My birthday dawned, although it didn’t dawn on me.
I’d completely forgotten about the impending notch about to be added to my earthly sojourn, that is until Father Augustus turned up, clutching a card written in his spidery script and containing the obligatory tenner.
Then Lil Sis and Sparah turned up, with their offspring in tow, to drag me off to the pub for a birthday lunch. This was fast becoming an annual event, it would be the third year running they’d dragged me off to the pub for a birthday lunch.
When we got there, we ditched our collective kids to play on the assorted play frames, houses, swings and slides in the garden, while we headed off for the bar.
All the garden tables were taken up with families of tourists, as was the conservatory, so we choose a table near the pool table where the sun didn’t reach, its advantage being, it was close to the bar.
I was nominated to get the first round in, even though it was my birthday, while Lil Sis and Sparah poured over the menu.
The bar was being propped up by the usual local faces, with the odd tourist thrown in awaiting service. I placed myself next to a big man who was perched on a bar stool with his back to me, while I waited to place my order.
“Hi ya Con,” one of the locals from the other side of the bar shouted over, “we haven’t seen you in here for a while, how’re you doing?”
“Fine thanks mate,” I replied, “I came out to try to avoid all the bloody ankle biters that treat my house like a youth club, but the little buggers followed me, so I’ve had to ditch them out there instead.” I pointed to the pub garden. “I tell you Noddy,” that was his name, “some glutton for punishment sucker once said let the little children come unto me…He must have been off his bleedin’ rocker!”
Noddy let out a roar of laughter, as did the rest of the bar who’d been listening. The big man next to me was attempting to stifle a chuckle as he began to shuffle about in his pockets, once he’d retrieved whatever it was he had to retrieve, he bent his head down, and well, he appeared to be writing?
Just then Noddy moved from his bar stool to visit the gents, sat at the table behind him and previously hidden from view was the Adonis, you know, as in doctor! He had a half drunk pint and was scrutinising a news paper set before him.
“Bugger,” I muttered under my breath. If he saw me with alcohol he was sure to sprag me up to McGivitup!
The landlady appeared in front of me.
“Happy birthday Con.” She greeted me.
“How do you know it’s my birthday?” I quizzed.
“Because it’s the only time you come in here these days, well apart from the odd wake,” she added with warning in her eyes.
I flushed at the memory.
“And I haven’t forgotten the last one yet!” I hope my glasses are going to stay in one piece today?”
“Yeah,” I acknowledged, “that was certainly a smashing event, we were only seeing him off in the way he would have seen fit, he was forever plying us with wine while he was alive, and if its any consolation, I came close to following the poor bugger into his grave.”
“So what are you drinking?” The landlady asked, “the usual?”
“No,” I whispered conspiratorially, pointing, while mouthing the word, doctor, so she would comprehend, “make mine an orange juice,” I said very loudly, hoping my words would carry to the Adonis, “I’m on orders from the good doctor McGivitup to lay off the hard stuff.”
The Adonis briefly looked up and acknowledged my presence before returning to his paper.
“Does he usually hang around for long?” I whispered to the landlady.
“He comes in about twice a week to read his paper and have a pint, he’ll probably be gone in ten minutes.”
“Thank God for that! Can I have two half lagers with that as well please?” I said as an after thought.
Once the Adonis had moved on, after which we had finished our meal, the sod lingered! He was no sooner out of the door than a glass of red was in front of me!
The real stuff started, we got down to some serious hilarity.
It wasn’t long before the subject got round to, as it invariably does with women, men.
We ended up in gales of laughter as I filled Sparah in on a few of the exploits Lil Sis had got up to in her wild youth.
“Lil Sis once had the hots for this bloke.” I began.
“Which one?” Lil Sis asked.
“You know, that tall blond lad that looked like a body builder, you swooned after him for months.”
“Oh yeah.” She giggled knowing what was coming.
“Well Sparah, for some reason this lad showed no interest in your aunty Lil.”
“He was painfully shy.” Lil Sis put in.
“Anyway,” I continued, “he showed absolutely no interest in Lil Sis. Then it just so happened, after a night out on the town, who should Lil Sis and her coven of witches bump into but the heart throb out with a gang of his mates. Not one to miss an opportunity Lil Sis invited them all back to the flat she then shared with her mates for a party. Back at the flat more alcohol was consumed before the blokes began to drift away. However, the swoon causer had fallen asleep on the floor. So do you know what Lil Sis did?”
“You didn’t drag him off to bed did you?” Sparah addressed Lil Sis looking mortified, “that would be tantamount to rape!”
“No, he would have been incapable anyway, he was legless.” Lil Sis answered.
“Egged on by her flat mates,” I continued, “she wrote, in marker pen, on his back, Lil Sis was here! Apparently the poor sap was playing rugby the following day, I’ve often wondered how he reacted when his pals pointed it out in the showers.”
The fat bloke sat at the bar howled, he was obviously listening in, and then he appeared to be writing again?
Once Sparah had calmed down, she began to relate a story of her own.
“Do you remember when I was living in that tiny village in the back of beyond?”
“Yeah,” Lil Sis responded, “it was tiny as well, no shop, no pub, no nothing, even the bus only passed through twice a day, you must have been bored stupid living there.”
“Well it was boredom and the bus that caused me excruciating embarrassment.” Sparah began. “My friend had called to visit. It was a lovely summers day, the kids were off school and we were skint. So, we sat in the front garden to take in some sun. The next thing I know we’re playing a game of dare. It started off innocently enough, getting the kids to climb the tree and stuff, but then it began to get silly, as it does with lads, there was a lot of mooning going on.” Sparah was getting right into her story telling and had stood up to gesticulate and all but act out her unfolding saga, she had also turned up the volume. “Then my mate saw the bus coming from the other end of the village, it was about two minutes away from passing the road right next to my garden, she whispered, I dare you to flash your tits as the bus goes by. Only the bloody kids heard her didn’t they! So it was, go on mum flash your boobies at the bus, over and over again! Now, as I’m sure you’ll remember, that bus always sailed past our garden in a flash, it would slow down for the corner and then it would be gone. So, as it approached, they’re all watching me to see if I had the bottle, it slowed down to take the corner and as it drew along side the garden I flashed my tits…”
The fat bloke at the bar turned round to look, hopeful that she was doing a real life re-enactment and I realised he was Johnny Vegas the comedian.
“only the bloody bus stopped dead in its tracks didn‘t it!” Sparah continued, unaware of the famous northern face ogling her, “and it was nigh on bloody full as well!”
Johnny Vegas almost fell off his bar stool laughing as he grappled about in his pockets to produce a note pad and pen.
“Not only that,” Sparah continued, “but every eye was on me, some of the bastards were even pointing and laughing, and just before the bloody thing finally pulled away, one bloke stuck his head out of the window and bellowed, get yer tits out for us again missis! I was fucking mortified!”
“So how come the bus stopped outside your house?” Lil Sis asked, as Johnny Vegas began scribbling in earnest.
“Because the bloody farmer had his cows crossing the road on the corner, I swear, I have never been so embarrassed in all my life, I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole! But guess what? The kids thought it was uproarious!”
Johnny Vegas was still scribbling.
“Oi Vegas,” I shouted over, “you’d better not be nicking my material?”
He looked at me guiltily before stuffing the note book and pen back in his pocket.
“Because if you are,” I continued, “I might be tempted to stick my foot up your ample arse.”
He grinned, he knew that the northern insult was an invitation to play.
“May I buy you ladies a drink?” He offered.
“You most certainly can fat lad.”
As he ordered, Sparah started gesticulating to me, while mouthing, “Is that Johnny Vegas?”
I nodded in response.
“Whose Johnny Vegas?” Lil Sis whispered.
“He is.” I pointed.
He made his way to our table bearing a bottle of red wine for me, soft drinks for Sparah and Lil Sis, who were anticipating having to drive back to their respective homes, and a pint for himself.
“You don’t mind if I join you?” Vegas asked, as he planted is mighty frame down.
“Not at all.” Sparah and I said in unison.
“So what brings you to this part of the world?” I asked our new companion.
“Ave been comin here on me holidays since I wor a nipper,” he rasped in his northern brogue, “I don’t see why that should change just because I’m famous. An anyway, ave arranged to meet a mate here, I’m just waitin for im now.”
Lil Sis obviously hadn’t a clue who he was.
“Don’t you remember monkey?” I mimicked her way.
“Can’t we forget about the bloody monkey?” Vegas all but begged, as Lil Sis shook her head, still in ignorance.
” I can’t believe you don’t know Johnny Vegas,” Sparah addressed Lil Sis, “he’s been on the tele loads lately.”
I meanwhile, couldn’t help but notice that a variety of people kept wandering by and ogling the fat lad, before conferring with their family, friends or whatever, then surreptitiously pointing at him, as if to confirm, it is him isn’t it?
I commented on the fact that he being recognised by a few people.
“Yeah, I know, but I’m not so famous that women want to mob me or ouwt like that,” he bemoaned, “mores the pity!”
And like one, because we’re good like that, thinking the same thoughts in unison, we rose up and mobbed him!
“My God it’s Johnny Vegas!” I pretend swooned, as we ran our fingers through his hair, while rubbing his back, his chest, his legs, all the while planting wet kisses on his head. “It must be my birthday or something!”
The tourists were beginning to give us strange looks and took a wide berth if they had to pass us by. The locals just found our exploits amusing, they knew us!
However we soon grew bored with the put on adulation and sat down again.
“Aw don’t stop, I was just beginning to enjoy that,” Johnny wailed.
Just at that moment, two men walked into the bar, one following closely behind the other.
“Now there is pulsating passion on legs,” I stated, as I rose to accost my victim.
The first bloke through the door gave every indication of being a weirdo, a total geek, although I mentally noted, as I made for my prey, that there was something oddly familiar about him. It was obvious he thought I was about to pounce on him, his face wore a mask of abject horror as I side stepped him to greet my old childhood sweetheart.
“Long time no see my old teenage dream boy.”
“It’s good to see you Con, how are you keeping?” He said in his perfect queens English.
“I’m fine,” I grinned at him, “but I can see you didn’t take my advice,” I said scrutinising him.
“What was that then?” He looked puzzled.
“The Grecian Two Thousand.” I laughed as I brushed my fingers through his grey hair.
“Here we go!” He complained, “don’t you ever let up?”
“Nah, not a chance!”
He laughingly shook his head, knowing he could be in for a rough ride.
“What’s everyone drinking?” Mr X, my once upon a time teenage dream boat enquired of me.
“I’m sorted thanks very much, thanks to Mr Vegas here I’ve got my daily ration. But the two ladies are on orange juice, the fat lad there,” I turned to point to Vegas and noticed the geek was planted next to him.
“Mines a pint of bitter thanks mate,” Vegas put in, “and my pal here’s on red wine.”
Meanwhile Sparah is looking totally bemused with this blast from my past, it was something she was completely in the dark about. But I could tell that Lil Sis had been attempting to fill her in.
Mr X went to the bar and I sat down to face geek boy.
He had big shades on, the sort that wrap around the entire face, the sort that twats wear. His goatie beard and tash were obviously false when viewed from this close an inspection. And he was sporting a kind of beanie hat, only it had a massive rim, obscuring most of his head. But I knew that face?
“I’d like you to meet my pal Rodger Parrot.” Vegas said.
“Hi,” I said proffering forth my hand, “I’m Constantine Payne, only he thinks,” I pointed to Mr X at the bar, “that I’m Constant Payne, but you can call me Con.”
Then it hit me.
“And I’ll call you Johnny, Mr Depp!”
His face took on a look of sheer mortification as he furtively cast his eyes around the pub to check if anyone had heard me.
“Keep it under your hat,” Vegas raspingly whispered sharply, “otherwise he’ll be swamped by a baying mob!”
“Nice to meet you Mr Parrot,” I practically shouted.
Lil Sis and Sparah were sat agog, or is that agape? Their tongues all but hanging out as they were introduced to Rodger Parrot. Then Mr X arrived with a tray of drinks.
“Well, if it isn‘t Lil Miss giz a tanner or I‘ll tell me mam!” Mr X mimicked, as he discovered one of the ladies was Lil Sis.
“Yeah well,” she puffed up, “I made a packet out of the passion that sizzled between you two didn’t I?”
“Hang on a minute,” he defended, “don’t you mean Cons sizzling passion? I was just an innocent victim, once she’d set her sights on me, that was it, I was as good as done for!”
“You didn’t exactly run away did you?” Lil Sis shot back.
“She was the reigning champion of the tarzan jumps, she performed stunts that would have turned grown men to jelly, I didn’t dare run away, she scared me witless!”
“I am here you know?” I interjected in my, one is not amused voice, while Sparah was darting her eyes from one to the other of us in eager anticipation of more previously unheard revelations from her mothers past.
“What sort of stunts were they then?” Vegas lent in with excited boyish interest.
“Well,” Lil Sis began as she bristled towards Mr X, “imagine if you can, a very deep ravine on a sort of bend. At the bottom is a raging river thundering by.”
“She’s exaggerating.” Both Mr X and myself interrupted simultaneously.
“It was a trickling beck.” Mr X continued.
Lil Sis gave us both the evil eye for bringing her back down to earth. While Sparah was animatedly open to all information forth coming. Vegas was simply caught up in the comedic drama of the differing view points of those who lived through the same experience. Depp appeared to want to be interested but couldn’t quite tear his attention away from the fact that he was vulnerable to those outside forces, that were ordinary people , who if they recognised him, might well overpower him.
“Yeah okay,” Lil Sis conceded, “but it was capable of being a raging mass of foaming water when it rained a lot!”
She just had to have the last word!
“And how often was that?” Mr X and I questioned, again in unison.
“Do you want me to tell this fucking story or not?” Lil Sis raged.
Both Vegas and Sparah nodded enthusiastically, while Mr X and I shook our heads. Depp was too busy keeping an eye out for possible fanatics blowing his cover, to keep up with the conversation.
“Well anyway,” Lil Sis continued her saga, “the tree, the one that THE branch sprang from, was at least the height of six men up the bank side before its mighty trunk even sprang forth from the earth…”
“If they were midgets!” I interrupted.
“Well I was a fucking midget at the time wasn’t I?” Lil Sis was losing it at all the constant interruptions to her story. “I was only bloody eight! The world was bigger then!”
“That tree obviously was.” Mr X added.
“Right, that’s it, I will not voice another bloody word on the subject!” Lil Sis dramatically folded her arms in a huff and sulked.
Sparah and Vegas were crestfallen.
“Aw, that’s not fair, you can’t leave us dangling on a tarzie,” they uncannily voiced in harmony, this was becoming seriously weird, the way minds were bonding and thinking the same thoughts and voicing the same words.
“Well yes,” Mr X admitted, “the tree was quite high up the bank side when it put down roots, and the branch in question, the one that stretched out over the gully, the gully that contained the thundering, foaming, killer current that would drag any unskilled players off to their death,” he eyed Lil Sis playfully as she became indignant, “wasn’t something anyone who suffered from vertigo would undertake. Even I’ll admit it was an enormous fete to accomplish, but Con knew no fear, she would climb the tree, while holding onto the tarzan rope, which was suspended from a huge branch directly over the middle of the gully, with knife in mouth…”
“Knife?” Sparah and Vegas voiced as one.
“I’ll come to that in a moment…” Mr X answered.
“Yeah, our Cons stunts would put you to shame!” Lil Sis directed at Depp, “I’ve seen trailers for that thing your doing and I bet when you were swinging about in the rigging, you’d have been harnessed up to the eyeballs, but not our Con, oh no, she pranced about on high, dancing with death, without so much as a safety net!”
“Yes she did.” Mr X confirmed, “generally it was a game that required each player to swing from bank side to bank side, each one reaching out to stick the knife into a position that it was hoped, would be difficult for the opponent to reach. Basically, that was the name of the game, constantly retrieving and then repositioning the knife until it couldn’t be reached by ones fellow players.”
“Only our Con didn’t play like that, did she Mr X?” Lil Sis added.
“No she didn’t, she was one of the lunatic participants , hell bent on the quest of securing the knife into ever increasingly, nigh on impossible, places to plant the knife, where the opposition couldn’t grasp it’s handle.”
“Without wrapping herself around a tree!” Lil Sis put in.
“Quite so,” Mr X carried on, “how she stayed in one piece remains a mystery to me, she would skip along that branch, which was way up high, as if she were skipping down the street.”
Vegas was looking at me as if he couldn’t believe such a fat bird was capable of such exploits.
“And where do the kids play these days?” I asked no one in particular, “every time any of my kids have tried to build a tarzie, some miserable twat has come along and cut it down!”
Sparah nodded in affirmation.
“The poor little buggers aren’t allowed to do anything these days, they even get grief for playing football in their own fucking streets! Bloody petrol guzzling, earth polluting, fucking killing machines come before kids every time in this day and age. Want a play ground? Well you can’t have one, someone might get hurt and sue us. Want a car park? You got it, how big, how high? Officious fucking short sighted twats the lot of them!”
Just then Mini Me raced up to our table to pester for munchies for the gang. As a general rule kids weren’t allowed in the main bar, but periodically one would risk the ire of the landlady to blag a bag of crisps and a lemonade out of their parents.
By that time I was halfway down my bottle of red and it being the afternoon, it had gone straight to my head, my gob was well lubricated and it was about to go into overdrive.
“Oi Parrot,” I summoned Depp rather loudly, “this here kid has been watching the trailers for that thing your in, you know, the one that’s soon to hit the big screens, and well,” I burbled, “if you did to her what she dreams about you doing, you’d be slammed up for paedophilia!”
Lil Sis and Sparah sniggered. Vegas let out a rip roaring belly laugh. While Mini Me stuck her face in front of Mr Parrot’s and examined him very carefully indeed.
“It’s Johnny Depp!” She bellowed at the top of her lungs, she then ran out to bawl across the garden to the rest of the crew, “you lot, mums talking to Johnny Depp!”
Within seconds the main bar was swamped!
Time to make a sharp exit!
I happened to know just the place to go.
“I know where there’s a party going on as we speak, it’s not far from here, but with the luxury of being undisturbed by outsiders, anyone interested?”
“I’m up for it.” Vegas responded immediately.
Depp just nodded, eager to escape.
“Well I’m off home.” Lil Sis said, she knew where the party was at and wouldn’t rough it for anyone.
“I’m with you.” Sparah responded clinging onto my arm.
“Right, you go gather the kids up.” I urged her, as I said farewell to Mr X who had declined my party invitation.
The bar was crammed to the rafters but no one had yet attempted to approach Mr Depp, it was quite a bizarre scene, everyone staring our way, many talking on their mobile phones obviously putting the word out that Johnny Depp was in the pub, so hurry on over if you want a skeggers!
We rose to leave and as we were going out of the door, another bloke was about to enter.
“I wouldn’t go in there if I were you mate.” Depp said in his deep voice.
It was the first time I’d heard him speak, it seemed odd that suddenly he was addressing a total stranger. Then I took a good look at the bloke, it was Johnny Lydon, you know, Johnny Rotten out of The Sex Pistols!
“My God, it’s my birthday and I’ve scored a hat trick of Johnny’s! You’d best come with us pal.” I said grabbing his arm.
People were beginning to follow us out. Luckily Lil Sis had the good sense to be waiting with her car, she left her kids with me and loaded up our celebrity friends so that she could ferry them out of harms way.
I was still clutching my half bottle of red but realised we would need alcohol for the boys, so I nipped to the shop and requested a delivery, while Sparah made a few phone calls to put the word party out to the rest of our close knit tribe.
Ten minutes later we met up with the three J’s and lead the way towards the tribal gathering.
“I hope it’s not far?” Vegas whined.
“It’s just over there, a little beyond that farmhouse.” I pointed to a building about half a mile away.
“I think I can manage that.” He sounded relieved.
I failed to mention that there was a deep valley in-between, which required going down a one in three bank, then up the same at the other side! He twittered and grumbled the entire route. I told him if he shut his gob for two minutes he might have more energy to put into his legs!
We finally reached the cart track that lead to the party field, the closer we got, the louder the noise from the teenage surf boys whose party we were about to gate crash.
“Yo grommets.” I shouted, “get the Barbie fired up we’re coming in.”
“Oi you ger off ma land!” Came back a familiar voice.
“Go fall off your surf board you jumped up little git!” I bellowed back, “and how many times do I have to tell you? It’s not your land, your merely the caretaker, and if you don’t shut the fuck up, I’ll have it back!”
“Quick hide the booze Cons coming.” The same voice yelled.
“Who is this woman?” I heard Johnny Rotten enquire of Vegas, “is she some sort of head case?”
“Never met the women before,” Vegas shrugged, “but we’ve had a real good crack in the pub and this looks like it could be a laugh. Anyway, who are you to question anybodies sanity, your one of the biggest fruitcakes on the planet!”
“Fair point.” Conceded the wild eyed one.
As we rounded the corner, the field, which was intimately surrounded by wood land opened up before us.
“Cool!” Both Depp and Rotten uttered in unison.
There was an array of tents at the furthest end, smoke curled up into the clear blue sky, from an as yet unseen camp fire. Various youths attired in wet suits were milling about with surf boards.
“Where do they surf round here?” Vegas quipped, “on the grass?”
“The sea is two minutes that way,” I pointed directly ahead, “there’s a path through the woods that takes you down the cliff to a beautiful little cove. If you get up early enough and go down in the morning, you’ll be greeted by seals.”
“Wow,” both Depp and Rotten enthused, “this just gets better!”
“Who said anything about staying the night?” Vegas queried, “we’ve got nowhere to sleep.”
“Don’t worry,” Sparah soothed, as the young ones ran off to begin tormenting the teenagers, who responded good naturedly, genuinely pleased to see their little mates, “mums got it all in hand, the supplies will be rolling in soon enough and if you want to walk away from the night we are going to have, then it’ll be your loss!”
“How do you mean?” Asked the man who’d probably not had a good time outside of a pub in his entire life.
“Well we do this on a regular basis through the summer and we have the best times ever.” Sparah stated proudly.
“Hi ya Con,” the land owners voice, Jahs best mate Big Bob, greeted as we entered the camp, “I guess it’s party time is it?”
“Why else would we enter the Kingdom of Bob?” I gave him a big cheesy grin, “so get your dancing tackle loosened up for some serious body bending!”
“Bugger off, I’m not dancing with you!”
“No…but I bet you’ll dance with Mini Me?”
“Will I get a choice?”
Mini Me loved Big Bob.
The celebs were having a good look around the camp, while chatting with the teenagers, who were not at all star struck.
The camp fire was set well away from the tents and was surrounded by fallen tree trunks for seating. The lads had gathered a goodly pile of dead wood for burning through the night. A stonking great big barbecue, big enough to cater for a small army, lay presently redundant to one side, between the camp fire and the tents. It was sided by an old table.
The lads had taken the celebs off to explore the cove when things began to happen.
Saladin could be heard rumbling down the pot holed cart track in his works van. Just before he made it to camp, The Top Dog and a few of his friends emerged from the wooded path, armed with guitars and bongo drums. There was a general hubbub as little kids, teenies and oldies greeted each other in their own individual ways, often a playful kick in the shins did it for the little ones! Sal got the van as close to the camp as he possibly could and the big unloading began. Soon another half dozen or so tents were erected, the Barbie was fired up, the table covered in clean linen where salad was soon being prepared, while burgers, bacon and sausages began to sizzle. Buns were being buttered and onions fried. Beer, rum and soft drinks were piled up in the shade behind a tent.
“Where’s my lad?” The Top Dog asked of no one in particular.
“Catching some waves.” A voice replied.
A few minutes later he emerged from the woodland with the rest of the crew and the celebs, just in time to tuck into a feast.
Once the food was out of the way and everyone had eaten their fill, a serious game of statues got underway. All the little ones got involved, a good dozen teenagers decided to play, along with Sparah, Depp, Rotten and The Top Dog. The name of the game was that there was one person who was, it, they stood alone, a long way in front of the line that the rest of them formed. The line had to attempt to move forward as quickly as possible, while the one that was, it, had their back turned. As soon as the one that was, it, turned to face the rest, they had to turn into statues, any detected movement and they were out. There was much descent coming from that quarter as they tried to cheat each other, playful squabbles were breaking out left, right and centre, especially among the teenagers and the celebs!
As games went, hide and seek plus tig were banned from our tribe. Hide and seek because we didn’t want to have to resort to calling out the rescue services to find any child who might hide too well! Well enough for us to presume them drowned at sea, fallen into a ravine, eaten by the fabled big cat, or any other such mischief that may befall an adventurous child hell bent on staying hidden well into the starry, starry night, scaring worried adults shitless! Tig was obviously banned because we didn’t fancy scrapping burnt remains out of the camp fire, or treating third degree burns if someone happened to barge into the barbie, or contend with stab wounds if any wild soul tripped over a guy rope, causing the peg to catapult out of the ground straight into tender flesh!
While all this was going on, one of the musicians, who didn’t know I was supposed to be a non smoker, offered me a smoke. I’d been gagging for a nicotine hit, so I slipped out of sight behind a tent and enjoyed a few satisfying drags, it was after about the seventh puff that I realised I was smoking a spliff!
“I hope this isn’t bloody skunk?” I turned on my supplier. “That bloody stuff is lethal…there’s no wonder the kids are going mental if they’re smoking that stuff, it’s unnatural!”
“Nah, this is cool Con, nice and gentle. Grown nice and gentle, naturally.”
And it was.
It was getting pretty close to sunset by now, the musicians arranged themselves around the fire and some fine music began to flow.
I took a swig from my bottle of red before going to join the rest of them who were now dancing dementedly as the beat got faster and faster. Johnny Rotten was gyrating wildly with Sparah. I ended up with Depp on one arm and Vegas on the other, while still clinging onto my just under half bottle of red, when who should happen to enter into our heavenly domain but McGivitup!
He was accompanied by his best friend, the one whose conversation I’d eavesdropped on in the pub way back. They were both attired in walking gear, obviously on a hike.
On spotting me, McGivitup fired a withering look.
I made my way towards him, still firmly attached to my, by now well pissed, new buddies.
“Are you drunk Constantine?” The doc angrily hissed under his breath.
“No doc, I’m not…I’m not saying I haven’t had a drink because I have, it’s my birthday see…but I haven’t gone beyond my limit, have I guys?” I gestured to my partners, who solemnly shook their heads, “and I’ve stuck to the red, we all know reds good for the old heart don’t we?” The guys nodded and muttered confirmation, having no idea what they were endorsing because they were plastered, but I wasn’t.
Unfortunately the doc didn’t think so!
“You appear to be intoxicated to me.” He exclaimed with a stern face.
“Oh I am,” I giggled, “but not with the drink!”
The docs friends eyes shone as he fought to suppress his excitement at this unexpected, if farcical, encounter.
McGivitup appeared momentarily confused, trying to work out whether or not I was winding him up.
“I’m a born again pot head,” I declared, “and you can’t say that’s bad for my blood pressure because I know it aint!
The docs friend was battling to keep a straight face.
“I tell you doc,” I babbled on, “it’s brilliant! It’s like bumping into an old and dear friend, I haven’t done this stuff for bloody years, I’m as high as a kite!”
McGivitup looked gob smacked.
His friend broke the spell.
“Hi,” he said, stepping forward and proffering his hand, “I’m Dave Rolence and I take it you are Constantine Payne?”
“You take it right Dave, nice to meet you.”
One of the teenagers appeared.
“Would you and your friend like to stay and have a drink and something to eat before you carry on with your hike Dr McGivitup?” The teenager politely asked.
Just then the musicians struck up a rendition of the battling banjos. The docs love of music button was pressed.
“That’s very kind of you, yes, that would be nice, thank you.”
And with that he wandered off to sit by the camp fire with the musicians, leaving Dave Rolence with me.
“I must apologise for Shamus being so rude.”
Now why didn’t it surprise me the doc was called Shamus?
“He doesn’t normally become so involved with his patients,” Dave continued, “but you’ve managed to get under his skin. He sees you as an enigma whose secrets he is determined to extricate so as to guide you back to good health.”
“Sounds painful!” I said as I steered him towards a rug to sit on.
“This might sound strange, but I have this feeling that I’ve known you all my life. As soon as Shamus began telling me about you I felt strangely excited, like coming home after a very long journey.” He said as we sat down. “I’m so pleased that we chanced upon your party.”
“Chanced?” I shot back, playing with him. “Not preordained then?”
He gazed at me thoughtfully.
“So you think it was destined that our paths should cross?” He finally said.
“I not only think it, I know it!”
He fired me a questioning look but the moment was broken by the teenager returning with a paper plate piled high with salad and topped with a burger and onions in a bun.
“What would you like to drink?” The teenager asked.
“Away Lenny,” I laughed, “what do you think Scotsmen drink?”
“I know, but I don’t think we’ve got any whiskey.” Lenny replied.
“See if you can’t blag a couple off the bongo player,” I encouraged, “I know he keeps a fine malt in his inside pocket.”
“Yes mam.” Lenny saluted sarcastically.
A generous shot of whiskey was duly provided in a paper cup, while the other was delivered to McGivitup.
“Thank you Lenny, that’s very kind of you.” Dave said.
“I understand from Shamus that you and I are on the same wavelength?” Dave said in-between mouthfuls.
“In which respect?” I asked, wanting to establish which part of the unfolding mystery he was referring to.
“In the respect that we both believe that Bush is the son of perdition.”
“Right, I’m with you.”
“So do you believe we’ll be saved from his madness?” Dave looked at me earnestly.
“Well that depends,” I felt a wickedly mischievous giggle rising.
“Depends on what?” His brows furrowed as he stared me in the eye.
“On whether or not your mate can get me through this alive!” I keeled over laughing at my own private joke.
Dave was puzzled.
“Oh don’t worry about it,” I said recovering myself, “one day, in the not too distant future hopefully, you’ll get that joke and you’ll have a belated laugh on me.”
I became suddenly serious.
“It’s weird, but in a strange sort of way it was Bush who lead me to your pal McGivitup.”
“How’s that then?” Dave queried.
“Well that lunatic megalomaniac,” I could feel the anger rising in me just thinking about the foul deeds that had been inflicted on that mans orders, “has the ability to send the entire worlds blood pressure soaring! As soon as that crooked cuckoo cunningly crept into that great seat of power, you could literally feel the unease seep in.” Dave was nodding his affirmation. “He was an accident waiting to happen,” I continued, “you just knew there was going to be trouble, big trouble…then when the twin towers came down, anxiety levels took flight…you knew the shit was about to hit the fan big time!”
Dave was nodding vigorously, relaying his affirmative feelings without speech.
I took a swig of the red stuff, it made me so angry simply recalling this recent history, the happy juice had the ability to numb that anger and prevent me from blowing a gasket!
“It still makes my blood boil just contemplating the unholy haste with which the bastard sons of Satan barged in there! It was twenty-one days after the attack on America,” my voice became shrill, “when Blair made that extraordinary messianic speech at the Labour conference, vowing to rid the entire world of its problems, from Israel, to the starving, the dispossessed, global warming and everything else thrown in-between…then five days after that we were bombing the shite out of Afghanistan along with the yanks!” I threw my arms wide in despair. “Did they go in there to overthrow the Taliban who had systematically returned the country to the stone-age? No they bloody didn’t! We all know what they went in there for, and it wasn’t Osama Bin Laden! They think they can sucker the entire populated world!” I paused for breath, “yeah, George Dubya has warned that the terrorist parasites should have no place to settle, no place to organise, no place to hide, no government to hide behind and not even a safe place to sleep. So how come he is still roaming free, hiding behind his government and sleeping safe and secure? The man is demonic! Him and his henchmen make me want to hurl with all the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives they‘ve ruined…it‘s only a matter of time before these battered and beaten people start to retaliate…I mean, imagine the situation being reversed. Iraq is the rich country with an arsenal of state of the art weaponry. We are the poor country with little in the way of weapons…but, it‘s us who are sat on the oil that they are rapidly running out of. They want our oil so they trump up some excuse about us housing terrorists and begin bombing the shite out of our towns and cities, while sending their army in to occupy our country. How long do you suppose it would take before pockets of resistance started to form?”
“Knowing the British…not very long at all.”
“And considering that there is very little in the way of defence, apart from cunning, guile and ingenuity, while up against the best armoury money can buy, what sort of lengths do you imagine the British people would go to in order to secure the freedom of their families and fellow countrymen?”
“Any length that was required I would say…to the death if necessary.”
I looked Dave levelly in the eye.
“Add to that religious fanaticism and you have just gone inside the head of a suicide bomber.”
Dave’s eyes didn’t flinch from mine. “And our government are allowing this desperate situation to spin out of all control by insisting our troops remain in Iraq.”
“Yeap! And then when the shit hits the fan and our country comes under attack Blair will spout hypocritical rhetoric condemning out of hand these murdering terrorists who dare to pollute our land with their murderous ire, while he has more blood on his hands than they will ever have!” By now my eyes must have resembled Johnny Rottens in his hey day, I pointed dementedly at Dave, bringing my arm up and down, “and then they will have their two minutes of national mourning for the victims of the atrocity…what about the hundreds and thousands of innocent victims who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, where is their two minutes of global mourning…are they any less worthy of our prayers? It would seem their lives don’t count as highly as western lives! They’re swept under the carpet out of sight! But I still see them…I’m not about to forget the innocent victims of western brutality! And these so called God fearing men who are the world leaders, will learn what it’s like to fear God…they are turning His creation into a battle ground and He detests them for the carnage they have wrought… and they will get their comeuppance one day, you mark my words!”
Dave sank into meditation.
“Who are you?” He suddenly asked.
“Me?” I pointed at myself, “I’m Constantine Payne… to some I’m Constant Payne but to my mates I’m Con… Or am I?” I grinned at him questioningly.
While we’d been talking, another half dozen teenagers had turned up, four of them where new to the area. They’d been destructive from the moment they’d stepped into the village…revelling in mindless vandalism, upturning wheelie bins, smashing windows in the public toilets, pulling up shrubs and upturning peoples flower boxes, that sort of thing. They were generally an obnoxious bunch who’d been allowed to run riot in their former city home. One or two of the local kids thought they were cool and had consequently been lead into trouble. These boys were beginning to disrupt our gathering and they had obviously been drinking to excess. They were throwing wood from the log pile about indiscriminately, missing one of the younger kids by a fraction. Just as I got up to go and tackle them, two of them took burning logs from the fire and began swinging them around with no regard for those surrounding them.
“Oi, shit for brains,” I bellowed across the gathering, “what the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
They turned to look at me, temporarily stunned, as if no one had confronted their bad behaviour before.
“It’s none of your business what we’re doing.” Voiced one rebellious youth, before taking a swig from an alcho pop.
“You reckon do you?” I glared at the said youth as I strode over to stand in front of him. “It’ll be my business if your anti-social behaviour hurts one of these kids…and believe it or not, I’m doing you a favour because if you did harm one of mine, you wouldn’t like the consequences.”
“Oh yeah,” smirked the rebellious youth, “and what would you do about it?”
“I’d see that you got the good hiding you should have had a long time ago.”
“Yeah right,” the youth laughed disdainfully, “I’d like to see you try!”
It was right about then that the musicians stood up and menacingly folded their arms whilst staring at the youths.
They began to appear slightly perturbed, “we’d get the coppers on you,” one of them piped up, as he swayed alarmingly, evidently well over his alcohol limit.
“Then you’d be needing witnesses.” I suggested.
“There are plenty of witnesses here.” The gob shite sneered.
Everybody bar the doc and Dave, who were mesmerised by the unfolding battle of wills, began to look around the camp shaking their heads.
“I see no witnesses…” I said as I looked them over, “so what are you going to do now?”
No one answered but the loud mouth was still looking defiant.
“You’re idiots the lot of you.”
“Don’t call me an idiot,” spat the obvious leader of the gang.
“No!” I glared at him, “well stop fucking acting like one! You’re not a faceless wonder here you know…you can’t just trash peoples property and then melt into an oblivion of urban sprawl…in this village we know who you are, we know what your doing and guess what? We don’t like your delinquent behaviour, we’re not going to tolerate it… only last week you broke into the infants play area at school and laid waste to all the new equipment that parents had worked hard raising money to install! You think that’s clever do you?” I looked narrowly upon the ring leader.
“You can’t prove it was us.”
“You were seen.”
“So why didn’t you report us?”
“We do things differently round here…and like I said, you’ve made yourselves so unpopular, you’d be hard pressed to find any witnesses when you get lured down the woods for a good beating by someone pretending to be your friend…oh yes, you wouldn’t know who to trust either…life could become extremely tiresome if you don’t mend your ways. I would strongly suggest you buck your ideas up and stop acting like complete prats, otherwise you might find yourselves tied to a tree for the night and you wouldn’t like that, there are all sorts of strange creatures come out at night in the woods!”
I was just getting into my stride with the terror tactics when one of them passed out and keeled over. The doc was at his side in a heartbeat. Once checked over it was confirmed he was merely unconscious due to intoxication. One of the younger kids produced a marker pen and pounced, proceeding to write on the youths forehead, TIT HEAD! Then a few of the teenagers began stripping him of his clothes, all except underpants.
“What do you think you’re doing?” The ring leader half heartedly challenged, at last showing some sign of being out of his depth.
“It’s a right of passage,” one of the teenagers offered, “don’t think your getting special treatment…this happens to anyone who is fool enough to drink themselves into a stupor…you learn to stick to your limit fast around here mate!”
The kids had moved in quickly on the insensible one, the girls were decorating his face with garish make up, the boys had written on his chest, ‘next time the pants go!’ Someone else painted his finger nails and toe nails with bright red nail varnish before they threw a few blankets over him. He was laid in the recovery position, so when he began throwing up, he didn’t choke.
Meanwhile, I’d told the others that if they wanted to stay they could…but only if they dropped the attitude and started behaving like real human beings. They were like church mice for the rest of the night and went on to become good lads who discovered it could be good fun being accepted into village life.
I went back to rejoin Dave on the rug, I’d no sooner sat down than Johnny Lydon strode over.
“I’ve got to say, I’m impressed,” he stated, “but I have to ask, do you make a habit of luring out of order kids into the woods for a good thrashing?”
“We’ve never needed to so far…but it doesn’t hurt them to think that we might.”
“I know a city full of youths who could benefit from your kind of tough love.” Dave added.
“Yeah,” I agreed, “but unfortunately there comes a time when a good tribe can only absorb so many not quite so good souls. If too many tarnished souls are introduced into a good tribe at any one time, the tarnished souls begin to weep insidiously into the good souls…then something gives and the balance lay in jeopardy.” It was good to tell I’d been imbibing in the wacky baccy! “That’s how our villages are now…tarnished by incomers who buy up the one time community homes, to make a quick profit out of a homeland that spiritually doesn’t belong to them. Then the local kids are driven out because of these faulty fucking economics. The second home owners make a fortune out of our motherland while our kids are forced to bring up their children apart from their extended families and the help and security they can offer. Then, because they don’t have the benefit of an extended family anymore, their kids invariably end up on the streets running wild while they are forced to work long hard hours just to provide a basic living, hence the youngsters lose that close contact with their parents as well. They end up roaming free without guidance, invariably degenerating into base, lowlife illiterates. And whose fault is that?”
During my diatribe Johnny Depp had joined our group, he nodded solemnly in agreement with my words.
“Society gone mad.” Dave sighed.
“And we can’t blame the kids,” Johnny Rotten added, “we’re the adults…we are all responsible for allowing a lost generation to be created.”
Depp suddenly leapt up and darted towards the musicians. He whispered in an ear, the owner of that ear turned to converse with the rest of the assembly who then began nodding to one another. Meanwhile Depp had moved on and was gesticulating his unheard words to Sparah and a huddle of young kids, before moving off and doing the same with Saladin and a gang of teenagers.
Dave, Johnny Rotten and I continued to bewail the fact that society and the powers that govern it had forsaken the needs of the kids in their endless quest to make profit out of everything they feasibly could and for whose benefit? But during our conversation, I couldn’t help but notice that one of the little ones had been dispatched to locate writing material, now there were two groups laughing and giggling as Depp alternated between them seemingly reciting prose that they were hastily scribbling down amid hilarity. Yet another group of none musical adults that made up our little tribe were being arranged by Depp, to stand behind the musicians. It appeared that he was training them for a horn section, without the horns! It was all very mysterious. I was beginning to wonder what on earth they were up to. But then I started getting worked up about the fact that governments ‘legally’ deal in armoury, selling, for profit, guns, missiles, land mines, rocket launchers ex cetera, exceptionally nasty pieces of equipment designed to maim, murder and mutilate their fellow citizens on earth, while the kids get dragged before the justices and hammered if they get caught in possession of drugs! What sort of message is that? Exactly who are the dealers in death? Is it any wonder the kids only want to get hammered and forget, when they are aware that this madness is going on in an increasingly unstable world?
Suddenly Depp hailed our attention.
“We have a little something we would like to relate from a lost generation.” He announced.
With that the hornless section kicked in mimicking horns.
Brr brr brr ba ba ba ba ba brr.
Then the musicians came in.
Depp began to sing to one of the little lads who was obviously a policeman, as he acted his part.
“Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
You gotta understand,
It’s just our bringing up-ke,
That gets us out of hand,
Our fathers all are junkies,
Our mothers all are drunks.
Golly, Moses, naturally we’re punks!”
Saladin and the teenagers joined their voices to his as they over acted their parts.
“Gee, Officer Krupke, we’re very upset;
We never had the love that every child oughta get,
We ain’t no delinquents,
Deep down inside us there is good.”
Sparah and the little ones joined in with the rest.
“There is good, there is good, there is untapped good!
Like inside, the worst of us is good!”
A voice from the musicians bellowed, “that’s a touchin’ good story.”
Depp, “lemme tell it to the world.”
An invisible voice rang out, “just tell it to the judge.”
Depp to another little one who was playing the judge. “Dear kindly judge your honour,
My parents treat me rough,
With all their marijuana,
They won’t give me a puff.
They didn’t want to have me,
But somehow I was had.
Weeping wizards! That’s why I’m so bad!”
One of the teenagers separated himself from the rest. “Officer Krupke, you’re really a square;
This boy don’t need a judge, he needs an analyst’s care,
It’s just his neurosis that oughta be curbed.
He’s psychologically disturbed!”
Depp, “I’m disturbed!”
Saladin and the teenagers joined him. “We’re disturbed, we’re disturbed,
We’re the most disturbed,
Like we’re psychologically disturbed.”
The teenager separated himself from the rest again. “Hear, hear. In the opinion of this court this child is depraved on account he ain’t had a normal home.”
Depp. “Hey, I’m depraved on account I’m deprived.”
The teenager. “So take him to a head shrinker.”
Depp. “My daddy beats my mommy,
My mommy clobbers me,
My grandpa is a commie,
My grandma pushes tea,
My sister wears a mustache,
My brother wears a dress.
Goodness, gracious, that’s why I’m a mess!”
Sparah stepped out as the psychiatrist. “Yes, Officer Krupke, you shouldn’t be here.
This boy don’t need a couch, just a good honest career.
Society’s played him a terrible trick,
And sociologically he’s sick!”
Depp. “I am sick!”
All. “We are sick, we are sick,
We are sick, sick, sick,
Like we’re sociologically sick!”
Another cast member stood apart from the rest. “In my opinion, this child don’t need to have his head shrunk at all. Juvenile delinquency is purely a social disease!”
Depp. “Hey, I got a social disease!”
Three of the young ones stood apart. The first, “So take him to a social worker.”
The second. “Which way?”
The third pointed. “That way.”
Depp. “Dear kindly social worker,
They tell me get a job,
Like be a soda jerker,
Which means I’ll be a slob,
It’s not I’m anti social,
It’s just I’m anti work.
Glory, I feel that’s why I’m a jerk!”
Sparah. “Eek, Officer Krupke, you’ve done it again,
This boy don’t need a job, he needs a year in the pen,
It ain’t just a question of misunderstood,
Deep down inside him, he’s no good!”
Depp. “I’m no good!”
All. “We’re no good, we’re no good,
We’re no earthly good,
Like the best of us is no damn good!”
Individuals repeatedly stood out to declare.
“The trouble is he’s crazy.”
“The trouble is he drinks.”
“The trouble is he’s lazy.”
“The trouble is he stinks.”
“The trouble is he’s growing.”
“The trouble is he’s grown!”
All. “Krupke, we got troubles of our own!
Gee Officer Krupke,
We’re down on our knees,
‘Cause no one wants a fellow with a social disease,
Gee, Officer Krupke
What are we to do?
Gee Officer Krupke,
With that we leapt to our feet and cheered, giving their united effort a standing ovation. And while they all patted themselves on their collective backs for a job well done, McGivitup joined our group, he was grinning from ear to ear.
“That was absolutely wonderful.” He beamed. “I doubt very much if any of these children will suffer from a social disease.”
Johnny Depp rejoined our company as we all thanked him profusely for having organised the impromptu show so professionally having only amateurs, most of whom were children, at his disposal.
“It was fun,” he said, “The son of a friend of mine recently performed that number when his school production for the year was West Side Story, I gave him a few tips on how to deliver the part and consequently got right into the song. So when you started talking about a lost generation it just seemed appropriate.”
“Yeah,” I replied, “but talking about lost generations. The western worlds lost generation isn’t the only one we’ve helped to create…”all eyes turned to me awaiting my meaning, “just take a look at Iraq. They came battered, bruised and exhausted out of the despots war against Iran, which lasted eight years, and only ended when…get this…when the Ayatollah Khomenie accepted a ceasefire because he realised that The United States of America had joined forces with the Iraqis!” There were one or two nods from those who were already in possession of the facts. “Then the poor oppressed, depressed and suppressed, ordinary Iraqis, who like us, only want the opportunity to live in peace with their neighbours, were afforded a few short months of relative peace before their insane dictator decided to invade Kuwait! And we all know where that ended up…the first Gulf War!” There were sombre nods all round as we remembered this recent history that was still ongoing. “A month into that war if you recall, Bush called on the Iraqi military ‘to rise up against their leader and the Iraqi people to take matters in their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to stand aside’. He strongly implied that they had American support. The Shia population who had suffered for years under Saddam Hussein’s Sunni regime didn’t need much encouragement, they rose up and were brilliantly successful taking fourteen of Iraq’s eighteen provinces. Then the Yanks let them down… Saddam Hussein and his murderous wreckers gained control of the territory again and those poor brave souls who had put their faith in the backing of the super power faced a massacre! Vast numbers of the Shia population were tortured and ultimately slaughtered because the White House betrayed them! And then, as if those poor people hadn’t already suffered enough, the western world initiated sanctions on an already impoverished people! Not only did they have to survive the terror of living under the shadow of the arse hole and the unhinged savages he’d spawned, who were obsessed with using torture to uphold their power, while they lorded it over the populace building tawdry palaces bedecked with gold trimmed opulence…but we punished them further by placing them under sanctions!” I was aware of my voice becoming shrill as the outrage I felt fell out in words. “Their economy collapsed big time. The state school system imploded. Doctors despaired as illness spiralled out of all control due to the lack of clean water, sewerage in the streets, dilapidated health facilities and the lack of medical supplies to treat even the most basic of diseases. Denis Halliday, the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Baghdad famously resigned after he called sanctions; ‘a totally bankrupt concept that probably strengthens the leadership and further weakens the people of the country…sanctions are starving to death 6,000 Iraqi infants every month, ignoring the human rights of ordinary Iraqis, and turning a whole generation against the West.’ He declared he no longer wanted to be a part of that before he walked! He was replaced by a respected German UN career diplomat Hans Von Sponeck. He too became disillusioned and spoke out before resigning in protest of economic sanctions. The head of the UN World Food Program in Iraq, Ms Jutta Burghardt followed him. They each went on to try to highlight the lesser known effects that economic restrictions imposed on Iraq. All computers requested for education had been put on hold as being ‘dual use’ for the military. The prostitution of young girls, previously unheard of in a Muslim country. Literature, they were starved of books, magazines, even fucking sheet music! Nothing from the outside world was allowed in. They were effectively cut off and left in ignorance to all the things that were happening outside the bubble that was their hell on earth!” I shook my head sadly. “God knows we owe those poor tormented people Big Time!”
“And then Bush and Blair rode rough shod over every opposition to declare war on them again!” Dave put in.
“And dear God, what a disgraceful, inhuman, sickening spectacle that was! They called it Shock and Awe. I called it an out and out fucking outrage. How dare two nations who call themselves ‘civilised?’ inflict such abominable horror on another nation?” I didn’t wait for an answer. “The people who orchestrated that invasion are little more than fucking cavemen! Short sighted deranged madmen hell bent on playing with the murderous toys they found themselves to be in possession of!”
“You swear a lot for a lady of a certain age!” Johnny Vegas addressed me, as he wobbled over to join our party, thereby catching the back end of my outpouring.
“Och, Constantine here swears like a trooper,” McGivitup put in, “I can bear witness to that.”
“What can I say…guilty as charged! But everyone has to have a release valve when our most powerful world leaders keep insisting on ratchetting up the pressure!” I pondered for a moment. “You know,” I looked at Vegas, “there was a time, when Saladin and Sparah were growing up, that I took offence at people using expletives in front of the kids…there were plenty of lads who copped for a cuddywifter round the lug hole off me for that very thing.”
“So what changed your attitude?” Vegas asked.
“Well, when I got to looking at all the duff guff that goes down in this sick old world, all the crap where those that shout the loudest about the wickedness and gross evil of certain words that get uttered, are more often than not the ones that scream…’murder the blasphemer!’ I mean, that really makes sense doesn’t it? Respond to a perceived sin by calling for an act of carnage!” I looked Vegas in the eye as the others, apart from McGivitup, nodded their agreement. Vegas’s brow was furrowed in puzzlement, he clearly didn’t understand where I was coming from.
“Have you ever read The Satanic Verses?” I asked him, as the light of comprehension flicked on behind his eyes.
“I couldn’t get into it to be honest.” He rasped.
My eyes twinkled mischievously as I grinned. “No, neither could I…and oh boy have I tried…several times over the years, to no avail. I’ve come to the conclusion that the Ayatollah Khomenie pulled a fast one there!”
“What do you mean?” Rotten piped up.
“Well when he issued the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, it caused such a furore that most of the western world went out and bought it to discover what all the fuss was about. Meanwhile the Muslims were building bonfires with it. Rushdie consequently made a fortune out of it…did the Ayatollah get a cut? And, as we now know, anyone daft enough to attempt to read it quickly loses the will to live! It’s the bloody book itself that should have fatwa written all over it, persevere from cover to cover and you’ll end up in a boredom induced coma!”
This brought laughter from the assembled company.
“Constantine, you are naughty!” The doc grinned.
“Yeah,” I smiled sadly back at him, “but how long do you suppose it’ll be before Bush and Blair find some shoddy excuse to rampage their way into Iran with their weapons of mass destruction firing in all directions?”
McGivitup fired me a look of abject horror. “Now your being ridiculous!”
Dave looked at him sagely. “I don’t think she is.”
“No neither do I.” Rotten interjected as Depp sadly shook his head in agreement.
“You mark my words,” I said, looking him in the eye, “it’s only a matter of time and the opportune excuse presenting itself and Iran with its religious leaders will become the next supposed demonic nation to be expunged! They’ll be in there at the drop of a hat, blasting the hell out of yet more innocent people! Laying waste to yet another nation!”
The doc was aghast. “Surely they wouldn’t dare, not after the movement of opposition they found themselves up against over the war on Iraq?”
“It wouldn’t matter how much opposition they were up against, they’d do what they always do,”
“Which is?” McGivitup asked.
“Anything they please!”
I shook my head sadly. “What must the ordinary people of the Middle East think of us westerners?” I carried on, not expecting an answer. “There’s little wonder the Mullah’s and the Imam’s denounce us as being ‘The Great Satan!'” I raised my eyebrows in contempt. “I mean, we Brits have acquired a world wide reputation for being drunken, licentious, debauched, spoilt, morally bankrupt degenerates whose football hooligans regularly invade other countries and become hell bent on carnage! And that’s without mentioning the Yanks who arrogantly swagger about the globe as if they own the place!”
“That’s a bit harsh!” McGivitup cut in as he eyed Depp with an embarrassed expression.
“Yeah sorry mate,” I looked at Depp, “I’m only making a generalisation as to how the outside world views us westerners. No offence to your good self or the many other decent people who make up your homeland but we on the outside rarely see.”
“That’s quite alright,” he cut in, “I’m well aware that there are those of my countrymen who…lack humility, shall we say.”
“I love the Brits, they are wickedly eccentric, generous to a fault and know how to laugh at themselves.” Rotten put in beaming, “it’s the fucking government I can’t stand!” And with that he leapt up and ran off to play with the kids.
“He’s right,” McGivitup put in, “the British are, at heart, a decent, generous and fair minded race, just look at how they responded to trying to stop this war.”
I grinned broadly. “Do you know, my heart swelled with pride the way kids abandoned school to make their protests heard…but that’s not the point I’m trying to make. For instance, generally, how do you suppose people in this country view the Iranians?”
“A fanatically religious people whose lives are ordered by Mullah’s and Imam’s.” Dave answered me. “Where punishment is harsh to the extreme and women are expected to wear the full Muslim veils and are treated like second class citizens.”
“Yeah,” I acknowledged, “I expect that about sums up an outsiders view of Iran.”
“I went to Tehran once.” Dave cut in. “It was during the Thatcher years. An Iranian colleague of mine had a brother who was dying from a brain tumour. He had been told it was inoperable. My colleague begged me to go and give a second opinion, so I did. And I’ve got to say, I found the people to be unselfishly generous. I was treated with kindness and respect throughout my stay…although , there was a moment when I felt totally exposed and intimidated. My colleague was showing me around his city, we were on foot, when a baying mob spilled out of a building screaming, chant-wise, ‘Marg bar Englistan!’ and ‘Marg bar Thatcher!’. I was told it translated as ‘Death to England!’ ‘Death to Thatcher!’ It was really quite scary! Apparently the building was where Friday prayers were being held, the subject of the sermon had been the iniquity of the British towards Iran, stretching back over the decades. The prospect of having to walk past these chest beating chanters of death was an extremely daunting one, especially being the only white face in a sea of brown faces. Then suddenly the crowd surged towards us, I recall my heart lurching in terror, when my colleague tapped one of the inflamed death chanters on the shoulder. A big turbaned man with a large bushy beard turned to look at us, ‘hello’ my colleague greeted him, ‘I would like you to meet my friend, he is from England.’ I was thunder struck, wishing I could disappear in a puff of smoke, but the response stunned me. The man bowed, took my hand and kissed it before saying, ‘you are very welcome in Iran sir, I hope you like our country.’, this happened another half a dozen times at least as we made our way through the crowd. I asked my colleague if he knew these people. He said they were all strangers to him. But he did go on to say that this was the way of the Iranians, whether it came from the Islamic tradition of treating strangers like guests, or whether it was the result of long centuries where Persian individuals had no voice over how they were governed, the people did not persecute an individual foreigner for something their government has done.”
“Did all the women wear burkhas?” I asked.
“On the streets they did. Although behind closed doors many, especially the young, favoured western clothes.”
“You know, it seems obvious to me, that burkhas are the traditional mode of dress purely to protect bodies from the harsh weather conditions that come with living in an arid sandy climate. It’s a tradition that was over time hijacked by overly jealous and possessive men who then instituted it into their religion as a means of keeping women subjugated to their will. It’s only a matter of time before the women throw off this archaic, allegedly, religious doctrine.”
“Do you think so?” Dave looked thoughtful.
“Well the ladies aren’t daft, they only carry on through fear of reprisal, but they know as well as we do that the clerics make it up as they go along. They use the name of God to keep women under the rulership of men! That is blasphemy in Gods eyes, I know. However, the young girls aren’t allowed to mix with the boys, but they are allowed to surf the net…you take a guess at what they get up to! These young people are yearning for freedom from their overly zealous religious rulers who only keep them subdued through fear.” I swept my gaze around our collected company. “But do you know what? The young in that country far out weighs the old Islamic rulers, the rulers who quickly threw into jail two respected pollsters who proved that around seventy five percent of Iranians desire rapprochement with ‘The Great Satan’ that is America. It’s only the handful of old hate infested, firebrand clerics that continually whip up hostility and violence, the young people of Iran aren’t stupid, they’ll see it, if they haven’t already. So it’s only a matter of time and courage on the part of the young, before women gain their freedom and the country as a whole seeks peace with the outside world.” I cast my arms wide and grinned, as if to say, it’s as easy as that. Then said as an afterthought with a frown. “That is as long as Bush and Blair don’t fuck it all up by going in all guns blazing and creating real hatred towards the west as opposed to a perceived one!”
We sat in silent contemplation for a few moments as the music continued to play at the other side of the camp. The kids had broken off into various groups to play differing games, their shrieks of laughter washed over us.
“This is what life should be like for all who inhabit earth,” Johnny Depp finally said, “happy, fun, peaceful and without fear or prejudice.”
“God willing it will be soon.” I said looking him in the eye earnestly.
And with that McGivitup rose to his feet.
“I think it’s about time we were on our way,” he said to Dave, “I planned on us getting back before dark, I think it’s a little late for that now.”
It was almost pitch black by that point.
“Shall I get one of the lads to call you a taxi?” I offered.
“No, we’ll manage thank you.” He said as he extracted a torch from his bag.
I stood up to see them on their way as the doc thrust his hand out to grab mine.
“Thank you very much for your hospitality Constantine, it’s a delightful little set up you’ve got here, the children obviously love it. It’s a pity about the rogue element…but I should have realised you have a creative way of dealing with most things. And as usual you’ve given us plenty of food for thought…but, just keep an eye on that boy and lay off the smokes and no more alcohol okay?”
“Yes sir!” I saluted him.
Dave relayed his thanks and goodbyes and then they were gone.
The rest of us went on to enjoy a magical night of games, dancing, music and story telling round the camp fire. The rogue element as the doc referred to them, woke up the wounded one and headed off home. And like I said, they became good lads who often joined in our following gatherings. They even made an effort to make amends for their former misbehaviour by doing chores for people.
Then, even though every last one of us fell exhausted into our respective tents, we were still up with the larks to greet the seals on the beach the following morning. Then after a hearty breakfast, we all went our separate ways, but only after the celebs had given heartfelt thanks for an enchanting evening. And Johnny Lydon, having got a taste for the great outdoors, moved on to bigger things!