited. And waited.
Paul came back at around 1pm the next day, looking rather sheepish. He was even more sheepish after we had reworked this song, which was in the charts at the time, to include the line “We said what about sleeping with Natalie”