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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, 9 April 2013

I coulda had class, I coulda been somebody!

Neil and Jocelyn Riley came out to stay with Dave and Becky at the villa which was great for Becky as she’d most certainly been getting bored.  Her devotion to Dave was stunning; she’d collect bottles and tidy up and when not needed, sat on a chair in the storeroom behind the bead curtain reading a magazine.  Rebecca did spend quite a lot of that year back home in England leaving Dave and I to it, so to speak.  It was great to have Neil and Jocelyn in town and we all hit the beach or walked down to Café’ del Mar.  The summer heat coupled with long working hours, all night clubbing and the need to be “up” for it and continually “on” the job, started to take it’s toll and began to change my behaviour.  Everyone who walked in through the doors of Bar Confusion had a right to expect not just great music, a great atmosphere, outstanding cocktails (!) and plenty of laughs, but for Dave and I to reflect the fact that the “Party Island lifestyle” was indeed one never-ending party for us both. In trying to live up to expectations, changes in my personality manifested themselves in a number of ways; my alcohol intake steadily increased to keep up not only with my peers but with the customers as well.  

Either the pace of life either needed a break in the form of sleep, (and that was highly unlikely to take place and of course didn’t), or I would have to resort to chemical support to get me through the summer.  There were very few days off or even lunch breaks let alone early nights once the season was in full swing.   My staple diet was a grilled chicken Bocadillo, (a small bread baton cut lengthways and crammed with meat) eaten on the run between changing VHS tapes and serving drinks.  What actually enabled me to dodge sleep and maintain the breakneck pace was easy access to drugs, and they allowed me to “cheat” both body and mind into performing way beyond normal limits.   I’m not going to preach and whine about drug taking, how I was taking them for good reasons; there are no ‘good’ reasons.  I don’t condone drug taking and after the 1989’s ‘Summer of Love’, I tried Cocaine once more and decided it was not for me.  I am not apologising nor seeking to explain away my behaviour.  I have never enjoyed smoking Marijuana or Hash/blow, it made me sick, dizzy, tired, very hungry and thirsty. More to the point, drugs are expensive and I didn’t have the money to buy them and wasn’t so into them that I need a fix to get me through the day.  The drugs I took were more of a crutch to lean on during the long nights and days that summer.  Honesty forces me to write about my drug taking and the months spent managing my life us drugs and alcohol, cigarettes and women all in abundance, all indulged if not too extremes, then certainly knocking on that door and to the point where I started to really dislike myself.

Cat (Mr Hash) and his acolytes were regularly popping into the bar and it was through this crowd that I gained knowledge of a new name in town. Billy, (Whizz, Speed, Amphetamine) presented himself one night as I went into the storeroom to grab bottles for the bar.  On a shelf laid out in neat lines 2 inches long was a white powder. I knew it was ‘gear’ but did not know what type.  I went back to the bar and asked Dave about it.  He served the customer in front and we nipped back followed by one of Cats mates Danny.  “Its Billy, Jonny Boy,” said Daniel, “Speed.  It’ll keep you going all night, just don’t go mad as its not cheap.”  Danny was obviously the provider and neither he nor Dave ever asked me to pay for any of these ‘performance enhancing’ drugs and to be fair I never offered as I was not exactly earning a mint. 

Dave thought the opportunity to ‘live the island clubber lifestyle’ more than made up for anything resembling a decent wage and he was not about to ‘up’ my wages just because I was performing beyond expectations. I sniffed a line up my nose and was told to rub anything left on the shelf into my gums, which I did.  I went back to work and I was soon more energetic, eager and active which was a positive I figured.  I didn’t take Speed every night; it wasn’t available every night, more likely twice a week on average.  It did have an effect though and alongside increasing my intake of water, I also increased my intake of Jack Daniels and Vodka.  Beer was for afternoons only or following an in-frequent day on the beach.  When Dave did fancy a day off we’d both have a day off and besides, you can’t keep nipping off to empty your bladder when running a bar and serving drinks all night, so shots of Jack and Tequila became the norm.

One of the more unsavoury characters to turn up was a big brute of a guy called Gary and his wife Caroline. She was cute, pretty and beaten almost to a pulp on a weekly sometimes, daily basis.  He and Caroline had turned up looking for work in early May.  Apparently he was a builder and did find work on the island and a couple running a small bar/club nearer the strip gave Caroline work clearing glasses and propping for them.  Any money she earned went into his pockets and he disappeared into the night returning in the early morning to their small flat to give her a smack and then go to his job.  Caroline became a regular in the bar and she and I became close but not too close, I was more an ear for her to talk to and besides, I think she feared that had she had an affair of any sort he’d kill her.  She’d tell me how he’d come home still smelling of other women, stinking of vomit and drink and try to rape her, (there is no way a woman consents to sex in those circumstances), although more often than not failing to perform.  He had no redeeming characteristics at all and after weeks of listening to this horror story I spoke to Dave and asked what could be done. 

Eventually a group of the English Bar/Club owners got together and bought her a plane ticket off the island.   I borrowed Dave’s car and dropped her at the airport one day whilst the beast was working. I parked up near my flat and walked down the small hill to the bar to go to work only to find him outside stamping up and down.  “Where’s my wife?” he shouted as I approached.  I told him I had no idea where she was and said “How would I know?”  “She is always in there with you,” her said, pointing towards Confusion, “You little shit.”  This was not going to end well unless I got some support and wondered where it was going to come from. This guy was at least 6’3” and I was 5’9” on my best day.  I said something along the lines of “why do you give a shit, you’re fucking all the pigs running around the island anyway!” This elicited the not unexpected response of a push in my chest and his face so close that his spittle was hitting my face as he shouted.  He moved me around so my back was against the doors of our Bar and my escape routes were restricted further, but I continued to smart mouth the ape.  Was I mad?  Probably.  But fuck him, he was a bully and a sick-making bully at that, so I wanted to make sure he was engaged here in town and not patrolling the island looking for Caroline and hitting on the idea of going to the airport.

The yelling finally (thank god) alerted Kaz in the OK Corral, (who had contributed a large amount to the air-ticket) and she came outside and saw what was happening.  She went back in and got Dave who was sat drinking a beer with Reg and Souness.  Dave came out and immediately stepped in between fuck-face and I and walked towards him giving me room to edge away from the doors.  From then on with Dave standing at 6’3” and eye-to-eye with him the bully barely said a word and simply moaned saying, as his meaty fists pointed in my direction, ”He’s always with my missus.”  Dave told him to grow up, that we were friends but nothing more and besides, he was shagging everything left by everyone else, so why did he care?  He slopped off, his knuckles dragging on the floor and wandered towards the main street of bars.  I looked at Dave, “That’s the last time I save you from a kicking.  Stay away from other blokes wives, especially the nutter’s!  Now open up the bar and get Who Framed Roger Rabbit on the TV!” 

I never saw or heard from Caroline again and the ‘Neanderthal’ left the island shortly afterwards, to where I do not know?  That was an example of Dave coming to the rescue but Dave was also a selfish, self-centred bugger who sought loyalty and devotion in others to his cause, but more often than not he failed to reciprocate and I found that immensely frustrating.  I trusted Dave and the shame of it was that his life, personality and opinion of others up to that point, had been greatly affected by people who had ripped him off, dropped him in it or had taken the piss.  So for Dave to trust anyone else was going to require a great deal of faith on his part and despite my best efforts I’ve always been of the mind that he was watching me, constantly.  As principled as I believe I am, and I live by a set of principles that are basic and simple tenets; (don’t steal from anyone, especially friends; be honest, try to be kind its easier than being an arse, and treat everyone as an equal), I could have been the risen Christ and still have been a suspect in Dave’s small world of intrigue and suspicion.  And that was a bloody shame and shame on him for what followed as well.

My brief meeting with John Fashanu when in passed him my demo tape in Ricks Place in Norwich had long been forgotten, as I was hard at work serving tourists.  “Fash” was so far from my mind that when Kaz came into Bar Confusion one early June afternoon from the OK Corral and said, “I’ve got John Fashanu on the phone,” Dave immediately assumed it was for him.  The OK Corral had a phone in the kitchen and we’d provided the number to friends and family in case of emergencies.  “He’s not ringing for you Dave, its for Jonathan,” said Kaz pointing towards me.  Dave stopped in his tracks and I inwardly smiled as I walked around the bar to go with Kaz.  In the OK Corral kitchen I picked up the gravy stained receiver and said “Hello?”  “Jonny Boy,” said Fash, “Found you at last mate.  Look, you know you handed me your George tape, well I’ve got something for you,” he said.  My stomach flipped, “Great, what is it?” I asked, half expecting a wedding do or nightclub show at best. “It’s a Pilot for a TV show mate, using lookalikes to impersonate pop-stars and they get votes to see who is the best one,” said Fash. “Fucking yes please,” I said, but I knew Dave needed me here and was already worrying as to how he’d manage without me.

“I was hoping you’d say that mate.  You need to get on a plane sharpish mate!”  John Fashanus use of the word “mate” was a constant when he spoke; almost becoming a form of punctuation in each sentence.  It later turned out that the show in question was the Pilot for “Stars In Their Eyes”, the show becoming a Prime time Saturday Evening staple that first aired in the UK the following year (July 1990) after being commissioned by ITV, with Leslie Crowther as host.  “I’d better go and tell Dave then, back in a minute, hang on!” I shouted.  I ran off to find Dave  almost bumping into him as he stood at the door of the OK Corral.  Confusion was empty and he was wondering what was going on.  I told Dave all that Fash had said about the Pilot and that I had to go to the UK, and watched Dave’s face slowly change, as the realisation dawned on him that I was going away.  “I can’t let you go, you won’t come back Jonny,” said Dave.  “What? You have to let me go, it’s my chance! Fash has done what he said he’d do, I have to go and do this Dave.” I was pissed off at his attitude, but still certain that I was going.  “Nah, you’ll get involved and then you’ll ring me and say you can’t come back as you have other stuff to do.  So I can’t let you go.”  Let me go?  What the fuck?  What right had he got to decide whether I went or not.  I told him this and that I was really fucked off that he was being so stubborn. 

“Look, you’ve got no money.  How are you gonna pay for the flight back home, I’m not giving it to you.”  I knew Fash was hanging on the phone waiting for me to come back and confirm the details.  “I’ll call my mum, she’ll pay for the flight,” I said pathetically.   I was more or less pleading with him to let me go, it was my dream break.  “Look, I’ll go and talk to Fash and explain that you’re needed here and he’ll understand.  There’ll be another chance anyway knowing Fash.  This is not a one off, he’s always got things happening so don’t worry, it will still be there when you get back.”  I didn’t believe that for a second and said, “I want to go Dave, its only fair”.  And Dave?  He turned to me and said, “Fair?  You cheeky little fucker!  You wouldn’t fucking know Fash if it weren’t for me!  You ungrateful little shit, you’re here working for me working in a dream job and I gave you this chance.  I could just say to Fash that you’re not worth it, that you’re a wanker and he’ll forget you, but I wont.”  His voice calmed a little from its rising volume. “I’ll just tell him not now and after the summer you can fucking go and do what you want with my blessing, but not now.”

With that he went into the OK Corral and I was left in the street like a swinging dick, with fuck-all to do but slope off back into the bar.  I’d capitulated and given up my chance of possibly being someone, of having ‘something’.  It could have been the thing that changed my life from dead end job to dead end job.  I don’t know where it might have led me but it might have been something better.  In my darker moments before I learned to stop having regrets, (Regrets poison you slowly but surely, until you lose everything and have nothing but regret and sod all else), I used to look back at that episode and contemplate Marlon Brando’s character Terry in the movie ‘On The Waterfront’ and his speech to his brother Charley (Rod Steiger).  He said and I quote, “You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum!"  

Dave walked back into the bar some 5 minutes later and put and end to that chance with the words, “Fash said he understands.  He said it’ll be there for you when you get home at the end of the season.”  He no more believed that than I did and I sulked about for more than a week until Dave told me to cheer the fuck up!  I did cheer up when Dave, perhaps feeling bad, pitched up with Billy and Charlie the twin brothers of delight and despair who corrupted body and soul.  We worked like buggers and closed early and went to KU Club to celebrate nothing much in particular and so the circle continued to turn and the screws, (drugs, drink, women and exhaustion) tightened a little more.  Did I have a failing?  Was I wrong to decide to devote myself to the success of the bar that summer?  I was loyal, honest, and committed to the business notwithstanding what had happened. I put it behind me after a while and got on with the work at hand.  Dave meanwhile had simply chipped away at the pedestal I’d put him with a large chunk of masonry falling away and he’d started to wobble.    

In recalling those events recently with Dave he apologised and said he could not remember that happening.  It was erased from his memory but he continued to apologise and as I've written; there are no, (I have no) regrets.  

1 comment:

  1. I never liked him. But you know that. He's lucky he didn't get a visit from me!

    This was your best blog to date. Good story and the emotion you talk about is remembered and real, not developed now to aid the story.

    Well Done Johnny xx