Relive the 80s in Sheffield

The 80s and 90s: two decades, two eras, two wholly different times for music. I appreciated as much on a three-night bender in Sheffield, where I attended the Snooker World Championships. Travelling from Brighton, we had a group of ten lads, all wanting to watch the action on the baize, before “getting on it” at Sheffield’s delectable range of nightclubs.

Reflex was the 80s bar and our group were deciding whether or not to pay the £5 entry fee or find somewhere cheaper and less classy, which I was assured would not be difficult. Sheffield is the kind of place where a row of blokes hand out vouchers for the town’s Spearmint Rhino without a trace of shame on their faces. Waiting outside Reflex, we could see an enormous woman wearing a white dress grinding up against the window, showing the people of Sheffield her rotund hindquarters, gyrating on the spot like she was using a piece of machinery at the gym. For reasons unknown, we didn’t interpret this as an ominous sign.

Eventually we agreed to suck up the entry fee and queued up patiently. I climbed the staircase and immediately recoiled. When the sign outside said ‘80s bar’ I didn’t think it meant the average age of the club’s clientele but looking around, all I could see was old faces, haggard and weary, raising their arms to the strains of Candy Statton and pretending to be young again. There was enough wrinkle cream in that room to smother a herd of elephants.

Suddenly our group of lads were the youngest people around, so much so we probably halved the average age of Reflex’s customers. We all looked at each other and it slowly dawned on us that we had made a terrible mistake. The dancefloor was covered in mirrors – a strange decision considering the fat girl in the white dress, still swivelling menacingly by the window, looked little better from seventeen angles.

At the raised podium a DJ tried to inject some energy into proceedings but the lacklustre response he was receiving from Reflex’s aged revellers gave the dancefloor the impression of an OAP’s martial arts class at the local leisure centre. I was told that one woman, wearing an emerald dress and an expression of utter misery that can only come from staying trapped for years in a doomed relationship, was giving me eye contact. “Yeah, she probably thinks I stole her false teeth” I quipped, as we all gulped down our drink.

When deciding which clubs to go in, sometimes it’s a good idea to check out the men as well as the women. If the men are diligently dressed up to the nines, doused in expensive aftershave and looking like they stepped straight from a photo shoot for Next, the girls are likely to be several steps up from pig ugly. If they are short, pot-bellied, skin-heads who look like they came off worse in a fight with a combine harvester, the girls are likely to be rancid.

It’s all about relativity, however. To my teenage eyes, the women were all deeply unattractive but I’m certain the bald, short fella, dancing wildly to ‘Let Me Be Your Fantasy’ disagreed. We tried our luck in Babylon, a 90s bar, and fared little better.

As I said, the 90s were a totally different era for music. Yet as far as the eye could see, Babylon was full of the same idiots in Reflex, just ten years younger. One friend, Ashley, has a rather similar taste in music to me but on these occasions you just have to go with the flow and accept the horrendous cheesiness of the music. Clearly Ashley didn’t get this message as he pulled the filthiest face I have ever seen once ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’ started.

There was one other club which sticks in the mind, no matter how much I try to forget it. The Basement, a name which crops up in most towns, was the most lowlife, degrading club I have ever been in. It was clearly a student dive but even students aren’t as messy as the floor of The Basement. I came out of there walking like a robot because my feet were sticking to the pavement. There was no furniture or railings. There was no seats, no lighting within easy reach. Outside, a kid was on the pavement spinning frantically as if breakdancing, frothing at the mouth and chucking up bits of small intestine. “Another local” Ashley chuckled.

Without doubt, the funniest incident of the weekend was at the Travelodge we were staying in. While we were all getting ripped off for breakfast, a gentleman in a wheelchair and his carer exited the lift and headed for reception. The gentleman must have forgotten something because he quickly span around and went to press for the lift again. “We can’t be sitting around all day” said his carer, unaware that ten hungover men, wolfing down breakfast like it’s going out of fashion, were now bringing up apple juice through their nose, laughing uncontrollably.


Salou spring break

Some adverts make me want to do the opposite of what they desire. For instance, when I see a Cash 4 Gold advert, my only human emotion is to search the internet for letter bombing techniques. Any Loose Women promotional activity makes me want to rip the television from its socket and hurl it from the nearest window. If it lands on the head of someone who has recently bought a sofa from DFS after watching their adverts, in which people with rooms large enough to house a football match lay luxuriously on their latest purchase, more the better.

Advertisements for ferry companies serve to remind me how horrid the sea-faring vessels are, lurching from one side to the other like a defeated boxer in the last round. Carpet Right adverts might not make me perform hypothetical violent acts, but they do make me ponder what, in all that is holy, ‘Carpet Madness’ might be.

The best example of this isn’t strictly an advert, although it might as well be. The Sun ran a feature a few days ago headlined “8,000 students in Salou booze-up”, in which Nick Francis spouts off about unruly youthful behaviour, inadvertently making the place seem like the sort of thing a Sun reader might be interested in.

“Eyes glazed, two girls grapple with each other in the street and fall laughing into the gutter, seemingly oblivious to the pools of urine and vomit. With their skimpy dresses up around their waists, the pals cackle and shriek as they roll around in the filth” starts the article. As catastrophes go, I’m not sure that describing a scene which could be found in any major British town on a Friday night after kicking out time, is the best way of convincing the reader that Salou truly is the work of the devil.

“Welcome to Saloufest”, the article continues, “a week when more than 8,000 students hit the sleepy Spanish seaside resort of Salou in search of booze, parties and casual sex.

“A rugby team from York University are already completely smashed. Two of them expose themselves as they complete dares too graphic to describe in a family newspaper, to whoops and applause from nearby members of a girls’ hockey team. In response, a chant erupts from the lads: ‘We want tits, we want tits’ and the girls happily oblige, whipping off their tops and T-shirts”. Yes. The male dares are too “graphic” to describe in a ‘family’ newspaper, but the sight of women peeling off their shirts is described in faintly erotic terms.

Thus far, this feature, which supposedly highlights a grave catalogue of misdemeanours from British yobs, in the vain hope of putting a stop to the debauched merriment, has succeeded in making Salou sound like the most entertaining week on the planet. The quotes from revellers are equally as stirring.

Hannah Sharp from Birmingham slurs: “It just gets better. When you’re a fresher it’s worse because the older students make you do horrible stuff. I wasn’t allowed on the coach until I had done 15 shots of sambuca. I was sick for the entire 26-hour journey. Everyone gets completely out of their box and has sex. It’s great”. I defy any male to read this paragraph and not at least give seven seconds thought to the idea of booking a holiday in Salou, perhaps even thinking of ways to make the trip respectable: “Yes, I’m sure I could visit a few museums”.

Accompanying the article are numerous pictures, none of which turn you off the idea. Most of the images feature scantily clad young women lying about on beaches, which is possibly the least effective turn-off mechanism since the dawn of time. “I definitely can’t go now, look at all the half-naked, drunken girls lying about the beach like cuttlefish. There’s no way I could read my Stephen King novel in that kind of atmosphere”.

Exactly the same people who look down on events like these are the ones who believe in the free-market economy. And when you’re eighteen years old, with a student loan in the bank, a large enough overdraft to bail out a small country in the Pacific Ocean and more independence than you’ve ever experienced, the economy bases itself around hormonal, primal instincts.

An expat bar owner, sticks up for the students, saying “They bring a lot of revenue with them. And they don’t behave any worse than youngsters do in the UK”. Which may or not may be true, but another picture accompanying the article shows two lads standing on a table in a busy restaurant with their trousers around their ankles.

The last time I checked, this is frowned upon in most British establishments. Unless Wetherspoon’s has gone even further downmarket – a possibility I shan’t entirely rule out.


The house that looks like Hitler

The house that looks like Hitler. The bird table that looks like Geoffrey Hoon. The roundabout that looks like Gorbachev. One of these items has been a massive news story over the past week. The other two, regrettably, are entirely fictitious.

The bona fide story is about the house that looks like Hitler. In Swansea, a light brown abode with a slanted roof has been mistaken for the Fuhrer. A Twitter post from Jimmy Carr made the picture ‘trend’ and bought the Hitler doppelganger (so to speak) to a wider audience.

A Daily Mail article states in a caption beneath the picture: “The Swansea semi which, in a curious way, looks like the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler”. Indeed, it’s extremely curious, mainly because it looks precisely nothing like a fascist dictator. The journalist who filed the story must be infamous Private Eye hack Phil Space.

Some have suggested that the black front door represents his moustache. I’d argue that it represents a front door. Besides, if the spirit of Adolf Hitler really did come back, he would hardly be likely to plump for Swansea as his haunting spot – unless he’s even madder than we all think. OK, with a little imagination (and a little bad acid) the house might share a passing resemblance to the Führer. But I must confess. All I can see is Prince Harry.

The profound impact of this story will lead people to pay extra attention to the architecture of the houses around them, but it will leave an indefinite number of people thinking, “My house looks like houses, is that OK?” Furthermore, Clive Davies, the owner, disclosed that the house had survived the Luftwaffe bombs when the area was severely hit by German attacks, which to some people only confirmed that the house is Adolf Hitler in house-form. This is as patently ridiculous as claiming that a house looks like Meryl Streep because the owners rented Mamma Mia! from Blockbusters last Thursday.

Maybe, after years of jokes at his expense, Mr. Davies could tell his children that he was moving away and call it “The Final Solution”. If he did decide to move, I wouldn’t want to be the estate agents trying to sell the property – especially if the house has a walk-in shower. Perhaps a rumour could go round that the house only has one bedroom, leading a plethora of historians to wonder whether this lack of bedrooms could explain the house’s decision to invade Poland.

In years to come, there could be numerous History Channel documentaries about the house, accompanied by grainy images of Swastika-emblazoned soldiers marching around the kitchen. Dodgy BNP supporters will say things like “say what you like about that house, it had some good ideas”.

Many people have complained about the ‘dumbing down’ of news and stories like this could only confirm that feeling. Yet when you take a closer look at some of the ‘serious’ stories that are being printed in our newspapers, devoting page after page of analysis to inanimate objects that look like dictators seems like a favourable activity. For instance, The Daily Express ran the headline “Salt banned in chip shops” a few days ago, blaming Elf ‘n’ Safety for the move. “Daft health police wreck the nation’s favourite treat” says the by-line.

This makes no sense on so many levels. We have no such thing as a “health police” for starters. When a child tucks in to a Mars bar, trained officers wielding truncheons and chain-mail don’t charge into the offending newsagents and start beating the child around the head, even if this might curb the obesity epidemic.

Secondly, since when was ‘salt’ our favourite treat? In light of all the government warnings about the dangers of excess salt, many of which appear in The Daily Express itself, it ranks somewhere between smoking, Class A drugs and herpes in the list of things people should avoid.

Besides, the story isn’t quite what it seems. Tabloid Watch reports that the Express column contradicts itself: “Stockport council… want fish and chip shops, cafes and Indian restaurants to hide salt shakers behind the counter” the story says. So it is just the one council. And they’re not actually banning anything. It would be like me asking Sainsbury’s to put their lemons, grapefruits and watermelons in the store room because their sexual connotations frighten me, and then immediately after firing off the shitty email, writing a story in a national newspaper about how Sainsbury’s has ‘banned bosom-shaped fruit and veg’ to appease PC feminist-lefties.

How does asking for shops to put some salt behind a counter constitute an article screaming the health police have BANNED it? It makes stories such as the Hitler house seem like the apex of journalism.