Friday, 27 July 2007

Nemesis Week. Angels in the Night

July 18/19, 1992. The band I was in got a gig at a mate's birthday party. This mucker was at the time hanging with those cheery cheeky chaps collectively known as Hell's Angels. Aren't they lovely, all great big cuddly bunnies with Santa Claus smiles. Permanently full of the joys of spring but with guns under the floorboards. However, on this auspicious occasion, we were the troubadours and they supplied the barrel of farmhouse cider. Armed with a Transit and musical instruments, we rattled off into the Mendip Hills. Upon arriving we discovered that, silly lads that we were, we had left the picnic hamper on the veranda at home. What a bally oversight! Sensing our chagrin, and to stop us from getting hungry, the Angels also gave us that trusted old relative Uncle William to look after. We looked after him well by immediately sheltering him up our noses. Keen but amateur mycologists that we were however, we had remembered to pack a few samples from the previous autumn which had been partly spent scouring the damp Somerset ground for pixie hats. If the cap fits, trip over it.
Picture the scene. Four guys in a band playing swirling psychedelia and mashing monstrous punk metal. The stage is a six berth canvas ridge tent, circa 1966, on a gentle slope. Scattered around this archaic edifice are scary, mind altered, hairy-arsed grizzled old bikers in the gloom, and that was just the women. Virtually none of them paid the slightest attention to the racket we were making but insisted that we shouldn't discontinue. And so, as music be the food of love, and discretion is the better part of valour, we played on until our fingers went numb. We drank heartily of the barrel, smoked ourselves hoarse and awaited the dawn.

Dawn broke the damp cold over the Eastern horizon. It provided the lighting for the next bizarre spectacle. Bonnet skiing. The bonnet is removed from a car and is then attached to the tow bar by a length of rope, say about 30 feet. The car is then driven at break-neck pace around the environs by an inebriate with scant regard for health and safety regulations. A 'skier' is sat on the upside-down bonnet. He remains on the 'ski' until death or gravity plays it's part. On this day, the 'skier' was chased closely by an Alsatian which was quite obviously being driven apoplectic by all the jolly old high jinks.

Being of a tidy disposition and wishing to play no part even as a spectator to this mayhem, I left the danger behind and began picking up the inevitable litter now strewn about the place. I had been doing so for a while, minding my own business, when the deranged dog appeared from behind a parked car. Ignoring the usual etiquette of a warning growl, it advanced with some speed toward me as I bent to pick up a beer can, and sunk it's teeth into my flesh. Motherfucka!

I sidled off to nurse the wound, cursing the cur, addled mind already envisaging some very nasty rabies shots to the gut. A short while later, as if to take my mind off the spreading infection, some guffawing hoodlums pulled into the field in 4x4's and silly green padded waistcoats and began blasting clay pigeons out of the skies with 12 bores. Would the surreality never cease? Since these strange beings from a different tax bracket had assaulted the senses with their graceless invasion, we bump started the trusty tranny and headed back for the city as soon as the drummer was arguably sober. I didn't live in the city, so I was dropped off first to my small rented cottage. No sign of human habitation, the four cats and I looked forward to a spot of breakfast. Since I'm not too partial to Whiskas, I put on the chip pan. After all, what better to follow a sleepless night of excess than a greasy pile of 'Pomme de Terre Anglais'. Stout nourishment, it's so rarely erroneous. Upstairs to wash for brekky, a little sit down on my comfy bed, and everything is just..zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I awoke to see a rather concerned looking feline at the foot of the bed, quite clearly visible considering all the smoke in the room. Smoke? SMOKE!!! FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK?!**!

I dashed downstairs, my feet dancing around sprinting cats, to witness the dying flames of a chip pan which had burnt away all of the fat in it. The chips, acting as a wick, were jet black and still smouldering, resembling some gruesome charred village scene after a visit from Ghenghis. The cottage was filling fast with thick choking greasy smoke. I rushed about ushering panicked cats into the garden. One, two, three. Kerist All-bleedin'-mighty! Where's the fourth one? I tried to remember all those public info films about what to do in the event of a housefire, but failed. Somehow my mind just kept re-routing to Fred Astaire in Towering Inferno. I spent the next ten minutes attempting to breathe through a wet towel crawling around on all fours under the billowing murk trying to find a grey cat in a house full of grey smoke. I wish I had been old Fred, maybe the cat would've been ginger. I found it cowering in a tiny gap under a wardrobe, grabbed it despite it's lacerating talons and chucked it out. I rescued a couple of sofa cushions and lay on them under a blue sky in the garden until I sweated gently into a calm sleep among oscillating flowers in the fresh air.

Nemesis Week. Sporting Excellence

This week is nemesis week. Not this actual week 2007, but just this week of the year, third one in July, has commonly been one which has produced a gentle ripple on the old mill pond of Rex, perhaps even a quake measuring 8.2 on the Rexter Scale on occasion.

In 2001 sporting injury reared it's homely countenance. July 22, in a league cricket match, I ignored all usual common sense and dived forward to attempt to catch a ball which was obviously going to reach me on the half-volley. Indeed it did, landing on the ground in front of my mid-air body and outstretched hand. It hit terra firma at the precise moment it hit the end of my right third finger, stopping the first two bones of said digit abruptly. As misfortune would have it, the other 150 lbs of my body carried on.

There was a flash of brilliant white light in my head. Intense pain began coursing through more nerve thingies than should be expected. Other cricketers, being of a caring and empathic disposition, began shouting calming words like "Get up, get the fuckin' ball" Not possible, I was 100% endorphin rush, a quivering wreck of my former self. After a short walk in heat to the pavilion, watched by my 4 year old son who still remembers his literally watery-eyed dad running a fast swelling finger under a cold tap, it was considered best to strap the finger to it's immediate neighbour and go to hospital. However, cricket is a game involving 11 vs 11, and so Einstein here decides to return to the pitch because there wasn't a twelfth man. I fielded one ball, saving two runs. When I threw it to the 'keeper, my hand throbbed almost visibly as if in a Tom and Jerry sketch. In a close game, we won by the two runs I had saved by just being in the way.

Amidst all the typical victory celebrations, (large doobies all round) the hospital visit was totally forgotten. Indeed I toughed it (like a twat!) out for 7 weeks before seeking professional medical attention. Needless to say, despite surgery, it was all a trifle late by then. Re-calcification is a fickle bodily function. My son and I call that digit "The Gonzo Nose" To know what it resembles, visualise the space muppet's shnoz sideways on.

I don't like how it looks. The nail doesn't grow properly if at all. It doesn't bend more than 25 degrees. It hurts in a mildly arthritic way. The bones and cartilage were so smashed in places that the ligament now does the job of the cartilage because the cartilage doesn't exist any more.

Would I change anything? Would I travel back in time and back out of the altruistic dive forward to help my team?

As my old Aunt Flossie would have said if she'd ever existed, "Fat boy, you bet your arse I would!"