Wednesday, 13 January 2010
To my great relief, Mum never said a word to the rest of the family about my sexual misadventures, telling them only that our trip had been cut short because the car was fucked, although obviously she used politer terminology. Inside I still wasn’t sure what the hell to think, and went through periods of total ecstasy at not being a virgin anymore through to gloomy depression because I had been used like a fool by an unscrupulous woman I had actually rather liked until I had discovered she was an utter bitchbag.
My big challenge was what to tell Peter. Bear in mind that Peter was my bestest friend in the whole wide world. We had vowed to be friends forever, so naturally I have no idea where he is nowadays, but at the time this was a deadly serious pledge, cemented in a den we created in a nearby woods where we had cut our palms and pressed them together in a moving ceremony. Okay, so we were utter spanners, but to us it seemed very real and very grown up, even though it hurt to hold a pen for a week afterwards because I had made my cut a bit too deep. It was worth it.
As my best friend, Peter got told everything, and I mean everything. It would never have occurred to me to hold back anything from him, because I trusted him so implicitly. The thing was, I wasn’t sure of which tack to take when informing him of what had happened that week. I was seriously toying with the conquering hero ploy, swaggering around like I was the first person ever to have sex, and rubbing his nose in it until he admitted I was sexier and more manly than he could ever be. As I was admittedly still quite immature, this was a very appealing idea, as one upmanship was a serious part of my life back then. There was a greasy pole hierarchy at school, and the best way to climb it without slipping down onto someone else’s head was to have had sex. Sure, anyone could lie about it, but these people were always caught out by those that actually had. To break your duck was to join an exclusive little club of boys who were one step closer to becoming men than all of their classmates. A big part of me wanted to join that club.
The thing is, there was another part of me, perhaps not quite as vociferous, that didn’t want anything to do with the Shaggers Club (as they were informally known by smaller, impressionable boys). If I’m to be honest, all the boys that strutted and preened like they were somehow special tended to be, to a man, arseholes. They were the kids who called you names, or stole lunch from third years. They were the ones who had been gifted with a confidence, and they used their power to make sure that everyone else was so in awe of them that they never found out just how lonely they really were up on their perch. Of course, the way they did this was to treat everyone like scum, so if anyone actually had found out how lonely they were they really wouldn’t have given a shit. If I wanted, I could play the big I am without even having to embellish anything, and let that swagger enter my step, that condescending tone enter my voice. Did I really want to be that person?
These thoughts tumbled around my brain as I moped around on the first day back from Devon, counting the hours before Peter came home from school. I had decided to meet him off the coach so we could disappear to the den (still there and used after three years, incredibly) and I could see in which direction my big mouth was going to take me. At four thirty I was there at the precinct, watching as the various buses disgorged their passengers and soaking up the attention I was getting from just about everyone as “that kid what got suspended”. With every sideways glance, every whispered reference, my inner stature grew a bit, and I found I was enjoying my outlaw status.
“Slugger!” came the cry as Peter stepped off the coach. “Punched any wankers recently?” he asked as he came over.
“Not yet,” I replied, looking suggestively at him.
“Like you’d stand a chance,” he said with a grin. “So what’s up? You said last night you had something to tell me. Christ, you haven’t finally got laid have you?” He said this with his tongue firmly in cheek, but something about my expression obviously gave me away for the sex machine that I was. “No way!!” he exclaimed. “Who was she? What was it like? Was she fit?”
I held up my hand to stop the flow of questions. “Shut it,” I hissed. “Come on – let’s fuck off to the den and I’ll tell you the whole story, okay?”
He nodded, a thousand unasked questions trying to escape from his lips, and we set off at a brisk pace.
Ten tense minutes later, we both sat in the den. It was hard to get to if you don’t know it was there, a hollowed out centre in a nasty looking bush. We had discovered it whilst messing violently about, me having pushed Peter a bit too forcefully with the result that he ended up literally disappearing into the bush. It was a bugger to get into, and we had salvaged some stiff boards that we hid nearby, and we used them to part the branches on the way in and out. Once within we could not be seen by anyone who came close, and over the years had witnessed some very interesting things, including the school slag getting some from a sixth former on what they thought was a nice, deserted sunny afternoon. Something like that leaves an imprint on your mind, I can tell you, and to this day I can still hear her moans.
Peter took a cigarette out of his hiding place and lit one up. As was and still is my custom, I refused his offer of one and tried not to complain about the smoke. I knew he enjoyed a fag, and it seemed a bit cruel to object just because I didn’t like it, as he couldn’t really do it anywhere else. He inhaled deeply, the look on his face not unlike that of a drowning man who has been thrown a lifebelt and a Pamela Anderson calendar.
He blew a smoke ring and finally gave in to his inner nosy bastard. “Come on then. Tell all.”
“Okay,” I said, a serious look on my face. “But you have to let me tell it straight, without interruptions.” I had decided as we walked that I just wanted to tell him the unblemished truth without being bombarded with questions, each of which would no doubt encourage my inner bullshitter to embellish at will.
“Okay,” he agreed. “Just get on with it, will you.”
And I did. I got on with it in great detail, from Neil Diamond all the way to our speedy getaway from what had become for me the village of the damned. I told it straight, as I had promised myself, and from the astonished looks that crossed Peter’s face, it was enough of a story to stand on its own.
“Fuck me,” was all he could say when I finished and nodded that it was okay for him to speak now.
“No thanks, you're Mum's better looking,” I retorted automatically. It was one of many running jokes berween us that required the suggestion that we had shagged the other persons Mum.
Peter didn't even try to rise to the bait.
“You bastard,” he continued, oblivious to everything except the sordid images in his head, from which I had no doubt been airbrushed and replaced with himself.
“No, tell me whatyou really think,” I said, trying to keep my tone light.
“You lucky, jammy BASTARD!” he exclaimed, turning to me with the biggest smile I had ever seen. “You fucking DID it! I am so fucking jealous!”
“Hey, it wasn't all sex and chocolates, you know,” I pointed out. “She just used me. I really liked her and she shat on me.”
“Oh come on, Dave,” he said, looking at me like I was mad. “How lucky is that? If it had been love at first bloody sight you'd have spent a few months writing and phoning her, going around like a spayed puppy, maybe visiting her once at the most, then would have been even more upset when the inevitable dumping came.”
“Interesting use of the word 'inevitable' mate,” I said. “Am I so dumpable to you?”
“Don't be a twat. Look, these long term things never work out, so I reckon she did you a favour. She gave you a good shagging, sorted out your cherry problem and left you to get on with your life. What's better than that?”
“Well...” Okay, so I hadn't really thought about it that way. “It's... complicated.”
He looked smug. “No it's not. You're a lucky, jammy bastard and that's the end of it.”
I held up my hands in surrender and grinned at him. “Well, if you must put it like that...”
“I do, and you are gonna be a fucking God, mate. When the kids at school hear this... you'll be able to live of this 'til we leave.”
I was quiet, and sat contemplating my shoes. They really were crap shoes.
“What?” he asked.
“I don't know if I should tell anyone,” I said in a small voice.
“I don't know if I should tell anyone,” I repeated in a louder voice, raising my head to look him squarely in the eye.
“Are you fucking mad?” he exclaimed. “This is even better than Squarehead Jones when he got sucked of my Mandy Allsnot in the gym.”
Please note that people's real names have not been used as we much preferred the nicknames.
“Yeah, maybe it is,” I conceded. “But what do you think of Squarehead? Go on, one word assessment.”
“Well, he's a cock, isn't he.”
“Is the correct answer. How about Nethercott, or Bassy, or any of them?”
“Cock central, naturally.”
“Okay, Pete, you've done well, but here's the million dollar question: Do you think I really want to be lumped in with a bunch of cocks like that?”
There was a pause of the pregnant variety, and I could almost hear the cogs going round in his head.
“Yeah, I get it,” he conceded.
“Well done,” I said, giving him a slow handclap. “You've won a motorboat.”
This last was delivered in my best Jim Bowen accent, naturally. We both enjoyed Bullseye, especially when the two blokes from the middle of the country won, of all things, a speedboat between them. I found out later in life that the shows producer had a deal with a boat firm to give as many away as possible to winners so he could get them at a knockdown price. Of course, if someone failed to win, a car would be trundled out and the tired old phrase “Here's what you could have won” would trip cruelly from the hosts lips. Bastard.
“So it's a big secret then,” Peter said dispiritedly. “I can't tell anyone?”
“Nope. It's a shame in a way, 'cos I was hoping that Miss Wright would be the one to introduce me to the ways of sexology.”
“Oh shit!” he exclaimed at this. “I forgot to tell you.”
I looked at him in a puzzled manner. “Tell me what?”
“Miss Wright! She's left.”
“What do you mean, left?” I stammered, although I knew what he meant. He meant that the woman who had taught me so much was gone.
“She's gone, mate. Yesterday some other woman came in and said she was our new teacher. Miss Dunnery or something. Bloody stupid name for a bloody stupid woman by the looks of it.”
“But where's Miss Wright gone?” I asked, a little too desperately.
“Dunno. No one's said anything.”
“Shit!” I exclaimed. “I really liked her.”
“Yeah,” agreed Peter. “Me too.” His face took on a dreamlike expression and I could see he was off in a sordid little sex fantasy, probably involving kilts and her paying for everything.
My head was working too, but not in the same way. I made a quick decision. “Right,” I said, moving towards the bit of the bush we used for access. “I'm going to see her.”
“I'm going too see her,” I repeated. “At her house.”
“What do you mean? You don't know where she lives.”
“Says who?” I replied, raising my eyebrows suggestively.
“Where does she live then?” he challenged.
“Mendip Road,” I replied with authority. “Down by the park. I saw her parking her car there and carrying in shopping once.”
“Doesn't mean she lives there. She might have been helping a friend out or something.”
“Well, I might have seen her around there a few times,” I admitted, pausing in my pushing away of prickly branches.
“You bloody perv!!” he exclaimed, fairly enough. “I can't believe you've been stalking a teacher!”
“I haven't been stalking her,” I replied indignantly. “I've just noticed her, okay?”
“All right, all right,” he said, holding his hands up, adding “stalker,” under his breath, just loud enough for me to hear.
I gave him the finger and pushed my way out of the bush. Whatever happened, I was
determined to see Miss Wright. I felt like Indiana Jones at the start of a quest.
“Make sure you phone me from the police station with your one phone call, Stalker man,” shouted Peter from inside the den, ruining the image a bit.
It wasn't too far to Miss Wright's house. I honestly had not been stalking her, and what I told Peter was the truth. There was just something about her, something that made her different from other teachers, other adults even. She treated me with respect, and I gave her my own in return. Maybe she was the reason I was finally able to stand up to my mother after all these years, or maybe I was just growing up. Either way, I felt like I was finally starting to get the hang of this thing called life. Little did I realise that the reason it's called life is it takes a lifetime to master, but it was nice to feel good about myself for a change.
I arrived at Miss Wrights house and was surprised to see a removal van outside. I guess that put paid to any wondering about why she had left her job, but I still needed to see her, to at least say good-bye. When I rang the doorbell, I was relieved to find that it didn't play a novelty song. I really hate farty doorbells that bang out some tired old melody instead of going “Ding dong” like they are supposed to. The only novelty doorbell I have ever come across that didn't make me want to kill the owner was one that actually said “Ding Dong” with Leslie Phillips voice. I have a very warped view of the world, I know.
It only took a few seconds for the door to open, and there she was. Admittedly, she looked a lot more flustered than usual, but that's moving house for you. Behind her in the hallway two sweaty men were wrestling with a wardrobe, and from the looks of things the wardrobe was going to win by a submission.
“David?” she said, understandably confused. “What on earth are you doing here?”
“Peter said you were leaving,” I said, as if this explained everything. “I just, well, I wanted to say good-bye, I suppose.”
“But how did you know where I live?” she asked, quite reasonably.
“I remembered seeing you here,” I explained. “I live up the road.”
She seemed to consider fleshing out this flimsy explanation, but I don't think she could be bothered.
“Well, Peter was right. I am leaving. I'm moving away.”
“It's personal, David. Stop that, Kitty.” The last was directed at a small girl who had crept up behind her and was tugging at her dress for attention. I smiled at her and she smiled back. I assumed it was Miss Wrights daughter, but didn't feel it was my place to ask. I stood and waited as she was led away.
Miss Wright came back, looking a little less flustered now, and we talked. She asked me about the suspension, and I told her all the gory details. I even told her about the trip with my Mum, but didn't go into the gory details that time for obvious reasons. She explained that she was moving to Bristol to work in the college as head of English, which would get her more money. She also let slip that Kitty's father lived in Bristol, and it would enable her to see more of him. In the end the words dried up like so many puddles on a warm day, and I only had one more thing to say.
“I really just wanted to say thanks,” I said solemnly. “You're a brilliant teacher, and I reckon you'll be brilliant in Bristol.”
“Thank you, David. You keep up the good work, okay?”
“Yeah.” I couldn't think of anything else to say.
“Keep reading those Heinlein books,” she continued, with a small laugh.
“I'm on to Asimov now,” I said proudly.
“You're a good boy, David. Good luck with your life.”
“You too, Miss.”
“It's Susan,” she said kindly.
“Oh. Well, good-bye, uh, Susan.” I held out my hand and she shook it solemnly.
“Good bye, David.”
Then she slowly closed both the door, and a chapter in my life.
I do not like funerals, and I don't think I'm alone in the sentiment. I mean, I'm sure there are those who get their jollies from a burial and a good mourn, but I'm not one of them and treat death with the respect it deserves. Okay, so I did write “The Necrophilia Song”, but that was not because of an interest in the subject, more from a desire to gross out Greg at the office. It worked, too. Anyway, the point was, and still is, that I don't like funerals, and would be very happy never to have to attend one, which is a shame because I am sitting in St Mary's watching Irene's coffin slide through the curtains of doom to the strains of “Don't Fear The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult. Simon maintains that if you're cremating someone you shouldn't waste money on a nice coffin, because once it goes through the curtains the undertakers swipe it back, but I like to believe in honour among undertakers. The lad himself is sitting next to me, looking his usual sexy self in black. On the other side is Kate, also looking sexy in black. She is now securely ensconced in the position of my official girlfriend, and as I look at her I get the usual urges that are very inappropriate at a funeral. She has a few tears in her eyes, but mine stay dry as ever. I guess I'm just mot the weepy type, which somehow seems wrong when you're at a funeral, but there's nota lot I can do. Sure, I feel sad and all the rest, but my eyes only seem to leak tears when my balls have been whacked, which fortunately has only happened twice.
Afterwards, Simon sparks up a cigarette outside as the three of us huddle and try to work out what to say to each other.
“Well,” says Kate, bravely making the first awkward move. “That was... dignified.”
“Yes,” agrees Simon between puffs. “Very dignified that – having your remains burnt to a cinder as half the church play air guitar and the other half wonder what the fuck is going on.”
“Hey,” I interject. “It's what she wanted.”
“Apparently,” he says. “I mean, she's got no relatives, you said, so who organised all this. No one at the pub knows fuck all.”
“Probably her lawyer,” says Kate reasonably.
Simon looks shocked. “Don't talk to me about lawyers. Every time I see one of the bastards I'm waiting for him to whip out a paternity suit.”
“Wouldn't that be a shame,” Kate says unconvincingly, giving Simon a little pout.
“Excuse me,” says a voice, and we all turn to see a short, very neat man, who basically looks like the Uncle everybody never had but would have been quite satisfied with.
“What?” I say.
“Are you Mr David Marion Banner?”
“Um...” I stammer. No one has ever, and I mean ever, called me Marion. Yes, it's my middle name, but I never even use my initial, let alone the full bloody name, so how does this creep know it?
“I'm sorry to bother you, but I really must find Mr Banner. It's very important.”
“Who are you?” I ask, as beside me Simon and Kate are still trying to work out why this strange men would think my middle name was Marion.
“My name is Francis Hollingwood. I'm the late Mrs Carr's lawyer.
At the mention of the word Lawyer, Simon's head snaps up like a meerkat, ever alert for paternity suits.
“I'm also looking for Mr Simon Paul Hurford,” continues Mr Hollingwood. “Do you know where I can find them?”
“It's nothing to do with a paternity suit, is it?” asks Simon.
“What? No, of course not. I'm the executor of Mrs Carr's will.”
“Her will?” I say, confused. “Are we in it?”
“That depends,” Mr Hollingworth said. “Are you Mr David Marion Banner and Mr Simon Paul Hurford?”
“Well I'm Simon Hurford,” says Simon, always happy to be asked a question to which he knows the answer. “But I don't know anybody with the middle name of Marion, because if I did have, say, a best mate for example, with the middle name of Marion, he would have told me by now. Do you know anyone with the middle name of Marion David?” He looks at me, all exaggerated eyebrows and hurt expression.
“I can explain,” I say.
“Oh please do tell,” says Simon in his poshest voice. “This should be good.”
“It's not that good. My Dad was always a massive John Wayne fan, and John Wayne's real name was Marion. That's it, really. Mum wouldn't let him use it as my first name, thank fuck, but I sort of got lumped with it as a middle name. I've never, ever used it.”
“I'm not fookin' surprised,” says Simon, grinning. “Marion.”
“Okay,” I say, holding my hands up. “If anyone wants to make any jokes, please do them now.”
No one says anything for a second.
“Nah. That's all right, mate,” says Simon. “If it's okay by you I'll just serve them out one by one for the rest of your life.” Of course, he adds “Marion”.
“Yeah. Me too,” chips in Kate. “Marion.”
Exasperated, and not wanting to see this escalate into me murdering the pair of them, I turn to Mr Hollingworth. “Look, we are Mr Banner and Mr Hurford. What can we do for you?”
“Can you be at the Full Moon public house at seven this evening please?”
“Why?” asks Simon.
“All will be revealed. I am under very strict instructions, and will confess to you that even I do not know what to expect. The full details of the will can only be diverged at that time, with the two of you and certain others present. I take it you will be there?”
We look at each other and shrug. “Sure,” I say.
“Excellent. I shall see you then. Good day gentlemen.” With this, he walks off, presumably in search of 'certain others'.
We stand there for a few seconds, then Kate pipes up. “Are you going to be rich then? I've always wanted a rich boyfriend with a girls name.”
“I reckon you'll have to stick with the latter half of that, love,” says Simon. “She's probably left us a couple of nick nacks or something. Nice of her to think of us, though. What do you think Marion?”
“I guess we'll find out later won't we?” I reply, deliberately not rising to the bait. “I told you there was a lot of expensive stuff in the house, but that's probably going to the cats home or something.”
“Not the orphanage you saved from burning down then?” asks Kate with a giggle.
“Fireman Marion!” exclaims Simon, and the two of them collapse against each other, laughing like lunatics. I hold my head high and stalk off. Bastards.
Naturally, we get to the pub at six, because on one hand we feel that we're going to need a drink or two before whatever it is goes on, and on the other hand because we damn well know we're going to need a drink or two before whatever it is goes on. The back bar is certainly rather full for this time on a Friday evening, as the usual dregs normally hide until at least eight before coming out. Tonight, however, it's strangely rammed with regulars, and a little not too subtle probing reveals that we're far from the only ones who are curious about what they are going to get in Irene's will. Part of me suspects that it's all a big joke, and we'll all get a drink whilst the rest goes to the now traditional cats home or young conservatives or whoever Irene fancied.
The three of us sit down at the last available table and collectively wonder what the hell is going to happen. I'm still in a bit of a daze over the whole Kate thing here, to be honest, as sitting with a genuine girlfriend who I haven't lied my arse off to is a relatively rare experience for me these days. After we came back from Devon, Kate simply nipped home to Bristol for a few things then came to stay with us. We didn't really talk about it as such, it was more sort of a mutual unsaid agreement. Naturally, Simon doesn't object to a pretty girl in the house, and has told me how proud he is of me for finally getting a regular shag that isn't mental. I swear there was a tear in his eye as he said it. Kate just sort of assumed I would want her there, and I can't disagree with that. It's just, well, odd. She's mentioned going back to her Mums tomorrow, so I guess she just wanted to see me through the funeral, which is nice of her. God I think I love her.
“So do you fancy a game of pool Marion?” she says, nudging me in the ribs.
I don't think I love her any more.
I foolishly agree to play her at Morgan rates, and after three games hold up my hands in surrender after having lost most of my free pints for the coming week.
“You're a bloody pool shark,” I say sulkily.
“Somerset ladies most valuable player three years running,” she says smugly, slamming the white off four cushions and smoothly into a pocket. “All you had to do was ask. You didn't think I'd be crap because I was a woman did you?” she adds with an innocent look of surprise on her face.
“Right on sister!” cries Sally from a stool at the bar, whilst Morgan just points at me and laughs from his own four legged vantage point. At this point, I'm wondering why I ever got out of bed this morning.
As if to answer my unspoken question, Kate comes over and hugs me, whispering in my ear that I can keep the pints, and if I want she'll let me win the next one. Being a chivalrous man, I naturally take her up on the offer, giving her a public stuffing and regaining at least some of my wounded pride. As I am sensibly not doing any kind of gloating, Mr Hollingwood enters the bar and there is a silence punctuated only by Simon saying “About bloody time”. Harry is at the bar, and we all watch mutely as the lawyer gives him a DVD, which Harry slots into the player behind the bar. Mr Hollingwood steps to the middle of the room and addresses us all.
“Thank you all for coming,” he begins. “As some of you may know, Irene Carr had no living relatives, and her will has been divided, so I believe, between the people sitting in this bar.” At this there are a few small cheers, soon stamped out by stiff blows to the heads of those involved. “I have not yet viewed the DVD on which she recorded her last will and testament, so please do not interrupt it to ask me questions. I have been adequately provided so that there will be no problems on the legal side, and will answer any questions afterwards. Thank you.” With this, he nods to Harry, who presses play whilst every single other person takes a deep breath followed by a big sip of whatever they have in front of them.
The screen on the big TV in the corner comes to life, and there is Irene, sitting in what I presume is the lawyers office. A man says something to her and she nods, then a door shuts and she is alone in the room.
“Hello everyone,” she begins. “If you're watching this then I'm dead. I know I had a good send off because Mr Hollingwood will have followed my instructions to the letter. Put it this way, if Simon wasn't waving his head about to Blue Oyster Cult I'll be very disappointed.” There is a ripple of laughter at this, and Simon treats everyone to a mini headbang. From beyond the grave, Irene continues. “Anyway, I've got no one but you buggers in my life, so you get the lot, starting with Jason Ferryman, who gets my widescreen TV.” At the back of the bar, Jason gives a whoop, and as his mates promise to help him break it in Irene goes on. And on. Each and every person in the room gets a surprise, as she makes her way through her possessions, sometimes giving a monetary sum to someone she knows needs it more than material goods. It's like Santa Claus is real, and is in fact a doddery old lady with more money than sense. Sally gets some sessions with a top psychiatrist to help her get over her fears, whilst Morgan is speechless at a very healthy amount of shares in Bristol City. Soon, the only people left are Harry, me and Simon.
“And so to Harry,” Irene says finally. “A loyal and trusted friend for many years. Harry has spent too long running the pub, and he needs to rest a bit, so I'm giving him my house and £100,000 pounds. That should allow him to take it a bit easier.” Harry's jaw nearly hits the bar, and he points at me and Simon, saying “You two are gonna love this next bit.” On the screen, Irene is pausing, as surely she knew what a commotion such a pronouncement would make.
“So that's nearly it,” says Irene, a definite twinkle in her eyes. “Except for Simon and David. You two boys have brought such happiness and life to this pub, and to me, because I saw the profits. They're yours now, because I'm giving you the pub. Enjoy it.” And with a big smile, she reaches towards the camera and the screen goes blank, whilst every single person there, including us, says “No fucking way!”
“I own a pub,” I say happily to Kate as we drive into Bristol.
“I know,” she says wearily. “I was there, you know. Don't forget that Simon owns half of it.”
“I don't care,” I burble happily. “I own a pub, and I love it.”
“I'm very happy for you,” she says, leaning across to kiss me. “Next left.”
I suppose I'd better explain. The Funeral (it will always have capital letters in my mind) was two days ago, and yes, Irene owned the Full Moon and yes, she left it to me and Simon. After everyone had got over the shock, Mr Hollingwood came over and informed us that it wasn't quite that simple, but in essence we did own the pub. There were legalities, and the promise we would keep Harry on part time to help us get sorted, as well as the promise that we would keep booking bands. As far as we were concerned, these were not things that we objected to in any way. On top of the pub we got a nice cash sum (mind your own on that score) and the car I'm driving, a lovely new BMW Mini. It turned out that she had visited the lawyer when we went to Weymouth, and although he didn't know the technicalities, he was given a list of all her beneficiaries so he could arrange the gathering. He was the bastard whose detective work had found out my middle name. Bastard. Other than that, we were all pretty much in the dark, apart from Harry, and he wasn't saying.
“This one,” said Kate, and I pull up outside a nice little semi in a nice suburb of the city. She stayed the extra day to help me and Simon get over the shock (which required lots of drinking in our pub), and I agreed to drive her to her Mum's house and do the official meeting the parent thing. She's refused to tell me anything about the woman, saying she didn't want me to have any preconceptions, so I have no idea what to expect.
We walk up the path, with me carrying Kate's things (guaranteed good first impression there), and she rings the doorbell. Within a few seconds, the door opens, and I get a glimpse of the woman who may well become my mother in law one day. It's a scary thought until I register her face, which is actually rather pretty.
“Hello David,” she says, looking fondly at me.
“Hello Miss,” I say reflexively, and Miss Susan Wright laughs.
Sometimes, it all goes right. About bloody time too...
I don’t think there is anything more satisfying than waking up in the morning and looking at a pretty girl that you have shagged the night before wandering around the room in tiny knickers and a bra. It’s not exactly scoring the winner at the world cup or bringing about world peace, but by god it feels fucking great, especially if it’s for the first ever time.
I watched Kaz sleepily as she found her jeans and started struggling into them, whilst my brain demanded to give me some information immediately. Whilst it battered its way to my conscious mind through the dozy and ecstatic thoughts that barred its way, Kaz found her t-shirt and slipped it on as well. Finally my brain got through the fog and made me aware of a very important fact.
“You’re leaving?” I asked, going for by Boy Scouts ‘Stating the Bleeding Obvious’ badge.
She looked at me, not quite as lovingly as she had the night before it must be said. “Well, I hardly want to be here when the sleeping dragon makes an appearance do I?”
I sat up on my elbows. “I suppose not. Weren’t you even going to wake me?”
“Course I was,” she said, coming over and giving me a peck on the lips. “I just didn’t want you watching me get dressed. I get a bit body conscious sometimes.”
“Don’t see why,” I said with a small leer. “It’s a lovely body.”
“Aren’t you the predictable one,” she said, punching me on the arm. “Look, I’d better be off, but I’ll meet you here again at seven if you like.”
“Yeah. Great,” I replied with notable enthusiasm. What time is it now?”
“Six! I’m going back to sleep for thirteen hours, then I can see you again when I wake up.”
“Aren’t you the lazy romantic. I’ll see you later Dave.”
With that, she got off the bed and went to the door. As she opened it she looked over at me and winked, then looked confused when she noticed the look of sheer horror that crossed my face. She wasn’t confused for long, however, as she then noticed Mum standing in front of her, obviously just about to knock on the door, or (from the look on her face) just kick it down. To her credit, Kaz didn’t step back, or even look remotely scared. It was the classic standoff of an irresistible force and an immovable object, with me in the corner trying not to wet myself.
Mum looked over at me. “Who is this girl, David.”
“Uh, this is Kaz,” I said in a small voice after a pause.
“And what is she doing in your room?” she asked.
“Well I was leaving,” interrupted Kaz. “Is there a problem with that?”
“I’ll deal with you in a minute,” Mum said to her fiercely. “Actually, no. Why don’t you go and sit on the bed so we can get to the bottom of this.”
“Get to the bottom of what?” said Kaz. “If you don’t know what’s been going on you’re bloody stupid. Now get out of my way, I’ve got to go.”
“Don’t you take that tone with me, young lady,” Mum hissed.
“Or what?” said Kaz defiantly. “You’re nothing to do with me. You don’t know where I live, anything about me. You can threaten all you like, but you can’t do fuck all, can you?”
I had never heard anyone speak to my mother like that, and was taken aback. I didn’t really know who I should be supporting.
“Aren’t you a bit young to be a slut?” said Mum with venom.
Kaz clenched her fists, wisely keeping them at her side. “I’m eighteen, actually.”
“Eighteen?” said me and Mum together. She didn’t look eighteen. She looked, well, my age.
“Do you know how old he is?” shrieked Mum, raising the decibel level substantially. “He’s fifteen, for Christ’s’ sake!”
Kaz shrugged. “So?”
“What you have done is illegal! Just leave, or I will report you to the police and have you up on charges of corrupting a minor.”
“Fine,” said Kaz. “See you Dave.” And with that, she left me alone with Mum. Thanks Kaz.
It’s difficult to describe what was going on inside me at that point. The word ‘Maelstrom’ should really be in there somewhere, as should the word ‘conflicting’. Firstly, someone had faced down my Mother, something which had never before occurred. She was the rock upon which the rest of the family banged its head, knowing she would never crack. Secondly, I had performed the sexual act on an eighteen year old girl. This was, without a doubt, huge. Getting some was a superb achievement as far as I was concerned, but with an older woman? I was indeed the high priest of shagging, but at that point it would have been rather unwise to sashay around the room celebrating the fact. As well as all this, I had been left alone in an enclosed space with a Mother who was likely to spit lava at me any minute, judging by the Vesuvius like pulsing of the veins in her neck. What was I to do? I was, as you may have gathered, scared of my Mum. She was the one who had handed down bollockings for fifteen years, the one who had tried her best to instil some sort of moral code into me. Most of what I was I owed to her, and because of that I owed her the chance to give me a right scolding and ground me for a year. But the thing is, I didn’t want to give her what she definitely thought she was owed, because I was finally tired of paying my dues.
“Whatever you’re going to say, Mum – Don’t.” I said levelly, almost managing not to tremble.
“What did you say to me?” she gasped. As far as her game plan went, my job was at that point to tremble in fear as she laid into me and taught me the error of my ways.
“Please. Just come over here and sit down. If you start screaming and shouting I swear I will walk out. I just want to talk to you. Please?” The last was accompanied by my best pleading look as I patted a space on the bed.
She looked confused for a second, then incredibly she seemed to deflate, letting the anger flow out a bit, as if she realised that this was not the time for wrath of God type smiting. Although she was still obviously mad, she calmly walked over and sat on the bed.
“Go on then,” she said. “What do you want to say.”
“How old are you?” I asked, knowing the answer.
“You know how old I am.” She replied. “Forty five – thirty years older than you. Why?”
“And how old is Dad?” I pressed, knowing this one as well, as my Dad was, and still is, four years younger than Mum.
“It’s not the same, David,” she said. “We were in our twenties when we met. A three year gap doesn’t really matter then.”
“It doesn’t matter now,” I insisted. “Okay, so I didn’t know she was eighteen, but it wouldn’t have changed anything. I like her! She likes me! What’s so wrong with that?”
“You won’t be saying that in nine months time when you find out you’re a sixteen year old father,” she said.
“I won’t be,” I mumbled, embarrassed.
“What makes you so sure?”
“We did it safe. I’m not totally stupid. I did listen to your sex lectures, you know.” This was not a conversation I ever wanted to have.
“How safe?” she asked, and I knew I had to tell her or she would worry herself sick.
I sighed. “She’s on the pill and I wore a condom.”
“Well that’s something, I suppose.” Then a thought struck her. “What on earth were you doing with a condom?”
“I didn’t have one!” I spluttered. “She had one in her bag.”
“So,” said Mum, regaining the moral high ground. “You had sex with a girl behind my back, an eighteen year old girl no less, and she is the sort of girl who is not only on the pill but carries her own condoms. Have I missed anything out?”
This wasn’t the sort of question I was supposed to reply to, so I kept my gob shut and twiddled my thumbs.
“David, I’m not so much angry as disappointed,” she said. This was an old line often used. It just meant that she was angry but had decided not to shout, just to give me a guilt complex. It always worked, but for some reason I didn’t want to bow down to her mind games this time.
“I’m not sorry, Mum,” I said in a small voice. It took a lot to drag those words out of me.
“Pardon?” she said, not quite believing what she’d just heard.
“I’m not sorry,” I repeated, louder and more confident. “I met a girl, went out with her, got on well and had the safest sex possible. This is nothing to be ashamed of. All right, so I’m only fifteen, but it’s only a month ‘til I’m sixteen. There’s boys at school who did it ages ago!”
She thought on this for a few seconds. “You know what, David? I don’t want you to be one of those boys. I want you to be a moral upstanding young man who doesn’t play with other people’s emotions, doesn’t jump into bed at the first opportunity. I don’t doubt that it was mostly her doing,” – a glance at my suddenly downcast eyes confirmed the truth of this – “but I hoped that I’d brought you up a bit better than this. I know there’s nothing wrong with sex, but you have to see that this isn’t the way to go about it.”
I suddenly felt defeated as the weight of her very true words sank into me. I’d heard all the lectures over the years, and had had the whole sex and love thing thoroughly explained to me despite my total embarrassment at having a parent go into such gory detail. The key was respect – That was one of the main messages. If you jump into bed with someone it shows a lack of respect, and is never a good way to start a relationship.
“Okay,” I conceded. “I’m still not sorry for what I did, but you’re right. I shouldn’t have done it, but at the same time I’m glad I did. Do you understand that?”
“Of course I do,” she said, smiling a little. “I was young once, you know. Shall we call this one a draw?”
She smiled down at me, and I smiled back, leaning forward so she could give me one of the hugs I was too old for. Her little boy was growing up, but at least she was able to accept it, and for that I was grateful.
Breakfast was, as you might expect, a subdued affair. We sat politely, both nibbling toast and avoiding eye contact, like lambs invited to lie down with the lion. Sure, we had agreed a truce, but the spectre of what had happened still hung over us, and would do for a while to come. After we had finished, Mum announced that she would be going for a short lie down and would see me in my room in an hour, where we would decide what to do for the rest of the day. I didn’t ask why she was tired, because I had a feeling she might tell me. I was happy to be left to my own devices for a while, because I had a plan: I was going to contact Caz. I don’t know what all of you, or even any of you think about this whole mess, but I wanted to see her again. I know she had said she would meet me at the pub again, but that was before we had been rudely interrupted. The thing was, I had no idea of where she lived or what her telephone number was. The whole thing had been a bit of a whirlwind romance (more like a hurricane that morning) and the little details hadn’t seemed important. This was before the days of mobile phones, so there was no filthy text messaging between new lovers, just a promise to meet again and some crossed fingers (mine). All I really knew about Kaz was that she was eighteen, she lived somewhere nearby, and most importantly she worked at the very pub I was standing in. This was the good bit, because I could try and get her phone number from the manager or something. Good thinking, eh? Well, so I thought anyway.
“Is there a problem, Sir?” asked the same man who had let my Mum go through his kitchens the day before. His tone made it very clear that, because of my age, the word “Sir” was added out of politeness, not necessarily respect. Perhaps I had given the wrong impression by telling the waitress that I wanted to see the manager, because people rarely do that if they want to lavish compliments on their service and food.
“No!” I assured him in embarrassment. “Everything’s lovely. I just wanted to ask you a favour.”
“And what would that be?” He asked, perhaps a little happier now that he realised that I wasn’t like my Mum.
“Well, you know the girl Kaz who works in your kitchen? Blonde? Pretty?”
“Yes, I know her. What about her?”
“Could you give me her phone number?” I blurted out, deciding not to go round the houses with this.
He thought for a second. “I’m afraid I can’t give out members of staffs’ phone numbers, young man. It could cause all sorts of problems. Can I ask why you want it?”
“Well,” I mumbled, embarrassed again. “We went out last night, and I don’t know how to contact her.” I sensibly stopped myself from mentioning the sex, sensing that this was probably not the time or the place.
“You went out with Kaz?” He said. He seemed confused by this. “Are you sure you’ve got the right girl?”
“I think so. Why?”
“Well, I shouldn’t say this, but the Kaz we have working here lives with her boyfriend a mile or so into town. He works nights at the brewery, which is how I know him. I think I can safely say that he is not the sort of person who would take kindly to anyone taking out his young lady, although I will also say that if you have got the right girl I am not at all surprised.”
“What do you mean?”
“Between you and me, young man, she is not exactly the most chaste girl in town, if you see what I mean.”
“Chaste?” I said, confused. It was not a word I had ever heard used in a sentence which did not involve one thing trying to catch another.
“Look,” he said kindly, sitting down at the table. “It would probably be best if you just forgot all about her, because she’s what you youngsters call a bit of a slapper. Is that more understandable.”
I was gobsmacked. Not only was Kaz a tart, but this fiftysomething year old man had just used the word Slapper. It was like hearing your Gran fart. He gave me a conciliatory smile, then got up and went back to the kitchens or wherever managers go when they’ve just shattered the dreams of young men.
When I got back to my room, after walking like a particularly zombified zombie up the seemingly endless flight of stairs (in reality twelve steps), Mum was waiting for me.
“I thought you were going to sleep for an hour,” I said after checking my watch and noting that only fifteen minutes had passed.
“I’ve had a phone call,” she said. “From Mr Beard.”
“The mechanic from yesterday. That’s his name, David. He says he’s fixed the car. Apparently he found a suitable old part when he got the car back, and he and his son worked through the night just so we could get it today. If we want we can take it today. It’s not perfect, and he suggested that we take it straight home then get another mechanic to fix a new part or it might go again”
I digested this information like a cow chewing the cud, and to Mum must have looked like a particularly dopey dipstick.
“David?” she prompted. “What do you think? Do you want to leave? I’ll understand if you want to stay a bit more.” She really was trying here, and the last remark was tantamount to her saying she didn’t mind if I had some more sex. Under any other circumstances this would have been manna from heaven, but I really didn’t want to spend any longer in that place than I had to, not after what I had just learned.
I shrugged in that way only teenagers can. “Let’s just go.”
“What’s wrong, David? Mum asked. Quite reasonably, considering what she had just offered me.
“Nothing!” I grumped. “Can we just go? Now?”
“Right,” she said, her motherly sixth sense knowing that the best bet was just to go along with me and ferret out what was wrong later on. “Well, pack your things and we’ll be off. Mine are hardly out of the case, so I’ll just go down and settle the bill, and I’ll see you downstairs in ten minutes or so. Okay?”
I grunted agreement to this and she left. Then, I am ashamed to say, I sat on my bed and cried a few very unmanly tears for a bit, then wiped my eyes and got on with the business of packing so I could get away, back to normal life, whatever the fuck that was.
As promised, the very non bearded Mr Beard had fixed the car, and had even driven it to the pub rather than make us go to his garage to collect it. I was thinking how considerate he was, then I remembered he had seen Mum on force ten, and realised that he was probably only doing this to make sure she was far away as soon as possible. To her credit, Mum was unfailingly polite and appropriately grateful to him for his efforts. On his part, he referred to her as Mrs Banner, even going so far as to risk a “Ruth” at one point, which Mum let slide as she did say he could get away with it if he fixed her car, and fair play to him he had done exactly that.
Five minutes after Mr Beard had been paid, we were heading out of town, with Mum letting me put on an Iron Maiden tape (at the lowest volume that was possible for human hearing, naturally.) We hadn’t spoken since leaving, and as far as I was concerned wouldn’t be speaking for the rest of the trip. I wasn’t mad at her, just at life and the general unfairness of it all. I just sat in the passenger seat and moped, looking gloomily through the window at the passing town, which was getting sparser the further we got. Near the outskirts, Mum decided to fill up with petrol, and pulled up at a small local garage, the sort whose pumps look like Martians from cheesy old sci-fi films. She got out and started filling the tank, because the days when I was trilled to do this were long gone. I let my eyes wander, taking in the small shop and the larger workshop, and noticed the sign above the workshop that said “A Beard and son - Auto Repairs”. A part of me filed this away for future reference, as it’s always good to amaze people with unlikely coincidences. As I was quietly musing on the fact, I saw a mechanic through the open door, probably Mr Beard’s son as he was about twenty five. Then, as the pump pinged to let Mum know the tank was full, I saw Mr Beard Jnr take Kaz into his arms and give her a very sloppy, very grown up kiss. I tried doing a double take, then a treble take, but it was no use – she was sticking to his face like a British PM to a U.S Presidents bum. It was a long, sensual snog, and they were still at it as Mum got back into the car and started it up. Then, as we slowly pulled out, they stopped, and in a perfectly synchronised moment, Kaz saw me and Mum, and Mum saw Kaz. Naturally, there were shocked looks all round as we pulled out into the road, narrowly missing a truck. The trucks horn slammed Mum back into the real world and she concentrated on driving without killing us for a few minutes before she spoke.
“And that’s why you…?”
“If you say anything about plenty more fish in the sea I will grab the wheel and kill us both. Okay?”
“How did you…?”
“The pub manager told me. Guess she was free last night because her boyfriend was fixing our car.”
“That’s quite a coincidence.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Well, at least there’s one good thing come out of all this, David.”
“You’ve had sex before Peter.”
My Mum never, ever ceases to amaze me.
I know I’m dreaming, but I let myself be carried through the twilight sky on the back of a dragon, pausing only to roast a bunch of peasants because I feel like it. I am lord and master of all I survey, my scaly steed more than able to deal with anyone who dares to suggest that I am not the most studly stud in all of studland. As we circle lazily, eyes peeled for any more peasants that need charcoaling, the dragons left ear begins to play the theme from Doctor Who. As I reach quizzically towards it, my eyes open and I find myself staring at a ceiling rather than a dragon, and sometimes that just sucks. On the table beside the bed, my phone is flashing away, the theme from Doctor Who filling the room, or filling it as well as it can with its’ tinny speaker. I pick it up and gaze blurrily at the display. I am reliably informed that not only is Simon calling me, but he’s calling me at six in the morning, a time I thought only existed in documentaries about supposedly hard lads who wanted to join the army only to end up begging for their Mummys.
I pick it up. “Simon?”
“Oh, thank Christ,” comes his voice, sounding less than his usual confident self. “Are you still at the pub?”
“What? Of course I’m still at the pub. It’s six in the fucking morning, Simon. I’m hardly likely to have decided to go for a stroll around town am I? Where are you?”
“Well, as it happens,” he says. “I’m having a little stroll around town.”
“What?” I say again. I have to stop saying this to Simon, but sometimes he really leaves no option. “Why?”
“It seems that Sid isn’t too keen on people porking his daughter. This point was rammed home to me mid shag half an hour ago when he burst into her room.”
“Jesus! What did he do?”
“Well he bloody well put me right off me vinegar strokes for a start.”
“All right, keep yer skirt on. He went a funny colour, and said that if I was still there in three minutes he was going to shoot me in the balls. That was when he left by the door and I left by the window.”
“Where are you?”
“I haven’t got a bloody clue. I just legged it over some fields and am at this moment skulking behind a bush.”
“Why behind a bush?” I ask, already knowing the answer.
“I haven’t got any trousers. I don’t know where they bloody got to, so I just grabbed me phone from the table and fucked off as fast as I could. So – did you?”
“What?” I say again. “Did I what?”
“Where the fuck did that come from? Haven’t you got more pressing matters on your mind?”
“Come on, Dave. You know I’m always willing to put personal jeopardy on hold for a good shagging story. Is she still there then?”
You know, it occurs to me that I haven’t even looked yet, so I glance next to me and am happy to see that Kate is indeed there, and giving me a very confused look based on hearing one side of this very odd call.
“It’s Simon,” I explain, not bothering to attempt to cover the mouthpiece. “He’s got caught shagging and has had to scarper in his undies. What do you think?”
She thinks for a couple of seconds. “Is he cold?”
“Are you cold?” I ask.
“To fookin right I’m cold,” he replies emphatically.
“Yes, he’s cold,” I replay to Kate, who grins and gestures for me to pass her the phone, which I do.
“Simon?” she says. “It’s Kate.” She pauses as he makes a very unsurprising remark. “That’s none of your business. Look, give me one good reason why we should leave what is a nice comfy bed and do anything to help you, you selfish tart.” Another pause. “Thank you for the offer Simon, but I don’t really want to shag you. Try again.”
As Simon pleads for his life and trousers, I watch Kate with very good feelings sloshing about inside of me. I can’t remember when I’ve been this happy, and the best part is I know she isn’t seeing anyone else because I was there when she dumped him! How great is that? She turns away from me and speaks softly into the phone, with the only words I can catch being “What are you wearing?” then turns back.
“Okay Simon,” she continues. “Can you find the pub again? Good. Meet us at the end of the road that goes off to the left if you are facing the pub in twenty minutes. If you’re not there as agreed you won’t get your trousers back and will have to hitch home in your pants. Right – see you then.” She hands the phone back to me, having hung up on Casanova.
“What did he agree to do?” I ask. “And why did you want to know what he’s wearing?”
“That’s between me and him,” she says with a wink. “But don’t go getting all paranoid. It’s nothing rude, and you’ll find out soon enough.”
“So what are we going to do?” I ask, because I already have enough faith in her to let her make any devious plans. I’m crap at devious plans, and am about as successful as Dick Dastardly or Wile E Coyote, although not as funny.
“How about getting dressed first,” she suggests pragmatically, and I nod in agreement.
Luckily, both of us came on the trip with a minimum amount of clothing, and within a few minutes we’ve hurriedly got ourselves dressed and packed and are ready for action. The bedrooms are all on the same floor, and our first stop is the room that was allocated to Simon. Of course, the bed hasn’t been slept in, but we’re happy to find his small case there. The only unpacking in evidence is a pack of condoms, so we zip it up and leave it in the hallway.
“Which one do you think is Lauren’s room?” I ask in a whisper.
“Why do we want her room?” asks Kate.
“Well, to get his jeans,” I say, as if this is obvious.
“I’m sure he can live without them,” she says. “There’s another pair in his bag anyway.”
“His wallet will be in the ones in her room,” I state with confidence. I don’t mind him losing out on a pair of jeans, but I know what a complete pain in the arse it is to lose your wallet. Anyway, I’m planning to make him pay for the train home at the very least.
Whilst Kate is deliberating, the door next to us opens unexpectedly and the girl herself peeks out. She looks a little surprised as she sees us.
“Have you seen Simon?” she asks, not unreasonably.
“He’s buggered off,” I state. “He was under some strange impression that your old man was going to shoot his balls off.”
“Oh,” she says simply. “He’s always threatening that, and he almost always never does it.”
“I don’t think that’s a statement that would entice Simon back,” I say confidently. “Look – we’re going to go and get him. Can you give us his jeans?”
“Hang on,” she says, and disappears back inside. When she reappears she is carrying his jeans, which I gratefully take. A quick grope of them confirms the presence of Simons’ wallet.
“Thanks,” I say, and turn to go.
“David, isn’t it?” she says, grabbing my arm. I nod. “I’ve slipped my number in the pocket – can you make sure he gets it?” I nod again. Then, because I feel like it, I give her Simons’ mobile number, something he himself never does. Okay, so it’s petty, but it might slow him down a bit, especially if she’s a bunny boiler.
As Lauren closes her door, we look at each other and mentally signal that it’s definitely time to go now. Kate gives a little smile and kisses me softly, and I am greeted by the morning stiffy I didn’t have time to get earlier.
“Thanks,” I whisper, and she does it again. We start to creep down the hallway to leave when another door opens up, and this time it’s Morgan sticking his head out to check that the coast is clear.
“Oh,” he says. “What are you two doing?”
“Leaving,” I say. “Simon,” I add, and Morgan nods as if this explains everything, which if you know Simon it does. “What about you?”
“I thought that this might not be the best place to be when the band manage to get out of bed, so I thought I’d bottle it and scarper early.”
“Is being a roadie not quite what you expected?” asks Kate sarcastically.
“To be honest, I was hoping for more sex and less violence,” he says gloomily, like a man who has rented a film called “I Like It Hard” and found it to be a story about a tough street cop who doesn’t have any nookie.
“You mean you didn’t pull last night?” I gasp with impressive mock shock.
“I would’ve done if there hadn’t been a riot,” he says sulkily, as if the locals had gone mental for no other reason than to stop him getting his end away.
Sensing that this is going on a bit too long, Kate steps in. “I suppose you’d better come with us, Morgan. We’re going to get the train home, if there is one.”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” he agrees, and the three of us creep out of the pub like everything was our fault.
Once outside, we breathe the clean crisp air of freedom and follow the road to the left, mindful that there should be a semi naked Simon at the top of the hill. We fill Morgan in on the story, and he laughs a bit and looks jealous a bit, then, as we crest the hill, he nearly pisses himself laughing at the sorry sight that greets us.
Simon is indeed waiting for us, as arranged, and he is resplendent in his black boxers and a plain white t-shirt. Rather, it used to be a plain white shirt but it is now adorned with the legend “I am a womanising tart” in black felt pen. Unsurprisingly, he is getting some car horn honks and a few sarky comments from passing motorists on their way to work. I look at Kate, knowing that this is her doing.
“What?” she says not at all innocently. “I figured we may as well have a bit of fun at his expense, so I told him if he didn’t manage to locate a marker pen and write that on his shirt he wouldn’t get his stuff back.”
“You wouldn’t have held him to that, would you?” I ask, not totally sure.
“I guess we’ll never know,” she says with a mischievous grin, and proceeds to give a grateful Simon his trousers and other stuff. He immediately dons the trousers and gets his jacket and a fresh shirt from his case. Naturally, the bastard doesn’t look like he’s been shagging all night before being cast out into the cold – he looks his usual cocky, perfect self. Oh well, I can’t hold it against him, and we clasp hands in that manly way that men do.
“You’ve got a right one there,” he says approvingly, nodding towards Kate.
“Where the fuck did you get a marker pen?” I ask. This has been bugging me since I saw him.
“There’s a newsagent down the road,” he half explains, gesturing down the hill.
“How did you pay for it?”
“The assistant was a bird,” he says with a shrug, and no more explanation is needed.
“Have you two finished cuddling?” asks Kate.
“Yes Maam,” I say with a salute. “Awaiting further orders, Maam.” Next to me, Simon does a full on Rimmer from Red Dwarf salute and we snigger like the idiots we are.
“Does any of you have any idea where the train station is?” she asks, ignoring our antics.
“It’s about ten minutes that way,” says Simon, pointing. “I asked in the shop.”
“Good boy,” she says, coming over and patting his head. I put on an exaggerated hurt look so she gives me a snog. I am gratified to note that both Simon and Morgan look jealous, so I give them the finger as I do a small victory dance.
“If you ever do that again I will cut your bollocks off,” says Kate matter of factly as I wind the dance down. I look down at my feet as Simon does an impressively realistic whipping sound.
“Do I have to grow up now?” I ask in a small voice.
“It would be nice, dear,” she replies.
Well, there are worse things I could do, I suppose.
Amazingly, the train station has a reasonably regular service to it, and we manage to board a train in the right direction within thirty minutes. There will be a couple of changes down the line, but thanks to Simon’s credit card we’re at least on our way, grateful to leave the whole thing behind us. We dump our cases on the rack and flump into our seats with a collective sigh.
An hour later, when normal people are getting out of their beds and leaving their bedrooms by doors not windows, “Seasons In The Sun” starts tinkling away from the direction of Kate’s handbag. Understandably, she flushes a bit and retrieves her mobile phone, all the while mumbling about getting the ringtone changed whilst the three of us laugh cruelly at her discomfort.
“Hello? Wayne?” she says, and our attention is instantly grabbed. “Where are you?”
“Well, on the plus side, he’s not dead,” Simon says to me as Kate listens to Wayne. “But then again, on the negative side – he’s not dead.” I poke him in the ribs and focus on Kate.
“Um, actually we’re on a train home,” she says apologetically. “Sorry to run out on you, but there was a bit of an incident with Simon. Yes, he did. No, he didn’t get shot. Yes, it is a shame.” She says the last whilst giving Simon a sly wink. “Look, are you going to be okay?” There is a lengthy pause whilst Wayne tells her either how brilliant everything is going to be, or possibly that the mob came back and murdered Marlon. Either would be acceptable, to be honest. “Well that’s good, Wayne,” continues Kate. “Call me when you get back, okay, and for what it’s worth I’m sorry. Okay, see you soon, bye.”
With that, she folds away the phone and turns to see us looking at her like the three decidedly unwise monkeys.
“What?” she says in that infuriatingly innocent way she has. “If you want to know, you all have to make gibbon noises.”
Without even thinking (something we do very well) we all start to whoop and grunt in a way that even gibbons would be ashamed of, with Morgan attempting to swing from the luggage rack to the accompaniment of the very un jungle-like sound of tutting from several other passengers.
“You are such pricks,” says Kate, smiling to let us know she’s not going to hold our prickishness against us. “Wayne and the others are fine – stoppit!” she shrieks as we all groan in disappointment at the news. “They’re all okay, apart from the obvious injuries, and Waynes cousin is hiring a truck to get them and the gear home. Surprise surprise the vans weren’t insured, but the landlord is going to flog them to the local scrap merchant and keep the cash for his trouble. So, basically, everything is going to be okay.”
“Do you think I should sue them for mental stress?” asks Morgan.
“You’re permanently mentally stressed,” says Simon. “No case.”
“I didn’t get any either,” bemoans Morgan with an Ancient Mariner like shrug.
“Lokks like you’re the only one,” says Simon, looking very suggestively at me and Kate. We, of course, give him the finger. Whatever we did last night is no ones business but our own.
“How about her?” says Morgan, cheering up at the sight of a rather attractive young lady pushing a snack laden cart up the aisle. “Reckon she’d go for a few rounds of Morgans Organ?”
“I dunno Morgan,” says Simon. “She doesn’t look retarded, so possibly not.”
“Huh! Bet she fancies me to you,” Morgan retorts. “You haven’t even washed or shaved this morning. I, however, and clean and furrymoan fresh.”
“Twenty pints to a tenner?” says Simon wearily.
Morgan doesn’t want to back down. “Done!” he says, and they shake on it as the girl stops by our seats.
“Any drinks or snacks?” she says, not very subtly eyeing up Simon in all his unwashed glory.
“Can I ask you a question?” says Simon disarmingly.
“Have you ever heard of the mile high club?”
“Yeah,” she says with a flirtatious giggle. “What about it?”
“How high off the ground would you say this train is?”
“I dunno. About, um, four and a half feet?”
“So how would you like to join the four and a half feet high club Sophie?” he asks with a huge predatory grin, reading her name from her badge.
Me and Kate have had enough at this point, so we just turn off our ears and relax into a nice, long snogging session. Best start to a day I’ve had for years.
Kissing, I have found, is a very good thing. Be it the reassuring goodnight kiss from your mother (up to a certain age, of course) or the full blown first snog from a prospective sexual partner (and everything in between), kissing tends to be a nice experience. There are exceptions, but this is mainly when the kiss tends to be of the Glasgow variety, or when your partner in the deed seems more interested in devouring as much of your head as is possible than having a good old smooch. At the early stages in anyone’s kissing education, (something which really has to be self taught, as you really don’t want your mum to show you various techniques), the big question is to tongue or not to tongue. If you decide not to tongue, you might appear to be an inexperienced (whisper it) virgin. If you decide that the tongue is the way to go, where do you put it? It’s all very well diving in and seeing if you can work out what she had for breakfast, but if all she likes doing is sort of wiggling the tips together, she’ll think you’re an alien after her brain stem or something.
At fifteen, I was, I will admit, not the most experienced kisser in the world. I certainly got a few good ones in with Carolyn Thomas, but since then had sort of gone off the idea. As Kaz and I watched Americans destroy the subtlety of HG Wells’ brilliant socio political novel, albeit with some cool explosions, I was struck with the age old tongue/no tongue conundrum.
We had left the plough holding hands, which was a good start. Intimacy should never be underestimated, no matter how slight it is. The act of holding hands is possibly one of the most intimate things a couple can do, as it screams to the world “Look at us! We actually like each other, and are not afraid to show it!” Kissing, however, is not always a well appreciated spectator activity, depending on just how sloppy the kissing is. A romantic peck and a dewy eyed look into each others’ eyes will have passers by cooing and feeling all romantic themselves, whilst a full blown snog accompanied by a quick crotch grope or three will result in shouts of “Get a room” and rocks being thrown.
Sensibly, me and Kaz kissed in the cinema, away from prying eyes, mostly because there was hardly anyone there. My tongue/no tongue dilemma was nicely solved by the girl in question as I felt her tongue gently probing between my lips, allowing me to drift off and go to a happy place where tongues were not, as many think, slobbery, moist things you wouldn’t want to touch if your life depended on it, but lovely sensual organs with the hidden promise of future licking in nice places. I am not ashamed to admit that we paid almost no attention whatsoever to the film. In fact, I am quite proud of it, because it means that I was a young stud copping off with a fine filly. It’s always nice to get reassurance that you are attractive to the opposite sex, and things don’t get much more reassuring than a tongue sandwich and a good feel when you’re fifteen, so I was a happy chap indeed.
When we got out, holding hands that bit tighter now, it wasn’t even half nine, and I was at a total loss as to what I should suggest.
“So, um,” I faltered, unable to finish my sentence.
“You are such a silver tongued devil,” she remarked playfully. “Have you actually ever taken a girl out before?”
I looked appropriately indignant. “Of course I have.” My whole bearing was geared towards implying that not only had I taken many girls out, but I was doing this little country wench a favour by spending time with her instead of one of the many beauties in my harem.
“Okay,” she said. “More than one?”
Obviously I would have to work hard on my body language.
“Including you?” I asked, smiling as we walked along.
“How about not including me?”
“I refuse to answer that question on the grounds it may make me look a bit sad and lonely, unless you are irresistibly attracted to sad and lonely guys.”
“I love them. With a passion.” Her eyes bored into mine like lasers. I was not used to girls being this forward, and wasn’t really sure how to respond.
“Unm…” I stalled again, totally unsure of what to say. I had my moments, but in general I was more of a lead tongued devil that one of the silver variety. Fortunately, Kaz didn’t seem to mind this, and took my hesitation as a cue to kiss me deeper and more passionately than she had so far that night.
“Yum,” I said afterwards, a huge grin superglued to my face. “So, um, where do you want to go now? Is there anything to do around here?”
She thought for a second. “Well, we can’t go to my place, as my Nan would have a fit. We could go to a pub – I can get in most places round here.”
“Are you trying to get me to suggest we go back to you room or something?”
“What? No!” I was telling the truth here. Getting her back to my room was being reserved for a later fantasy, one in which I had the balls to ask her, she said yes, and there was sex. I had a lot of these fantasies, but would never dream of actually trying to make one come true.
“Shame,” she said simply, then let go of my hand and walked on ahead.
I stood doing fish impressions for a second, then jogged up to her, confused.
“Have I done something wrong?” I asked, and I would like to note that this was the first time I ever said those words to a member of the opposite sex, but certainly not the last.
She looked at my forlorn face, and I’m sure that I looked somewhat like a puppy who had shat on the sofa, then just grabbed me and hugged me, laughing.
“Of course not, you dick! I was just taking the piss.”
“So you’re not mad?” Slow on the uptake as ever.
“Duh!” she said with feeling. We carried on walking, hand in hand once again, and I realised that we were heading back to the Plough, and my room.
One of the lessons my Mum drilled in me when I was young was “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”, even though most of the time we didn’t get even when we did ask. I knew in my heart and my head (okay, and in my trousers) that this was my moment. I’ve never been the best at picking up on subtle signals from women, and even today require a woman to come up to me, flop her puppies out and say “Excuse me, would you like a shag?” Even then I would be struggling to comprehend exactly what she wanted, so imagine what I was like at fifteen,
“So,” I said nonchalantly, as if I was going to ask her to speculate on tomorrows’ weather. “Do you want to come up to my room then?”
She didn’t even look at me, just carried on walking. I couldn’t say anything else, as it had taken all my adolescent courage to just ask her in the first place, so assuming I had blown it I carried on walking with her, saying nothing. A few minutes later, we reached the Plough, which looked like it was having a busy night judging by the cars in the car park. Kaz stopped, then turned towards me, holding both my hands as we faced each other.
“Ask me again,” she said, softly.
To my credit, I did not say “Ask you what?” because I had been thinking of nothing else since I first asked.
“Do you want to come up to my room?” I said evenly, looking her straight in her eyes.
She leaned in and kissed me softly, before moving her lips to my ear, as she had done earlier in the restaurant.
“Sure,” she said, almost too softly to hear.
Oh. My. God.
I suppose now would be a good time to gently cut away, leaving you with subtle hints of romance and gentle uninterrupted lovemaking, of two souls meeting like the proverbial ships in the night and making sweet beautiful music together. If you’ve made it this far, you will be aware that things just don’t go that way for me. As the saying goes, if I fell in a barrel of tits I’d come out sucking my thumb.
The main logistical problem was, of course, my Mum. I knew full well that it didn’t matter whether she was awake, asleep or in a deep coma – the moment I set foot in my room she would be at the door, making sure I hadn’t done anything stupid like enjoy myself. Luckily, I had seen plenty of carry on films, and even a bedroom farce once at the local theatre.
“In the what?” asked Kaz incredulously.
“The wardrobe. It’s the classic hiding place.”
“And why am I hiding, exactly?”
“Don’t you remember? Evil woman, kitchen inspection and all that?”
“So what? Why don’t you just tell her to mind her own business?”
That stumped me. Why didn’t I tell her to mind her own business? Okay, so I wasn’t sixteen yet, but surely I was old enough to live my life without having to look over my shoulder all the time. We were at the bottom of the stairs that led to the rooms, and for some reason I was worried that my Mum would catch me with a girl! I was a strapping (ish) fifteen year old boy, a man even, and I decided there and then that I would stand up to my mother, and damn the consequences!
Starting the next day.
“Did you have a nice night, love?” my Mother asked, standing in my doorway.
“Yeah, it was fine,” I replied as naturally as possible, worried that “I have a girl in the wardrobe” was written all over my face.
“Did you enjoy the film?”
“Yeah, it was fine,” I said again, as this had worked the first time. She looked tired, and had obviously been woken up by me and Kaz creeping into my room. Now she knew that I was okay, and hadn’t fallen into a threshing machine, she would be able to go back to a proper sleep, hopefully.
“That’s nice, dear,” she said with a yawn. “Well, see you in the morning.”
“Night Mum,” I said as she left. When the door closed, the wardrobe opened and Kaz stepped out, an evil grin on her face. I held my fingers up to my lips and she came over to sit beside me on the bed. I don’t mind telling you that at this point I was rather excited.
“What would happen,” she whispered, “if I moaned in ecstasy right now?”
“For one, I’d wonder what you just sat on,” I whispered back. “And two, she would be in here and throwing you out in about, and this is just a guess, four seconds.”
Instead of moaning in ecstasy, she just kissed me, and I enthusiastically kissed her back. I risked an experimental hand wander, and was mildly delirious to find that she not only allowed it, but reciprocated in such a way that would allow her to realise just how excited I was.
Sometimes, just occasionally, I come out of that barrel not sucking my thumb…
“That was nice,” I say to Kate, meaning it.
“I think you’re right,” she agrees. “You’re much better at it than Wayne, you know. It’s all over in a flash with him. You just take your time, which is nice.”
I flush with embarrassment at the unexpected praise. I mean, all we’ve done is share our first kiss, and I’m already better than Wayne. Being better than Wayne may not be much of a target to aim for, but it’s nice to know I’ve hit the bullseye on the first go, and I wasn’t even trying to impress her. Kissing Kate is something I’ve been fantasizing about lately, and when the reality presented itself I couldn’t help but enjoy it and want to make it last. Just to show her how brilliant and better than Wayne I really was, I kiss her again.
“This is probably not the best place,” she says afterwards, looking at the same time happy and sad, which is quite a trick.
She has a point, as the lad himself is just through the door. I am sorely tempted to go through the door and dance around him chanting “I’m better than you, Wayne” in a silly voice, but realise that this may be seen as slightly immature, so I keep the impulse in check.
“What do you want to do?” I ask, hoping that the answer is “Go upstairs and perform exhausting sexual antics with you, studmonkey”, but suspecting it might not be.
“I have to break up with him.”
I don’t reply to this, just nod and stand back so she can go into the bar to do what amounts to kicking a man when he’s down. Naturally, I follow her, because I enjoy watching that sort of thing.
Inside the bar, Wayne is cradling his broken guitar and wiping away a few tears from his eyes. I do feel sorry for him, even though he brought all this on himself. In his defence, he did it with the best of intentions, even if those intentions were coupled with the smallest of brains. I do my best to hover at the bar and be as invisible as possible as Kate goes and sits down beside him.
“Wayne,” she says. “We need to talk.”
When a normal man hears these words, he knows that he’s going to be dumped, but to Wayne it just means she wants to talk, possibly about how brilliant he is.
“Sure babe,” he says, wincing as he speaks because of a nasty little cut on his lip. “What’s up?”
Kate looks him straight in the bloodshot eyes. “I’m up, Wayne. I’m sorry to bring this on you at this point in time, what with you having just been given a good kicking and all, but I don’t think I can be your girlfriend any more.”
Everyone is, of course, listening to all this, and we wait with traditionally baited breath to see if Wayne will cry or explode, the two main options in situations like this.
Instead, he just says “Okay babe. No worries.”
“Is that it?” she says incredulously, her brow well and truly furrowed. “No worries? Is that all I’m worth to you?”
I can’t believe that she’s the one getting upset here. She came in here to break up with him, and he was brilliantly okay with it, and now she’s the one getting upset, presumably because he didn’t break down in floods of tears and offer to top himself in his grief. I do not, and will not, understand women. If breaking up was always this easy, I’d certainly have been able to do it more often in the past, instead of having to rely on the tried and trusted male method of making the other person so miserable they dump you, thereby allowing you to be free of them and also letting you take on the role of wounded dumpee.
“I think you’re brilliant babe,” says Wayne. “But let’s face it, you’re a bit of a brain and you make me feel a bit stupid sometimes.”
Not the most difficult task, making Wayne feel stupid, one would think. I think the only way he can avoid it in the future is to go out with an amoeba. A particularly stupid amoeba from the slow reading class at amoeba school.
“To be honest,” he continues, “I was going to split up with you anyway, so you’re doing me a favour.”
Kate looks furious now. “Well I’m glad I could do you a favour, Wayne.” She puts the same love and affection into the word Wayne as George W Bush does into the word Terrorist. “Maybe I’ll just find myself someone who doesn’t think I’m too bloody brainy for them.”
Wayne seems to mull this over for a few seconds before answering. “There’s always Dave here,” he suggests to my utter astonishment. This is not how stealing someone’s girlfriend should go. At the very least, there should be an element of sneaking about.
“Maybe I will, Wayne!” snaps Kate, then she marches over to me, grabs me and kisses me hard. It’s not very romantic, but then again it’s not supposed to be. “Come on, Dave,” she says to me loudly, very much in performance mode. “Let’s go upstairs and have wild sex. You can show me what a normal sized penis looks like.” Then she flounces out of the bar and stamps up the stairs, leaving me rather dazed and confused.
“Right…” I say, not wanting to look at anyone else in the room. “I’ll just be off to bed then.”
“Dave,” says Wayne, and I turn to him, ready for whatever he has to offer. At least he can’t attack me physically. “I may be a bit dopey mate,” he says, “But I’m not blind. Go on, have a blast. She’s too bloody good for me. Maybe you’ll make her happy.”
I just nod, and leave, thinking that Wayne is not such a cock after all.
I trudge up the stairs, not knowing what to expect. I fully realise that Kate’s sexy suggestion was purely for the benefit of Wayne, and don’t expect her to be in my room in a slinky negligee with a ‘come and shag’ me look on her face. When I open the door I am surprised to see that she is in my room, although unfortunately without the sexy nightwear. In this sort of situation, however, I’m very happy at one out of two. She’s not sitting on the bed, but is instead standing at the window with her back to me. I walk over to her and put a hand softly on her shoulder.
“You okay?” I ask simply, feeling her shoulder shaking beneath my hand. I hate it when girls cry, as I feel like a useless waste of space because I am never any good at cheering them up.
She doesn’t reply, but I hear a little squeaking noise coming from her which doesn’t sound like any crying I’ve ever heard. Is she laughing?
She finally turns around, and she is indeed laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
“Look in the car park,” she says, pushing me towards the window, which faces said car park.
“Wow!” I exclaim, because it’s definitely a wow moment when you see two blazing vehicles, both now rather blackened where once they were adorned with Idiosyncratic Routine logos. I turn back to Kate. “Is this a funny thing then?” I’m confused, because without the vehicles we’re rather stuck.
“No,” she says, still laughing. “It’s a terrible thing, but I think I’ve reached the point where if I don’t laugh I’ll have to kill myself, so I’m just going to laugh. If you feel like joining in, please do.”
I just stare at the burning wrecks, then look at Kate, then the flames again, then Kate again, and something clicks in my brain. This actually is pretty funny, and I start to laugh, then laugh a bit more, then join Kate in full blown hilarity as she comes over and we watch the flames get higher with an arm around each other. In the distance we can hear the sirens of fore engines, and Kate waggles her mobile phone at my quizzical look. For some reason I feel happier than I have in years. Okay, so it’s not exactly candlelight, but it’s much more memorable for a first date.
Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Personally, I was impressed by the rooms, especially the fact that I didn’t have to share one with my Mum. Okay, so I was next door, but in my mind I was a million miles away. With Farrah Fawcett.
The best part about the whole situation was that our rooms were not in St Ives, they were not even near St Ives, and they were not even in Cornwall. How so? Well, I couldn’t have planned it better myself…
My head was still spinning as we walked out to the car after the meal. It was like being drunk, but without the utter fear of being found out afterwards. I was so confused I didn’t know what to do. I could have tried to persuade Mum to forget about St Ives and stay exactly where we were for a few days, but I knew that once she had a plan there was no deviating for silly reasons like love and happiness, oh no. The only real option I had was prayer, and I felt that God might not grant and begging petitions from yours truly due to the tiny fact that I had spent much of my life not believing in him and calling those that did utter nobheads. Sod it, I thought, and prayed anyway to a new deity I had just invented. I called him Norman, and decided he was a benevolent God who granted all sorts of wishes and the like without any need for worship or sacrifices. I liked Norman, and to this day feel there should be more Gods like him.
Okay, so there wasn’t a thunderclap or anything, but the actual noise Norman sent was a lot more welcome. It was the sound of a car engine refusing to start, like a racehorse whose back legs have gone to sleep. Mum was determined that the plan was not going to be thwarted by a mere machine, and was stubbornly trying again and again, whilst the cars weak protestations the it wasn’t at all well got steadily weaker. Finally, inevitably, it went “floot” or something like it, and was pronounced dead. Mum gave a frustrated growl and dragged me back to the pub where she called the AA, who told her that someone would be there soon. Mum, whose body language hinted strongly that she would prefer if a mechanic was beamed down Star Trek style immediately, gritted her teeth and thanked them in the way a schoolboy being caned thanks sir and asks for another. Then we went back to the car to wait.
You know that noise mechanics, plumbers and the like make when they are about to give you expensive news, when they suck air through their teeth? Well, I don’t know how to spell that, but the closest I can get is “fffffffffffffftt…”. Just so we’re clear what it means, okay?
“ffffffffffffffffft…” said the mechanic, who had arrived within five minutes from his garage up the road. “I’m not going to be able to fix this, love.”
To her credit, Mum didn’t disembowel him for calling her ‘love’.
“Well what can you do?” she asked politely. “We have to be in St Ives later.”
“Not in this, sweetheart,” he replied, as I waited anxiously for him to call her petal.
Mum still didn’t disembowel him. “How long will it take you to fix it?”
“Couple of days, I suppose. It’s the parts, you see. I’d offer you a hire car but the only one I’ve got’s out at the moment. Looks like your stuck here for the duration, Petal.”
Mum quietly digested this information, whilst I silently cheered and promised Norman I would spread his gospels far and wide. Norman, nice God that he was, said I needn’t bother.
“Fine. Is there anywhere round here we can stay. Anywhere decent, naturally.”
“To be honest, darling, you’re already there. The Winchester here’s the best in town. They got some nice rooms up top, I’m sure they’ll have a couple for you and your lad here.”
“Thank you, Mr Beard. You’ve been most helpful, and I shall be checking up on your progress. As you have been helpful to me, I shall be helpful to you and give you a bit of advice.”
He leaned towards her, like a fly drawn to a carnivorous plant.
“In future, it would probably be best if you didn’t refer to female customers as darling, flower, petal or any other such nauseating sexist twaddle. Personally, if you refer to me as anything other than Mrs Banner, or Ruth if you manage to fix my car, I will disembowel you. With a spoon.”
I knew I’d heard that before I saw Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves.
Mr Beard just smiled at her, raised his oily cap and said “Certainly Mrs Banner,” then stomped off to his tow truck.
So we were staying. What a shame.
The Winchester, as well as having good clean kitchens and pretty kitchen staff (well, at least one), had good clean pretty rooms. The pretty part was mainly because they were decorated in nice colours with lovely paintings of coastal views on the walls. Mum was totally happy with her room, which was a rarity, because she only really seemed happy when she had something to complain about, but try as she might she couldn’t find anything. After she’d found her own room to be frustratingly clean, she inspected mine, which was similarly perfect. With a sigh, she sat on the bed next to me.
“I’m sorry about this, David,” she said. “We were going to have fun, but it looks like we’ll be stuck here for a while.”
“It’s not your fault, Mum,” I said, trying to look a little downhearted for appearances sake. “We’ll be okay.”
“Why don’t we take a walk around the town, see what’s here,” she suggested.
I nodded. “Sure.” So we did.
The town, it turned out, was called Culvernay, and although it wasn’t too big, it wasn’t the ghost town I had first thought. There were plenty of craft shops to keep Mum happy, and we pottered in and out of them so she could pick things up and admire them, whilst telling me not to pick anything up as if I was five years old. I still picked things up when her back was turned, but only because in some ways I was still five years old. There were a few grubby little pubs and the promise of a market on Wednesday morning, but not really a lot else. At least the biggest of the newsagents had some super hero comics, and I got a few without having to pester too hard, Mum still feeling guilty about having to stay here. The biggest saving grace was that it had a cinema. Not much of one admittedly, but to my delight Tuesdays was reserved for showings of classic films, and that night was War Of The Worlds, my favourite film since I first saw it on television. I really wanted the opportunity to see it on a big screen, and after noting it started at seven thirty, slowly and surely I drew my plans together…
We sat in the restaurant, having just enjoyed another excellent meal. Mum seemed tired and weary from the stress of the day. So much so she didn’t even complain when she realised her soup was seventeen degrees too hot. It’s that sort of uncanny temperature measuring that always stopped me being able to fake being ill. It’s not easy having a human thermometer for a mother, or a human vegetable for a brother for that matter.
“You look tired,” I said, playing the caring son. “Do you want to go and have a lie down?”
“I could do with one, I suppose. I just feel guilty about having landed you here – there’s nothing for you to do, really.”
This was my opening. She had walked right into my trap.
“Well, I did notice the local flea pit’s showing War Of The Worlds tonight,” I said brightly, as if I had just thought of it.
She groaned. “Not that old rubbish. I swear there should be a law against Americans stealing our books to make poor films out of them. You know I hate that film, David.”
Of course I did. That was why it was so perfect.
“You don’t have to come with me Mum,” I said, the voice of reason. “It’s not like I can’t go to the cinema on my own. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll be better off just having a rest. We can go somewhere tomorrow when you’re feeling more up to it.”
“Are you sure you’ll be okay on your own?”
“Mum, I’m fifteen. This place is hardly any bigger than Hinton really. I promise everything will be fine. I mean, if I can survive an Iron Maiden concert I’m sure I can survive a sleepy Devon town.”
“I suppose it won’t do any harm,” she said, giving in gracefully. “I want your word, young man, that you won’t try anything stupid like getting served in a pub.”
“Of course not.” Who did she think I was? Oh, right – fair enough. After my drinking escapade with Nick I still hadn’t touched a drop, and had no wish to, so it was an easy promise to make. “So can I go?”
“I don’t see why not. Just don’t stay out too late, and keep away from the locals.”
Inside me, there was a whole ballroom of people doing victory waltzes, so it was easy to lie through my teeth. “Yes Mum.” I looked down, but my pants weren’t on fire, so I reckoned I’d got away with it.
As I’ve got older, wiser and lazier, I’ve realised that choosing clothes for a date is basically a piece of piss. Pick a T-shirt that hasn’t got a band name on it, some clean jeans, whichever pair of boxers makes my cock look biggest and finish off with any old socks and trainers. If the occasion is formal, such as a royal reception, then substitute the trainers for a pair of shoes, preferably slip ons. Shaving is optional, depending on whether my stubble makes me look like George Michael when all the girls fancied him, or a tramp. In the end, as long as you are comfortable, you will appear to look good. It’s your attitude and confidence that wins over the girls, not the fact that your socks match, although if they are fussy about that it’ll be too late by the time they find out.
Of course, at fifteen I had no such preconceptions, determined that what girls liked was purely on the outside, and that a good heart and soul was nothing if not accompanied by a shirt with a little crocodile on the breast. With this in mind, I spent forty five minutes trying to tart myself up as best I could with the limited resources we had brought with us. There wasn’t that much to tart up, mind you, as I was a fan of the straight and boring school of haircuts, not yet introduced to the wonder of gel. The clothes I had brought with me consisted entirely of band t-shirts, but I reasoned that this hadn’t bothered Kaz earlier and wriggled into a tightish one with the Saxon logo slashed across it. That was it for dressing, as I had one pair of jeans and one pair of trainers, so I mainly practised looking as cool as possible in the mirror, which meant trying endless different brushes of my hair, all of which were useless as it invariably slid back to its natural flop soon afterwards. I decided there and then that I would get a decent haircut at the soonest opportunity, even if it meant being a less effective headbanger. At quarter to seven I slipped into my denim jacket. Luckily I had brought the one without the patches all over it. I think some of the local old boys might have had a fit of they’d seen some of the lurid images plastered one very available inch. I went to say goodbye to Mum, but she was asleep, so I quietly closed her door, composed myself, and went to meet my date.
One thing I am not a fan of is being late. Another thing I am not a fan of is people who use the word “actually”, but that’s another story, actually. I always like to arrive on time for things, which naturally makes me a crappy party guest, as everyone else knows to arrive at least an hour after it says on the invitation, at which point they will find me and the hosts putting up decorations. At fifteen I was no better, although excitement was a big contributing factor in me being in the bar fifteen minutes before I had to. Naturally, I wiled away the time with a few blasts on the Space Invaders machine, and after a few goes noticed that Kaz was late. Ten minutes late, as it happened, and my heart sank like a sinky thing. Ten minutes may not seem like a lot, but at fifteen it basically means you’ve been stood up, so I finished up my game and decided to plod back to my room. For some reason I didn’t feel like seeing the film anymore. Just as I turned to go through the door that led to our rooms, a voice came mercifully from behind me:
“Oi! Where have you been then?”
It was Kaz, naturally. She looked great, mainly because everything she wore was tight and she had a great body. “I’ve been here. You said meet me here at seven, so I’m here. Are you grasping the concept of here yet?”
“Think back, spazbrain,” she said, looking straight into my eyes. “When I said that, where were we?”
I though back. “Um, in the restaurant?”
“Ooohhh… well done. Now, and this is the tricky one, where have I been waiting like a twat for the last fifteen minutes?”
“In the restaurant,” I said, more confident of the answer this time. “Sorry.”
“So you should be,” she said, mock pouting. “So what do you want to do? There’s not much on round here, believe it or not.”
“How about the cinema?” I suggested. “They’re showing “War Of The Worlds.”
She looked at me for a brief second as if I was totally mental, but must have decided that putting up with what I now realise is a very crap film was an acceptable evening out.
“Sure,” she replied with a nice little smile. So we linked arms and off we went. I love it when a plan comes together.
Sid was right. Osmium are pretty fucking good, and heavier than an elephant who’s just eaten his yearly bun ration in two hours. At the moment they’re playing a lovely little ditty called “Sex Gods From The Planet Metal”, which contains the charming line “Showing off our metal tits cos sex gods don’t wear bras”. They are all wearing various leather strappy things and cod pieces, and all have visible burns due to the frankly insane use of pyrotechnics on display. As the lead singer screeches like a banshee and drinks blood out of a skull I can feel myself sink lower and lower, wishing I had never agreed to this stupid bloody trip. Surely even the love of Kate isn’t worth this shit, or more accurately the shit that is due to come flying at the band and everyone who knows them after they have been stoned to death on stage.
At least Simon is happy, as the crowd are his type of people, being long of hair and not ashamed to whirl it about whilst making devil signs and playing imaginary guitars. He barely notices as I slink away out to the front bar, thankfully separate from the band area. I’ll give Sid this, he’s managed a dynamite soundproofing job, as the ear shattering metal is reduced to background squawking as I sit on a stool and bury my head in my hands like a film drunk. I know that Wayne, Neil and Marlon will be upstairs getting ready, so it’s nice to just be on my own. On my own, that is, until a tap on my shoulder causes me to start and then turn to look at Kate, who has plumped herself down on the seat next to me.
“Aren’t you going to buy a girl a drink then, Mr Grant?”
“I may as well,” I say gloomily. “After all, dead men have no use for money, do they?”
“Never say die,” she says in a booming, Brian Blessed like voice that causes a few heads to turn our way. “You never know, they might just pull it off. You have to admit, Dave, they are very good musicians.”
“So are the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, but they wouldn’t fancy following that lot.”
“Are they really that, well, metal?”
“Go and have a look,” I prompt. “Go on. I’ll save your seat and order your tombstone.”
She goes out to the main bar, reappearing a few minutes later with a rather shocked look on her face. She sits down and chucks the vodka I’ve thoughtfully got waiting for her in one.
“We,” she says slowly. “Are fucked.”
It’s nice to hear someone else admit this, as Wayne nearly had me convinced that all was going to be peachy. I start to hum the funeral march, and Kate joins in with a sombre look on her face. We lock eyes as we harmonise, until we finally reach the edge of sanity together and dissolve into snorty laughs that must make a few of the locals think there’s a Porky Pig convention in town.
“What are we going to do?” I ask.
She thinks for a few seconds. “Nothing.”
“That’s not a plan,” I say. “If anything, that’s an anti plan. A lack of a plan, if you will.”
“So why do we have to do anything?” she asks reasonably. “After all, you’re not actually their manager, are you? You didn’t lie through your teeth to get this gig.”
“Well… no, I suppose not. I just feel responsible, but I don’t know why?”
“Because you’re that sort of guy, Dave. You see someone fuck up, and you want to help. Believe me, this isn’t your fault, and if you’ve any sense you’ll keep away from it. Wayne should have known better that to come up with all that crap, and he deserves every piss filled missile that is no doubt coming to him.”
Wow, she sounds bitter. Trust me when I say that this is not the tone of a woman preparing to stand by her man, more that of one preparing to stand behind him with a bloody big carving knife in her hand.
“So, um, you’re not too happy with His Wayneness then, I take it?” I venture.
“Hmph!” she snorts. “Dave, describe Wayne to me accurately. Don’t pull punches, just say what you see, as if you were on Catchphrase in the Nineties.”
Now this is a dilemma. If she’s throwing a trick question at me, I could be rather fucked here, and also walking home. If she’s not, and I praise him to the skies, she’ll think I’m either blind or a suck up. Well, she’s the one who’s always going on about honesty, so I tell her straight.
“He’s a nice enough bloke, but he’s deluded, not averse to lying to get his way, and along with Neil is a totally sexist git. Oh yes, and he’s far too stupid to go out with you.” The last part, I admit, was me casting my line into the water to see if she would bite.
“Flatterer,” she says with a grin, taking the bait like a hungry pike. “You’re right, you know. He’s such a bullshitter. I don’t know why I’ve put up with it for this long. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been much more interested in the contents of his trousers than the contents of his head, and I’m now convinced that the letter is probably the larger organ.”
“Thanks for sharing,” I say with a grimace. “I’ll add that information to the chart I have in my bedroom.”
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, he’d have to have a really tiny brain,” she says, her eyes twinkling.
We both laugh, and I feel the tension dropping out of me like a bomb though the bay doors, happy for it to explode on some other poor sod, because I’ve had enough of being miserable for one night. I decide that this is my time, my chance to steam in and take the girl of my dreams. Nothing can stop me now.
“Dave, you’re wanted,” says Simon, sticking his head round the door.
“Nobby and the Nobheads want you to introduce them to the baying mob. They’re setting up now.”
The correct response to this would be to tell them to fuck off, but for some reason there’s something inside me that wants to give Wayne and the boys whatever help I can before the inevitable happens.
“Tell them I’ll be there in a minute,” I say wearily, and Simon disappears with a happy grin, looking forward to the bloodletting.
“Wuss,” says Kate simply.
“I owe them this much,” I say. “God knows what’s going to happen, but I think they’ll be needing friends, even if they’re only fair weather ones. Are you going to come and watch?”
“I may as well,” she says with a sigh. “I mean, how bad can it be?”
As I stand up in front of seventy or so metalheaded lunatics I begin to regret wearing my Dave Lee Roth shirt, because Dave Lee Roth is not metal to these people. Not to many people, to be honest. Regardless, I launch into my piece, aware that Osmium were introduced by a man in a devil costume shouting “Are you ready to rock, motherfuckers!” then running off stage.
“Let’s have a big roar for the brilliant Osmium!” I shout, knowing this is a good way to get a reaction. Thankfully, the crowd cheer and whistle in appreciation of the opening act. “Okay… well, it’s not over yet, as It is my absolute pleasure to introduce to you possibly the best band in all of the street where they live, apart from Black Sabbath at number 28…” a few people laugh, which is a good thing. “Please welcome for the first time at The Plume the one, the only, Idiosyncratic Routine!!!”
As I get the hell of the stage and behind the crowd to the bar where Simon and Kate are waiting, the band strike up, surprisingly with the opening chords to Black Sabbaths “War Pigs”, not a song they are known for doing. The ponderous bassline rumbles through the bar, and when Wayne sings the opening verse it’s with passion and feeling, as well as more throatiness than I’ve ever heard him use. Amazingly, the crowd to not throw petrol bombs, they begin to shake their heads, and more amazingly so does Simon.
“What the fuck are they doing?” I ask Kate incredulously. “They’ve never played this down at The Moon.”
“I’ve never heard them play this sort of thing,” she replies, equally bemused. “Maybe this is going to turn out okay after all.”
And wouldn’t that be the most ironic thing? If all our fears came to naught and the gig was a roaring success? “Well,” I said, raising my glass. “Here’s hoping they know more numbers like this one.”
Marlon nurses a nasty gash on his head, whilst Kate dabs at it with a damp cloth. “I think I might be concussed,” he says forlornly, with the air of a man feeling very sorry for himself.
“How will we know?” I mutter, unsympathetically. “How about you, Wayne, will you be well enough for the big tour with iron Maiden?”
“Bog off,” he says miserably, all the chirpy optimism knocked out of his head with at least two of his teeth.
We’re all in the front bar, which has been closed to all others and is being used by us as a makeshift hospital, although it’s not quite up to the 4077th MASH standard, as there are no doctors making quips, just Kate and her damp cloth plus a lot of plasters.
Whilst “War Pigs” had gone down a storm, it was, sadly, the only heavy metal song the band knew. Following it with a ballad called “Be My baby Tonight” was possibly a mistake, as was following that with a cover of Slades “Coz I Luv U”. By that time the natives were definitely restless, and the spitting increased to bottle throwing. Marlon was stopped midway through the nest song (“Rock Me Baby”) by a Strongbow can to the head. This would normally not be a problem, but the assailant had neglected to drain the can of Strongnbow first, and as such Marlon got instant unconsciousness instead of instant refreshment. Wayne and Neil were their usual selves and failed to notice that they no longer had a drummer, prompting the crowd to inform them of the fact by getting onto the stage and grabbing their guitars and beating them about the head and body with them. With Marlon in the land of nod, and Wayne and Neil in sensible foetal balls, I decided it was probably a good time to call the police in case no one else had done so, but I was stopped before I could do so by a very loud bang, followed by silence only broken by the tinkling of ceiling plaster falling to the floor. At the bar was Sid, still without a shirt on, and in his hand was a gun, indeed it was the proverbial smoking gun, Sid having just emptied a live bullet into the ceiling.
“Right!” he shouted. “Anyone of you bastards left in the pub after I count to ten will get the next one in their kneecap. One…”
He only had to get to six.
The bar emptied of everyone but us and the band, and Sid casually went about locking the doors as me, Simon, Kate and Morgan helped the three twatsketeers to the front bar.
“I don’t want to be a roadie anymore,” states Morgan with finality. He escaped injury by sensibly hiding under a table and desperately peeling off his band t-shirt. The shirt was now a small pile of ashes.
“Ow,” says Neil, as he wobbles a loose tooth. “That was not a good gig.”
“Really?” I say, sarcasm mode on full. “Do you think? As your manager I would say that it was an absolute fucking disaster.”
“Do you still want to be our manager then?” says Wayne hopefully, looking for a final straw to grasp. I look at him in astonishment.
“Wayne. I just saw your band set upon by what can only be described as a hoard of metal fans who hated your music so much they would rather face a murder charge than listen to it. I think it’s safe to say that my enthusiasm for becoming a band manager has waned somewhat.”
“Oh,” he says, appropriately. “Well, thanks anyway, mate.”
“Don’t mention it,” I say, losing the will to do anything except go along with the flow. “Actually, if you want to thank anyone, thank Sid here, because without him we would be peeling you off the stage with a spatula.”
They all gracefully thank Sid for saving their lives.
“I should have let them have you, for that load of old shit you fed me,” he says, “but I’ll never get me license back if there’s another killing, so I thought I may as well step in. I can’t let you go out there now, so you can stay as planned, but I suggest an early start tomorrow so you can get away whilst all those drunken sods are still sleeping it off.”
Sid’s suggestions are taken with good grace, and I wonder where Simon has got to. On cue, he sticks his head round the door. His all is right with the world grin is still on his face, and I know he’s found the whole experience highly amusing.
“I’ve got something for you, lads,” he says, sniggering. “Do you want your guitars back?”
“Oh yeah,” says Wayne happily. “That would be great.”
“Possibly not,” says Simon, his grin wider than ever as he steps fully into the door with what remains of two guitars in his hands. He hands one each to Wayne and Neil, who couldn’t look more aghast if they’d been handed a dead puppy each. As they hold back the tears. Simon beckons to me and Kate, and we follow him into the corridor outside. Standing behind him is a very pretty girl who has obviously fallen under his evil spell.
“This is Lauren,” he says proudly. “Sid’s daughter. We’re going to retire now, but don’t fookin’ tell him or I’ll get a bullet in the arse.” He looks at Kate. “Have you finished with that donkey in there yet?” he asks her, gesturing towards the casualty ward.
“Well I haven’t told him, but yes,” she admits as my heart soars once again.
“Right. I hate people faffing around, so I’ll just tell you that Dave likes you, and if you like him give him a bloody kiss, because otherwise he’ll never get around to doing fook all about it.”
As I stand there like a startled chaffinch, Kate digests this information before turning to me.
“Is this true?” she asks. Her face is giving nothing away, but what have I got to lose?
“Yes,” I say simply, and she kisses me.