Nana Nana 19

This week I broke off from not writing the novel of the year and got chatting to a chap in his 70’s who used to ride very high-powered motorcycles all over Cumbria.

This week I broke off from not writing the novel of the year and got chatting to a chap in his 70’s who used to ride very high-powered motorcycles all over Cumbria.

One summer in the 1980s, in a foolhardy attempt to impress a new love interest, he took her out for a quiet Sunday run.

Hitting a personal best of 135 mph on one stretch of road, when they stopped, his pillion passenger got off the back and said: ‘I don’t know whether I’ve just wet myself or had a multiple orgasm.’

It’s not a complaint I’ve ever heard on a first date.

The fastest motorcycle I’ve ever ridden was a rent-a-hairdryer on the Greek island of Crete.

On our first holiday abroad without parents, myself and a friend hired scooters and fearlessly flogged them up and down the stunning E75 coastal road.

That was 31 years ago now, but rave on Ag Nik 91.

We never gave much thought to helmets and while my memory is hazy, I recall that every mosquito-infested taverna we passed along the shady portside bars of Aghios Nikolaos seemed to be stomping to the Euro Discopop of Heavy D’s Now That We Found Love.

I never found love as I was 19-years-old and more interested in finding an air-conditioned room for the night, ideally with a young woman in it.

Looking back, we were just fortunate to find Greece.

Due to a pile-up on the M6, we missed the plane out of Manchester Airport which incurred the wrath of the big sister who was working out of Ag Nik as a holiday rep and had expected us off the flight and had held the coach transfer for us – much to the ire of her passengers.

We consoled ourselves sitting on our cases in Manchester, swigging Duty Free Bacardi before catching a late-night flight to Athens where we arrived in the early hours.

There, my cousin negotiated an internal transfer flight out to Crete’s Heraklion airport, where we chinked glasses of Bucks Fizz at dawn as sunlight filled the cabin.

Having landed, we then lost a Drachma argument with a rip-off taxi driver and finally staggered into our blistering resort 19 and half hours late – half broke, hungry and hungover – to be met by the Mother of all Bollockings.

The big sister was only 24 herself and she spent the rest of the fortnight openly and loudly introducing us to all her friends as: ‘The Malakas’ before ordering us to down terribly tall glasses of straight Ouzo by way of recompense for frying her nerves.

I’ve hated Ouzo ever since.

But back to my old biker friend. As he told me his tale of his long-gone pillion passenger, the bright headlights of the past appeared briefly in his eyes before they quickly dimmed again.

All I could wonder was what became of his female pillion passenger?

Did she go on to settle down with a reliable Mr Right? The kind of sensible upright fella who obeyed all his speed limits and spent his Sundays revving nothing more powerful than a lawnmower?

Sadly, dear reader, we shall never know, but the story of a lost love, and the horrific news and scenes out of Ukraine this week, brought to mind two songs by Elvis Costello.

Oliver’s Army (1979), followed later by A Good Year For The Roses (1981).

Back in 1984, there was a large anti-Trident demonstration in Barrow-in-Furness which featured a mass die-in on Michaelson Road Bridge.

The late Mam dragged the 12-year-old me along.

After it was over, a rumour went round that Elvis Costello was heading to Barrovia to put on a benefit gig and there was a mass exodus to a local club where his songs were played on repeat.

As the parents swilled cold lagers and limes all afternoon, me and a gang of other urchins kicked a popped football around Forshaw Street to act as lookouts.

Not only did Elvis never leave the building, he never entered it.

Why doesn’t the pop world still produce musicians who write profound and popular anti-war songs? Where’s a Paul Hardcastle when you need one?

Are they all too busy counting their followers, updating their Instagrams and cultivating their best duck face?

I suppose the bean counters in charge of creative output can’t be certain there’s enough moolah in it.

A good anti-war song that takes hold can be as effective as any missile in winning hearts and minds in the propaganda war.

But we will need a lot more than music in our locker to stop ‘Sadimir’ than cancelling his pin numbers or locking him out of internet banking.

What’s next, a mass bombardment of MI5 stinger pronouns? Powerless to do anything, I shall be imposing my own humble economic sanction of boycotting Smirnoff.

And please God, can I be 19 again.

Ideally driving a moped around the cicada-chirping countryside of Crete, blissfully oblivious to everything save the next girl walking by in a spaghetti string bikini.

*RIP to Gary Brooker of Procul Harum.

Butchelor Pad

After all that snivelling on New Tears Day things seem to be looking up because as you read this I am now the proud new renter of a one-bed “Butchelor” pad.

After all that snivelling on New Tears Day things seem to be looking up because as you read this I am now the proud new renter of a one-bed “Butchelor” pad.

It is accessed up a very steep flight of 13 steps and yet the nearest pub is only 20 from my front door so what could possibly go wrong?

There’s a Chinese takeaway only a short “wok” away and my lofty perch at the rear commands stunning views over next door’s wheelie bins and a frozen car park.

To toast my good fortune, I called in at my new local and a sign on the wall immediately caught my eye.

“If you didn’t drink, how would you let people know you love them at 2am?”

And do you know that within seconds of my sitting down by the blazing fire with a cold one, a bloke got up and put the following three songs on the jukebox.

Rod Stewart’s 1972 You Wear It Well – a personal favourite – followed by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel’s Come Up & See Me (Make Me Smile) (1975).

A former editor of mine was a massive Steve Harley fan and I have always found that Come Up and See Me goes down well with pints of bitter.

Last of the three plays for £1 on the jukebox by our hero was Mr Tambourine Man by The Byrds (1965).

It was the curtain-closer at are mam’s cremation three years ago this month, except her version was Bob Dylan’s. We carried her in on Paul Simon’s Graceland (1986) and she departed to Dylan.

And I was reminded this week that she always had a thing about coming back as a robin, because on three consecutive days a big fat one hopped to within six feet of me in the sister’s backyard to size me up.

I’ve offered bread but it didn’t seem bothered. Maybe it wants a light?

This string of coincidences all struck me as very positive omens and even if they aren’t, I have to say that finding a jukebox these days with those three songs still on it, has to be as good a way of spending a quid that I can think of in 2022.

You see, most modern music leaves me cold and I wouldn’t walk to the end of next door’s wheelie bins to see most of them.

Those marvellous musical eccentrics that made the UK charts so varied and interesting all seem to have disappeared now.

Renee and Renato – 40-years ago this year – wouldn’t happen now – although that’s not entirely a loss, but nor would Captain Sensible, Bad Manners or Toyah.

Earlier this week, I had to break the news to the big sister that I was moving out. I interrupted her as she was playing Trivial Pursuit with my malnourished nephew, Tom, aged 20.

Tom set a personal best this Christmas by eating three whole selection boxes in one sitting. Until he materialised mid-afternoon and confessed, her three semi-feral hounds had all been in the dog house.

But three selection boxes is still some way short of the record set by his older brother Jack.

Legend has it that Jack polished off five chicken breasts in one night and left the family without a meal, and in my book that’s the kill-rate of a werewolf.

And speaking of all things lunar, I arrived back at the big sister’s to break the news – just as she asked the question: “Where did the Great Fire of London start?”

“London,” I said, closing the front door.

On hearing I was off, I could tell she was privately devastated but putting on a brave face as she choked on her warm tears.

Why else would she demand I open a long-chilled magnum of Asti Spumante and then personally embark on an enthusiastic start of all my packing?

And speaking of the Great Fire of London, did you know that axes were used to help put it out?

It’s true.

It wouldn’t be the first thing I would grab in an inferno but I suppose a lot of the buildings were wooden in 1666.

But I have nothing to fear from fires because the big sis also then did a Tarot card reading for me and the gods are saying that financial success and romance are all on the cards for me this year, she insists.

Emboldened by my rare turn of luck, I dropped a line to a female friend of old who regularly enjoys telling me that she is a Strong Independent Woman.

Given the angle of my new staircase, I could do with a Strong Independent Woman to help with all those boxes, so I suggested that she start 2022 by downsizing to a Weak Co-Dependent Man.

Strong Independent Woman has been down in the dumps recently so to cheer her up I thought about buying her a big bunch of flowers.

But then that got me thinking about that old advert for Impulse bodyspray.

When a man you’ve never met before suddenly gives you flowers, isn’t it time to reach for the CS gas and then report it as a non-crime hate incident?

So as you read this, you find me up to my neck in cardboard boxes.

Failing that at weekends I will be in my new local with pound coins burning a hole in my pocket.

That is until the Strong Independent Woman decides to come up and see me and make me smile.