Thursday, 14 July 2011

I Was The Dog

The Golden Owl was dead as fuck all lunchtime. It really was dead. No comfort in casual pub talk. Just me and my pints. Cold comfort. Having spent the last hour or so mining from the sunken holes of my luckless past, the pints went down ultra fast, pox ridden fox chasing crippled rabbit; piss water down the drain, ship sinking. Saving grace though – suppose it was only a weekday bleak-day lunchtime. I mean, what was I really expecting to find down here? A welcoming party, a room full of old friends gathered solely to lift my spirits? Wake up Andy, smell the piss weak lager. Yeah. What was I really expecting coming in here for the first time in years. That all the old faces would be still here, waiting?

Me and Mandy had been together for eight years. That’s a very long time. We had lived together for most of that time. Mum let her move in, and after about six months she then let Mandy sleep in my bed, nightly. We then bought a double bed. Mum helped me get it in from the hire van and up the stairs. I had no other help at hand. Mandy was too thin to offer any weight and muscle and I had shed all my friends, all my best mates. All for Mandy. All of them gone. Ian Orr, Dave Gorse, Dan Stork. Haven’t seen those any of those guys in years.

What great guys, great mates they once were. Once. Were. Haven’t seen those any of those guys in years. Memories. Of loss and regret. What could have been if the old gang had stayed together. I had talent back then too. I remember when me and Dave Gorse put on a play in his back garden. ‘The Clever Cat’ it was called. Dave had written it. I was the dog. A dog called Harry Dogsmith. Dave was the cat. The Clever Cat. Max. Can’t remember the story really. It was, for all intents and purposes, a character upgraded Tom & Jerry, but with us stood rooted slagging each other off in a matey way – the cat getting all the best lines; it was Dave who got the laughs, not me. Still, we charged on the gate and made about a pound each as we got a fair turnout. I even signed autographs. Mostly mums, but Debbie Weeks who was the much older sister of Tracie, got me to sign a box of her matches. Back then she was the first female other than mum to plant one on the side of my face. I really thought after that afternoon, that I was born lucky. Stick with Dave I said, I mean my lucky stars said, stick with Dave Gorse and you’ll find fame. He went on to direct me in a school play. I was a late entry for sure. But Dave was the director and if his mate wanted a role he’d find me one. He got me a job in the play he was directing. I played a brick wall. I even had two lines to learn. Which I did. He said I delivered them, and this was his word: immaculately. Naturally, I saw us in films together. Him directing, me delivering lines immaculately. I even suggested that we should try writing together. But after we left school, in a period where my paranoia taunted me in how he was forever avoiding me, Dave Gorse went and moved to the other side of London. Swiss Cottage. Got into RADA. Never heard about him since.

Still, there was always Ian Orr. With his big ears. Flappy. The winged-beast. Dumbo. FA Cup. Ian Orr. Now I think about it, I really don’t have any, no idea whatsoever of his recent history or whereabouts. 

I’ll never forget my mate Dan Stork though. At school, Dan loved motorbikes, he was obsessed with motorbikes even though he had never even sat on one. Jeff Barry was the oldest in our year – he missed out by one day from being the youngest in another year – and to remind us all of the control in age he held over us he rode into school on the first day of September of our last year on a red Suzuki 50cc moped. Dan Stork was seen throughout that year frantically peddling in his exhaust fumes. He lost an arm at seventeen. Not Jeff Barry but Dan Stork. He overturned a Mini. Lucky to be alive but maybe he should have followed his dream and bought a motorbike. One-armed, he went travelling around the world. With his dad, Mike. I would have gone with him. But was never asked. In fact, I’m sad to say that I never even found out about him losing his arm until I heard it mentioned recently by someone who I work with, in the job.

It’s an insult to me, to hear something so tragic like that about a mate from my history, an integral part of my life, to hear that from some dumb mouth while I’m in the job. The job I hate; it truly is the pit of hell busting your gut five nights out of seven.  Yes, I can say hand on heart that I often wonder how Dan is getting on. I do. I think about him and that one arm all the time. When I get the chance.

This is an extract from Barking Frog by Joe England.

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