I’d almost miss Australians…

‘Kiwis?’ asked my Australian colleague. ‘Yeah, you just tap them on the head and their knickers fall off.’

Doubt dandered along the embankment of my thoughts, like a nagging suspicion that you’ve left the front door unlocked. Nope, no matter how tightly I squeezed shut my eyes, my evening with a coquettish New Zealander remained a blur. Was there any tapping? In fact, was she even wearing any knickers to start with? Hmm.

Hang on, I’m getting my own in a twist. Before you try this at home – or preferably in teeming bars around London’s Shepherd’s Bush and Acton areas – let me double check. Are we looking at a researched, seminal declamation, or a generalisation based on Bugger All? ‘That’s a fact,’ he confirmed, in that nasal brogue that has me laughing even if it’s not funny. Well, then – it’s official. Do let me know how you get on.

G’day Bluey

Unloading Incubus’ gear in Switzerland

Now, shall we call my colleague Blue, given his nationality? After all, he is one of those stereotypical, fair dinkum fellows with a sense of humour more desiccated than the Atacama Desert. Or drier than a nun’s nasty, to use his own vernacular.

He’ll say frightful things like, ‘Yeah, I’ve got some culture…up my arsehole.’ Probably has a flaming galah on a perch at home, too.

Anyway, aptly, we were driving for Incubus together this summer. No, not the mythological male demon who lies upon female sleepers in order to have sexual intercourse – I meant the band. And we were sitting in deckchairs at Rock in Rio, Madrid, behind the biggest stage I’ve ever seen – a little like Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum further north.

All Went Pete Tong

As the sun lost some of its ferocity, Pete Tong took to the stage somewhere in the distance. One earphone on, one off, he did something clever with records and sporadically blew a whistle. Meanwhile, Blue had engaged me in the topic of the biggest killer in Australia. Now, what would be your first guess?

Box jellyfish? Snakes? Funnel web spiders? ‘Nope, bowel cancer,’ he said, smiling, pleased he’d caught me out. Apparently, over the age of 50 in Australia, you’re obliged to post – yes, I did say post – a stool sample every year. ‘A letter comes back, notifying you of the result,’ he added.

Several thousand people milled and danced to Tong’s groove. Festival goers trickled through the gate, ready for the ultimate party weekend as Blue crescendoed into prostate tests at the surgery.

‘Nice bloke, the doctor was,’ he said, uncapping another beer. ‘Used to be a bricklayer. Jeez, I wish he’d worn gloves.’…

50 Shades of Nonsense..

A younger “50 Shades”. Miami, 2001

I’m spoiled, really. How many men can boast of owning a helicopter? Holy Cow, very Fifty Shades. It comes with its problems, naturally – e.g. time to fly it – but these are by no means insuperable.

But in order to fly such a precision machine, one must don goggles, pervert gloves – Holy Fuck, what’s he going to do with them? – and remove all loose clothing. Hair, if one has any, must be tied in a bun. Strict instructions such as these (possibly augmented with artistic licence) must be adhered to at all times.

The non-gyro indoor helicopter from Aldi also comes with a recommendation that it shouldn’t be flown outdoors.

 

Airborne Dog Fight

Far down below, the winking lights of Dad’s USB ports fade out. The choppers are fully charged and we are going head to head for the great British rag-off in the Sitting Room of Humiliation. Holy Crap, charged choppers? The tension is palpable; two of the nation’s adrenalin titans prepare to battle it out in loose clothing. ‘These aren’t pyjamas,’ says Dad, an injured expression playing around his eyes. ‘This is a lounge suit.’

And we’re off…to a shaky start. Dad’s chopper is out of trim immediately, scuttling and spinning wildly into the fireplace like a demented beetle – possibly owing to a rotor malfunction or a substandard Tesco Value battery. Holy Smoke, lined up next to the woodburner is an array of prods and shovels. What sort of a pervert?

Ooh, I’ve actually managed to get mine up, though. That’s it, ease her gently off the carpet before upping the power, channelling waves of electricity pulsing through her delicate plastic frame. Steady now, keep a firm hand on the controls. Holy Shit. Think where those hands have been. Desire pools in my belly, and lower, deeper…down there.

 

Seattle or Seaton?

Wow! The view of the television from up here is incredible. Far below, Dad’s inferior machine spasms, putting in one last valiant attempt at the high-jump before giving a sickly Phut. But my ride is timeless, the Humiliation Room my oyster, domination within my grasp… Oh bollocks, I’ve crashed. The strong fluorescent lighting from the newly built Tesco in Seaton must have affected my flight controls.

With the new Christian Grey

Hey, if you haven’t yet read Fifty Shades of Grey, the world won’t collapse. Check into a hotel or two and, chances are, there’ll be a copy left in the room.

Barnaby Davies CEO

Finnish That Drink…

‘That’s why they get this boat,’ said the ship’s barman. ‘So they can behave like arseholes.’

The Viking Line XPRS nudged out of Helsinki – a market town founded in 1550, currently celebrating its 200th year as capital – bound for Tallinn, Estonia. Outside the windows lay rocky, low-lying islets; inside lay karaoke.

‘I don’t even hear it anymore,’ he continued, as the ballyhoo grew louder. An Eastie Beastie, dressed in ripped stonewashed jeans – groovily fastened with a white fabric belt, no less – had taken the microphone. ‘But you’re right, it is terrible.’

He handed me a pint. I reeled when he wanted actually paying; surely alcohol ought to be offered as some sort of recompense for the din? Sitting on a sofa, pondering how social inhibition, pride and moderation have failed to reach this part of the world, I sipped frugally – partly because of the price.

Karaoke Club

A menagerie of middle-aged Finns sat slavering around the bar, bound by a love of hard spirits and misplaced esprit de corps, each awaiting his or her diabolical turn at the microphone. Luckily, I didn’t have long to wait for another corking melody. The next fellow was already stumbling up to the stage, entangling himself beautifully in the PA cable.

I did it my way,’ he crooned, out of tune and smashed off his tits. He canted backwards at a dangerous angle, squinted at the screen and put everything into a ripsnorting finale, blissfully unaware of either intonation or the concept of decorum.

Now, ignore the fact for one moment that whoever invented karaoke ought to have their skull cracked like a brazil nut; what is it about Finnish guys and drinking?

Jazz Story

Last night, I popped my head into Storyville Jazz Club to catch Nat Newborn’s Tribute to the Rat Pack. (It’s worth clicking the Storyville hyperlink; there’s a picture of a Norwegian giant that caught me off-guard and stuck her tongue down my throat last time I was in.) And the second I’d sat down amid this demi-monde of idlers, I was grinned at by a young man with halibut-like eyes and a ponytail. Late twenties, I should say.

‘That’s not my lady,’ he’d slurred, wobbling vehemently and gesturing towards a 53-year-old woman I’d assumed was his mother. Then he fell down the stairs.

Still, Tallinn was jolly nice, thanks for asking. All sixteenth-century walls, erotic massages, and medievally dressed wenches serving hot wine and sugared almonds. Oh, and Skype was invented there, too..

Ready, Steady, Splash…

Surely he won’t do it. Surely, as a man of 23, he’ll see sense.

Surely, realising that bicycles and salt water are uneasy bedfellows, Anton The Fearless will abort. Surely… Oops, too late. He’s picking up speed, pedalling like billy-o along the jetty.

Cogito ergo sum – I think, therefore I am. But does he think? Is pulling a BMX wheelie into a Norwegian fjord manifest proof of the absence of rational thought? Well, whatever your opinion, it certainly augmented my afternoon. And, really, what’s the worst that could happen?

Deep Fjord Diving

‘I’ve dropped it,’ he cried, surfacing and jangling like a marionette. Oh, that is worse than I’d thought – the bicycle was expensive and new. Anton bobbed up again, treading water where a saddle ought to have been, and spluttered a crackle of obscenities.

‘Quick, dive down before it sinks completely,’ yelled Lewis, helpfully. A furore ensued, magnanimous colleagues leaping headfirst into the depths and wrangling with pressured eardrums.

Alas, it was lost. 35 feet deep into a murky abyss proved too much for any of us; specialist free divers we are not. But wait, what’s this?

Which quick-thinking mastermind has found an anchor? A preposterous idea perhaps, but certainly worth a shot. And there was no rush to leave – Cookie had started modelling a new range of Lawrence of Arabia head towels.

Operation Anchor

Well, you won’t believe this, but on the first cast, more than ten metres down, metal meshed with metal. Surely not. Surely a retrieval mission of this magnitude wouldn’t strike gold on first throw. Surely, given that we’re unskilled buffoons, a BMX would be too lofty a haul. Yet there was no denying that we’d hooked it.

Cookie of Arabia

The exertion commenced; the chain fed through rough hands; the motherlode hove into view. And… Well, I’m dashed. Another bicycle. Rather misshapen, admittedly, but another actual bicycle.

A relic from an English daredevil last summer? Or the result of an unhinged local taking time off from shagging reindeer?

We’ll never know, but you’ll be relieved to know that an hour’s fishing finally paid off – the water-logged bicycle was seen rusting majestically in Suffolk a month later.

To paraphrase Dickens, Anton really ought to be boiled with his own pudding. But one can’t help rather liking him..