About Me

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Used to work for AVIVA offshoring IT to India.  Now retired through ill health, writing my life story as a series of blogs chronologically from birth to current time.  At www.jw-alifeofsurprises.blogspot.com

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Is that George I see before me? Part Two.

As Christmas 1988 approached I met two women at Ricks Place who were trying to start up a Model Agency.  They had assembled a handful of wannabe models and their agency had been commissioned to produce a Ski Wear show at a club just outside of Norwich, where my brother Richard had met his wife Tracey many moons ago.  Fifteen or so "models" paraded across the dance floor wearing various padded ski suits and jackets, gloves and hats and the evening went down well, but more importantly two of the models were also dancers!  We agreed to meet up after I had told them about my plan to put on a gig launching myself as a George Michael look-a-like.  

I needed a couple of dancers to join me on stage and deliver as professional a show as possible and after an initial meeting we put together a rehearsal plan to develop and then tighten up a routine to go with the songs.  I then approached the manageress of Ricks Place and her assistant manager Mark Brennan to ask whether I could use the club one night for the launch party.  As Tuesday evenings were quiet they agreed I could hold the launch on that night in the run up to Christmas, they’d get the bar takings but there would be no charge on the door, it was then that I started my ultra sneaky marketing campaign.

Firstly, I contacted the local press and asked whether it was true that George Michael was appearing at Ricks Place in December?  "No, we've heard nothing; probably a hoax" was their response.  I then went on a Fly Poster campaign, putting up A4 posters around Norwich with the Sony Music record Label on the bottom with “You need Faith? Who is coming to Ricks Place in Norwich?” written above.  I then contacted all the major National Newspapers, focusing on the Music & Entertainment desks such as the "Bizarre" column at ‘The Sun’ and asked the journalists whether they had heard that George was to appear in a clandestine gig in Norwich to promote his new single?  "Nope, not heard anything" they said but they would look into it.  Then back to the local press to say that I had called the nightclub and they were being very non-committal about forthcoming events at the club, especially the Tuesday in question.  I told them that I had seen posters around town referring to an event at Ricks Place, (they admitted to having seen these as well) and that I had called the National Papers to ask what they knew and that they were being very cagey.  This involved not just myself but also the manageress of the club, Mark Brennan and my dancers so was coming at them daily and from different people.  Sure enough within days the phones at Ricks Place started to ring with Local and National papers asking what was happening, to which the stock answer was, “Sorry, we cannot comment on any events other than those already advertised”. 

This continued in the lead up to the gig, rehearsals were completed with a couple of dress rehearsals at the club during the day's before and we were pretty sure we had a great show, albeit for only three songs, "Faith, I'm Your Man and Father Figure"  On the Tuesday morning, the day of the gig, we called both the local and National press and said that a very large truck was unloading speakers, lights, instruments etc. at Ricks Place, and did they know who was playing there tonight?  Every single one of them said that they had heard through the grapevine that George Michael might be appearing and that they had received calls asking whether George was playing in Norwich.  I said in reply that “Well if he is, I’m going and would they be coming as well?”  The answer was a little non-committal; such as saying they’d send a local journalist if they were free. 

I had organised for my friends, all over six foot and well built, to act as my bodyguards and a pal who had a very nice Mercedes, was to be my chauffeur.  My costume for the night was unfortunately still based around the Faith Album look; Levi 501’s, my cowboy boots, which helped raise me up from my 5’9” inches closer to 6 feet tall, a white singlet and a very nice Tassel Sleeved Leather Motorbike Jacket, with Rock and Roll Classic embossed across the back and of course, the obligatory RayBan Aviator Sunglasses.  The Dancers wore black leggings and tight t-shirts with red sashes around their waists and I applied the usual make-up to my face to complete the look.  My beard being more red than black, I’d brush in black mascara to deep the colour and cover over patches where the beard stubbornly failed to grow.  It actually worked well and I don’t think my Mum ever noticed I was using her make-up!

I got ready at the Hole in The Wall and at 10pm, there were five of us crammed into the Mercedes and heading for Ricks Place.  I say crammed, as it was a squeeze with my bodyguard’s slotted either side of me in the back of the car.  The dancers got into a second car and followed us down.  From the car to the door of the club it was thirty metres, as the club was just inside a shopping precinct.  Mark Brennan walked over to the car and opened the rear door letting out the first minder and then he sat in the car and said, “That’s fucking unbelievable, you’re him mate, that’s fantastic”.  I thanked him and he said, “You need to know that the club is absolutely packed full of press, I mean all the press, the major tabloids from London and the local guys as well.  The plan definitely worked, they have been driving us mad trying to get a lead on the story, asking us all sorts of questions, they really think George Michael is coming here tonight!”  I was really happy and all I needed now was to get inside the club and make it to the dressing room, that was to the right of the stage, which in fact was a little storage room/office. 

We agreed on a plan whereby I would walk in surrounded by people so as not to give a clear view of me to anyone.  I had to keep the illusion going until I walked on stage.  Mark stood back from the car and I climbed out.  A few people were queuing at the door, they turned around and couple of girls started shouting my (George’s) name, followed by the men shouting out my name as well with the odd “wanker” thrown in for good measure!  We walked passed the people queuing outside and went in through the doors and started up the stairs to the club that was on the first floor.  As soon as we were inside the club the cameras started going off; their flash’s illuminating the open plan stairs.  There was a turn a third of the way up, so my back was away from the journalists overlooking the stairs as I climbed the first flight but as I turned and walked directly toward the cameras I was greeted by non-stop camera flash’s.  My friends surrounding me included Nigel Bradley, Paul Waterfield (I think) and Ian Pearce were really playing their part, moving people aside as we finally entered the nightclub itself.  Cries of “George, George, over here mate, George, smile George, Hey George” came from the cameramen and reporters.  

Inside all this frantic activity I was in a bubble; the cacophony of noise, shouts and screams, pushing and shoving, swearing reporters and clubbers alike was amazing.  I looked across towards the bar and saw groups of people standing with drinks in their hands straining their necks to get a look at who was inside this throng of bodies, moving like a swarm of bees, across the dance floor heading for the stage.  Looking ahead, past the backs of my friends and Mark Brennan I could see the door to the dressing room getting closer, my feet barely touching the ground as we surged over the wooden dance floor, across the carpet edging and into the room, the door slamming closed behind us.  “Fucking hell” came as a chorus!  Voices as one as we took in what we had just been through.  A knock at the door and the manageress appeared with a bottle of champagne in a bucket and we shared a glass as we all cracked up over the scam we’d just pulled on the National Press.  The gig had yet to start but I thought I had them. Wrong!!!

Monday, 19 November 2012

The transformation begins

By late autumn 1988, I started to go to the Hole in the Wall club in Norwich City Centre, a small members only club/pub that actually allowed anyone in at weekends if they had money.  It really was a ‘Hole in the wall’, in that you entered through a steel barred gate, walked down an alleyway past a bouncer on the door and into a long room.  A bar ran the length of the room down on one side, there were booths opposite the bar and pillars mid-room.  There was a snooker table upstairs that saw more girls’ backsides than snooker balls.  I had met up again with the girls I knew before I went Stateside and I was bumping into footballers who played for Norwich City football Club.  Two in particular, Malcolm Allen and Robert Rosario became friends and Malcolm looked not unlike Andrew Ridgeley, the other member of WHAM! with George Michael.  They loved the fact I resembled George and would invite me to join them for drinks and to go clubbing to Ricks Place; the club of choice for the discerning man about town in Norwich in 1988.  Across the road was Hunters Squash Club and to monopolies on the drinkers heading towards Rick’s Place, Hunters started operating as a late drinks club with many a young couple enjoying the seclusion of the locker rooms and the courts for a squeaky, bum on varnished wood, pre-Rick’s screw. 

Deciding that I would try and become a “proper” George Michael ‘Look-a-like’, (proper meaning I’d actually impersonate his voice and sing live, as opposed to mime along to his songs as some of the other look-a-likes did), I needed to record backing tracks to sing over at all the Gigs I was sure would land in my lap!  Fortunately George Michael would put instrumental versions of some of his songs on the ‘B’ sides of his hits and I used these.  But with only CD instrumentals of “Father Figure” and “Faith” in my collection I needed another couple of songs or so to build a short set list.   Back at the Hole in the Wall, Robert and Malcolm had introduced me to Dave Bennett who had been a winger with Manchester City and Norwich City Football Clubs.  Dave attracted a coterie of friends and hangers-on who would listen and laugh along to his stories and tales about the players and celebrities he had met.  To give Dave his due, he was a very funny, likeable man and was always up for whatever was happening and if nothing were happening, he’d create something.  Among Dave’s entourage’ were Neil Riley and Glenn Neave, Neil was also an ex-professional footballer and in a steady relationship with Jocelyn, and Glenn?  Glenn was an out and out "chancer", an accomplished drinker and was slightly affected in his mannerisms, (e.g. shaking hands with the left hand only for some unknown reason).  

Having decided upon another three George Michael songs to use in my set list (Kissing a Fool, A Different Corner and I’m Your Man), I found a recording studio in Norwich and they agreed to record the music from the records onto 8-track tape.  The engineer would take the tracks, clean up any distortion, remove the original vocals and I'd sing over them to produce a demo tape.  They studio engineer would also produce a “blank” backing tape for me to use at gigs.  Neil Riley fancied coming along to the studio for the experience and to save costs the studio and I agreed to an after-hours recording session.  In the meantime I'd found a marvelous singing instructor who worked from her home in Judges Walk, just off Newmarket Road in Norwich.  She had a grand piano in her bay fronted living room and with her sitting at the Piano giving instruction, I would sing “A Different Corner”, it was the only sheet music song I could find of George Michaels. The singing lessons were worth every penny as she taught me to sing using my diaphragm, to breath correctly and to project my voice.  She was very pleased as I had some vibrato appearing as if from nowhere in my singing voice, which she said was a “very good thing to have”.   

On the evening of the recording session, Neil and I pitched up at the studio which was located in a cellar below the main studios, consisting of the mixing desk, a single microphone in a small sectioned of area behind Perspex and sound proofing (egg boxes to the untrained eye) stuck on the walls and ceiling.  The sound engineer played back all the tracks he had recorded and once I was happy with the quality, I went into the booth to sing the first song, 'A Different Corner', the song I was most familiar with.  I had a few run-throughs and then we recorded all five one after another.  After recording the songs, whilst completing the mix, the engineer said he was pleasantly surprised at my voice given that he had been doing this for sometime and had heard quite a few horror vocals from people who thought they could sing, but quite simply couldn’t.  Neil said that he was blown away!  Recording complete, I took a copy away and played it to anyone who would listen.  But what I really needed was a gig where I could attract some media interest in my act and so I decided that what I needed was to trick the National press!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Coming up the Down Side

Mum and I flew back to England before the coppers knew I had left and so I dodged my day in court.  My sister Helen met us at Heathrow and drove us home to Norwich but only after many hugs and kisses for Mum and I.  Once home Mum began opening her mail and walked around her home and garden making sure everything was as she left it.  I unpacked my case in my old bedroom at the back of the house and looked out of the window surveying the territory that was so familiar, certain that I did not want to be here and pissed off.  Over the coming days I joined both a Doctors and a Dental surgery and re-acquainted myself with Rick and Patrick Holmes and the guys down at the Community centre.  One more Adrian Murphy, that reliable and great family friend, offered me work painting for him with his crew of toothless and hairless wonders and oddballs.  I was not happy to be industrial decorating  again but got on with it as I was not prepared to sit around on the dole and Mum needed money from me to pay my way.  Mum settled back into life remarkably quickly and was soon out and about, going to her singles club, meeting friends in town at the Castle Hotel and generally getting on with her life as she had left it over two months ago.  I was bumbling along head down, until quite unexpectedly I bumped into Gary Pye, an old friend of my brother Richard.  It’s odd how friendships re-emerge after years and carry on as though we’ve seen each other only last week and not years ago.  Gary was the late 1970"s disco king when we were at school and he and Richard introduced me to their friends at the Roman Catholic Cathedral Disco.  Not a religious occasion of any sorts only that the disco was held at the next-door Hall.  It was here in the late 1970’s that Richard perfected his northern Soul dance that would have graced Wigan Casino and Gary became our hero for his ability to perform summersaults and the splits, mid-routine. 

One afternoon I showed up at Gary’s parents house where he was working on a Volkswagen Beetle in the driveway.  He stopped work and led me into the sitting room where perched on the edge of the couch was Liz, a petite, pretty, busty brunette with a great laugh and great eyes.  Not that I noticed of course, being nonchalant I’d like to think, but more likely totally blind to the fact that she as later told to me by Gary, was immediately very interested in getting to know me.  We sat drinking tea and chatting away until Gary disappeared outside to carry on working on her (the Beetle) car and Liz and I continued our conversation.  Gary called me later that day wanting to know whether I liked Liz and would I like to take her out?  Of course I said and that evening Liz collected me in her Beetle and out we went; out being as far as her flat a mile away where we drank a bottle of wine and then explored one another for the next eight hours.  And there I stayed apart from odd nights spent at home with Liz and I getting to know one another in the Biblical sense.

I did not want a serious relationship and that was despite my brother Mark, who having met Liz one Saturday morning at Mum’s house saying, “Who is that Jonathan?  She’s bloody knock out mate!”  I told him I was not interested in a relationship and he said, “You're bloody mental pal”.  And do you know what?  I probably was.  But not because I did not want to get serious with Liz, moreover because I was starting to get depressed, seriously depressed.  I started playing hard to find and I am sorry about that but my head was full of crap thoughts about my life, as on the outside was this ‘dude’, always up for a laugh, a friendly open person; never had any problems did Jonathan.  But hidden away on the inside my head felt like it was starting to fall apart.  My head was 'literally' falling apart as well, starting with an itchy scalp that eventually erupted into sores under my hair that I’d scratch as they'd drive me mad with pain and soreness and then they would bleed.  I was forever washing my hair and wondering what was wrong.  “You’ve got Shingles,” said Mum when I showed her my head.  “What is shingles?” I asked.  “It’s the same as chicken pox in a way, it can be very painful though” she said.  Not exactly plenty of tea and sympathy from Mum!

I had not worked it out; I had still not got my head around why I was becoming more and more angry, more frustrated with my life and feeling as though the world was closing in on me.  I started picking up on stuff that Mum did and starting arguments with her over crappy little things.  I would mope around the house moaning and whinging about life and how shit it was until eventually one afternoon when I was in the garden and Mum came out to tend her flowers and she started to nag at me for being miserable.  My head was driving me mad with the pain and I was getting terrible headaches and pain in my shoulders and neck.  She told me to "stop moaning and do something about it".  “There is nothing to do about it, because it is about nothing, I have nothing” I shouted at her.  “You’re being stupid, bloody ridiculous,” she shouted back.  “I had a life in America, I had an apartment, earned great money, had my friends, my girlfriend” my voice trailing off. Then she said something that I will remember forever. 

“That apartment?  It wasn’t anything special, your so called friends haven’t called to speak to since you left and you had nothing of any value there and as for your girlfriend, you were sleeping with any girl you could get your hands on.  You had nothing there!”  Her voice had steadily risen to a shout and she looked at me with real anger in her eyes.  “But it was my life!  Can’t you see that it was my life and its gone, I can’t go back because I’ll get arrested as soon as I set foot in California and its all because I was getting your medicine!”  I shouted at her with tears streaming down my face.  In truth I was afraid to leave her side in case she died in my absence.   “So its my fault is it?  Perhaps I should have died there and you would still have your life, is that it?” she shouted back.  For all that I loved her, Mum could say the most incredibly cruel things and whilst you may consider that she was being honest, I did not need honesty right then.  “No!  You don’t understand, you just don’t get it!”  How do you explain when it sounds so selfish, so self-centred?  

I took myself off to the doctor’s surgery and broke down in his consulting room.  He inspected my head and said I definitely had Shingles caused by stress, that my scalp would be scarred and I needed to stop using perfumed shampoos and had to use medicated ones instead or some such advice.  He prescribed anti-depressants and we moved on to discussing my backache.  He examined my neck and shoulders and said that the stress was the cause of the pain in there but he would organise an appointment with the Orthopaedic Consultants at the hospital about the lower back pain and sciatica that was starting to flair up.  At home I found Mum in her chair watching daytime TV; her legs curled underneath her, a cup of coffee on the arm of the chair, the Daily Mirror at her side.  Pretty much how anyone who knew her would expect to find her, either that or sat at the kitchen table completing the Bingo in the newspaper.  “What are you doing here?” she said. “I live here?” I replied.  “I didn’t think this house was good enough for you” she sneered.  I walked upstairs to my room and stayed there for the remainder for that day.  I think that Mum couldn’t stand weakness in men.  My father had been a strong person and managed everything for her when he was alive except for the kids and the shopping. Over the next few weeks as I recovered I resolved to get on with things as there was no way back.  I presumed by now I’d be a wanted criminal in American!

I was still searching for a “proper” job trawling the press for one that was at least interesting and that paid well.  An vacancy for a “Stained Glass Overlay Technician” caught my eye.  This consisted of placing a paper pattern behind a sheet of glass pre-cut to fit in a door or window frame and then laying over lead to re-produce the pattern.  Roses, Swallows and Butterfly designs were popular as were Georgian diamond shapes.  What’s more the money was great and I sailed the interview into a job where my fellow employees did not resemble rejects from Zombie casting central!  My brother Richard had a house to let a few miles from the factory and said I could lease that, so I now had a nice 2-bedroom home, a good job and splashed out on a white Volkswagen Sirocco as well, on higher purchase of course.   The rent was well within my means as were the payments on the car; my clubbing and clothes budget were not too high and so I was at last functioning as a member of society, paying my taxes.  What of my mental health you ask?  It's amazing what a little self belief, support from friends and some anti-depressants can do.  Once I had moved out from under Mum’s roof and had begun earning money and settling into a steady lifestyle, my shingles cleared up, I reduced and soon stopped taking the meds.   Life was slowly on the up..............

Monday, 12 November 2012

You're Nicked Me Old Beauty!

A few more days of relaxation in the sunshine finally led to my collecting a letter from Dr Alton for CO-OP Travel Insurance.  It was posted to my brother Mark for the insurers approval and Mum and I prepared to fly back to the Bay Area.  Our time together in Santa Barbara had been a strange mixture of emotions and behaviour.  Stress, sadness, happiness, deceit, angst, fear and elation all mixed in to contribute to an unforgettable period in our lives.  We checked out of the Motel and drove to the Airport, returned the car to the rental desk and waited for our flight.  Santa Barbara airport could not at that time handle large bodied aircraft and so we speculated as to the type of plane we’d be flying in.  A Pilot walked towards us and sat next to Mum and I.  “Mrs Weaver?” he asked, “Yes,” said Mum, “I’m your Pilot, if you’d care to follow me we will walk out the aircraft together as you are the only passengers”.  At last I had my own private jet! We passed through the departure gate and walked to a small jet parked on the apron.  Climbing aboard there was a short row of seats each side of the aisle and we sat down and fastened our seat belts.  The Pilot climbed into his seat not more than touching distance from us and started the engine.  We taxied out towards the runway and with a thrust from the jet; we took off climbing up above the Californian coastline as we sped northwards towards San Francisco and home.  

The jet hugged the coastline and mum commented as we flew over the sights of Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz and the numerous small towns and forests below.  The pilot enquired and received clearance from air traffic control to fly north of San Francisco and so with the City laid out below Mum’s side of the aircraft, the skyscrapers appeared as fingers clawing up from the earth trying to drag the odd cloud spoiling the view down, into the streets.  The sight of the Golden Gate Bridge drew gasps from my mother and a tear or two, as she considered its elegance and majesty as it leapt across the Gateway into the harbour.  The plane banked around over Sausalito and descended as it flew over the Bay Bridge with Fishermen’s Wharf and the tourist haven of Pier 39 off to our right.   This added extra to our journey courtesy of a prevailing wind and an indulgent pilot. The jet glided into SFO and parked on an apron near to the octopus like arms of the terminal.  The pilot released the door and the stairs down appeared from the below and Mum and I exited the plane onto the tarmac.  Collecting our bags from under the jet, we walked with the pilot to the terminal and thanked him for a wonderful trip that, if we’d paid for as a holiday treat, would have cost a great deal of money.   

We caught a Taxi from SFO to my apartment and let ourselves in.  Mark and Dave were at work and I settled Mum back into my bedroom again. The last time I had been here I was screwing Tammy in the shower when I got a call from her Dad.  It seemed so long ago now.  Marks cousin Trevor had arrived whilst I was away and had started working with Paul and Victor so I half expected that the boys would have been managing in my absence.  I rang Shirley, (Marks aunt and Paul's Mum), to say we were home and she said they’d come over after work.  Mum took a nap and I padded around the apartment trying to decide what I would do when eventually the time came to take Mum back to the UK.  Later that day everyone turned up to see us including Tammy; my god Tammy!  The girlfriend who I had never thought about whilst I was in Santa Barbara and the girlfriend who had waited for me, waited and expected me to return as she left me, whole and unbroken by my journey.  As per usual, I simply slipped back into boyfriend mode, a deceit had been played out behind her back and none the wiser was she and I felt no guilt.  I considered Monique a perk of the job so to speak, but I had also learned a small lesson in what it felt like to be on the receiving end so to speak. 

I told Paul that I stilled wanted time off work with mum as I wanted to show her San Francisco before she and I went to the UK. My recollection of the next few days is hazy; I do know that Trevor’s Mum Vera flew in from England and stayed with her sister Shirley.  Paul turned up and he and I had a discussion as to my return to work as he was struggling now with more work than people to do it, he said.  He also raised the issue of his tax return.  Apparently, whilst he had been paying me he had not been figuring how much tax he would need to pay, as my income was included in his.  He had decided that in order to rectify this situation he needed $2000.00 back from me to pay my (his) tax bill.  I told him there was no way I could find that and besides, his inability to manage simple math in terms of how much to pay me was not my fault.  Shirley obviously took his side, but I explained that he should have worked out what the tax was on our combined salaries and if that meant he had to pay me less to cover his tax, he should not have increased my salary to $500 a week.  We were never going to agree and I finally said that I would not be returning to work for him, a sour note to end that relationship on, although it never got hostile.

Unexpectedly, the two entrepreneurs who Paul sub-contracted his work from, called me and asked me to visit Cherry, whose daughter I had defiled in the bathroom when I was supposed to be lacquering her cabinets.  I took Mum with me and Cherry and her husband asked me whether I’d be prepared to complete the lacquering, as Paul was not coming back?  My main problem at this time was a fear of leaving Mum alone, of coming home to find her dead in bed, or worse in the street, having gone for a walk, (improbable given her recent success on the treadmill).  But I refused none the less.  They accepted this decision without question and then he offered me a G&T.  I declined as I was driving.  We walked around the house, Cherry showing Mum our work and once again I was offered a drink and again I politely refused.  Back downstairs to the living room and he asked me again.  This time I said “Look, I am driving so cannot drink, if you really want to get it on and get a session going, I can come back one night and we can get pissed together”.  I don’t know where that came from and felt immediate regret, but not as much as when Mum turned on me and said “Jonathan, how dare you speak to these people like that, now apologise!”  Told off by Mummy!  I said sorry, but ended that apology still annoyed that he kept offering me a drink.  But was that really it?  Was I really annoyed about the drink offers, or was something else lying deep in my head, starting to grow and consume my happy little life?  I look back now and see that I was starting to get very stressed.  It was a combination of factors including, but not limited to Mums illness, my work, my music, Tammy, Mark Cameron settling down again this time with Andrea his girlfriend, where I was in life, where I was going, what would happen?  I had also developed a deep fear of finding my Mum dead, of walking in and finding her lifeless body, of it being my fault.  Totally irrational based on what I knew from Dr Alton, but there in my head anyway. 

I had driven up to Daly City (just south of San Francisco), to see my chiropractor a number of times over my time in California and he had taken x-rays and had been working on my back, off and on, depending upon the pain I was experiencing.  I had been suffering again whilst we were in Santa Barbara and he worked on my back a final time and as I was heading back to England, he gave me the X-rays to take home.  The last two weeks were spent taking Shirley, Mum and Vera out and about to the City, Sausalito; to the Golden Gate Bridge and Park and of course to Alcatraz, all the good stuff that Mum and I should have been doing instead of using the American Health Care system. I told Mark that I was flying home with Mum and would be back once I was sure she was settled. 

I had to go to the Pharmacy to collect Mum's medication;Nitro Glycerine tablets, some pain meds and Aspirin and so five days before we were due to fly out, I drove to the Pharmacy four or five blocks north of the apartment.  The speed limit was thirty miles per hour and each block had stop signs, (requiring the car to come to a full stop, wait for any traffic to pass in turn and then carry on).  My head was somewhere else as I drove and looking behind me I saw a Police Motorbike, lights flashing, the Officer waving me to the side of the road.  My guts turned to water as I realised I did not have insurance, a licence (other than my UK paper licence) nor registration.  I parked up and got out of the car as the Officer walked over.  He told me I had failed to stop at a stop sign, that my speed was higher than thirty miles per hour and he asked for the documents.  I admitted to having no insurance and opened my wallet to take out my paper licence.  This is what followed…

“You're British?” he asked, “Yes I am” I replied.  “Been in California long?” “No, just a few weeks.  I am here with my Mum, but she has had a heart attack whilst we’ve been here, I am on my way to get her meds” I offered back.  “Hmmm, I'm sorry to hear that about your mother” said the copper looking at my wallet as I am closing it, "I can see a Californian ID card in there?” “Shit” I thought, “I am fucked”.  I opened the wallet again and took out my Californian ID card, the one I had bought within two weeks of arriving here over a sixteen months ago, which we only got as a keep sake and to save having to carry our Passports around as ID when going to Bars and Clubs.  The Officer looked at my ID and ran the document through whatever search he had access to at the time.  “Says here you’ve been here since May ‘87,” he said.  “Well, yea, it may say that but I got that as a memento last year and only stayed a while, then I came back recently with my mum”.  

“I don’t believe you, I think you have been here since May 1987 and you are working illegally,” he said.  I was definitely fucked.  “I am writing you a ticket, you’ll have to appear in court just down the road there” he said pointing back in the direction of our apartment and the courthouse on the same road, “You will need to bring this ID, your Passport and any other documentation with you.”  I looked at the car, “What about the car, can I drive it home?”  “No, it stays here until someone with the correct papers and insurance can collect it”.  I traipsed off to the Pharmacy and then walked back home knowing that the game was up.  I expected that when I went to court I would be fined, possibly jailed and more likely, deported.  Shit!  

Back at the apartment I told Mum what had happened.  Quite incredibly Mum was totally indifferent to my dilemma.  Totally unsympathetic, “Well, you should have had insurance” she said.  I explained that the car was a simple run around we rarely used and I only used it this time to get her medicine.  “Oh, so its my fault” was her stock answer.  I told Mark when he got home and he walked to the car and collected it despite not having any documentation.  He just checked no one was watching, got in and drove home.  We didn’t use the bloody thing usually anyway, as Mark had a car with Andrea his girlfriend and Paul always collected me for work, plus Tammy drove a car as well.  In the weeks since Santa Barbara, Mum and I had hired a car to get around the Bay Area and had returned it after two weeks use.  I resolved the following day to walk to court and plead ignorance; it was my only chance.  I walked into the building and went to the reception desk.  All around me where the usual dropouts and the dregs of society you’ll find in a court building anywhere in the world.  I explained my situation to the woman at the desk who whilst sympathetic, said there was nothing to be done, I needed to get a lawyer or one would be appointed for me and had to appear before the court as ordered.  The court date was the day after our flight back to England, so I wouldn’t be going.

I packed as much of my stuff as possible, gave my TV and anything of any value to Mark.  I said a very emotional goodbye to Tammy who was terribly upset and said she did not think I would be coming back.  Although I did my best to reassure her, in her heart she knew.  I bid farewell to Dave, Andrea, Paul and Shirley and Victor.  It was strange as I was in a little world of my own without any deep disappointment, no regrets, and no sadness at all or so I thought.  I was walking away from a life I had made for myself.  I was successful and I had earned a lot of money; I had great friends, I had met some amazing people, I had made love to some really beautiful women, (a preoccupation of mine apparently!) and was heading back to a life doing what?  

A life on the dole queue, a life of no money and finding old friends who had probably moved on and I would be living at home with Mum.  I seemed to not care, but was to find out shortly that I cared deeply.