From the vaults: 7 Days, Day Three - Festivals

I've had a blog for a very long time. Over 20 years. Recently I've been thinking how it'd be nice to bring back some of the better old posts, once a week. I'm starting with a series that I did back in 2009, before Blood on the Motorway was but a twinkle in my eye. I'd asked for seven one blog topics from people on Twitter and got some of my best blog material as a result. Here's the third, a suggestion from @gregeden, who's remained one of my dearest internet friends ever since. Originally posted on August 27th, 2009, I've gone ahead and changed some of the names on this story.

Festivals

I consider myself to be quite the connoisseur of festivals, having been to about 20 of them over the years, and like anyone who has been to festivals have quite a few good stories. My favourite festival story is not mine though, and so I bring you the story of my good friend Jed at Reading 1999.

Jed had always had a bit of a reputation for needlessly getting himself into trouble. This is a man who did a bungee jump one week after a hernia operation. The same man who scaled a lighting pole at one Leeds Festival only to lose his grip and plummet into a bin. Jed is the guy you take with you to a festival who gets so wasted on the first night that he doesn’t go and see any bands until the last day.

At the Reading festival in 1999, he outdid himself. Jed started off the first night asking around if anyone had any acid, which none of us did. He’d never been a prolific drug taker, none of us were, so it took us a bit by surprise.  He didn’t manage to score any that night, nor the night after, although he remained adamant that he wanted to take some.  He still got drunk out of his skull as per usual and by the last day of the festival, none of us had heard from him for a while.

It turned out that on the last day he had decided that in order to procure said hallucinogens he needed to look further afield than our little field.  Off he trundled, asking everyone he could find if they had any. It’s a wonder he didn’t get arrested.

What happened next was that he bumped into someone who recommended he go and check out the Herbal High tent.  He wasn’t sure if that would do the full job he had in mind, so he carried on his fruitless search for a little while longer.  Eventually, he gave up and was about to head back to our tents when he came upon the aforementioned Herbal High tent.  He inquired as to their effectiveness and was assured that they were every bit as strong as the real thing and that since it was his first time he should under no circumstances take more than two tabs.

Instead of taking this advice, however, Jed decided to digest the whole sheet systematically, not realising that the ‘kick’ would not come for a while.  It was around the time he finished that it finally arrived, and he spewed forth a torrent of festival food, beer, and paper.  Disorientated and tripping, he made his way back to the tent while we were all still in the arena and collapsed into the relative safety of his plastic abode.

An undetermined time later, the tent door was unzipped and Jed looked in horror as a bald man and a woman climbed in and commenced fervent lovemaking, right next to him. This went on for quite some time until the bald man looked over and saw Jed.

‘Oh sorry mate, I didn’t see you there,’ he said nonchalantly, before adding ‘are you all right mate, you don’t look very well.’

‘Well actually, I just took a whole sheet of acid.’

‘Really? Are you seeing anything weird?’

‘Well there’s two strangers fucking, right in front of me.’

Undeterred, the man and woman continued to go at it, completely ignoring him. At this point, he simply blacked out, presumably his mind shutting down for the sake of self-preservation.

Now all of this comes from the account of a man tripping heavily, so I can’t be sure what is real and what isn’t. But the one thing I do know is that the next morning, concerned for where he had disappeared to, we opened the tent to see him laying in the tent looking utterly bewildered, with not one but two naked women laying alongside him asleep, with no bald man in sight.

And who says drugs can’t do good things?

Blood on the Motorway: An apocalyptic trilogy of murder and stale sandwiches is out now in ebook and print from Amazon and all other good bookstores.

From the vaults: 7 Days, Day Two - Condom

I've had a blog for a very long time. Over 15 years. Recently I've been thinking how it'd be nice to bring back some of the better old posts, once a week. I'm starting with a series that I did back in 2009, before Blood on the Motorway was but a twinkle in my eye. I'd asked for seven one blog topics from people on Twitter and got some of my best blog material as a result. Here's the second, a suggestion from @tylermassey, who's gone on to become a tremendous singer-songwriter. Well, he was probably one then, too, but he definitely is now. This post was first published August 26th, 2009.

Condom

As regular visitors to this site will know, I was educated at boarding school.  During my time at my first such school, I went on a French exchange trip. I don’t ever remember the French coming over to us, so maybe it was one way, but this was one of my strongest memories of childhood, so I shall relate to you the story of my one week in the small French town of Condom.

The trip itself was the first time I had ever been away without my parents, and the other people I was going with were all excited by the possibility of the French contraband they would be stocking up with on the trip. The possibilities seemed exacerbated by the fact that the town we were visiting had a name which was to us a very rude word. We had all heard of the plurality of french merchants of ninja stars and pornography, which overwhelmed any sense we had that we were going to be stuck in a foreign country of whose language all of us had only the basest grip.

Once we stepped off the bus, however, all of our inhibitions were tempered by the harsh reality that we were being lined up to be matched up with families we had previously no contact with.  We surveyed the children in front of us, who seemed as scared as us. I was paired up with a pretty blonde girl and counted my lucky stars as the thoughts of romance blossomed in my pre-pubescent mind.

My happiness was short-lived, however. At my school I was always singled out by the powers that be as the son of a publican, not truly deserving of the heritage that the school had, and as such was predictably paired off with the one desperately poor family. They ran a small eaterie in the town itself, and by the end of the first night, it was clear that the parents of my new friend expected me to earn my keep. The whole of the first night was spent washing dishes and picking up and cleaning the mess of the clientele.

The family I was with spoke no English at all, and since my French was broken at best, they spent most of their time barking their orders at me in the same way you can see British tourists doing whenever they go abroad.

My predicament was not helped by the fact that whenever we all met back at the school the next day, everybody else seemed to be having a whale of a time, with lovely families who did nothing but feed them exotic food and sneaking them wine while taking them out on bike trips. By the third night, I was broken, and called my parents in floods of tears, proclaiming how I wished to come home immediately.

The next day I was taken aside by one of my school’s teachers and told that I would be moving families, presumably after my parents had been in contact to kick up a fuss. The teacher didn’t seem too happy about it but I was overjoyed, even more so when I realised I was moving to be with two of my friends, who were already at the same house with a pair of French boy twins.

As I arrived at the new house, I was startled by the change. This was the kind of France I had heard about, a beautiful cottage seemingly hewn into luxuriant countryside, and a kitchen that seemed to be always issuing the smell of tantalising baked goods. Even the weather improved as soon as we got there.

Once I had put my stuff into what was now the most crowded bedroom in France, the kind matronly mother pulled me aside and spoke to me in perfect English.  She told me that everyone was going on a bike ride together, but that unfortunately all of the new bikes were taken, and would I mind joining them on one of the older bikes they had locked in the garage?  Of course, I immediately agreed, eager to finally start what had so far been a pitiful trip.

I sized up the gigantic and ancient racing bike they pulled out for me and, refusing to be left behind, awkwardly mounted it.  It wobbled constantly and I felt completely unsafe, but I gritted my teeth and followed everyone out onto the long gravel driveway.  The other kids sped out in front of us, and the parents quickly followed them.

I focused on the road in front of me, and although the others were soon out of sight the downhill momentum meant I was soon picking up speed.  Not far down, just as I was approaching top speed, the front wheel hit an unexpected bump and the handlebars jerked. I went flying over them and landed hard on my side.  The momentum carried me forward, my bare leg scraping against the gravel road and leaving a thin red trail behind me.  I was screaming in pain before I even stopped.

The group ahead must have heard my screams because soon they were back. The father lifted me in his arms and took me into the house. He informed me that I wasn’t to worry, that his wife was a nurse, and she would look after me.  She cleaned out the wound as best she could and dressed it.

This understandably put a dampener on the rest of the week, my leg throbbing constantly. I was cheered slightly by the discovery that the vending machine in the school was confused by our currency, so you could buy a Crunch bar for 4p, but nonetheless, it was not a good time.

Not nearly as bad a time as when I got home though.  It turns out that my French nurse had declined to think to change my bandages in the whole four days I had been there, and the gauze was now a part of the giant scab I now had. It took my Dad 6 hours to remove it in a warm bath, my screams so loud that by the end I couldn’t speak.

Thankfully, the next school trip was to Disneyland, and I returned from that one with nothing more severe than a pack of pornographic playing cards and a ninja throwing star.

Blood on the Motorway: An apocalyptic trilogy of murder and stale sandwiches is out now in ebook and print from Amazon and all other good bookstores.

From the vaults: 7 Days, Day One - Cheese

I've had a blog for a very long time. Over 20 years. Recently I've been thinking how it'd be nice to bring back some of the better old posts, once a week. I'm going to start with a series that I did back in 2009, before Blood on the Motorway was but a twinkle in my eye. I'd asked for seven one blog topics from people on Twitter and got some of my best blog material as a result. So, here's the first, a suggestion from someone called @punk_beatz, but their account doesn't exist any more. The passage of time, eh? his post was first published August 25th, 2009.

Cheese

Back in my university days, when I lived in Sunderland, my friends and I found ourselves frequenting on particular takeaway with remarkable frequency.  Back then there was only one alternative club night worth mentioning in Sunderland, and that was on Tuesdays at the terribly named Pzazz nightclub.

Opposite said establishment was an eatery whose name escapes me now, but we used to go with such frequency that when we entered the staff behind the counter used to greet us by name and immediately start our orders without questioning. Every Tuesday night, a large garlic bread with cheese.  And I wondered why I could never pull at the end of the night.

One night, however, my choice of late-night haute-cuisine actually saved my life, or at the very least saved me a beating.  Of my friends, one was a mild-mannered chap by the name of Ben, the other a slightly more fiery Scot by the name of Ian.  One thing I should mention about Sunderland is that it's pretty rough in the city centre, especially on the weekends. For these reasons, most of the non-dance nights used to take place on a weekday evening so as to avoid throwing the 200 or so alternative kids in the city onto the same streets as the ‘townies’ at two in the morning.

On this occasion, however, we stumbled out of Pzazz all full of vodka jelly and beer and mirth and into said eatery, only to be confronted by the sight of disconsolate looking staff, who all looked towards the far corner of the room as we walked in.

Naturally our eyes followed theirs and in the corner we saw five gigantic skinheads in Fred Perry tops staring back at us. Naturally, we turned our attention straight away from them and back to the counter. We ordered, careful not to turn our attention back behind us.

Once we ordered we started talking to the staff as usual, but quickly the man behind the counter retreated into the kitchen, and we heard a voice behind us.  ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ Turning, we saw one of the larger of the herd staring at us, malice in his eyes.

‘Um, ordering?’ I said, trying as hard as possible to show with my face a level of cowardice that would render any ensuing fight to be pointless.  Instead of retorting, he simply shook his head and walked back to his table.  We waited for a few minutes in silence before being handed our food and tried to leave unnoticed.

Back on the street, we wondered aloud what the hell that had been about, and then, foolishly, Ian looked back into the shop and made the sort of gesture that could only end badly for us.  Without a word the skinheads got up from their table and ran out to follow us.  We pegged it.

We were chased down the street, all the while scrambling to hold on to our food. We rounded a corner onto the high street and I lost control of the big box in my hand, spilling my delicious looking supper all over the street. Cursing, I turned and continued to run.

We stopped a little further along to see if we were still being pursued, just in time to see one of the skinheads round the corner and put one of his boots onto a large slice of garlic bread with cheese. He immediately lost his footing and slid backwards, falling backwards into a shop window, which luckily held, He slumped to the floor with a force that suggested he wouldn’t be immediately getting back up.

As his friends rounded the corner, they came across their leader lying stricken on the floor and stopped. Without waiting to see any more, we ran on into the night, now completely sober and with me suddenly very hungry.  And that is how one night a garlic bread with cheese saved my life.

Blood on the Motorway: An apocalyptic trilogy of murder and stale sandwiches is out now in ebook and print from Amazon and all other good bookstores.