Grapes and Wrath

The "Happy Mondays" club is the kind of place where you pay GBP5 to walk in the door, specially reduced to GBP3 if you have a crumpled ticket to show you know the band, and get a red rubber stamp on your hand to show you've paid.

You can then listen to the live music, dance, smoke, snog, play "fetch" games with the whippet, and most importantly drink until you're horizontal - and then drink some more. The bar has one kind of beer and half a dozen spirits, all endlessly plentiful, and is half the price (or less) of a pub.

At one end of the hall, a small stage with big amplifiers. At the other, 50+ teenagers in baggy fake-faded jeans and a haze of rolled cigarette smoke, eyes glazed with alcohol, talking about what teenagers talk about - mostly which of them has started or stopped going out with which others. Some of them are also the live bands.

I didn't see the first band, who were apparently a thrash metal act called Hung Up. The second were The Dying Days and I honestly can't remember anything about them. Then Bodygurn came on and played their eclectic blend of jazz, funk, rock and reggae, sounds mostly hailing from the 70s.

Tom on rhythm guitar and vocals also went 70s for the evening, with Village People moustache, motorcycle cop shades and moptop hairdo. Matt on drums went for the blond-surfer-with-Hawaiian-shirt look. I'm never sure whether Craig on bass owns 25 identical stripy teeshirts...or just one that never needs cleaning.

I finally met his friend Lizzy, who dressed and danced like a gypsy waif, and has the devil-may-care attitude of the committed but sophisticated hedonist.

Bodygurn were actually very good, and the audience appreciated them - no other band got asked for an encore. If they could be bothered to do proper promotion or get organised enough to record an album, I think they could get a professional deal.

Afterwards, I helped pack up the instruments and carry them to the car. We stopped to pick up beer, whisky, kebabs and pizza, and headed for Matt's home for a traditional working-class Friday night in. Junk food and booze, bitching and innuendo, clustered around a table with a varied selection of mp3s pumping from the computer in the corner.

At some point, Lizzy drank one glass too many, and the whole mood changed. She somehow took offence at something someone said, then took offence at everything everyone said, and stormed out screaming and shouting insults, knocking over or throwing whatever she could find. I'm not sure how someone could make stamping out of the front door last half an hour, but she managed it.

Perhaps there's a fine line between uninhibited fun epicure and unhinged mad alleycat - in any case she bulldozed right across it.

She left with her quiet female friend in tow, Craig left to ferry her home because she was to pissed to walk, Matt's girlfriend and her friend went to bed, and Matt collapsed on the sofa and slept. Leaving Tom and me to top up our blood ethanol levels, and have the kind of heart-to-heart conversation only enjoyed by those who've trusted each other implicitly for years - or, as in this case, those who have emptied a litre of expensive whisky between them.

There is possibly one time in my life I was drunker than that night after the gig - and that other occasion involved two litres of vodka, a carpet pulled up from the floor, and me sucking a social worker's toes while his girlfriend slept on his lap. However, on this occasion, after Tom went to sleep, the world simply didn't stop spinning for the next four hours.

I remember thumping techno music the whole time from the floor above - apparently populated by 24-hour party animals with either no sense of other people's space, or no sense of hearing. I couldn't stand up, and remember crawling slowly towards the door, though I'm not sure why. Apparently I made it to the door, and slept on the threshold.

Next morning - well, next afternoon actually - I had nothing to deal with except a hangover, and a very long phone call from Paul T about how he's depressed because no one wants to be his friend - perhaps it's because it just doesn't click in his mind that moaning for an hour at someone with a sore head is, just slightly, an imposition.

Back home, my parents complained that I'd left them alone for 18 hours - not the kind of thing a dutiful son does. It's an interesting attitude, because they don't want me living here at all. Anyway, at least Dino was pleased to see me.


  1. ... Well Captain, if you really want to provoke your parents, I think you really should repeat the 18-hour absence more often... One of these days you'd find yourself in the streets. Not such a nice idea, is it? But what can you really do when some expensive whiskey just gets in your way, huh?
    Have a better Sunday! (I guess...)

  2. They want me to have my own life, seperate from them. But they also don't want me to leave.

    They want me to live somewhere else, but somewhere nearby, preferably in a place they own, so I would still be living in their control.

    They don't need me to take care of them - they do a good job of that themselves.

    In my teens, they threatened several times to throw me out onto the streets - not exactly because I was gay, but because I refused to be ashamed of being gay.

    They wanted me to hide it and get "therapy" for it. I treated their demands with contempt, and they tried to get me into psychotherapy for that.

    Last year, they seriosuly considered getting me committed to an insane asylum, because in a series of trivial arguments about political history, I embarassed them by knowing more than them.

    There was no way any psychiatrist would commit me for them, but they didn't know that.

    I did not drink any alcohol at all until I was 24. My parents wanted to protect me from the outside world, so from earliest childhood they tried to prevent me having close friends, learning about sex, or drinking.

    My relationship with my parents is...complex. They're not bad people - they're just rather silly people. But I never said I was a good person.

  3. Congratulations, Captain, on this marvellous text! It could easily be a rather good post.
    Protecting their offspring is what all parents do, better or worse. But we all know some do exaggerate a lot...
    One of the best sentences I've read in recent times that seems to say a lot about you is: «they threatened several times to throw me out onto the streets - not exactly because I was gay, but because I refused to be ashamed of being gay.» On the other hand, you must have suffered a bit by doing so, I'd say. In a certain way you remind me of my best friend - he was a philosophy teacher, by the way... He was also very daring, in a quite intelligent sort of way.

    (Did you know this American administration decided it wouldn't be «advisable» to celebrate the Centenary of John Steinbeck?... Oh man, I got so furious when I read such a piece of sh...t!)