Tuesday, 29 May 2012

An Ordinary Night Out

It was just an ordinary night out with a good friend until we decided to visit an old haunt for nostalgia reasons. A trip down memory lane to an establishment which, for reasons that will become apparent later should you decide to persevere with this narrative, shall remain nameless. I had been to a formal black tie evening earlier and was dressed in a dinner suit, although I had now removed the bow tie. My friend was dressed smart and casually as you do for a Saturday night beer.
It was midnight when we made the decision to visit a club we had not been to for over ten years. That’s the point of trips down memory lane. To revisit and see what has changed, if anything, and bring back the feel good moments that we have stored in the mind having completely blotted out all the crap nights we probably spent there too. The first thing that had changed was the security. On the approach to the club the pavement was strewn with an array of metal barricades set out in that ridiculous way that you find in post offices where they decide to filter you around the room in a snake like manner instead of letting you take a direct walk straight to the counter. Another form of crowd control that we accept, I guess, just like religion. Anyway, the pavement was set up in the aforementioned post office style queue control method, although the general imagery was that of preparation for a riot rather than an inviting entrance to a desirable establishment where a convivial evening was to be had. Stationed at various points along the circuitous metal walkway were a number of bouncers dressed in what appeared to be riot gear topped with fluorescent jackets, headphones clamped to their ears and radios crackling importantly on their shoulders. Each of these guardians of the metal walkway were just under seven feet tall, the same width as the pavement and sporting commando haircuts, although ‘haircut’ is perhaps a fatuous term since none of them actually had any hair.
Our first direct encounter with one of the walkway beasts was when we were stopped and told it was a ‘mixed night’.
‘A mixed night,’ I said, more out of trying to comprehend the term rather than actually asking what a mixed night might be.  Helpfully, the bouncer’s method of explaining what he meant by a mixed night was to repeat the phrase saying, ‘Yeah, a mixed night.’
I had visions of men, women, aliens and animals all turning up for this innovative mixed night.
‘Do you mean that we should be with women, or something,’ I said by way of trying to get an explanation.
‘Yeah, women,’ was the response. It was clear we were not with any women and this was just another barrier, to support the physical metal ones, designed for making entry into this establishment more difficult than the Twelve Labours of Hercules. At the moment he said it I spotted a group of girls negotiating the complex security system in the distance, led by a young lady in heels that could only be designed to aerate a lawn, a dress that was just about keeping her neck warm, purple hair and enough dark makeup to make Cruella De Vil envious.
‘Err...that’s my wife,’ I said, optimistically pointing out the lead lady.
‘Are you with a party?’ the bouncer responded as he tried to come to terms in his head with the possibility that the guy in the dinner suit in front of him could possibly be in some sort of matrimonial relationship with the girl from a science fiction movie walking towards him. Fortunately my friend had the presence of mind to say that we were with a party and they were already inside.

‘You got any ID?’ the bouncer asked.
ID? ID, I thought. Why would he ask us for ID? Was it not apparent that both of us were not far short of 107 years old for god’s sake?’
The bouncer saw the quizzical look on my face. ‘A passport or something like that with your picture on it,’ he said to clarify matters.
Who brings a passport with them to go for a beer on a Saturday night in suburbia? I thought passports were for allowing you to get on aircraft and fly off to some exotic overseas destination. Not for allowing you entry into Club Guantanamo. I fumbled in my wallet and was relieved to find my driving licence. It had now become a test to beat the system, hence my relief at being able to find the licence and match the next test. He looked at my picture for several seconds.
‘That’s not you, is it? He said.
Of course it’s bloody well me, I thought. Who were you expecting to see? Did you think I’d be carrying Muhammad Ali’s driving licence with me? I know that we often make a split second decision to have a formal photo done in one of those station booths and we don’t always look our best, and I know on the day in question that I had had a stressful day at work and it was pleuting down with rain as I ran to the booth, but you didn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to see that the picture did bear a passing resemblance to the owner of the licence.
In jest I replied, ‘Of course it’s not me,’ and that seemed to appeal to his sense of humour. He turned to my friend who did not have a driving licence with him nor, oddly enough, a passport but was holding out a credit card to identify himself.
‘It needs you picture on it mate,’ the bouncer said, a look of self-satisfaction appearing on his face at the realisation that he may have found a legitimate reason for preventing entry. My friend pointed out that if he flipped the card over he would see it did indeed have his picture on it. It was one of those gold plated credit cards for which you would normally need two police motorcycle outriders accompanying you, to be allowed to take it out in public. From a Swiss account, that required it to have a photo, my friend could have actually bought the whole building that we were trying to get into, such was the card's credit limit. It was no lightweight ID.
‘It doesn’t have your address on it, ’ was the next impediment to our passing go, ‘I will have to check with my boss.’
Of course it doesn’t have his address on it, I thought, otherwise Neanderthals like you would be straight round there looting the place. As we stood awaiting the decision from on high as to whether we would be ‘lucky’ enough to be deigned entry into this salubrious establishment, it crossed my mind to pack up and go home. Who needs the aggravation? Just as I was about to make the suggestion we were given the green light by the ‘boss’ to proceed to the next round.

On we went, around a corner of the building, to encounter the next stage of entry. An airport style security scanner complete with trays in which to put all your personal belongings, was positioned straight ahead of us and manned by two more flak jacketed, florescent coated bouncers. My wallet, phone, coins and everything else I had in my pockets had to go into a tray and I walked through. Inevitably something, it could have been the cuff links on my shirt, set off the detector and I was frisked down, criminal style, by one of the wannabe militia. I had nothing to declare nor had my friend and eventually we  were allowed through to the front door of the club. After a tortuous screening process we had made it to the point of a trip down memory lane. Entry cost us £8 each when in reality we should have been given £8 each, in compensation for being treated like terrorists.

Inside much was the same. The same carpet after ten years and the same lay out. What was different was that beer was now served in plastic bottles, presumably so that my friend and I could not smash each other to a pulp should the contents of the bottle interfere with the normal hardwiring of our brains and we, uncharacteristically, suddenly developed a propensity for extreme violence. The clientele was different too. The average age was now somewhere just over twelve or so it seemed. It wasn’t that they all looked young but just that they all behaved as if they had just got out of primary school after a tough first day sampling acid. The women were dressed as if they had run out of cash on a shopping trip and could not quite afford the whole outfit. That is not normally a complaint from a bloke but it was clear that some of these ‘ladies’ should wear a lot more clothing, just to avoid some of us suffering post-traumatic stress after being exposed to such visual discomfort. The general standard, which at one time, given its original varied and mixed age group, had been easy on the eye, had now slipped to several degrees below ogre level.

Once we had managed to negotiate a bar melee several bodies deep from end to end and walk away with our plastic bottles, my friend and I decided to find a quieter location in the bar and stick to it. I wasn’t quite prepared for how literally that intention would play out. After several minutes I realised I could not move my feet. I attempted to lift my right foot and then my left and quickly became aware that, as I did so, the carpet was rising with them. Over the years the club had, unwittingly through a combination of spillage and body fluids, invented a very powerful form of adhesive that, if they can only realise its potential, will enable them to shut the place down and enter a new market selling industrial super glue. With some effort I managed to unstick myself from the carpet, with the realisation that I would at some point need to have both my shoes resoled since I could now feel the floor with my socks. I placed my plastic bottle on the bar, beckoned to my friend and we headed for the exit.
Sometimes curiosity makes you go back but sometimes going back should just be in the mind!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Eurovision Song Contest 2012

With a Sunday work commitment looming I decided to stay in and watch television on a Saturday night. The choices were an international football match, Norway v England or the Eurovision Song Contest hosted by Azerbaijan. England football performances are a bit like the Euro song event – all promise going in and a flat performance to finish so I decided to opt for Eurovision. Besides I knew at the very least I would be entertained by the cheesiness of the staging, the possibility of some attractive women in skimpy outfits, the political voting and the dire offerings that song writers produce in the effort to become the next Abba. And even if Azerbaijan is the other side of the Black Sea, on the Caspian Coast, east of Turkey and bordering Iran, that is Europe...... err, is it!!!???

The show was introduced by two people. A typical glitzy, glamourous lady and a bloke who was twelve but had managed to get himself into the auditorium by wearing a false beard. This made him look fifteen. First up was Englebert Humperdinck with a dirge so depressing that after two minutes I wanted to shoot myself. I would have done but for the lack of a handgun (at one point I was seriously considering a quick trip to the badlands of North London to score one) and the fact that I would have missed the following twenty five songs. The poor start was swiftly followed by a woman from Albania who appeared to be wearing a pile of cork on top of her head and whose delivery of her ‘song’ was akin to someone screaming in abject agony. A glance at the dress she was wearing supported the argument that in fact she was screaming in agony and not singing. Her upper body was wrapped in a giant hard, upright collar, so rigid that it must have been the nearest you could get to public asphyxiation. A quick trip to Google Translate confirmed that the chorus was not a chorus at all, but simply her screaming ‘Get me out, get me out, woncha, get me out of this f*****g dress.’

For some reason Israel were performing. I glanced at my atlas and found that it appeared that the country was still in the same geographical location it always had been and not in Europe at all. I am still busily searching the internet to see if in fact they have negotiated a deal over disputed territories in their region and have taken over Belgium, thus qualifying to wail at the event.
Russia sent on a group of grannies in traditional costume who not only attempted a performance but also baked some cakes at the same time. Nobody was fooled as, to go to such extraordinary efforts, it was clearly remnants of the KGB dressed up to spy on Ukraine, Estonia, Georgia and Lithuania.

Cyprus came up with the first tune that you could possibly consider as a ‘europop mainstream discoeeee’ offering. However, since most of the stuff that had gone before was a serious assault on the ears, this conclusion may have been open to argument. A bloke from Lithuania came on wearing a blindfold singing ‘Love is Blind.’ He was singing in English so it didn’t need the ironic symbolism. I was willing him to walk closer to the edge of the stage so he could unwittingly indulge in some audience participation.
Denmark’s offering was not bad. Strip away the backing band, including the demented female drummer, take out the usherette’s costume that some nobhead decided Soluna Samay (the singer) should appear in and you had a passable voice accompanied by her guitar - a bit of an Alanis Morissette/Avril Lavigne thing going on.

Greece delivered a song called Aphrodisiac. This title may have been some unwitting response to the parlous state of their economy and a sub-conscious attempt to arouse the nation into thinking all was well. The song was upbeat in the way that a demented hyper-active child on speed is (you haven’t been to those parenting classes??) and contained the inspired lyrics, ‘I think about you all the time, I just can´t get you of my mind.’ Sensibly it appeared that the writers and musical arrangement team had created a song that had no chance of winning in the knowledge that to win meant hosting the next contest which means bearing a significant financial commitment. Since this time next year Greece will be using sea-shells for currency and no civilized country in the world is likely to trade in sea-shells, it is a good thing that they stood no chance of success.

And then came Jedward. Only the Irish could take a contestant who had failed to win before and say, ‘Bejesus Mr Jedward, sure didn’t you not do too bad last year. The voters thought you were crap for sure, but shouldn’t we give yees another chance to be crap again this year.’ So Ireland was again represented by the boys who had failed last year. But to be fair to Jedward they are not pretending to be anything else but a kitsch, exuberant bit of fun. They were singing a song about water and came on wearing silver space suits as if they had arrived from another galaxy. Possibly they have. Their uncoordinated ‘dance routines’ are merely a symptom of the youthful exuberance they portray and they had no chance of winning even when they jumped into the bizarre water feature that was part of their backdrop. The British public voted for them but then you would expect that from a country that has been brought up on a diet of manufactured bands. Clearly those who pick up the ‘phone to actually vote in these shows have primary school musical taste and an IQ hovering around the single digit mark.

France came on and decided to gain some sort of advantage for both the event and the forthcoming Olympics by featuring the French Olympic Gymnastics team as backing ‘dancers.’ This detracted from the song completely and my only recollection of the performance is that Anggun (that was the singer’s name and she may well have been from the badlands of north London with a name like that) had great legs.

Moldova stole the show for weirdness. If it had been the Eurovision Weirdness contest they would have wiped the floor with the other entrants. The male singer wore a yellow shirt and some semi trouser/jodhpur arrangement held up by braces whilst delivering a forgettable song (I can’t recall what it was called!). However the full weirdness factor was provided by his backing dancers. The term ‘dancers’ is used to set the picture but would not be permissible under the trade descriptions act which is fine I suppose since I suspect they don’t have such an act in Moldova. The all female troupe wore a variety of multi-coloured box-like skirts and golden tights with no shoes. Their choreographer may well have been the victim of a drug spiked drink when the routine was created. All five girls sidled along in a weird sliding motion, curled up on the floor and wriggled and convulsed as if in a nightmare disturbed deep sleep. Meanwhile Mr Yellowshirt took it all seriously and carried on singing. Had I been the performer I may have been tempted to call an ambulance for my colleagues.
The winner of the contest for 2012 was Sweden. Theirs was a song entitled ‘Euphoria’ and was sung by a girl called Loreen who appeared to be having a seizure during the whole performance. Apparently the song had been No.1 in several Scandinavian countries before it was unleashed upon the general European public. It was also the ‘bookies favourite’. Clearly bookies all go to the same shit disco. ‘We are here. We are alone in our own universe,’ the lyrics said, and at that point I wished they were.  
Finally, there was the voting. This is a series of visits to the capitals of other countries where some wannebee tries to maximize their two minutes on TV, in which they are supposed to be giving their countries votes, by coming out with gratuitous smart arse comments. At least the bloke from Finland, who came on dressed as the creature from the black lagoon, was up front about it. Predictably neighbours voted for neighbours. At other times they invade one another but when it comes to the glitzy, schmaltz of the Eurovision Song Contest they go all gooey and dewey eyed and start getting neighbourly, handing out smiley votes like confetti.

The decent songs, and there were a few, came nowhere. Britain came second bottom, quite rightly because they put in a crap song and the wrong performer. Shameful when you think about our capacity to lead the world with music.  The weird, bizarre and totally hopeless songs got the most votes. This speaks volumes for the mentality of the Euro zone. We ain’t got nothing in common with any of them. It should be a top priority for David Cameron to pull Britain out of the Eurovision Song Contest followed swiftly by removing us from that other European shambles that had no chance of working from day one (if you don’t agree look at the way these countries vote in this song fiasco!). A simple massage from Dave would be, ‘It’s Your Rope. Go hang yourselves with it!’

Relationships only ever end up in one place..... Tescos.

This blog has been created for no reason other than to be an outlet for me to write the things that spring to mind. No indulgence in political or social comment - just the randomness of life as it occurs to me. I like to write so I will, regardless of whether I have any readers. A writer should not write for someone else to read but should write to get rid of the thoughts!

This first entry is simply a mention of my first book, Cupid's Pursuit. It is not my intention to bang on endlessly about it but I may mention it periodically and anything else I publish from time to time.

So, Cupid's Pursuit takes a humorous approach to the world of internet dating through the story of the central character's dating adventures. As more and more people search for that elusive relationship on-line, Cupid's Pursuit is not only topical but is also a commentary on the bizarre world of trying to meet a partner through the internet. Written from a man's point of view, but with a touch of romance, the story will enlighten and amuse many women who have tried the on-line experience. However, it also has a strong male take on women and dating, particularly through the outspoken Cecil character, and will appeal to a male audience as well.

Cupid's Pursuit
Matthew Malarkey is a man on a mission. To find a soul mate. His first problem is where to start looking. He has tried pubs and bars, all without success, just a sore head and an empty wallet to show for it. Now it's the turn of technology. The internet. Cyberspace could be the way to that meaningful relationship that Matthew is seeking. He signs up on line in the pursuit of love and embarks on a series of dating escapades, with a variety of ladies, only to find that Cupid does not make the quest for love easy. As Matthew searches for that elusive spark, he finds himself becoming involved in a succession of entanglements, culminating in a date he doesn't want - with the law.