Let’s do the time warp again

At the beginning of a match of snooker with a mate, he told me there would be a party going on downstairs. It was someone’s 30th and all the stops had been pulled out. I counted at least seven balloons and three “Happy Birthday” banners were hanging limply on the wall, which I guessed were pulled out every time someone celebrated their day of birth. I could see a cobweb on one.

The venue was a small-town British Legion which has probably seen better days, including the time it was bombed during the War. Every time I enter there is an old couple sitting by the bar, both stooped and ageing. They sit there all night. When the man speaks he has to press his hand against the trunk of his neck or no sound will come out. The woman looks like a homeless Princess Anne. They sit by the fruit machine and comment unhelpfully while you play on it. I swear when people’s backs are turned they raid it.

You would only find such a place in a parochial town, the kind of area where you suspect the twenty-first century is viewed with rampant scepticism. One big tell-tale factor is that the meat raffle is still a big deal. I used to think meat raffles were the stuff of legend, the kind of working class activity probably outlawed by New Labour. It really shouldn’t exist in leafy Sussex, but I have witnessed the draw with my own eyes and can confirm that winning a pack of Cumberland sausages in a bar still holds immense value for those who take part.

Adverts for upcoming gigs didn’t exactly lift the prevailing mood of an aversion to modernity. “The Firetones this Saturday! Regulars at the Legion, they will be playing all your favourite rock ‘n’ roll classics from the ‘50s and ‘60s”. I asked one old lag at the bar if the band were any good. He said “yes, if you like that modern crap”.

My friend had been formally invited because he once went out with the girl who was celebrating her big day. “Fucks like a bag of spiders” he told me knowingly, before spilling the beans on the rest of the motley brigade who had turned up in full fancy dress.

“See her, thin girl with the dreadlocks” he said, pointing to the bar.

“Yeah” I replied, “that’s a rubbish outfit”.

“That’s her real hair”.

“Oh”.

“Well, she’s mad. Her brother is serving time for GBH and her whole family are nuts. She likes to sing ‘We Are The Champions’ after a few drinks. You can’t take the microphone off her during karaoke.

“Bloodyhell”.

“See that bloke over there? Bald head, glasses, facing the other way? Had an affair with his cousin”.

“Right” I said, all my suspicions proving well-founded.

“And her, the old girl on the dancefloor, face like a smacked arse”.

I looked but there were OAPs all over the dancefloor and most of them could pass for members of the undead.

“No sorry, where?”

“There” he said, doing that unhelpful thing that people do when you can’t see where someone’s pointing, ie shoving their finger in your eyeline. This time I saw. She had painted her face white, with black around her eyes so she looked like a cross between a mime artist and a panda. Judging by the wide berth all the blokes were giving her, she probably has the reproductive patterns of a panda too.

“She’s properly mad. Friend of the family. The lift does not go all the way to the top”.

The birthday girl, a pretty blonde with an alcopop in hand, came over to say hello.

“Alright darlin’” my mate said, kissing both cheeks.

“Glad you could make it” she said, smiling.

“We had some good times didn’t we, babe”.

“Yeah” she said, turning to meet my eyes, “but he took advantage of me”.

“No I did not” he said in mock surprise.

“In a good way” she said, with a wink.

“I tell you now” he continued, “I always had respect for you, ‘cos you could suck-start a leaf blower”. She giggled with a mixture of embarrassment and pride.

“Anyway, who are you?” she asked, looking me up and down, unexpectedly adding “You’re quite fit”. She was wearing a rather revealing top and as I began framing a response, I became conscious that my head was moving up and down as if I was watching a vertical tennis rally.

“You’re not bad yourself” I muttered, fighting to keep my gaze steady. Inside I was skipping. “Quite fit” she said! Usually I’m compared to an overlarge freight-damaged potato, so “quite fit” is definitely a step in the right direction, even if the modifier was a bit disheartening – there’s a world of difference between “you’re beautiful” and “you’re quite beautiful”. On a man’s wedding day, were he to say the first, he would be performing his duty as a husband. Were he to say the second, he would be signing divorce papers days after the ceremony.

The birthday girl moved on to the next well-wishers and my mate continued his hilarious narrative of the movers and shakers in the small room.

“That bird by the billiards table wearing the Nun outfit. Total slapper. She’s been under more sheets than the Ku Klux Klan. And him, wearing the cardigan and sitting on the stool. Looks like Jonathan Edwards after six cans of Special Brew. He’s my accountant. Lovely bloke. Total drunk. The local taxi company sends a car here every night at 11 because he’s in no fit state to get home. He lives sixteen doors away”.

“I’ll try one more” he added, finally reaching the bar and topping up his double vodka and coke, “then I’m getting my costume on”. The DJ was pulling out all the classics and things started getting slightly out of control.

The woman with dreadlocks had opened hostilities with thin air, shouting at no-one in particular, only drowned out by the ear-shattering volume of the disco. Kids had started whizzing around all over the place, untamed and feral, colliding with legs and tables. The slapper in the Nun’s outfit was striking up conversation with every man in the room and it seemed only a matter of time before I would be next. The birthday girl was being handed shots of sambuca, which she necked faster than they could be poured. My mate had gone next door and re-entered the room as Sylvester the cartoon cat to guffaws and cheers from the gathering. The drunkard accountant had just dropped his drink with a deafening smash, prompting mingled swear words and apologies. The mad woman wearing face paint was whispering in the DJ’s ear and seconds later I understood why.

As if to complete the surrealness of the scene, ‘The Time Warp’ (t-t-t-time warp) bellowed from the speakers and she rushed to the centre of the dancefloor, joining a select bunch of misfits to perform the routine. As the chorus reached its denouement, she seemed to be readying herself for a big moment. Right on cue (“Let’s do the time warp again”) and centre stage, she ripped open her dress, a la Bucks Fizz, to reveal just a bra and knickers.

I was laughing so much I was in agony. I actually fell to the floor in hysterics.

“God bless her” my mate said at the urinals ten minutes later. “That’s her party piece”.

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Man United fans are idiots

Some things in life are constant. Take the ever-increasing amount of packaging on Christmas presents, devised to make the day itself a tumultuous set of tantrums while I desperately try to put together a Batman lair for the little bro, which might as well be a nuclear submarine. Another constant is gravity, although I have my doubts. Anyone following the career of Tulisa would come to the conclusion that if what goes up must come down, by now she should be standing on street corners in a red-light district, funding a crystal meth habit. Then again, as that video testifies, she does go down sometimes.

There are also cultural truisms, such as the fact that Manchester United fans are idiots. This is not extreme shock-jockery like you find from right-wing American radio types or chatty ‘no-holds-barred’ columnists in women’s magazines who lead you through every twist and turn of their diets like a Karen Slaughter novel. It’s a scientifically proven fact. I can find men in white coats and goggles who will tell you much the same if you give me a bit of time and the costume shop is open. It’s a contentious point, not least because decades of football glory has recruited an army of lounge supporters to the ManYoo cause, whose idea of going to ‘watch the game’ involves sitting in a Wetherspoon’s on a Saturday afternoon, drooling over the barmaid, necking bottles of Carlsberg Export and shouting random swear words every time an opposition player touches the ball.

Not one lone supporter of Fergie’s army has an ounce of common sense when it comes to football. They are all blowhard, ignorant twits, parroting every word Sir Alex Ferguson speaks from atop his towering inferno of bullshit, blissfully unaware of their ability to think independently. In case I get mobbed in the street when I walk past Wetherspoon’s next weekend by a hoard of irate pot-bellied creatures with ‘Rooney’ emblazoned across the enormous breadth of their back, I should point out that some Manchester United fans are lovely people. By airing such thoughts I may be accused of Unitedism but some of my good friends are Red Devils fans. When the conversation stays away from the beautiful game they can be engaging people, almost sane enough to be allowed to mix normally with the community.

Yet the second football is mentioned, these screwballs have no idea. Literally no idea. When they pontificate about the sport, I just want to slap my forehead on my palm and chop off my ears. I support Lewes, a small provincial club with an away ‘following’ which rarely exceeds a 4×4 and a couple of rickshaws. A few years back, Lewes took a couple of hundred fans to Eastbourne Borough for a top-of-the-table local derby and as we swelled the away end to breaking point, we felt like the non-league equivalent of the extras in Ben-Hur.

When I tell United fans that I support a club like Lewes, they contort their face and repeat my team’s name, as if I just mentioned I was having an affair with Edwina Currie. They fail to comprehend that a team below the Premier League exists, less so that a human being would willingly support them. After all, they could be watching a team that wins everything. Another thing I’ve noticed is that all United fans come up with a ‘valid’ reason for supporting them, some bollocks about their Granddad’s best mate’s pet chinchilla’s uncle, who used to sell match programmes outside the ground in 1953.

One such bell-end told me that Arsenal’s admirable and sensible financial restraint was a stupid policy and that football was all about winning. Well, that must be of great comfort to the hundreds of thousands of huffing and puffing men and women who take to their local playing field every week for a shot of glory, a half-time orange and a knackered hamstring. Are all the scarf-draped supporters of basket cases like Grimsby, Rochdale and Liverpool just wasting their time in fruitless pursuit of the Capital One Cup? Does running a club properly count for nothing? Is the size of your trophy cabinet the only way you can measure how valuable something is?

Apologies for the rant, and if you know me at all most of this will be repeating what I have said many times before, usually at volume after a couple of pints of Weston’s organic cider. I adore football but it’s being ruined by a cartel of know-nothings, for whom exorbitant wages and a poor culture of sportsmanship has become standard. Greedy foreign owners ratchet up the price for ordinary supporters to pay off their own company’s debts or buy players worth millions of pounds who spend months warming the bench with a hurty knee.

There is an absence of heart in top flight football, with a few notable exceptions like Swansea, Everton, Arsenal and Norwich. It’s just a rich man’s version of Monopoly and for the last few years Manchester City have landed on Free Parking, spent squillions and ended up with a highly talented squad of individuals that are far removed from their old Maine Road ground and the smell of desperation that greeted each season, a time when a top half finish would be considered an achievement to rank alongside the discovery of DNA. Ask any true City fan, not the band-wagon jumpers who began supporting them when a rich Arab started waving his chequebook around, and they will confirm that something has been lost. It’s not real success, just glory based on being able to outbid rivals, not team spirit or shared endeavour.

United are the worst though. I still remember the banner unfurled at Old Trafford after City were crowned champions last season, which read “United = History, City = $$$”. You couldn’t make it up. This undisputable imbecile, who is following the team with the biggest income on earth and whose debts are in excess of half a billion pounds, has the cheek to claim Manchester City are winning the league through money! What about all the titles you’ve won since 1992? I’ll tell you now mate, you didn’t emerge triumphant time and again despite a wage bill of six shillings and a packet of pork scratchings. I can best illustrate my point when I remind you that United spent in excess of £25 million on Juan Sebastian Veron, who was nothing more than a hairpiece and an attitude.

I don’t have an issue with people who watch them regularly or have a season ticket. It’s the armchair bandits who use the words ‘we’ and ‘us’ when describing their side’s efforts that make me angry. “We were so unlucky the other day, that referee has it in for us” they moan, often disputing something like a debatable throw-in which led to a goal kick, which led to an injury, which led to a free-kick, which led to a 35-yard audacious lob, which can all be blamed on that clueless ref for giving a dodgy throw halfway up the pitch.

Maybe it’s me being old fashioned. In fact, I know it is. But when I saw relegation contenders Lewes beat league leaders Dover 6-2 on Boxing Day 2010 after being 2-0 down, I knew that Manchester United fans immersed in their titles and millions would kill for a real football experience like that. Of course, many would scoff and call me mental but their affinities run as deep as their widescreen TV, so their opinions are irrelevant.

I propose a new rule, one punishable by death if ever broken: you cannot use collective pronouns if you have never seen your team play at their home ground. Having a Sky+ box does not make you a supporter. You have no idea what football means.

The best albums and tracks of 2012

I don’t know where I’d be without music. Probably a lost, dark, desolate wasteland, sucked of all hope and optimism. So probably Woking. I spend hours on public transport every day and the only thing keeping me sane is my earbuds playing sweet audio magic. Forget those blokes with a Mojo subscription who tell you that music was only ever good in the late 60s. In the last twelve months alone there has been some amazing stuff out there and presented here are my favourite 20 albums and tracks that have made those long journey whizz by.

ALBUMS

1) Beach House – Bloom

This album has stayed true all year and I still listen to it at least three times a week. I have developed a fondness for shoegaze-y, dreamy anthems and Bloom is bursting with them.

2) Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

After the crap ‘Working On A Dream’, Bruce’s new album delves into new territory: soul on ‘Rocky Road’, celtic hoedown on ‘Death to my Hometown’, as well as trademark blue-collar rock ‘n’ roll.

3) Pulled Apart By Horses – Tough Love

‘Tough Love’ came out aeons ago but stands up as the best hard rock album of the year, a pummelling eargasm of melody and daft lyrics.

4) DIIV – Oshin

Another dream-pop masterpiece. Every song sounds roughly the same as the last one but it’s all done with such precision it hardly matters.

5) Madness – Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da

Admittedly it’s the worst album title of the year, if not all time. But the follow up to ‘The Liberty of Norton Folgate’ is a suite of classic three minute pop songs that show Madness have plenty left in them. Even my Dad likes it, and he hasn’t liked a record since 1971.

6) The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

‘American Slang’ was disappointing but the follow up sees the New Jersey band amping up and laying claim to the rock heartlands.

7) Dexys – One Day I’m Going To Soar

An already brilliant album was made better after seeing it performed live at the Brighton Dome. It’s hilarious and Kevin Rowland is on top form.

8) Two Door Cinema Club – Beacon

If it’s not broke, why fix it? Two Door Cinema Club stick to the formula that won them hundreds of thousands of fans and is just as good as ‘Tourist History’.

9) Breton – Other People’s Problems

A woozy set of electronic pop which delves into hard-edged beats, sampled strings and a gazillion sugar-rush choruses.

10) The Maccabees – Given To The Wild

British indie rock is in safe hands with bands like The Maccabees. On their third record they push into Horrors-ish noodling and Arcade Fire-like epicness but still sound great.

11) Howler – America Give Up

12) Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

13) Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas

14) Toy – Toy

15) We Are Augustines – Rise Ye Sunken Ships

16) The Hives – Lex Hives

17) Hot Chip – In Our Heads

18) Wild Nothing – Nocturne

19) The Darkness – Hot Cakes

20) Metz – Metz

SINGLES

1) Plan B – iLL Manors

An all-out political rant, backed by shouted vocals of “Oi! You little rich boy” and frantic descending strings. He calls David Cameron a “cunt” and for that reason, amongst others, its’ the best track of the year.

2) Churches – Lies

Indie disco magic, with a lurching bassline and a soaring vocal.

3) Foals – Inhaler

A taster for new album ‘Holy Fire’ and it sounds amazing. ‘My Number’ is every bit as good. Foals have grown some serious balls.

4) The Rolling Stones – Doom and Gloom

Proof there’s still life in the old dogs yet, with Jagger singing about piloting a plane full of zombies. Up there with their best.

5) Garbage – Automatic Systematic Habit

A heroically shit album, made all the worse by this cracking opening track, a mad blizzard of synths and guitars.

6) Bob mould – The descent

The Sugar and Husker Du frontman is back with what he does best, drivetime punk rock with extra melody.

7) Hot Chip – Motion Sickness

Award for best horn section of the year, as Hot Chip get down and dirty on the dancefloor

8) Muse – Panic Station

Muse get funky with surprisingly great results.

9) Tame Impala – Elephant

Glam rock riffage and psychedelic solos. Yes please.

10) The Vaccines – Teenage icon

Scratchy and loveable pop song about being young and rubbish.

11) Fun – We Are Young

12) Haim – Forever

13) Palma Violets – Best of Friends

14) Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks

15) Arctic Monkeys – R U Mine

16) Swesish House Mafia – Greyhound

17) Grimes – Oblivion

18) Django Django – Default

19) M83 – Midnight City

20) Crystal Castles – Sad Eyes