Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Memories That Make Us...


Picture this: I'm a chubby eleven year old. I love the following things: Madonna, chocolate in all its various guises,Nottingham Forest, doing well at school and singing, even though I'm not particularly good at it. Often terrible in fact. Fast forward thirty years and not much has changed. 

But when I was nine I had delusions of grandeur that I've managed to shed over three amazing, challenging and sometimes heartbreaking decades (if you omit the fact that I play the lottery every effing week, often to no avail. Although that said, I won £6.70 on Friday. Woop!) When I was nine, I had what I thought was a very good idea. While all my peers wrote to Jimmy Saville, asking him to fix it - shudder - I decided to go one further. I decided that I would write to Madonna.

Dear Madonna, I probably wrote. I understand that you are on tour, travelling around the world to far off places like Japan and China, where my Mam assures me that they put mice in wine and then drink it. I mean, gross! Her mate went there (what's wrong with Skegness?) and everyone laughed at her because she has blonde hair and was a bit fat. Actually she was quite a bit fat, but we have to be nice to her because her house smells of fish and she runs the catalogue. There are bargains to be had, Madonna. You should really look into it. You can get a stereo with two tape decks and copy albums. I don't do that, of course. Actually, I do - but only with Michael Jackson and Belinda Carlisle. I usually black mail my sister into buying your records for me because I know she smokes and if I tell Dad he'll go mental, mental chicken oriental. Mam smokes too, but I'm not supposed to know. I do. I'm not stupid. I know all my times tables and everything. But not only am I quite clever, I can SING. And I know all the words to all of your songs. All of them. So what I think is this: you're going on tour and you've got a backing dancer who is about my age. To be honest, Madonna, I think I could do a better job. I could sing as well as dance. I'm better value. So if you want me to come on tour with you, then write back as soon as you can and I'll come on tour with you. Honest I will. I'll be dead good. I am writing this as I play the True Blue album. Papa Don't Preach is my favourite. My Dad preaches a lot. Not to God - he says Jesus is a twat - but preaches in general. See what I have to put up with? You will be doing me a favour, as I will you. Promise you. Cross kings and everything. True Blue, baby, I love you. Tee! Hee! Hope to hear from you soon... Johnny

So that's what I did. I wrote Madge a letter, offering my services. But it didn't end there. I posted the letter via her fan club and immediately felt a pang of regret clutch at my insides as I dropped the letter into the post box. What had I done? What would Mam say when I told her that I would be leaving home for a bit to go singing with Madonna? What would school say? And also, I'd lied. I didn't know all my times tables - seven and eight were still lacking. I was convinced beyond doubt that within a week, Madge would have snapped me up and sent me tickets to go and join her and what would I do then? I mean, I couldn't exactly let her down. I kept vigil at the letterbox and days passed in a sweaty, panicky haze... Weeks floated by with no response. She was busy, I told myself. I would come home from school, fully expecting a distraught mother to be packing my case, wailing that she would miss me, but understood that I had to do what I had to do and could I get her a T-shirt (that she would simply turn into a duster like she would everything else that wasn't worn for less than a week.)

Needless to say, I am still waiting for a response. Unless my brother intercepted the letter and decided to bin it because I had pulled the legs of his latest He-Man figure. I wouldn't put it past him. 

That's probably what happened. 

Don't you think? 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

The Tedious (Self-Inflicted) Tale of when I Buggered My Shoulder (and not in a good way)


Me, serving hospital Vogue realness. Perhaps.

2006: A hefty hand shoved me, jolting me into semi-consciousness. It took me a few, long moments to work out what was happening and where I was. A quick scan of the environment led to a period of confusion and then things started to fall into place. Everything was spinning. I fought back a violent compulsion to be sick.

This is what I knew:

1. I was devastatingly pissed. Hammered beyond belief. But twelve pints of Kronenberg on an empty stomach will do that to you, apparently.

2. The rough, oversized hand that roused me belonged to a bouncer, who looked less than impressed at the state of me.

3. The state of me was mortifying to say the least: my last shred of dignity had absconded as I had passed out while pissing into a urinal. My face was attached to some grim white porcelain tiles that looked as though they hadn't ever seen a bottle of bleach. As I tried to manoeuvre my mush, it made a suctioning sound and I winced - partly because the mother and father of all hangovers was kicking in and partly because a quick glance south revealed my trousers to be languishing around my ankles. My belt was resting soundly in the depths of the urinal, my pants were halfway down my thighs and naturally, my unmentionables were on display for all to see. I was effectively flashing the fiercely-heterosexual bouncer. 

4. I was unable to speak. I refer you to point one in this confession as to the reason why. That didn't stop me from trying and as I slurred an apology to the bouncer, he asked me if I was Polish. I tried to say no. My response made him then think that I was Russian.

5. I was in a pub somewhere in Central London. I had no idea where though. I'd been feeling sorry for myself earlier on in the day as my recent relationship split began to take its toll. The full extent of everything Gary had done weighed heavily on my mind. He'd left me broke, figuratively and literally. He'd cleaned me out and managed to take everything from me. I was having to start again. I'd lost my home and was confined to a bedsit in a house that comprised half a dozen weirdoes whose favourite pastime, it seemed, was to shed as many pubes in the shower and then spectacularly fail to clean them up. Fuck it, I thought, I'll go and get pissed. Mission accomplished, some might say.

This is what happened next:

I attempted to bend down and pull up my jeans. Needless to say, I fell forward, causing the top of my head to slam into the urinal. I rebounded and then fell backwards, my bare arse making contact with the puddle of piss that surrounded my feet. This did nothing to appease the bouncer, who failed to see the funny side as he wrenched me to my feet and frog marched me out of the bar. Bits still out. It was only as he released me into the cold November night that I realised that walking unaided was problematic. Somehow I gathered myself, hid my special place from public view and found my bearings. I was around the back of Leicester Square. It was late but the streets were packed. As I staggered to the tube station, crowds of people parted. Like Moses and the Red Sea, I like to tell myself. Perhaps not though: halfway up China Town my head lolled forwards and I threw up. I can't remember that bit in the Bible. Not that I've read it. 

Eventually I got myself to Leicester Square tube station. I clung on to the rail as I wobbled down the first flight of stairs. I rounded the corner and stopped momentarily as I regarded the rest of my descent: two more flights with a slight landing separating them. Concrete with a brass trim on the edge of each one. I stepped forward and fell as my hand totally failed to grasp the rail. The rest of the memory comes to me in waves... I recall hearing screaming (which was possibly me)... I remember it taking a long time to get to the bottom... I went down the first flight with such gusto, that I cleared the landing and then went straight down the next lot like a sack of spuds... A vivid thought ran coolly through my mind as this happened: when you finally get to the bottom, I told myself, just get up and walk off, as though you meant to do it on purpose. Style it out. Let people think you're a stuntman.The only problem with my master plan was that I'd dislocated my shoulder and fractured my right arm. It was with this arm that I tried to get up, which meant that I fell on my face, knocking myself clean out. Beautiful.

The merciful blackness cleared moments later. I was flat on my back and a lovely little bloke was on his knees, straddling me and holding a bunch of tissues to the bottom of my chin. Apparently it was pouring with blood. I was confused and didn't quite know what was happening. But here's the good news: I was now able to speak.

Me: Excuse me, but what do you think you're doing?
Man: Mr John! Mr John! It's all okay! An ambulance is coming!
Me: Why? 
Man: You need to go to hospital.
Me: I don't. I need to go to Burger King and get the train home. 
Man: No, no, no, Mr John. You need to go to hospital. Your face is broken...
Me: It's normally like that, don't worry.
Man: No, it's bleeding. It's bleeding lots. And your arm is at a funny angle, Mr John.
Me: Hang on, how do you know my name?
Man: I looked in your wallet.
Me: I hope you didn't steal anything.
Man: Hahahahaha! There was nothing to steal.
Me: Oh. 

Fast forward fifteen minutes, and I was being stretchered out of the tube station, waving at the scathing onlookers with my one functional arm. Before long, I'd been plonked in A&E, but not before the paramedics had cut my favourite rugby top clean off. I sat there, horribly hung over as my belly spilled over my jeans which were covered in my own blood and a pub full of other people's piss. With my left arm, I managed to fish my mobile phone out of my pocket. Sadly, it hadn't survived the fall. The only number I could recall was Becky's land line. Thank God she picked up and thank God that she came to rescue me at two in the morning. A proper guardian angel. She will never know how grateful I am. She was there as they stitched my chin back together and filled me with laughing gas before shoving my shoulder back into its socket. She took me back to hers and looked after me. I have no idea what I would've done had it not been for her.

In the immediate aftermath, I was signed off work for five weeks and had to undergo intensive physiotherapy. Everything was a struggle in those first few months: I couldn't cook for myself; I couldn't drive and my injured arm was strapped to my chest, which meant that walking was terrifying - I constantly felt off-balance and thought I was going to fall over. I couldn't even wipe my own arse properly. Nice, eh? Sleeping was a nightmare (pun intended) as I usually slept on my right side. There were nights where I would wake with a crippling pain in my shoulder as I tried to assume my natural position, mid-slumber. 

The night lives on in my memory and it has morphed into one of those where I can look back and laugh. And it's one where I learned a massive lesson: never, ever go out with a fat man called Gary. 

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