Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Head to head.

For the first time, I had Linda to myself, as Hayley kissed the face off Ste, leaning and writhing all over the bar like some cheap straight-to-video "erotic thriller". The staff and customers didn't bat an eyelid, they were seasoned to such behaviour.

Indeed, many people in the place seemed to have coupled up, as the banging music, cheap alcohol and general feel-good atmosphere got under skins and lowered inhibitions. It didn't matter that the music was mostly middle-of-the-road bile - The volume and familiarity was too overpowering to resist.

I found myself dancing - well - shuffling-lamely-foot-to-foot - would be a more accurate description.

It must have been the booze.

Linda was up close to me, hands lightly resting on my waist.

The brief snarl with Ste was soon forgotten to me. It was more my own selfish frustration with his relatively late appearance to absorb Hayley's irritation of me that had bubbled over, rather than what he had said. Perhaps I had overreacted somewhat. It wasn't in my nature to be aggressive.

I just got quickly tired of smart-arse people who in actuality, had nowhere near the level of intelligence, passion and character I possessed.

Not a boast, mind.

A statement of will and self-belief.

It must have been the booze.

I switched my attention back to Linda, rocking gently against me with an enigmatic, Mona-Lisa smile on her face. I'd waited so long to express myself, I'd run so many different approaches and questions through my head in the past. But now, despite the lager running through my veins, I was struggling.

"Funny how things turn out...innit?" was about all I could offer.

"Certainly is.... Remind me, how exactly did we split up in the first place?" she replied, the slightest hint of sarcasm in her voice.

I winced when I thought about it. It was really originally down to me and my own stupidity.

I felt I should keep it stark, honest. There way no other way.

"Yeah...that's it. That particular weekend, I was skint, remember? And the the Matthew Street Festival was on...And I couldn't afford to go out. And I remember calling you to tell you that and you were so disappointed.....But at the last minute Peter lent me £20 and I went out with a few of the lads...But I didn't call you to arrange to meet up...So quite rightly you were fuming with me when you found out....And things just sorta broke down between us..."

She raised an eyebrow expectantly.

Something vital was missing.

"Listen, I'm so sorry Linda. I was acting like a dickhead, I admit, totally. I should have treated you so much better than that, it was out of order of me to do that to you - to lie, I mean. But that was nearly 5 years ago and I'm different now.....I've matured.."

Her frown dropped and she smiled once again. Perhaps I had convinced her.

"Was that so hard to say?" she simply said.

"Well yeah.....and no. It was easy for me to admit I was wrong...but waiting so long to say it to you face-to-face was hard work, you know?"

"I know.... It's always tough, breaking up...Never easy is it? But I can see that people can change.."

The simplicity of what she said rang true, that was for sure. It made me want her back even more.

I'd missed being on the level with someone. The train-wreck relationships of the past still haunted me. Another shot at the title with Linda would be worth working hard for.

It seemed that if there was ever the right time to say it, it should have been there and then, in a good mood.

"Not planning on going anywhere else tonight...are you?"

She took her face away from my chest and glanced up at me, her eyes sharpening.

"Wasn't planning on it...why?"

I squeezed her waist and pulled her back close to me.

"It's just...If you fancy we could go to mine...my flat likes..."

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A real eye-opener (only when you're bevvied).

The Rubber Soul.

Not on my "favorite bar list" in Liverpool city centre.

It always struck me as somehow cheap and trashy, no grimy charm to the place.

Not like Flanagan's or The Grapes, where the Beatles used to have a pint before and after gigs.

Or even Lennon's Bar, with it's dank, damp, moody staircase and overpowering smell of stale ale. Even though it was more commercial than a street hawker, Lennon's had a "dirty-old-town" feel to it that was impossible to knock when you were crammed in there singing oldies surrounded by your mates and tidy female out-of-towners.

Rubber Soul just seemed like a piss-heads bar to me. No real hook to draw me in. Maybe I was deaf/blind, but no-one seemed to sing it's praises like they did of the other venues on Matthew Street.

It was surprisingly upbeat walking into there after the girls, though. The two Incredible Hulk look-a-likes even smiled - to a degree - and muttered an "Allitte lad?" as I passed them.

This was different.

The dreaded tourist trade didn't matter once I rolled through the front door of that place.

There were no tacky t-shirts, postcards or posters on sale. It seemed to be totally populated by locals, no foreigners were evident, even amongst the hundreds of people who had piled in straight from the races..

Which was a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, there were lads just like myself, out on a jolly, no cares in the world, fuck-it-lets-get-wasted-and-dance-to-the-music that when we wake up, we'll rub our heads and call our mates and laugh about it.

On the other, there were the middle-aged fellows in cheap St. John's Market imitation leather jackets who'd had an early argument with their other halves, larily scanning the faces around the packed bar, an invisible de-militarized zone around them. Should any drunken reveller be unfortunate enough to stray into that body-space, they would have a serious straightener on their hands, despite the gorillas guarding the doors.

Thankfully, people seemed to pick up on that very possible threat with that strange shared sense of: "pretend that a snarling bruiser isn't actually in the room, whether he's looking at you or not".

A respectable distance was observed by all, no matter how much booze they had ingested.

I wriggled through the crowds to the bar to spot Linda, who was standing expectantly, waving me over. Alongside her was Hayley, who was drunkenly draped over a young guy in a grey suit, his back turned to me.

"Wharra yer 'avin?" slurred Hayley, turning to face me with a conspiratorial smile.

"You sure? I mean...I got dollar, like..."

"Nah, its allittte....STE'S payyinn.." She squealed with dirty laughter as her grabbed her ass and planted rough kisses on her neck.

I had to tap her male escort on the shoulder to acknowledge him properley. He turned to me slowly, a drug-induced smile painted onto his Cheshire-Cat features.

"Wasssappenin lad? Aahmm....STE. Whatsyername...Whatyeravvinn?"

Even though I could feel the effects of the booze kicking in, I had to remain reserved. Not in the defensive sense mind, just to be cordial.

"Yeah...pleased to meetcha.. Fred...." I offered my right hand out, which he shook with a lazy, limp manner.

"Bread?" he blurted, giggling to Hayley, who fawningly looked upon him like he was the golden Buddha, such was her attraction to him.

There was a sudden tap on the top of my head.

"Shit attracts shit. Remember that".

"Maintain your stance, my boy".

Thanks, Little-demon-on-the-shoulder. I should really pay attention to you more.


He jolted back somewhat, perhaps shocked I was so blunt with him. I could see he was no fighter. Not that I classed myself as one.

But for a moment, an unspoken understanding flashed between us.

He knew not to fuck with me verbally. And I'd had too many stupid school playground fights to do so.

I felt no fear.

I could see why the likes of Hayley had latched onto him. He was tall, well-dressed and docile. She would definitely call the shots between them.

Me - despite Linda now pulling my arm, trying to draw me away - I instinctively knew I could take this whopper down. Not even through fists or feet.

Words and observational skills would be enough.....

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Hittin' town.

We made our way out from the Hogshead, crossing over to the top end of Matthew Street, passing a long chain of black taxis that were disgorging dozens of drunken revellers, all in their suits and dresses. They must have made their way from the race-course as well, and would soon join the many more thousands of people who were circulating like an angry-migrant ant-colony around the city centre.

I somehow automatically,

- pulled Linda closer to me.

She reacted with a pleasingly relaxed, lazy physical looseness and a slow, inviting giggle.

Sometimes I wanna wrap my coat around you
Sometimes I wanna keep you warm
Sometimes I wanna wrap my coat around you
Sometimes I wanna burn a candle for you.

We reached the entrance to Matthew Street, which was crammed with a dizzying amount of faces and the audible hum of human anticipation that I hadn't witnessed first-hand for a long time...Well, perhaps the closest example was at the build up to the match, but that was totally different in a way....but you get the picture.

Hen parties in "naughty nurse" outfits, stag nights in super-hero costumes, toothless tramps begging for spare 20P's, street buskers being bullied into playing Oasis and Paul Weller songs by gangs of suited and booted young lads, angry-looking bouncers who looked twitchy, ready to swipe a vicious gold-decked fist out at anyone who gave them a snide-sideways glance - all vied to squeeze through this bottleneck.

It was madness.

But it was also in a weird way exciting, which surprised my jaded mind.

“Watching television is like taking black spray paint to your third eye.” You should learn to lighten up and smile more.....

I hadn't had a good night out for ages...I was smiling, both internally and on the outside, wearing the kind of grin you only get when you get a flash-back to a ridiculously funny moment amongst mates you witnessed in the past, you can't really verbalise or act it out to someone who wasn't there...Yet you still can't suppress when you're on the street and recall it, laughing uncontrollably......

Does that make me crazy?

No, it makes you ALIVE.

You only got 75 years on this ball of rock, maximum.


"This is shaping up to be a fantastic result, given the personal injuries and trauma the boy's been through. We always knew his form would improve, he just needed a lucky break. We have the utmost confidence in him, and never doubted his ability"......

I can almost hear the imaginary manager's words, I thought as I looked to my side and saw Linda smirking back at me, feeling her presence against my side. I squeezed her waist and she responded likewise.

Ev'rybody had a hard year.
Ev'rybody had a good time.
Ev'rybody had a wet dream.
Ev'rybody saw the sunshine.
Oh yeah, Oh yeah. Oh Yeah.

A bunch of Japanese and American tourists frantically snapped away with their cameras at the John Lennon statue outside the Cavern pub, seemingly immune to the crowds pushing and shoving them out of the way, so strong was their interest.

Kind of freaked you out to see foreign people display such obsessive observation and pious reverence towards something you walked blindly past most working or weekend days.
Still, I supposed I'd be the same if I visited somewhere on other shores that held my absolute attention.

I found myself with a huge, heavy-lensed professional-looking camera being unexpectedly thrust into my hand, a tanned middle-aged fellow with a wild Hawaiian beach shirt and baseball cap on patting me heartily on the shoulder.

"Say, buddy, how're ya? We're from Iowa, USA... Could ya be a sport and get a snap of me and mah wife by that there statue of Mister Len-non? The "GO" but-ton is right there on the top of that sucker..."

"Yeah...Ok, no problems mate" I mumbled, gesturing him over to his wife, who already stood back tightly embracing the statue, as if it were Christ himself on the cross.

I fumbled with the camera for a moment, positioning them both in the viewfinder and trying to avoid the scores of people marching past until it clicked in a satisfactorily old-fashioned manner.

"Sound. Here ye arr, mate.." I smiled as i handed his camera back. For the first noticeable time I audibly registered how drawn-out and strange my voice sounded to myself. Perhaps I should hit the brakes on the booze at the next ale-house.

"So...you are from America?" shouted Linda to camera-man.

"Yeah...We're here on vaca-shion...We gotsa say, a wonderful city you have, here....
Nicest people" he shouted back with a fatherly smile and thumbs-up, over the screams of police sirens, tormented buskers and the mashed-up mix of pleasingly familiar rock n' roll chords drifting all around us.

I was all ready to engage him and his wife in conversation when, almost predictably:


With a freakish sense of speed and reflex, Linda slinked away from my side, turning her head smoothly away from the Yank couple and nodded at Hayley without a blink.

"Okay, Hayl, we'll head there now".

I was about to apologise to the American couple, but the demon on my shoulder cracked me across the top of the head and twisted it to my right, where both Linda and Hayley were already moving towards the Rubber Soul bar.

The angel on my other shoulder whispered in my left ear.

"Was... Great meeting you...Hope you like our city... Take care...."

And with that I was off.....