Do The Wrong Thing

One year ago tomorrow, I was admitted to hospital. This led to some posts where I tried to wring as much humour as I could from the sitution. This, combined with my more recent story about how I accidentally exposed my arse in a local convenience store, and as the dark nights are drawing in, led me to decide to share some more embarassing moments from the file marked “Oh, Jeremy…”

As a bit of a back-story by way of an introduction: years ago, when I still lived in Cardiff, I was out one night with a now ex-girlfriend and her friends. She was off dancing, and one of her friends shuffled along the seats towards me.

“Can I just say that you seem really nice, we all really like you and approve of you being with XXXX…” – I was quite pleased and surprised by this, for we all know that the hardest thing about a burgeoning relationship is convincing your new partner’s closest friends that you’re not an utter scumbag “…but,” she continued, “you’re your age and single, never married, no kids, so I guess what I want to know…”

It dawned on me, too late that, that wasn’t really going to be one of those “Gosh you’re so great” conversations, she was going somewhere with it and that somewhere involved a question I probably wasn’t going to like very much. I glanced around for an escape route, but found none.

“….is,” she continued, “what exactly is wrong with you….?”

“Well, if I knew that…” I said, allowing the sentence to tail off mysteriously, to become a semi-sentence, punctuating it with a shrug and a bemused smile.

I was pretty pleased with the way I dodged that particular bullet, having turned her question into a rhetorical one without her having any say in the matter. Then, just to let her know that particular thread could be pulled at no further, I quickly stood and added, “It’s my round, what are you drinking?”

Truth be told, I did know how that sentence ended. I knew what “that” was. It was my propensity to say or do something so ludicrously inappropriate as to ensure a second date would definitely not happen.

So. Here we go. Mum, Dad: here come the reasons there have been no grandchildren from my branch of the family tree.

Episode one (of too many).

I am out with some friends in Cardiff. They’re people I know pretty well, because they work and drink in my local pub; when they were working then I was generally sitting at the bar chatting to them, and often when they finished their shift they would join me. Let’s say that we gravitated towards each other, found the company perfectly agreeable, and so it went on.

The upshot of this is that I didn’t really know the people on the peripherals, the ones who only came into their orbit every now and then.

And so it was that I found myself in a different bar with these pub friends and a couple of other people that I didn’t know at all, but who, social chameleon that I am, I got on with.

As it happens, I was getting on with one lady in particular, who I quite fancied, and I thought I was getting reciprocal good vibes back from. I’ll not divulge her name, not for any ‘protecting the innocent’ reason, but because this many years after the event, I simply can’t remember it. Which sounds outrageous, but it isn’t: I’m pretty sure my brain has blocked me from recalling it, just in case.

So we’re sitting chatting, getting on very well, and all my friends are doing that thing where they flash you knowing looks from out of her line of vision every now and again.

We do the whole chit-chat thing – Are you from round here? What do you do for a living? Any brothers/sisters? You know the kind of thing – and this lady offers me these words in response to one of those questions:

“I’m a police officer.”

Now I thought I did quite a good job of disguising the startled look on my face, but she picked up on it.

“Don’t worry, I haven’t got my tazer gun with me tonight!” she breezed cheerily.

I afforded a smile, because that wasn’t what I was thinking. No, what I was thinking was that I must be carful not to inadvertently use any uncomplimentary references to the police as being The Pigs, The Filth, The Scum, or whatever.

Not that they are terms I would use under normal circumstances, but when you find yourself in a situation where you really shouldn’t say something, in my experience the temptation to do the exact opposite becomes almost irrisistable.

Tourette’s Syndrome is a condition with many levels, one of which is the inability to resist saying the most inappropriate thing in moments of social awkwardness. Often I think I have a much milder version, where the inappropriate thing pops into my head, but I just about manage to stop myself from blurting it out.

And resist I did; on this occasion I disguised my condition by telling her she certainly didn’t look like a police officer – meant as a compliment, and, I think, taken as one – but asked if it was okay to imagine her in the uniform. Flirting, I think it’s called, if a little over the line marked “Cheesy”. Ok, along way over.

This large slice of fromage didn’t deter her, and we chatted on for quite a while, to the point where we were practically separate from the rest of the group, not engaging with them at all, just engrossed in each other. We became such a satellite of the main group that we started up our own round of drinks, just me and her.

After a while, I had to excuse myself and visit the Gents. And that’s where things began to unravel.

I may have mentioned this before, but when I reach a certain level of pissed-ness – and I’ve always figured it was my body’s way of telling me to slow down – I sneeze.

Thirteen times.

In a row.

And my sneezes are not your discreet a-tish-oo-s but a loud blunderbus of an expulsion

I had made it known to some of my buddies that this is something that happens to me, hoping to generate some sympathy by embellishing it with the phrase “allergic to alcohol”, but instead their reaction was often to start betting on how many times I would sneeze this time.

On one night out, with a different group of friends, a sneezing fit commenced and they started putting money down. When the sneezes fizzled out after five or six, a pepper shaker was commandeered by whoever had bet on 13 being the winning number, and a line was chopped out on the table in front of me, which I duly snorted.

To no effect.

Except the next morning, I woke up with a woozy head, wondering why my nose felt like it was on fire.

But not this time, for this time I was in the Gents when the sneeze-fit struck. So I should be okay, right? Just stay in there until the phase had passed.

Except….one of the sneezes was so head-joltingly violent, that my glasses flew off and smashed on the floor.

I picked them up and, in between the involuntary spasms which continued, I examined them. Nope, they were beyond temporary repair.

I returned to a slightly blurrier bar, and to my seat. The young lady to whom I had provided such irresistably engaging company before my visit noticed the difference in my appearance, and asked what had happened to my glasses. I explained and we laughed it off. Result, thought I. Hurdle succesfully negotiated.

And then she asked me this: “And do I still look good without your glasses on?”

And before I had chance to properly engage my brain, I heard myself say the following words:

“Oh no. You still look like a pig to me.”

We all left the bar shortly afterwards; in the interim we didn’t exchange a single word, and I don’t really think I can put that down to her not fancying me without my glasses on.

I never saw her again, even when I got a new pair of glasses.

The Lemonheads (feat. Liv Tyler) – Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye

Sadly, more soon.

Just Use One Finger

I don’t know what it is – the sheer simplicity of it, or the audacity to be able to carry it off – but whilst I of course admire those who are proficient at their instrument of choice, so too do I love a tune where the performer obstinantly sticks to playing just one note, or as close to it as is possible.

Give me Pete Shelley shouting “Tricky guitar solo!” as he launches into the three note epic that is the guitar break in What Do I Get? over the tedious teeth-grinding fret-wank of, say, Yngwie Malmsteen (his name was lodged in my noggin for some reason; I had to look him up, so its fine for you to do the same, but I think my description of his talents is pretty accurate so you don’t really need to) any day of the week.

A case in point: I bloody love this, partly because it’s a much over-looked, cracking bit of indie pop, but mostly because whoever it is that’s playing the keyboard refuses to involve anything other than the most basic number of keys:

The Soup Dragons – Head Gone Astray

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Regular readers may recall that my very lovely and generous group of friends gave me a whole hunka credits at Ticketmaster for my birthday, and I’m pleased to announce I’m slowly, steadily, chipping away at that monumental total.

So far, I’ve bought tickets for two gigs, and annoyingly missed out on one: The Pretenders are supporting Suede at a one-off gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in November, which is a dream line-up for me – but I wasn’t quick enough out of the blocks to get a ticket.

Instead, I have bought tickets for two gigs: one – and I know this will irk at least one of my blogging buddies – is for The Wonder Stuff, at the same venue, in December.

Now, I’ll be honest, under normal circumstances I would not consider going to see them, since they haven’t released anything of any worth since 1993, but they’re peforming both their debut album The Eight Legged Groove Machine (which I love and holds many happy memories for me) and the follow-up Hup (which I’m less fond of, but it’s not as bad as their next album, Never Loved Elvis, which I actively dislike and which thankfully is not getting an airing at said gig.) As long as they don’t start putting violins all over the performance of the first album, then I’m sure to have a great night.

But why am I wanging on about The Wonder Stuff here, where a Country record traditionally lives, I hear you yawn.

Well, because the other gig I’ve bought a ticket for is to go see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at the O2 next May, which I’m sure you’ll agree is much cooler.

So, to mark that, here’s one man in black – Johnny Cash – covering another – Nick Cave – on the third of his peerless American Recordings albums.

It was Llŷr who first played this to me, part of a DJ set by Erol Alkan – I think (I’m pretty sure, but I’ve never tracked a copy down, and when I asked Alkan via Twitter his response was an equally vague “I think I did….”). At the time I wasn’t familiar with the Cave version, and the lyrical content stunned and blew me away. It was my first step on the road to discovering the immense body of work that Nick Cave has created, some of which will be cropping up on these pages again pretty soon.

Johnny Cash – The Mercy Seat

More soon.

Keeping It Peel

I deserve to have my blogging wings clipped, for yet again I have missed the anniversary of the great man’s sad passing.

There’s very few famous people, and even fewer Radio 1 DJs, whose sudden departure from this mortal coil has stunned and upset me as when I got the news fifteen years (and one day – clip me!) ago that John Peel had died.

Just like people know where they were when JFK was assasinated, I remember where I was when I heard the news. It’s not exciting or unusual, for I was sitting at my desk in the office where I worked. But I also remember a Mexican wave of muttering shock and sadness heading towards me, rolling over and engulfing me as I heard the words “John Peel’s died”. I clicked Google open and there it was, confirmed.

I had to go out for some air. And probably (actually, definitely) a cigarette.

I don’t understand why it is that the good ones, the ones who make our lives richer, are taken from us sooner than they should have been. The last few years has been littered with them: Victoria Wood, Prince, Caroline Aherne, Bowie…this list could go on and on and on. As do those we could do without: Johnson, Gove, Rees-Mogg, Farage, Morrissey – why are they still here and the honourable, decent ones are not?

Anyway, I’ve had this up my sleeve for a while; it’s not a record that I physically own, because the only person who did own it was Peel himself.

But…oh, why don’t I let the great man explain it himself?

Half Man Half Biscuit – A Legend in My Time

More soon.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #21

I’ll be honest, I have been devoid of inspiration for a while, hence the sporadic posts.

But here’s something which popped up on my iPlayer earlier yesterday, as I rode the bus into work, which practically made me yelp with excitement.

Which drew some funny looks from fellow travellers, but I think the majority of them are getting used to my strangled emissions by now.

Anyway, here’s a tune which further endorses my theory that any song which contains either hand-claps, finger-clicks or…um…lippy whistles is almost always a magnificently cheerful one:

Super Furry Animals – Play It Cool

And if that doesn’t get your weekend off to a cracking start, then nothing will.

More soon.

Billy’s Uncle

For my sins, given how badly they’ve played so far this season, I’m off to watch Tottenham in the Champions League.

Ordinarily, a football related post would most appropriately be accomanied by a tune by Half Man Half Biscuit, who have a wealth of footie-related references spattered all over their back catalogue.

But not today.

For tonight’s opponents – Red Star Belgrade – bring one particular song to mind, and a rhyming couplet which I’ve not been able to get out of my head since I got a DM on Twitter from my old mate Richie asking me if I wanted to go.

This one:

Billy Bragg – Sexuality

More soon.