Zoggs was at the bar before me and ordered for all of us while the Bagman who was chronically bar - shy stashed the rucksack he always slung over his shoulder. With pints of cool beer in our hands we joined Dwyfor, Marley and The Infanta who were having a heated debate about pop music.
"No, no. See the DJ and MC are not the same. DJ is the one who wears on his head one of those woolly things your granny used to use to keep the teapot warm. And MC is the one in crap trousers."
"How do you work that out?" the Infanta, who was past sixty, no princess and certainly not Spanish asked.
"Well it stands to reason don'it? I mean, what could MC stand for except Merde Culottes?"
"Talking of strange clothes, we were talking about ghosts and hauntings on the way up" I raised my point about the man in the Opera Cloak.
"He's maybe just an eccentric, or maybe an actor who lives his part." Dwyfor said. "I seen him at times. Never hangs round though. He's there, then he's gone kind of. Perhaps its because he only seems to be in when the place is really buzzing. The Welsh have a reputation for being romantic and spiritual but Dwyfor, so called after a River in North Wales because hid did not like to be nicknamed Taff after a River in South Wales as most Welshmen are, was normally very prosaic.
"I have actually spoken to him" The Infanta announced grandly, she was an actress who did not work often but tended to announce everything grandly "and I do not think he is an ac-tor," the second syllable was emphasised, "for one thing his movements are not as those of one who has trodden the boards."
Marley, a social worker, said that had the man been a care - in - the - community case he would have known. Marley knew everybody. Six feet seven tall, the Barbadian was thought to be so nicknamed in connection with Bob Marley but he actually earned the sobriquet because he had once worked as an enforcer for the nastiest loan shark in North London. After rehabilitating himself by reading Dickens during a spell in jail for superglueing somebody's buttocks together and force feeding the victim laxatives, he qualified in Social Science and was welcomed into his new profession, most members of which were ill equipped to deal with their more destructively dysfunctional clients.
We were really beginning to become embroiled in speculation about the stranger when Bagman performed his usual trick.
"Look, he's probably just a nineteen sixties boring old fart trying to attract attention. I mean, we are getting excited over his wearing a top hat and Opera Cloak, put what else can you wear with a green flower?"
"There aren't many flowers that are green," said The Infanta. "Except a few species of lily."
"But not Gilded Lilies," I quipped, only to be ignored.
"And they are not really green, sort of greeny white, like that paint, you know. People say it's white with a hint of green or this or that and you're supposed to be impressed. Only it looks like ordinary white except they paid twice the price for it."
I told you Dwyfor was prosaic.
"That's the way with everything though, product image adds value." Marley spoke, "I learned it at college, manipulation, putting ideas in people's heads so they don't realise they are being influenced. That's what its all about. Controlling minds. Our senior lecturer said nobody makes money by selling things now, you got to sell ideas, make people buy into the image. Sell a product, you go broke. Selling something that doesn't exist it the way to success. You're selling people identity in a world where everything is becoming more impersonal."
"Of course, its a social engineering thing, like dumbing down and heath fascism. They pump the message at us constantly and eventually it sinks in. Marketing and manipulation is a science now." Dwyfor was a conspiracy theorist and delighted in telling us how the government and corporations were controlling our minds.
"It must be a pretty inexact science," said Zoggs.
"Mathematics being the only exact science of course," said a new voice, "its exponents can always prove the answer to a problem is exactly what they assumed it was at the outset." We all looked round to see who the speaker was. I could have worn the voice came from right next to me but The Infanta was sitting there as she had been since my arrival.
"That was him, that was him." Dwyfor flustered. "He was just stood here next to me. Here" He pointed. "But when I turned round to look he wasn't."
"I thought he was next to me, could've sworn I caught a glimpse of that green carnation." The Infanta looked at me as she spoke.
"I never moved," I assured her. " This is weird. We looked at Zoggs for a scientific opinion.
"It could be a stored energy phenomenon. I mean, how old is this place? Think of all the people who have been through, and all the energy emissions their atoms have given off. Maybe the energy we generate acts as a catalyst."
"They say cats are very sensitive to psychic things. Get Splicer over and ask if he ever had a pet."
The Infanta may have been stupid or she may have been a lateral thinker but she was always fun.
The place had really filled with refugees from football and it was difficult to attract the landlord's attention but when he did come our story did not surprise him.
"I reckon we should just stop talking about this guy" Marley said, "and when somebody sees him, get hold of his collar and ask who the hell he is. But let's not waste any more time talking about him"
"There is only one thing worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about." It was the voice that had spoken before and to each one around the table it seemed to come from just next to them. When we looked though, the same person was there as had been all evening. I closed my eyes and saw, clearly printed on the fresh blackness, an image of a green carnation.
"This is spooky," Dwyfor said, "you know who said that don't you? Oscar Wilde. And who wore a green carnation. Oscar Bloody Wilde, that's who."
"Its somebody playing tricks, Bagman said, "I mean why would Oscar Wilde be poncing about in the Gilded Lily?"
"I remember, when I had the lead role in The Infanta de Castille, a swashbuckling romance set in the sixteenth century dears,..."
"....filmed in the sixteenth century" Bagman whispered
"....Marcel Strayne should have been my leading man but he broke his ankle jumping out of the writer's bedroom window. His wife had come home early you see....
"....Marcel's wife? How did she know he was...."
"....no the writer's wife, darling. The legendary Marcel Strayne, superstud of the British film industry was a screaming queen. Anyway Marcel's injury put him out of action for three months by which time he was contractually obliged to do a season in pantomime and his place was taken by Sterling Argent who was over sixty and playing the lover of a seventeen year old. My story though concerns a cast member, a very old man who played the king's great uncle. This was in nineteen fiftymmph - flmph well, about nineteen seventy dears, and he told a story actors used to tell when he was a boy. It was said that on the first night of a new play in the West End the ghost of Oscar Wilde would often appear. If the production was well received at final curtain the ghost would clearly be seen from the proscenium, usually sitting on the balustrade of the dress circle and leading the applause. If however the script was a dud then the apparition would leave at the intermission...."
"Bloody poetic isn'it; when she's in full flow." Dwyfor provided the aside in a stage whisper.
"You see the ghost is attracted by wit and stimulating conversation, imagination and original ideas, because that is how Oscar channeled his energy, so there it no reason why it would not find its way here."
"You don't believe that twaddle do you?" I asked
The voice broke in again "The old believe everything, the middle aged suspect everything and the young know everything" The Infanta pulled a face on working out she was the OLD referred to.
The Spirits Of Wycoller
Sceptics scoff at the old man's stories of paranormal activity in an abandoned village and its ruined manor house. But when a group of young professionals decide to spend a night within the walls of the old house, the ghost hunters become the hunted. If anybody needs a reminder that it is always unwise to mess with the dark side they'll find it here.