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Songs in the key of another life

I attended the HMIEADES Conference on Achievement. It was held in really Spartan surroundings - the local Hydro. Pampered, feted, wined, dined and bored to the point of giving up the will to live. I've never seen such preening, posturing and posing since the last P7 prom at St Pats, and at least the kids didn't realise what they were doing.

The keynote speaker asked all the right questions. Pity he hadn't any answers. The Minister read his speech well. It was all motherhood and apple pie. Or maybe brotherhood and mince pie would be more appropriate. Anyway, the sessions in the bar were more productive.

After a period of back-stabbing, dirt-dishing and character assassination, those lacking in stamina or a good convent education retired to bed to shout for Hughie and Ralph in their marbled pedestals or basins. I eventually gave in at about 3am after the boys' talk resorted to matters not fittingly discussed in the presence of ladies. Anyway, I'd heard all their jokes many years ago, and they weren't all that funny then.

I had hung my jacket over the back of a chair and I picked it up. As I got out of the lift, I fumbled in the pocket for the key. Number 304. I opened the door, but didn't recognise the room layout or the clothes and accessories. I was just about to dial room service to see what had happened, when I heard a poor impersonation of Robbie Williams singing "Angels" coming from the bathroom.

A male voice. I froze. I looked across at the chair. There was a jacket - just like my jacket. It was my jacket! Whose was I wearing? I knew I wasn't supposed to be in 304. I was in 204, one floor below.

"Robbie Williams" transmogrified into an even poorer version of Freddie Mercury and burst into an off-key version of "Fat Bottomed Girls" amid the sound of teeth being cleaned, wind being broken and mouthwash gargled. I had to get out, and quickly.

The drainpipe? Not at 47, Bridget. Behave yourself. The door? I mentally paced it out: 12 giant steps at least. Under the bed? Risky. Someone else might be there. I remember the Brian Rix farces. The wardrobe? Someone else might be there too.

"Freddie" was about to turn the door handle. My life flashed in front of me.

Thankfully he was as drunk as a skunk and staggered across the floor and collapsed on the bed. He was totally unaware that a petrified female person was trying to melt into the wall beside the smouldering trouser press.

Even from this unappealing angle, I could recognise the beached whale as one of those addressing the conference.

His achievement was considerable. He had managed to keep the evening's food and drink down.

My achievement was even greater. I had managed to reclaim my jacket, including the key to Room 204 and left without, as they say, having to make my excuses. I had taken the key to the keynote speaker's room and survived.

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