I guess all great quests begin with a wee kick up the ass, something to energize the mind for the trials ahead, to harden the spirit & to fortify the body. For me it came last Saturday with a right royal kerfuffle with the bouncers of Edinburgh. Three weeks previously I’d arranged with the hip young manageress of the Tron Bar to put on my Tinky Disco in their basement. Unfortunately, for the night in question she had been replaced by a dragoness of a manageress, fortified by a proper nob-head of a bouncer. Thus, when vodka-soaked Luke & an unshaven Victor Pope arrived pushing their gear in a supermarket trolley to set up, I was suddenly confronted with ‘you’re not the right clientele’ & rudely shown the door.
This wound me up, & I just had to wipe the smug grin off the bouncer by knocking his steaming mug of tea out of his hands & practically ordering him to attack me so I could save future punters from his neanderthal nobiness. He refused, however, & so I had to begin the awkward task of telling folk the gig was off. One of these was my lovely new ladyfriend, the Mary to my Shelley, who I noised up a mile or so away from the Tron. Unfortunately our return to town passed right by the Tron, & when a riled Burnley lad on a few bevvies feels hard done by, he’s always gonna have a pop. So I rushes up to the bouncer, gives him five seconds to apologise, slow-counts down, then gives him the gentlest tap on the cheek. That was the final straw for his infantile mind & in a flash there’s several bouncers giving me armlocks, punishing my pressure points & calling the cops.
Luckily my bird & her mates, along with about twenty bystanders, were eager witnesses to the heavy-handed steroid-addicts & on the cops# arrival, the bouncers were told, in no uncertain terms, that if they wanted to prosecute me, they’d all be coming too! A triumph for people power I believe! During all this it was funny to see folk arriving for the Disco only to see me cuffed up in the back of a cop-car. Mi bird was magnificent, mustering the troops & annoying the cops, & even bantering with my ex, Glenda, who’d arrived on the scene, saying, ‘I bet ya glad ya dumped him now!’ Priceless!
A free man again I raved it up for a couple of days then set off on my new mission. This time it’s the Med & I know it’s just gonna be buzzin! For a start, I’ll have a couple of companions. There’s the erstwhile Victor Pope, long-term buddy & benevolent housemate, who’s coming to Italy for the whole month. He’ll be a bit like Byron’s Hobhouse, while Paul, who joins us after 10 days, will be the groups’ troubadour. At Brindisi, in SE Italy, Victor flies home while me & Paul will then sail onto Greece. There the Byronic parallels continue. I’m 35 at present, the same age Byron was when he went to Greece to help them fight in their great War of Independence against the occupying Ottoman Turks. Unfortunately, before the action began, Byron contracted malaria & was bled to death with leeches by his doctors, a fate I hope to avoid!
Whereas Byron was funding an army with the proceeds of the sale of Newstead Abbey, I’m living off fifty quid a week Working Tax Credits, but I believe my own mission is rather more noble. While in Greece, I have a number of objectives, of which the principal ones are;
1 – To compose the latter portions of my 12-year epic poem, Axis & Allies, on the slopes of Mount Parnassus.
2- To drink the waters of the Helicon Spring
3 – To finish my book on the Homeric Question, which includes identifying the site of Odysseus’ palace on Cephalonia (which I’ve already done this summer in the National Library of Scotland)
4 – To DJ Tinky Disco at various party bars across the country
5 – To Visit Olympia in preparation for next year’s London Games, where I shall write Victory Odes
6 – To Visit Hissalrik – the site of ancient Troy – in NW Turkey (it’s not that far from Thessalonika, our departure airport)
As journeys of a thousand miles begin with a single step, I was helped up Leith Walk by Victor & his plus-one bus pass. I was carrying weight, including a bag full of Charlie’s clothes he’d left at my pad last year before our soiree round the Raj… after buying me a ticket to India it was the least I could do to drop ‘em off back down the capital. I left Victor at Waverley, jumped on a couple of trains & pulled into Burnley by 11PM for a couple of beers with my Dad. I’d told him I’d told the bouncers while they were trying to inflict pain on me that I’d told them I was from Burnley & they couldn’t hurt me & could the gay bouncer please stop rubbing his cock up against me – which brought a flourish of Lancashire pride to our father-son bonding session. It was one of those family moments, I guess, for he’d just found out my sister’s pregnant with her second kid.
After a morning with my wee niece Becky & a couple of hours with my best mate Nicky & his wee lad Lei-Bau, I caught, for the first time, the mega-bus from Burnley. I’d bought it a couple of weeks back for a bargain quid, & awaited my London-bound course with excitement. What I was presented was a mad-cap ride round West Yorkshire, via Keighley & Bradford, before ending up in Halifax – only twenty miles from Burnley – two & a half hours after setting off. We finally got moving, via Huddersfield, & arrived at East Midlands Parkway in the October blackness of 9PM. There, I changed onto an inter-city train & finally chugged into Saint Pancras at 11PM. A mad amount of travelling for the price of a king size can of Iron Brew.
Waiting for me in the megalopolis were Victor & Charlie, passing on the Damo-travel-companion baton over a beer. After giving Charlie his clothes, I bid him adieu with a hug & hiked off with Victor down to Holburn where we caught a bus with his free Scottish plus-one pass. The driver was completely baffled by it & let us on, & not long after we were in Stratford, under the shadow of the new Olympic Stadium, a rather apt poetical moment considering my forthcoming odyssey to the home of the Olympics in Elis, Greece. It was midnight by now, & we set off along the dark roads to Leytonstone, picking up cheap beer from dodgy Turkish 24 hour shops – I mean if you could get two bottles of wine for a fiver after midnight in Edinburgh, my world would be a better place.
At the 491 Gallery Cliff was his usual sparky self. He’s had a mental summer, getting arrested on ketamine while pushing his mate’s baby in a pram. This completely jeopardized his illegal status (he’s over run his visa by 10 years), but somehow I think he’s got away with it & the sword of Damocles that’s been hanging over his head for so many years has suddenly dropped to his shoulder & knighted him Sir Citizen!
So it’s now Wednesday afternoon, & me, Victor & Cliff are about to record a one-off live album in among the bohemian surroundings of the Gallery – a fine way to kick off the tour.