Monday, 25 October 2010

A terrible gig, a lunatic pub, a man in a wig and a face full of grub.

As usual, it all started out so innocently. I had the weekend off and was going out for a few drinks with Georgie, Limburn and a few other close reprobates to belatedly celebrate her birthday. Then at two days notice I was asked to go and do a gig in Dunstable – the money was all right and it was an early finish so I figured I could be back in Hitchin for 10pm to get back to the original plan, albeit a couple of hours late. On the day I remembered however that it was also Small Paul’s “Phat” party at The George II in Luton. I’d heard about these legendary evenings and frankly didn’t want to miss out. This would, of course, involve Steve as his pub was in Luton and it would be churlish not to invite him along, so I did.

I got over to the venue in Dunstable nice and early for a sound check. On walking in it looked for al the world like everything  was wrong with it. There was loud dance music being played, a ridiculously high ceiling, three rows of forlorn-looking empty chairs facing a dauntingly high stage and a smattering of punters dotted around by the bar. The staff were incredibly friendly though and the atmosphere was really quite nice. The guitar worked (Always a relief with a nightclub PA), the other acts arrived and the smattering all obediently sat at the front when asked.

The show started and the compere was plunged into darkness as the techies struggled with the lighting rig. Unperturbed, he carried on in silhouette and after a while decided not to use the mic either. Whether this was a mistake or not remained to be seen, but he certainly struggled. The first act went on and he struggled as well. I was feeling for them but couldn’t help thinking that once I was on everything would be all right. In the break I heard a couple of women saying the last time they had been to see comedy was Freddie Starr live and alarm bells began to ring. This audience was possibly very mainstream and definitely not that bright. They weren’t horrible though. I think it’s too easy for performers to blame audiences if they don’t go well but I must stress that none of this was their fault – I really don’t think we were the right comedians for them, that’s all. Anyway, the compere didn’t do very much before me and then got my name wrong, no noise came out of my guitar until I realised I hadn’t plugged it in (the biggest laugh I got), the lights went on and off a bit and I played to near-silence for the duration of my act. It felt horrible but I kept smiling and took the gentle applause gratefully as I left. A little shell-shocked, I also didn’t appear to have done all my time. All in all, it was dreadful. I left, rapidly, with my tail planted firmly between my legs. I hot-footed over to Steve’s, lobbed a Guinness down me and we got a cab up to The George. That’s when it all got a bit odd.

Small Paul is a bit of a legend and famous locally for being able to shoehorn “Motherf**ker” into practically every sentence he utters. He also puts on the occasional party night, this one to celebrate his "birthday" (cherr, right) – oh and what a party it was...

...We got out of the cab to be confronted by the man himself who said simply “The band are in there and they smell blood, you motherf**ker”. This relates to a band I have unwittingly upset by not giving their podcast a bad review but being accused of it nonetheless. Steve and I entered, ordered Guinness and were confronted by a sprawling mess of a party that I will do my best to describe forthwith:

Another band were just finishing as we walked in, called “Queen Lizard” who fell apart gloriously as we began drinking with members leaving the stage, other people arriving and the lead singer/guitarist staying resolute and breaking into a number of impromptu numbers accompanied by a bloke with long hair in a shell suit (Who Steve thought was a woman) on single-bongo duty and a geezer with a didgeridoo. That these didn’t fit the brand of one-man hardcore thrash he was delivering is moot. The point is that they were brilliant. This guy is obviously a local legend and rightly so. I later discovered they were a muckabout side project called “Kunty Kuntish”. He broke into a long spiel about the familial issues and generational problems with serious drug abuse before revealing the song title he was introducing to be “My Grandma Is A Crack Whore”. The song itself was five seconnds of furious fret-noodling followed by a grunt. It was spectacular. They stayed on until he got bored and was replaced by heavy-metal karaoke which Small Paul got involved in...

...Russ (The DJ) looked vaguely embarrassed about and no-one else took a blind bit of notice about, quite frankly. Steve and I got involved in a conversation with Loopy (Russ’s wife) and a man with a hook in place of a hand kept getting in my way, which was a tad annoying. I switched to JD and diet coke when I became full of the black stuff and I don’t remember why we left but we did at some point anyway because we obviously had decided to go to a gay bar.

We hailed a cab to The California which is quite simply the most inappropriately-named public house I have ever seen. It’s in a really run down bit of Luton (And that’s saying something) and from the outside just looks like any other boozer. Inside is another matter. It is full of the friendliest, happiest gay people in Christendom and they are surrounded by palm trees, spangly backdrops and fun, Fun, FUN! It’s camp as Christmas and utterly hilarious. We always have a good laugh in there and it stays open very late. There’s always something that eventually makes me want to leave though and this time it was Steve drawing my attention to the most brutal-looking transvestite I have ever seen (At least he spotted this one). This guy had REALLY big arms. They were so big I’m tempted to slip into an American accent to do them justice.

Jeez man he was like Bluto from Popeye.

Small Paul would only have had one word to say.

Some guys really carry off cross-dressing well – my mate Simon for example, who is a far better looking bird than he is a fella and is really quite demure and more than a little stylish. This guy was (American accent again) like – three hundred pounds of 100%  beef in a goddam turquoise lycra cocktail dress. He was stood on a raised area toward the back of the bar and dwarfed everything around him with his massiveness.

(it wasn't this guy but you get the idea - this is a separate night in there and a photo I've nicked off their website, which is California Inn)

 I lobbed back my JD & diet (I was still on them – unusual as I normally transfer to red wine in The California for some reason) and ushered Steve out. Next stop – Jimmy’s Kebab shop just down the road as surely, the evening drew to a close.

No chance.

A pub across the road from Jimmy’s was still open. I have no idea what time it was. Obviously I demanded that we went in “For a quick one”. Steve initially said “No way – haven’t you heard of The Foresters Arms? It’s the roughest pub in Luton – it always kicks off in there”. Well I like a challenge. We went in and ordered Guinness. It was packed. Packed full of Luton’s hardest Irish. We were largely ignored however, I suspect because we were quite clearly not worth fighting. I got a bit of grief off a generously proportioned Irish lady but I couldn’t really understand what she was saying (her drunk mouth or my drunk ears?) and she gave up. Then Steve got surrounded by various people he had barred from various other establishments he has owned over the years but the man has a certain level of respect and they were all utterly charming with him. Apparently it all kicked off by the pool table but I had my back to it so just carried on drinking, oblivious.

When finally sated, we got to Jimmy’s and ordered kebabs for ourselves and Lisa – the poor girl Steve had left looking after his own pub while we went on our minor booze rampage. We got back to his alehouse (The Ashcroft Arms) at I-don’t-know-when, ate the kebabs (Well I think I wore more of mine than I consumed), had more Guinness, put on my “Hallowe’en A-Go-Go CD” and hit the shots with Lisa until Steve fell asleep on his own bar. Lisa and I then had a couple more drinks and giggled at him before finally retiring. I was woken up at 2.30pm the next day by my friend offering  dinner. I got them to phone Steve to ask him to make me a cup of tea (I normally just text him) and he had to send out one of his customers to buy milk so he could make it for me. He’s a good lad is our Steve. I on the other hand, am best summed up by Small Paul.



PS. This just in from Lisa (Three days after the event):

More of the shots were going over the bar than in the shot glasses!!! And considering we didn't like the chilli sambuca...we polished off half the bottle!!! Steve and I had a water fight in the bathroom, after he spat his toothpaste water at me...and then the funniest bit of the night!!! Remember the scene in the pub when Del Boy falls through the bar....well Steve was trying to get his trousers off...and due to his drunkeness, and inability to function normally....he fell out of the bedroom door and back into the hallway x

Friday, 22 October 2010

A record oversight!

There's this bloke called Luke. He lives in Birmingham and is in a punk band called" The Nerks". Before that he lived in Ollerton (And then Birmingham) and was in a (quite well known) punk band called "Riot Squad". Before that he lived in Ollerton and was in my punk rock covers band "The Chavs". Before that he lived in Mansfield and was in it's premier rock band, "Diver". He clearly only likes to be in bands with duo-syllabic names.

Actually, this isn't strictly true - My band changed our name for each gig (We did seven) with the only remit being that we had to keep the word "Chav" in it somewhere. Hence we took on names including "Chav Sabbath", "Chav & Dave" (When a bloke called Dave guested on bass) and my particular favourite, "Chavril Lavigne". I realise everyone in Britain knows what a chav is, but for those of you from overseas...

...That's right - they're a work-dodging, benefit-scrounging, mouth-breathing underclass of delinquents that are better at reproducing than spelling and are spawning a new generation of petty criminals even as you read this (They won't read it - they can't).

When my wife and I split up, I moved out of the marital home, moved into my mate's spare room and entrusted my record collection to Luke who was keen to borrow it anyway as there was a lot of 80s punk and psychobilly vinyl amongst it that he was interested on getting his mitts on. This was over three and a half years ago. Since then I've been trying to get it back. The problem was that shortly after my relationship ended, so did Luke's and he moved to Birmingham, leaving my records in his brother's loft in Ollerton. We have been liaising in vain for over forty months to try and be in the same place at the same time so I could pick them up. We have failed.

Then a few weeks ago I got a call out of the blue to say that his brother would be driving pretty much past my flat and had agreed to drop them off. We agreed on the Tuesday. I said to Luke that he was lucky he'd caught me as if it had been the Wednesday I wouldn't be around as I would be flying to Sardinia (See previous blogs for that trip). He then said

"Oh -that's what I meant - sorry - he's coming down on Wednesday".

I asked my mum if she would wait in and receive my hundreds of black plastic babies (She doesn't live far from me) and she kindly said yes. Then Luke texted me to say his brother would now not be down until Friday. This was turning into another one of those all-too-familiar scenarios when I nearly got my records back, but didn't. I gave Luke's brother my mother's number and asked them to sort things out themselves.

They did.

If only we'd thought of this before! Clearly the only way Luke and I were going to be able to sort this thing out was to take Luke and I entirely out of the equation.As long as we were involved in the process it was doomed to failure. He went back to tending to his lovely new baby in the West Midlands, I flew to the Italian island of alcoholic near-suicide and his brother dropped my records off at my mother's on the Friday afternoon. He told Luke my mum had a nice house. She told me that he was very nice. It had all been very straightforward.

So now I finally have my records back. The first thing I did was take them all out of the cases and go through them in my office. Oh I've missed them! Classic vinyl from (mostly) the eighties, much of which has never been re-released in CD form - oh and lots of rarities as well: The Cult's "Electric" on gold vinyl, King Kurt's seminal "Big Cock" on "Throbbing Red" vinyl, all of Torment's albums in near mint condition. Adam & The Ants original 7" of "Antmusic" (The first single I ever bought) and The Police's "Regatta de Blanc" (The first album). A mint-condition 10" of Stray Cats "Choo Choo Hot Fish", picture discs from Grace Jones, Howard Jones - anyone called "Jones"!

Free singles, EPs and flexidiscs from now-defunct magazines like "Sounds" and "Melody Maker" with tracks from Orange Juice, The Fall, Zodiac Mindwarp, Magazine and Husker Du. 12" singles. 12" SINGLES! Depeche Mode's "Master & Servant", Demented Are Go's "Holy Hack Jack" (I saw that go for forty quid on ebay!), Alien Sex Fiend's "The Impossible Mission" (It was NME single of the week in (I think) 1987). Every single grooved thin slice another memory of days gone by, fondly bringing back images of more innocent times (for me, anyway - the decade itself was appalling and anyone who tells you otherwise is the equivalent of a holocaust denier).

Anyway - it being me, they are still all laid out in the office, sprawled all over the floor, the spare bed and the desk. Some in their sleeves, some out of their sleeves. I have begun to catalogue them and sort them into order by genre etc. (As you would expect) but it will undoubtedly take as long to sort out as they were away from me. Oh there is one other problem as well:

I haven't got a record player.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Big Beautiful Women and the "More Booze" gene.

For most of the last week I've been playing poker online until 5am for little other reason than I am allowed to. I am unencumbered by daily responsibility of any calibre and have become rather good at dossing about until (almost) sunrise. The music festival I was at in Sardinia the other week messed with my body clock and it's taking a while to adjust back to societal norms.

Since little else I do involves societal norms, I figured I could keep playing until either I lost all my chips or I started going to bed again. I've decided to wean myself off late nights over a period of time, going to bed a little earlier each night until I'm approaching the hours of (relatively) normal society. This (extended) weekend was a case in point. On Thursday night I pulled a 5am finish when I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. Not too sensible as I had promised myself I would be bright and shiny to drive to Swanage on Friday.

As it was I got out of the house about 2pm. Even though it was Friday I figured I'd be around the M25 and down the M3 in plenty of time to miss the worst of the traffic. Wrong. It took me five hours - a particularly tedious five hours in which I was held up by the sheer amount of traffic on the road - no accidents, no roadworks to speak of, just traffic. FIVE HOURS. One hundred and sixty miles. FIVE HOURS. By the time I got to Swanage it was dark. No matter. I dropped my stuff off at my mate Dave's (He was running the gig) and his very organised 13 year old son walked me up to The British Legion where I was performing. It was a hundred yards away. The gig was part of the first ever Swanage Comedy Festival and went really well. I was really impressed with how they had managed to run three venues in one night like absolute clockwork and fill them all with exceptionally happy punters. I dropped my guitar off back at Dave's and then walked into town with some women who owned guest houses (Well it was Swanage) to go to East Bar where he and I were DJ-ing.

I was under instructions to "Not make it too alternative - Swanage isn't ready" so had a varied flight case of 80s gems from The Specials, The Cure, The Clash etc. thinking that the (expected to be busy after-show) party would like some vintage footstompers.

I walked in to a particularly slick bar that was playing Russ Meyer films on its large screens, had a smattering of cool people upstairs and the youthful Swanage glitterati downstairs. Dave was nowhere to be seen and there was a very cool looking dude already DJ-ing. I got a pint of Boondoggle (The South West is tremendous at naming its ales) and awaited further instructions. Various well-wishers approached to tell me how much they had enjoyed the evening and I struck up a conversation with Miles Crawford (One of the other acts) about what aftershave he was wearing. He thought he was clever by refusing to tell me but it backfired because I simply walked round the bar telling everyone he was wearing  "Beckham", much to his chagrin.

Dave showed up and said to Ian (The DJ) that he could take a break. Ian (I later discovered) is a mate of Dave's and is also the resident DJ at the Cafe De Paris every Saturday night where he presides over their burlesque shows. Ian retired to the bar and Dave gave me the best line any DJ could hope to hear:

"let's share this spot. I'll have this CD player, you have that one. When one of my songs finish, you play one of yours - oh and there's free beer for us in that (pointing) fridge".

For the next hour or so we just played whatever the bloody hell we wanted and most present seemed all right with it. Dave got bored, Ian returned and took his place. The beer kept flowing and then the young barman came up and said we could do shots with him as long as we didn't tell his boss.

Well, I'm not a grass.

The boondoggles were now joined (intermittently) by these weird strawberry trifle vodka shots and straight Jack Daniels. These kept coming until the same barman came over and said "Sh*t! Make this the last tune, guys - I should have shut half an  hour ago". Bless him.

We got a cab back to Dave's (It was up hill), he pulled out the lager and said "let's play with my toy".

I'd forgotten his wife had said earlier that he had a jukebox in his lounge and was momentarily a little worried, to say the least. Anyway, we played with it until we broke it and went to bed around 4am.

An hour earlier than Thursday - progress.

I woke up just before midday without having the first clue as to where I was. Fortunately Dave called just before 1pm to let me know it was 1pm and I was in Swanage. DAMN. I dragged myself up, carried out my ablutions, sank a cup of tea and was in the car and on the road again before two. It took less than three hours to get home - just long enough to hear Nottingham Forest lose 3 - 1 to Barnsley in the car. The highlight of the trip was the first fifteen minutes as I drove through Corfe Castle in daylight. I hadn't seen it in the dark the day before - now THAT is a castle:

When I got home around 5pm I called my friend Sharon to find out what time she was driving down to Duchess Divine's BBW show at Elixir Bar in Camden (Where I used to run a burly show myself). She said 7pm. I said something unrepeatable. I had to get ready and get to the station within ninety minutes so as to get a train to Hitchin to then walk to hers to get a lift. Exercise wasn't an option I was really considering and by the time I had showered, shaved, dressed, walked to Letchworth station, got the train to Hitchin station then walked up to hers I was actually ready for a little retch, before I went up her drive. Her husband was driving down and asked me if I knew the way or if he needed the Sat Nav. I answered to the affirmative. We set off (Also joined by the lovely Kim) and I got gassing, forgot I was giving directions, completely missed the A41 and took us all the way to bloody Archway before getting us back on a suitable road. I swore at myself, apologised when I took the wrong turn again just before the venue and directed with words like "oops" and "Leftish". The other occupants in the car agreed that Sat Navs are not known to apologise or use words like "Oops" or "Leftish" but maintained that they do however give you the best route to your destination and don't get angry with themselves. I bit my lip.

The bar was packed. Well, I say packed. It was a Big Beautiful Women show so there may only have been about fifteen people there but movement was severely restricted by the sheer size of some of these women. It's not really a hazard I have had to consider before. If you book a load of massive girls to do a show a lot of them will get in your way over the evening. It was all very good natured and I don't want you to think I'm being out of order. It's just facts. A lot of these girls were huge. Sharon took an awful lot of photos. Here's the lovely Duchess Divine in one of them

Sharon is very good.

Anyway, the show was a really good laugh, the kitchen appeared to do a better trade than the bar and no-one was surprised when the Ladies toilets got blocked before the Gents.

We were back in the car a little after 11pm and I was dropped off in Hitchin town centre shortly after midnight. I saw an opportunity to be unsupervised and wasn't about to turn it down. First stop was Chic Bar where I had a very reasonably priced Vodka and Soda (The owner, Jamie was serving), bumped into a few of my ex-students on a birthday party (It's always a bit odd when I bump into people I used to teach comedy to on a BTEC drama course, not least because most of them are rather odd) and then went on a voyage of discovery to a newly-reopened club in town called Bliss Lounge Bar. I first knew it as "Reflections" in the 80s. Then it was shortened to "Fleks" in the nineties before being revamped in the naughties as a particularly nasty Drum & Bass club called "The Penthouse".

Finally it is a really nice joint. Amanda on the door recognised me and let me in for free as she knew I had come to peruse the establishment with a view to starting a new burlesque show there (Even in intoxication, I normally have some Machiavellian plan). The hospitality didn't extend to free drinks though (I'll work on that) but I had a really good chat with her good self and the co-owner Kev before clocking my ex-girlfriend (Of a couple of years before) out with her mates. I approached her with trepidation as we hadn't finished particularly well. Our last words to each other had been as follows:

Her: "You don't like me very much do you?"
Me: "Not really, no".
Her: "Right, see you then".

Miraculously we have both been seeing the funny side of this for the last couple of years and I had a right laugh with her and her mates until the club shut. Plenty more booze had been consumed and we wobbled out of there around 2.30am. We said our goodbyes but I possess the "More booze" gene that means if there is more to be had I will find it. There was only one place available - the dreaded "Ivory". I faced a hefty admission fee to get one last drink and stealed myself for the worse. There was no need - the exceptionally friendly doorman took one look at me, chuckled to himself and said "in you go, mate - don't start any fights". I went in, got surrounded by huge men on steroids getting angry to dance music, scoffed a couple of vodka and sodas and left as they closed, only stopping to have a brief conversation with a bloke called Glen, better known as "Angrypants" on children's television who is a mate of mine and was on a social:

It cost me seventeen quid to get home in a cab, I somehow heated up a frozen pizza, ate it and collapsed into bed around a quarter to four. 

Fifteen minutes earlier than the previous night - I told you - Progress.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

I think we can put that down as a “wasted day”

We had somehow not managed to be invited to the last night’s proceedings which were an end-of-festival meal in an inland restaurant which was I think mainly for the bands but the oversight was nevertheless a little galling. Steve wasn’t that bothered about going anyway so we opted to drive to a little restaurant on the way to BUGGER YOU! That we had seen.  I drank a litre of Acqua con gas and managed to order pasta with prawns and a prawn salad. It was all a bit prawny.
Not feeling particularly well (No surprise, judging by the healthy living I had enjoyed over the last week and the rather prawn-centric meal I had just consumed) I just gave up the ghost and went back to bed again, well before midnight. Steve followed shortly and we both had a restless night in which I woke myself up repeatedly with nightmares about Sardinian child spirits who kept walking into my room, surrounding my bed and staring at me. At one point I actually woke myself up and started shouting at them to go away (I could still see them) before closing my eyes again when they magicked themselves into my mates and hung around a house I have never lived in. I persuaded myself to take control of the dream, ripped a hole in the debacle and walked through it into a very enjoyable performance of “Chicago” that I saw in London a year or two ago. I have successfully lucid-dreamt before when the nightmares have got a bit much but I’ve never had to resort to show tunes. Clearly the German invasions were beginning to have an effect. I thanked the sweet Jesus (As opposed to the Acid Baby one) that the neighbours had all left because I couldn’t handle a Gerry Hat Trick although it was a bit of a shame that I had slept through their departures as in the main everyone at the festival has been a blast and I suspect I’ve made half a dozen new lasting friendships (All with men of course, with varying degrees of facial hair).

(One of the people in the photograph above got in my bed in the early hours of the morning the other day and spooned me for three hours - but which one?)
Steve was up early (of course) and as I heard him tidying up the kitchen I thought it best to stay in bed until the tidying noises stopped before I roused myself, marvelling at what a wonderful job he had done at again leaving me with nothing to do. We packed, he fed a left-over steak to a stray dog and we headed off hours ahead of schedule and back over the mountain to Iglesias. The scenery was really terrific (it was the first time we had seen it in the light) but we couldn’t stop to really take it in as a. There was nowhere to stop and b. little opportunity anyway as we were (in no particular order) stuck between three-wheeler mini vans, coaches, lorries and a couple riding a motorbike at about fifteen miles an hour. Steve did an honourable job of not grumbling at all and driving with the skill and clarity of The Stig, much to my relief. Then we got to Iglesias and he parked like a girl. I magnanimously let it go. I’m good like that.
We sat in a bar for a bit but no-one came to offer us anything so we walked out again. This happens quite a lot in Sardinia. Then we walked around the (pleasant enough) square and settled in a restaurant that offered a two-course “dish of the day” with coffee for eleven euros – a rare bargain in what I have to say is a fairly pricey island if you don’t like pizza. Steve was a little pre-occupied with a missing beer order he would have to sort out when he got back (His phone had rung off the hook about it) and I was also a little pre-occupied with not being able to get in the Gents toilet. I was eventually persuaded (by both my companion and necessity) to use the ladies. What a voyage of discovery that was! The main gist of the signs on the wall seemed to be "Don't put something or other in the toilet - use the bin provided". It seemed an unusual way to poo but who am I to break with tradition*
Half an hour on the dual carriageway to the airport and it was time to fill the tank up with diesel so as not to get a surcharge on the hire car. It was like watching Laurel & Hardy fill up. After looking bemused at the pump and pressing various buttons for a couple of minutes, a man came over to help us just as Steve was pointing the nozzle at ME rather than the car. We eventually twigged it, the man walked away, I went in to the shop to pay, the shop was a cafe and the waitress laughed and sent me outside again, Steve had already moved the car and I couldn't find him, then I saw the man again, gave him the 15 euros for the diesel we had put in, he (for some reason) gave me two euros change. and we dropped the car back at the rental place around 4pm, fully expecting to be able to drop the bags off and relax. 
No chance. 
The flight check in didn’t open until 6.50pm and by the time it did we had given up walking up to it to see if it was open and ended up at the back of the queue. Only truly experienced travellers like ourselves could manage to show up three hours early and still manage to be the last on the plane, which we had a cup of tea on. This simple pleasure one of many highlights of what had been an amazing, life-affirming week of booze, bands and the entirely curious world of European Garage Punk culture. I still managed to never talk to the curious Swiss though. Oh you magnificently curious Swiss!

*I'm joking about that - I've been in Ladies Toilets loads of times.

Monday, 11 October 2010

OK girls - YOU steal my heart and I'LL steal Christmas...

I got up suitably early (about 5pm) with practically no voice at all so it seemed sensible to go and talk to PMB (Whose name, I finally discovered, was "Mo" and with that moustache he is the most suitably named young man I have encountered) for three hours. The rest of the neighbours wandered in and out of the conversation, wine was consumed and those gold darned beneficial herbs were again in no short supply. Tom the Norwegian American very kindly made me a bowl of soup and showed me his record. This is more significant than you may think. It’s his record – he runs a small label and put out a compilation this year, one side featuring US artists, the other European. Typically, like so much other garage punk, it is only available in vinyl form. When he finished showing me it he went to show it to the neighbours. It’s very nicely packaged and you can tell he has put a lot of work into getting it just right. I look forward to hearing it. Here's a rather blurry Mo, myself and the elusive Sandra:

I have also put a lot of effort into ruining myself over the last few nights so decided the best thing to do would be to continue willy nilly. Steve and I had thought the festival had finished and that we would have “A quiet one” but it was revealed that there were three bands playing in the pizzeria, including De Hoje Haele and possibly some Greeks. Not wanting to eat another pizza Steve and I drove to BUGGER YOU! Where we ended up having squid again, half a litre of vino rosso and a thoroughly nice time. We got back to the pizzeria in Portixeddu just before eleven and also (handily) just before the first band started, who were the Danes. This made a change because for the rest of the week we had been two hours early for everything.

(Pictured) A post-gig De Hoje Haele, or to be precise - Myre, Magnus and Ebber in various degrees of intoxication.

Obviously we drank like fish. Everyone did. A startling number of women that I didn’t know seemed to know me rather well. Sandra I definitely already knew (previous blogs dictate that) but as for the Columbian girls that lived in Barcelona, the Brazilian girl who lived in Switzerland or the two Sardinian beauties who could only ever reside in my dreams I haven’t got the faintest idea when we chatted but we obviously had done because they all, in turn, intermittently approached me and said “Hi Paul! How are you?” to which I could only reply “I’m fine – do you mind me asking who you are?”. The Columbian girls said I reminded them of The Grinch (I do bear a resemblance in my little hat) but I got a bit peeved when they started telling everyone that I had stolen Christmas. I told at least four of them that I loved them over the evening. This brings me to deduce that I either have a lot of love to give or I am a touch fickle.

The Danes were followed by The Rippers who were again monumentally fantastic and this time they did “Right Time To Kill You” which made me very happy indeed. They may have done it the time before but I probably just missed it whilst trying to decrypt the booze-ordering ticketing system in a field about a mile from Guspini). I didn’t see the third band though - I was too busy drinking shots, telling girls I loved them and getting my jeans destroyed by Vikings. The (rather odd) Swiss kept themselves to themselves and I began to think they were conspiring against me, such had been their withdrawal. Lars (Stoned) informed me that he had woken up in my bed, spooning me and thought it best to get up before I noticed. Typical. I have fallen in love repeatedly with beautiful and utterly unattainable women over the last six days but the only people who want to get in my bed are bloody German men. They have a window of opportunity roughly between 4am and sunrise which seems to be the time I meet all the lovely girls, have great conversations with them and then promptly forget all about them.  If this all seems a little disparate it’s because I don’t really remember the order of all of this but my situation can (I think) best be summed up by the conversation I had with our excellent barman on one of the occasions it was my round when he smiled as I approached and said simply “Birra or Mirto?”. The literal translation could easily be:

“Beer or death?”.

Steve and I did quite a good job of buying each other drinks when we already had them so I had a bottle in each hand for most of the night. They were only put down to be replaced by shots of Mirto but I did successfully stay off the vino rosso so rightfully should have remembered a little more about the events that took place. Sadly, however, the next thing I knew was that it was 7pm the next evening, the furry crash helmet wanted forty euros off me and I was still in bed.

PS. Just a note on the nature of the Prickly Pea Bowls Festival. Most "Weekenders" are obsessed with getting as many people in as possible, As many bands as possible, making as much money as possible and having the best toilet facilities, food concessions, camping areas and sound systems as possible. To give you an idea of the PPBs attitude to what encompasses the perfect festival, have a look at their sound system:

Sunday, 10 October 2010

...In which I spend a day doing what other people do on holiday and a night doing what they don’t.

I got up! I woke up! I was out of the house by 2pm! It was Sunday! We could eat! Steve was over the moon to get me out of bed and in to the restaurant at the bottom of our street within fifteen minutes. This part of Sardinia has very long Siestas and if you’re not sat and eating by 2pm you will be waiting until 7pm. This was the first time we had achieved this and Steve took full advantage by ordering everything on the menu, which arrived in a strange order so we ate (In order) spaghetti, antipasto di terre, a plate of tomatoes, grilled aubergines and calamari. We also only drank water (a new first). Then we went to the beach where I said we would keep walking until we saw Sandra in a bikini. We kept walking and then when we saw Sandra in a bikini we sat down next to her. Then PMB and the rest of her house showed up and sat down as well. They all sat silently for an hour whilst Steve and I went through our list of celebrity “Would I?”s with each other from Ursula Andress to Dannii Minogue before we both agreed on Siena Miller.

You are not dreaming this – I did actually behave like a relatively human being for a couple of hours. We chilled out on our balcony for a while, washed in cold water and walked up to the pizzeria which was the return venue for tonight’s show. I was down to interview Paolo from the Rippers, Jerome from Crash Normal and Alexandra from Hangee 5. I did all three things.  I also managed to eat some pasta and talk civilly to various people including the Danes, the neighbours, Bjorn the Norwegian with the odd dreadlocks, Corallo the Sardinian guy who looks like an Apache and his younger version whose name escapes me but who had asked Steve if we were a couple. I suggested that maybe Steve and Corallo would possibly make a better couple and this was their response:

(Steve is the one who looks like the scalpee rather than the scalper Then the first band started – they were a two-piece Sicilian band. She had a great voice and played guitar really well. He was also playing guitar (with his hands) and the drums (With his feet) at the same time. They played a kind of country/blues/garage set and really got everyone going. I accidentally ordered a litre of red wine and a litre of white wine, drank the red one, gave a glass of white to Sandra and then took the rest of the jug to the front of the stage where I consumed it (without the need for a glass) as the next band, Hangee 5 played in front of me and one of them played the keyboards with his arse. Oddly, Way Y los Arrghs were there as well, even though they had played the night before. I spoke to their guitarist who is massive with a shock of frizzy hair and an awesome moustache. I said to him “Mate! You were fantastic last night!” He said “We will be even better tonight”.


Not oddly then.

They were on again.

Nobody tells me anything at this festival.

Hangee 5 were great – a real traditional 60s garage band. They looked just right, played just right and combined garage numbers with surf instrumentals just right. Alexandra was also a truly awesome drummer. After the show I interviewed her and she gave me their latest 7” single which I promptly spilled wine on. We wiped it off, she laughed it off and I should probably have been more apologetic than I actually was but I was laughing too hard at how quickly I had managed to fuck this (albeit platonic) relationship up with a woman. We had talked for ten minutes, she gave me a present, I poured a drink over it and we said our goodbyes. Efficient, even by my standards...

Anyway, here's a pic of Hangee 5 with Alexandra obscured

And one with her exposed (And the back of the head of the guitar player from Wau Y Los Arrrghs).

The funny little Swiss guys looked conspiratorial but I couldn’t say for sure because I never spoke to them.

Wau Y Los Arrrghs played again and were indeed even better than the night before.  Apparently there was a thunderstorm while they were on and lightning flashes surrounded the restaurant but I have absolutely no memory of it whatsoever. All I remember is the audience surrounding the band on three sides and everyone being a part of the show. By now I was on the birra, the vino rosso and the mirto, things were getting blurry and it was probably time for bed. I don’t remember a thing about the last band but they were apparently very good and I have also completely missed out the third band but their guitar player also had some of my wine out of the jug while they were doing a song that I don’t think he liked very much. I can’t remember a thing about them. I am told that I stayed up and talked with people until at least 6am. All I remember is “Fafafafafafafafa Ja Ja Ja! JA!”.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Don’t blame it on the sunshine, don’t blame it on the moonlight, don’t blame it on the good times, blame it on the French bloke.

When I woke up yesterday afternoon I felt bloody terrible, weak, I had the shakes, felt unclean, knew that I had probably embarrassed myself and just generally looked worried.  Steve was nowhere to be seen and I had promised him I would get up in time for lunch. He came back from the beach after a while and we walked back down there to the bar because we had heard there was a band on and Tom (The American/Norwegian guy in our house) told us that they were great and friends of his. They are called Crash Normal. There are three of them. The lead singer is also the lead guitarist. Then there is a woman who plays keyboards until she gets bored and a young guy who plays guitar for a bit then brings out a stand up drum kit and plays that and then swaps with the girl (When she is bored) and plays keyboard while she plays drums. Each song starts off a mess then becomes a song and is then a mess again. They were enthralling. I was standing by the sea, holding a beer, in love with my surroundings, glorying at the view and listening to a Parisian band screaming “Rape! Death! Prostitutes! Revolution! And smiling like little children. It was about 5pm. We hung about down there after they had finished and then we walked up to the pizzeria about half six but they said they weren’t open until half seven.

This was a problem.

The gig was going to be an hour’s drive away, the convoy was leaving at eight and we had been offered a lift in the unpronounceable Danish band’s van which was (We thought) too good an offer to turn down as neither of us wanted to drive ourselves, being typically English. Anyway hunger overcame convoy and we went for a pizza at half seven. Ten minutes later the unpronounceable Danish band came in. Then as we left the odd-looking Swiss people came in and sat down (By themselves, obviously), then on the way out we saw PMB, Sandra and the rest of our neighbours. All I could say to her was “ohhhh” a bit and frankly she looked really embarrassed. I suspected the worse – That I had been a real idiot the night before and now she just wanted me to go away. 

We clearly weren’t going to be heading off any time soon and could have stayed for dessert. We wobbled down to the van, got in the van, made faces at a couple of girls from Porto Rico, got out of the van again, made friends with the girls from Porto Rico, walked back up to the apartment to get beer, came back and shared it the with Danes, the girls from Porto Rico, Franco and pretty much anyone who showed up for the next hour, until the rest of the convoy finished their leisurely repast and deigned to let us join them. We set off towards the front of the caravan, got petrol in Flumini where we were joined by Norwegians with odd dreadlocks and beautiful girlfriends, found ourselves at the back of the caravan and lost everyone within minutes because they were in sporty little cars and we were six people in a knackered van also weighed down by a drum kit. It was another mountain pass job and took over an hour and just when we all started saying It cannot  be much further it wasn’t and we arrived in the back of end of nowhere at a bar with a big stage outside that was not going to be used, a small, (restricted-view) stage inside that was going to be used and a bewildering beverage ordering system that involved buying a ticket for the drink you wanted then handing the ticket to someone else who then gave  you a different drink to the one you had paid for. 

I had no idea what bands were playing and more importantly couldn’t find Sandra although PMB assured me she was there. The first band started about eleven, by which time the gig was absolutely mobbed by the young folk of the mountains who were all incredibly handsome/beautiful and stylish and just must have looked at the PPBowls crowd like we were aliens. I don’t know who the band were but they were very fast, very aggressive and the young’uns loved them. Booze was consumed in no particular order but was normally lager or red wine of some description. By the time The Rippers went on the place was a heaving mass of bodies and for some daft reason Steve and I went to the front and got caught up in a huge teenage moshpit that had mingled with the stage and at one point half the band appeared to be in the pogo as well. They were absolutely fantastic. Absolutely. One of these bands that holds an audience, draws them in to their world and keeps them there until the last note and then leaves them crying out for more. For evidence of how close to the front I was, here’s a photo of Paolo the lead singer:

I got another drink then came outside and sat down next to Sandra, who looked a little wary. I said to her “You know I fell in love with you last night” and she gave me a hug and said “I fell in love with you too!”. Now that I was not expecting. Anyway, love established, we went off and spent the rest of the night talking to other people, obviously, although I didn’t get to talk to the interestingly-attired Swiss guys who were definitely around but eluded me stealthily.

At some point I was introduced to a girl called Alexandra who was the drummer in a band called Hangee 5 who are from Sardinia. The lead singer of the band looked so much like Wau! From Wau! Y Los Arrrghs that I spoke to him about the wrong band for fifteen minutes as he looked at me utterly bemused. She was lovely and I agreed to interview her the next day.  Then Wau Y Los Arrrghs (pictured below) started and everything went mental. Steve and I again stood at the front but this time weren’t interfered with by young people (which was nice). I didn’t know he was standing next to me and only saw him when they did their last song, “Demoler” which is a cover of the Peruvian garage band "Los Saicos" original from the mid 60s and is terrific. We shouted “Fafafafafafafafa Ja ja Ja JA!” a lot (it’s in the song) and went outside again. I was in dreamland – I had my mate with me, wine in hand, seen a couple of really great bands and obviously looked for Sandra. She was leaving and said to me that we could have a drink at her house when I got back.

I spent the next hour trying to get the Danes to leave but Gavin (The driver) had got pissed and we had to wait for him to sober up.  He would also later inform me that one of the locals had wound him up a little resulting in a very near “Kettering moment”. Ha! Now that’s Burton for certain. We got back at 7am. Sandra was asleep (of course), Steve went to bed and I sat up and moaned to myself for a few minutes before hitting the sack myself.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Viking surfers, dream women and "The Furry crash Helmets"

Oliver organises things just after the very last minute. It takes me until then to remember my name at festivals and so we get along just fine. He has a truly incredible beard and I have heard several people asking each other what they think he actually looks like underneath it. I was chatting to the German guy next door about it (who looks like a 1970s porn star) and we came to the conclusion that it might not be a beard at all but a furry crash helmet that he puts on in the morning. We also decided that “The Furry Crash Helmets” would be a great name for a band. We also decided to start a rumour that a new band called The Furry Crash Helmets would be playing on the last night of the festival and would then make some story up that they couldn’t make it because of some rock and roll story or other. Here is Oliver anyway, so you can truly appreciate his follicles:

Steve cooked pasta and stuff in jars that we found, sun dried tomatoes and a bean of some description. It tasted all the nicer because we hadn’t eaten anything else and we tottered the forty metres or so down to the bar where the gig was. Obviously we were two hours early so settled in to a table at the back and drank beer. As various festival goers that knew us showed up (Although I had no idea who they were, as usual) they said to us “You guys always have your table” and the suchlike – not bad going seeing as we had only first achieved this the night before but they got the gist of our modus operendi spectacularly well. We do always have a table.

I didn’t catch the name of the first band but later discovered they were called The Vomit Tongues and at first I wasn’t over keen on them. Their sound check had been atrocious but once they got going they were really cool. Young guys rocking out like they were about to start a revolution in 1968. There were a few more Sardinians at the gig (It being Friday night) and they stood out like sore thumbs in Kappa and Reeboks and tried to muscle the PPBowls crowd about a bit but to no avail. When they all backed down we seemed to make a point of talking to their women, which was childish but very funny, particularly as their women wanted to talk to the PPBowls crowd because they were not their Sardinian men.

Then the second band started.

I’d heard that there were some crazy Danes who had driven down in a van but I didn’t expect their driver to be English and to introduce them. He just swanned on stage and said “We’ve got a treat for you now ladies and gentlemen, all the way from Copenhagen – this is (And then he said something utterly unpronounceable to all concerned that went something along the lines of yurrahayyehurllller). They were completely nuts, totally different from the first band and played a choppy, disjointed form of 100mph punk rock that makes no sense whatsoever but is utterly brilliant. I went and found the English guy and we had a “What the f...” conversation as he revealed he was from Burton Latimer – Steve’s home village and they both gave the Burton greeting “Burton for certain” which I had never heard before. He is called Gavin and is driving/tour managing the band who are in fact called Die Hoje Haele which means “High Heels” and is indeed utterly unpronouncable.  The band all look like what would happen if Vikings had given raping and pillaging a rest and instead taken up surfing. Oh here they are, look:

 Seeing as The Makeouts (Swedish) were leaving after the gig we had our new Scandinavian best mates. I like to keep things like this up so we are now also on the look out for some Norwegians for a full set. The last band were snappily titled Acid Baby Jesus and all looked about twelve years old. They were also really good. Sorry I can’t really tell you any more than that because by now Steve and I had got stuck in to the Mirto (The local shot of choice) and things were a bit blurry.

The after party was at Oliver’s place so when the pub emptied out about 2am we all headed up there with the exception (remarkably) of Steve who came home to bed, the lightweight. This left me unsupervised. I should never be left unsupervised. In the early hours of the morning I am only going to either a. Have an argument or b. fall in love with someone so utterly unattainable that the conversation is delightful but with an air of resignation. I chose the latter and spent an hour or so finding out the life history of a truly delightful German girl called Sandra but who I had got it in my head was called Francesca.  Well she looked like a Francesca and it’s my head. Just when things couldn’t get any happier for me she told me she was my neighbour and had travelled down from Lake Konstanz with the guy with the porn star moustache. Lake Konstanz is now my favourite place on Earth that I haven’t been to. The Swiss guys were around but were being their usual demure selves so I never spoke to them. 

We walked back from Oliver’s at Godknowsoclock, drank another bottle of wine with Pornstar moustache bloke and then she fell asleep next to me with her head somehow dropped down to the level of my lap which meant myself and pornstar moustache bloke (I think I’ll call him “PMB” for short now) could make very rude remarks about her and giggle like school children (There were also some beneficial herbs knocking about). I retired to bed around six-ish. It was getting light anyway.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

...And that's why I can't be bothered with Glastonbury...

Flying  with Steve is always fun. He’s a very efficient grumbler and reads a lot. This means he can moan until the moment of take off and then remain silent for the entire flight, before wittering to himself on landing.
Getting to the airport is also fun because he’s an angry driver and constantly has a better idea than the road network as to the best way to get somewhere. The reason I say all this is because we are in Sardinia at a rather secret (And as a result) rather exclusive music festival. Apparently there are only thirty five paying customers, with the rest of the audience made up of bands and hangers on.

We got in to Cagliari about eight o’clock and spent the next hour or so dawdling in the car hire kiosk, waiting to get the last car of the night. Steve wanted a Lancia. We got a Lancia. I chickened out of driving because it wasn’t automatic. We loaded up and bombed off up the SS 130 towards Iglesias where we were under instructions to call Oliver. It was a remarkably good road and once accustomed to being on the wrong side of it Steve made an admirable job of traversing it. On arrival we stopped for a beer and called the man. He said simply that he would see us in about an hour. Then it all got a bit James Bond.

The mountain pass from Iglesias to Portixeddu (Our final destination) lived up to its title, is probably only about ten miles but did indeed take an hour. I have never covered so many hairpin bends in so short a distance. It was ridiculous and also appeared to just keep ascending. There was no down side to it and at one point we thought we were nearing Heaven,  Asgard or Nirvana, but Nirvana was reached after the sharp drop on the other side. Even by night, we could tell that where we were was beautiful.

Steve hadn’t uttered a single word of discontent on the entire journey. I think Sardinia agrees with him – either that or the mountain pass had been more of a white knuckle ride for him than me and he had simply been dumbstruck with terror. Oliver would later tell us that he had once been confronted by an angry bull at the top of the peak. I’m glad we found that out in the right order.

Then we drank until six in the morning with a Swedish band, two Italians who spoke German, a Sardinian who didn’t (Called Corallo) and a German sound guy named Mario. We sipped to begin with (To be polite) and then I handed Franco (one of the Germalians) a ten euro note by way of our contribution to the proceedings. That prompted him to throw beer, moonshine and some local poison at us until we couldn’t see, soaked up with some delicious pasta that appeared as if by magic. They took us to the refugee camp that was our living accommodation and left us there to sleep it all off. We did – spectacularly. I got up about half past three the next afternoon to find Steve gone. I needed to use the toilet but couldn’t find it. I remembered it being outside but was unsure as to where. This led to an increasingly uncomfortable walk up and down the street, into a pigeon loft and obviously past the outhouse in question on several occasions which was connected to the front of the building. Steve returned from the beach and showed me where it was.

It was in the nick of time.

During the saga a local couple had rung the doorbell. I answered. They said something in rapid Italian. I had no chance and replied simply

“I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about”

And we all burst out laughing. They’re a nice bunch, in the main.

We took a little drive to Buggerru (the Sardinians pronounce it boo-jerr oo, but I don’t – I pronounce it BUGGER YOU! At every opportunity) to pick up supplies and marvelled repeatedly at the splendour of our surroundings. This little corner of Sardinia really is breathtakingly beautiful and the weather at this time of year is just perfect. Cloudless skies, temperature in the early eighties and just the faintest of sea breezes. I vowed to make it to the beach at least once. We came back, ate cold meat and awful cheese, drank some of the moonshine (Oliver had insisted we take some with us the night before) and trotted up to the Pizza restaurant where the first gig was. below is the view from the restaurant at sunset

I had figured we would be the only English people there. We were. Fortunately everyone else in the world speaks English so we were all right. Pizza ordered, wine drunk, beer ordered, we waited for the first band. It was the Swedish guys from the night before! A very enthusiastic bunch of young rapscallions called The Make Outs (pictured below)

who braved a power cut and did two sets because the other band hadn’t showed up (It turned out their seventeen year old drummer had been grounded by his mother – I know – you couldn’t make it up). By the end of the night we knew everyone at the festival (except the Swiss who had been extremely reserved) staggered back to our digs and I found a German bloke asleep in my bed. It was my fault – I had forgotten to put a towel on it. After screaming repeatedly “Get the f**k out of my bed!” at him until he finally did, I got in it myself and woke up at four this afternoon. No beach today then.

The German bloke was in the room next door and (I think) just got in the wrong bed. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. He was fairly sheepish when I saw him just now. I also don’t think he understood when I called him “Herr Goldilocks”. he is pictured below - but which one is he? Ooh! I love a puzzle!