Many moons ago, when myself, the World, and even Cilla Black were younger, I took a journey. It was a journey through space and time. No, I haven't been on the cane toads again, travelling through space and time is not as unusual as you would at first think. I mean, how many of you out there in my extensive readership have ever taken a journey that wasn't through space and time (unless you were on a Virgin train in rush hour). Have you ever gone on one which left you exactly where and when you started? Unlikely. That's just called 'being' Anybody can 'be' Where's the skill in that? Anybody of course except the dead. They just have a monopoly on 'were' They own the past tense in a way us living creatures just can't quite muster. Anyway, that's all just nonsense really, especially the bit about Cilla Black.
No, this journey was an errand. In fact it was a collection of errands. If I had been a spy or somesuch, I would have been offered a flat overlooking Red Square for this. I would have refused it. Not for any reasons involving altruism, it's just that I don't speak a word of Russian, I despise hanging around in queues, and I have a moral objection to wearing fur. The tasks I had set myself were simple enough. You may recall if you are Rexperienced, that I shared my life with cats once upon a time. There were quite a few of them. During a period of upheaval, also partly skimmed over, I relinquished my responsibility to a couple of them. I wasn't proud of the way I dealt with that situation, but I have always hoped that they went to good homes via the Cats Protection League and not ended life as a rather comfy pair of fur lined slippers. Two of the mogs were taken over by the ex-girlfriend who had shared them with me. Since we'd busted up, itself a longer than usual process, she had been on her own bizarre journey of self-enlightenment, self escapism and torment mixed together in a confusing cocktail which I was forced to imbibe on occasion, mainly though not entirely, through gritted teeth. She had eventually moved to Ireland during this period, leaving the cats in the care of a self-confessed sculptor and lunatic. Determined to make up some lost ground on Brownie points with Bastet, the Egyptian Cat Goddess, I accepted the charge of transporting the pussies over to The Emerald Isle.
My travels began in Bristol. I had a long day and night ahead, one which was going to be hindered by cats in baskets that didn't want to be in baskets. They yowl horribly when captive, so I took what I considered to be the kindest way for them, and filled them full of sedatives. What they lose in dignity and conciousness, they gain by not being scared, confused, vicious, multi-weaponed pains in the arse. I piled them into a taxi in order to get to the train station. Taxi drivers being licenced latter day highwaymen, there was a sudden claim of a surcharge for animals. Well, he did have a weed habit to support, so I surrendered the extra few quid. Once on the train, the cooing grannies and staring children asked all the relevant and obvious questions, to which were given the same simple and polite answers. 'Oh, about 18 months I think' 'Yes, ever since it was a kitten' 'Well fairly often, but the carpets quite old anyhow' How long was a sarcastic, facetious bastard like me going to be able to keep up this facade of truth and affable charm? Well, the train only takes 90 minutes to Swansea, so I didn't crack under the interrogation and remained urbane until it was time to alight.
Next, another taxi ride, no surcharge this time, proving as I at first had thought, the bullshit-o-meter did not need recalibrating. And so I hustled into Swansea dock on time to embark on an arduous 10 hour ferry journey to Cork. Now, I'd been this way before a number of times. Virtually every occasion upon which I'd walked past a certain Customs copper, he'd pulled me over for a little chat. Maybe it was the locks, (mine, not his, you lemon) or the rehearsed but never perfected look of fake innocence. Perhaps it was the 'Pigs die! Fuck pigs!' T shirt I'd bought cheap off a slaughterhouse necrophiliac (a less than wise move under any circumstances) . Who can be sure? Not me for a kick off, but two things were sure. Dolly Parton floats on her back, and this moustachioed butt-wipe jobsworth was gonna yank my collar yet again.
"Where are you going then?"
(Brain to Mouth, Brain to Mouth. DON'T BE SARCASTIC!!!)
Sgt. Lipfuzz peers into cat carriers at comatose felines.
"What's in the baskets then?"
(Brain to Mouth, Brai... I KNOW, I KNOW)
"Well.. I reckon they're cats" (Ooohhh, bollox!!)
The Sarge, now smiling like a chess master about to pull his best ploy. "Passport? Right, wait there!"
He strode off in a sub-nasally hirsute sort of fashion and returned a minute later to announce the dreaded "Come with me!"
I went and sat in a near-featureless white room containing, amongst other furniture, the traditional two chairs each side of a desk. After the preliminary questions about name, reason for trip and all that shit, he began intimating his suspicions as to the hand carried livestock cargo, which he hadn't allowed me to take into the room. I reiterated that there were just cats in there and that they were probably best left undisturbed. His mustache twitched like an antennae picking up dodgy hippie vibes.
He could leave the mogs to the other cops out of view. I had visions of two sleepy cats being sat in white rooms whilst two big tabby hi-vis jacketed Customs grimalkins posed them a series of meows designed to trick them into a confession. They'd probably try to soften them up with the good mog/bad mog routine, nice bowls of warm milk, woolly jumper to knead, little stroke under the chin then just as you begin to purr.... GOTCHA!! You're coughing up secrets faster than furballs in molting season. I know the drill, diabolical psychological torture. It was gonna be tough for them not to break. I had every faith. Those years in the Marines (mascot, 1st class) were gonna stand them in good stead.
Back in the white room, Sgt. Bogeycatcher played his trump card.
"We're going to conduct a strip search" he announced matter-of-factly. "Remove all of your clothing one by one and hand them to the other officer."
"O.K." I said and proceeded to do so. Constable Other started feeling around my still warm discarded garments, including a very good up-side-down shake of my crusty para boots. Now this sort of behavior by rozzers is the part of the sequence of events which they feel is where embarrassed crooks wishing to hide their shortcomings may bottle out. They did not know at this or any stage of the game that I was an experienced life model. I'd been stark-bollock naked in front of whole rooms full of artists of both genders, all ages, and several sexual persuasions. In short, I didn't care a Tinker's Cuss for their assumed position of ascendancy. I began to care when a 'teenth of slate fell out of one of my socks and rolled conspicuously to a halt in the centre of the cheaply carpeted floor. Oh dear. Oh deary dear. Deafening pins could be heard dropping all around the three of us. Sgt. Soupsieve rose in his chair, looked at the blim now placed on the well lit table, and asked "So, what's this then?" I leaned forward to take a closer look, paused and replied "Looks like a piece of hashish to me"
The wheels were in motion. New and more numerous bits of paper came out from a nearby cabinet. I was asked to give up all my details which I did whilst explaining that I really did need to get on this boat and did he really want to be responsible for two cats when they woke up. Still he banged on about the baskets. He started the arrest process, blah blah intent to transport illegal contraband blah.. and then, perhaps in an epiphany, stopped speaking and left the room. The silence between me and Con. Other was leaden. Had I offended him in some way? Now seated, I scratched my divested scrotum, and patiently refolded my arms. When Sgt. Clittickler returned, he sat, cautioned me about the pot, and said that the ferry was just about to haul up the gangplank and if that I wanted to get on it I'd better be dressed and out of that room in 60 seconds. I managed it in around 53, grabbed the furry fiends, and scurried in quick, short steps aboard.
All I kept thinking as the large and protective doors slammed behind me, putting an end to the surreal close shave I had just encountered, was this. 'Thank feck they didn't search my boots properly. They might have found the acid!'