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“Open Mike tonight if you’re around.”
For the last few years, the Cranley Hotel has played host to Sparky, Open Mike extraordinaire. As labouriously detailed in Sparky – The Final Encore (with flash goodness too!), his songs light up a darkened room, raise the roof and could bring a tear to a glass eye, all at the same time. He semi-retired from singing over a year ago, but his fanbase demanded more. Much more. So he’s become an unofficially regular feature back at the hotel, and his text message was enticing. The idea of a night listening to his songs battled with a strong desire to do absolutely nothing. Another text message, 2 hours later, instantly made up my mind.
“Currently sitting about 2 foot from Chris Evans.”
Shunta was at the hotel watching Sparky, and by sheer coincidence so was Chris Evans, presenter, broadcaster and millionaire good-time guy. The chance of Open Mike and a celebrity appearance was too much, and Michelle and I rushed out the door. We were eager as beavers.
Unlike my car. The flashing tyre light has been on for a number of days, and like a buffoon I’d ignored it. My car was plainly peeved, choosing this moment to throw a tyre-based strop, flashing a big red warning light and forcing me to stop.
And so it was that while friends and Mr Evans were living it up in Cranleigh, Michelle and I were sat at the side of the road in Guildford, pumping air into my right rear tyre. Luckily, within twenty minutes we were back on the road, and steaming towards the hotel. We rocked up at 9pm, just in time to see the last dregs of a Chris Evans-sponsored sambuca bottle draining into the mouth of Shunta. They were all plainly drunk, and my original plan to drink little and drive home went out of the window as quickly as a defenestrated slipper. We drank, listened and clapped along with Chris and his small entourage, who was plainly as taken with Sparky as we are. He was also plainly very drunk.
Shunta was on good form, fresh from a rather vicious barbers. His off-the-cuff suggestion for a made up song – titled “I wasn’t born here, I’m just here for the cheese” – was one of my favourite moments of the night. A bit later, eyeing up Mr Evans, he hatched a plan. “If you can sleep with him,” he asked his fiance Lucy, pointing at our celebrity, “we’ll be quids in.” Lucy agreed, the game girl, and after a quick touch-up of makeup, managed to get a seat at his table. She had stiff competition, mind, from Chris’s girlfriend. And worse luck was to come – his girlfriend was plainly so drunk that there was nothing for it but to leave. We managed not to be too disappointed and continued well into the night with song, dance and The Only Gay Eskimo.
So now, thanks to Sparky and Shunta, I can now say that I’ve been drinking with Chris Evans. The evening was also a winner for Sparky, not just because of his sensational singing (ably backed up, by the way, by Shaun, who appears to be getting worryingly good). Chris Evans was impressed enough to invite him to host nights at a pub he’s about to buy in Chiddingfold. It’s a small step to stardom, Sparky…