Saturday, October 21, 2006

And as I hadn't posted in 11 days or so, here's another story from four years ago. Jesus. Where's the time gone?

Our circle of friends has an understanding that if you are in need on money, as one of us always is, they just have to ask and we’ll sort it out between us. It’s a what’s mine is yours sort of attitude, and it’s helped me out on numerous occasions. One of my mates, however, is very proud, and finds it difficult to as for help, financial or otherwise. The other night, however, he asked if he could borrow some cash. Not a problem. I reached into my wallet and pulled out a crisp twenty, and asked if this was alright. It was all I had on me, but it was enough for a few pints and something to eat, I figured.

My mate coughed an embarrassed cough and said to me, in hushed tones I believe they call it, that he needed £300. Jesus. He knows I haven’t got that sort of money any more, and more importantly, that I have no access to more than about £50 at any time. This meant one of two things. 1. This wasn’t actually my mate, but some stranger who looked a bit like him, or b. He was in real need of money. You don’t go from being embarrassed to ask for a couple of quid, to then asking if you could borrow a few hundred pounds.

Naturally, before I could tell him I had no money, I had to get the story out of him, there had to be a story behind it, right? You don’t just decide to ask to borrow that sort of money for no reason. “Yeah, Chris, it’s for a new pair of jeans and some trainers.” Or “There’s a few CDs I wouldn’t mind buying.” That sort of thing would be ridiculous and not worth writing about at all.

The reason, as it always is, was gambling. My mate had bet large amounts of money and had lost, and now owed someone in town. This is dangerous. I told him that he had to go and speak to him, and after taking advice from Dr Miriam’s case book in the Mirror, I told him that I would go with him for support, expecting to end up at the Billiards Club, or that ropey pub on Harrowby Lane, where all the hardcore gamblers hang out. Where we eventually turned up was a bit of a surprise.

My mate took me to Lucky’s Chinese takeaway. While not in the class of Mr. Pangs, which I suppose is more of a restaurant than a takeaway, it is certainly one of the better takeaways in town. The sizzling beef in ginger is f*cking sublime. And they always give me free prawn crackers, for some reason. My mate led me into the shop, had a word with the guy behind the counter, and was let in through the back. We were led through the kitchen and into a courtyard out the back. At this point I was shitting myself. Damn you Dr Miriam. Damn you and your free tabloid advice. All sorts of images were flying through my head. Images of Samurai swords and throwing stars. My mate owes money to the triads. He will die for sure, and as a witness, I will be a marked man. Not even Nash Bridges would be able to save me.

Needless to say my mate didn’t owe money to the triads. But he did lead me into a garage at the back of the courtyard. It was a right shack, bits of old kitchen stacked everywhere. Rolls of carpet, old cookers, cabinets, polystyrene, everything. But in the middle of the room was a table football table. And it was a beauty. Open top with hand carved wooden players. It didn’t have a coin slot, and the balls were kept not in a ball slide, but in the back of the goals.Playing table football as much as I do round town, in (what used to be called) Jaspers, Dr Thirsty’s, The Castlegate, and the Croc Rock, you meet the same people all the time. The rumours were that there was a table in the upstairs part of the Playhouse that no one was allowed in. A guy called Mike who works in Padleys, the chicken factory in town (they produce for KFC, Sun Valley, things like that) said he would have a word with a guy called Alan to see if my mates were allowed to play on it, but he was pissed and full of shit. What I had found, however, was much better. This was the Lost City of Gold of table football. The fountain of youth even. The Lord f*cking Lucan riding on the back of Shergar through the streets of Atlantis of Table football. It wasn’t fight club, but it was pretty damn close. An underground, unknown table football gambling syndicate. I was wetting my pants with excitement.

In the corner, sitting on part of an old washing machine, was a guy I know from the pool hall, who owns a jewellery and pawn shop. He’s a big bastard, with a gold tooth, lots of gold rings, and a huge gold chain with a boxing glove pendant hanging off it. He nodded at me, as if to say “Who’s the geek?”, clearly didn’t recognise me then, and my mate said that I was just a friend of his. I introduced myself and said I was an undercover reporter for the Cook report, the second time I’d tried such a gag in this sort of situation (the first being in that sandwich factory in the fens, that was full of illegal immigrants). I didn’t think it possible, but it went down even less well this time. My mate stuttered an apology, and told him he couldn’t pay the money yet. I winced and braced myself for the physical violence that was sure to follow, but the guy was quite reasonable about it and told him he’d have to pay it next time he got paid, or he’d break his arms, or something. Which really was a let off, when you think about it.

I couldn’t leave without a couple of games first, and so we took on the jewellery shop owner and the owner of Jaspers at a game of doubles. I suggested that in the current situation, it was probably best we only played for fun, as in no money will change hands. “Smart kid” the jewellery shop owner replied. I hate getting called kid. There’s a chap from the bowl who calls me kid every time I serve him. I hand him his pint of Carlsberg and he says “Cheers, kid”. I hate it anyway, but what really takes the piss is that he’s younger than me. What right does he have to call me kid? He’s only 19. I hate kid even more than being called mush. After a while we moved on to pound a man. A couple of quid couldn’t hurt, could it? And we might even win. We’ve beaten them plenty of times before. Pound a man soon turns to pound a goal, and after that, who knows where we go. But not his time. Oh no. I wouldn’t fall for the same stupid tricks as my mate.

I got back from town a couple of hours ago. I had to go to the bank, and then to a pawn shop in town, where I had to pay the owner fifty quid. Sometimes I am such a stupid bastard.
Not a lot has gone on this week. It's been a quiet one, work mixed with difficulties concerning my private life. A usual week, then.

On Tuesday, I think, I was working in the kitchen when I bumped into someone I hadn't seen in ages. A guy I used to work with was sat with a girl on table 29. Table 29 is a bad table to sit at. It's right next to the open kitchen, so your quiet meal tends to get disrupted by the inane chat of us, the bored kitchen staff. On Tuesday that chat was about who would win in a fight, twenty badgers or three lions, who could say 'fuck' the loudest, and the correct way to pronounce the word 'bush'. Hardly the ideal setting for a first date, for that's what I assumed the guy who I hadn't seen for ages was on.

He was a guy I used to work with. A chef in a pub I was assistant manager of a few years back. Seeing him was something of a shock, for as far as I was concerned, the guy was probably dead.

He used to make up outrageous lies concerning his physical health. Terrible, awful lies. He told the management team he had cancer, and needed every Monday off for radiotherapy, or chemotherapy, or whatever. And he would frequently skive off busy days at work by pretending to collapse, falling conveniently into the recovery position, before demanding an ambulance to take him to hospital. He was a nut job. A total loon.

He ended up getting sacked from the job after an argument. He stormed out of the kitchen on a Saturday afternoon (just before the football), leaving the 16 year old pot wash boy to fend for himself. A task this particular lad was not adept at.

After that I didn't see the guy in ages. I briefly left the pub, getting transferred to a different god-forsaken town at the other end of the country, and he went off to work putting up stages for rock bands, doing some outside catering work, all the while claiming the dole.

When I got back to town having run away from the job I was transferred to, we bumped into each other in the pub. He asked after me, I studiously avoided asking after his health. I mentioned a mutual friend of ours was in Ibiza working as a barman. This guy was topping up his wage with some 'extra-curricular activities' shall we say. He was always on the lookout for a lucrative side earner.

At this the chef's ears pricked up - presumably a side-effect of all that radiotherapy. He started whispering in conspiratorial tones. He knew, he said, a guy in Leeds that could get dodgy travellers cheques, but he needed a contact on the continent to get rid of them for him.

At this point I stopped paying attention. This is not the sort of thing I am into. Not at all. So I let the guy go on for a while, nodding, saying yes in the right place, and agreeing that it was a great idea.

We were to fly out to see our mate once a fortnight, taking with us large amounts of forged travellers cheques. We'd then sell these, at a decent rate, to our mutual friend. Who would then sell them on to unsuspecting holidaymakers. Although I wanted no part in this I agreed in principle to chat to our mutual friend about in. Mostly just to shut the guy up.

So I phoned our man in Ibiza, and told him the plan. He wasn't against the idea in principle (which was no great surprise) and outlined his plan to smuggle cocaine into the country in tins of travel sweets.

"Those travel sweets you get are always covered in white powder." He explained, "Customs would just think it was sugar or something!"

This was a spectacularly bad idea. Even worse than the sub-moronic travellers cheques one.

"Great." I replied. "Let me know how you get on." And I put the phone down, vowing to avoid these two loons for as long as humanly possible in a town as small as Lancaster.

And I had done, for a couple of year at least, until the chef had turned up with his date at table 29. And in the midst of cleaning spoodles and boxing up pomodori sauce, we'd made eye-contact.

"Alright mate!" He beamed, "Long time!"

I smiled and replied that it had been, cursing my luck our paths had crossed.

"Can I get you a drink, for when you've finished work? I'll add it to the bill."

"That would be nice." I told him, "I'll have a bottle of Peroni cheers very much."

And that was that. He paid the bill and left with his poor, unsuspecting date, and I finished up at work and drank my free beer. It turned out to be warm, but hey, I didn't pay for it, so it'd be churlish to complain too loudly.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I've found an iPod lead. My housemate had one in his pocket. I don't like to throw accusations round willy nilly, so I wont. I'll just say it was a huge coincidence. I've now updated and recharged my iPod. One less thing to worry about. I'll sleep tonight.

Except I wont. I'm going through another phase of insomnia which is starting to drag me down. I think it's been a week or so since I slept properly at night. Typically I get to sleep at about half six and sleep in till about midday. It's not good for my mental state or any sort of productivity. Job hunting is out of the window. As is writing. I just waste my days editing Pro Evo on my PS2 or dicking about on the internet. Which is fun (actually, largely it isn't, but let's pretend it is for my sake) but doesn't get me anywhere. At all.

I looked up insomnia on the internet, maybe to find some sort of old remedy, and #i found a list of famous insomniacs. It made for sobering reading. Napoleon, Maggie Thatcher, Winston Churchill, Macbeth. There were others such as Groucho Marx (who to keep him amused when awake would phone strangers and insult them. An idea I liked so much I aped it. But with people I know) and Carey Grant, but let's ignore them for a bit. But Christ, look at those names. Murderers, despots, dictators. I'm keeping fine company.

Hitler didn't sleep much either. I know this as I read about it once. He used to stay up for hundreds of hours on end getting spazzed off his tits on speed so he didn't miss any war updates or whatever. I tried to make 100 hours without sleep once, but sacked it off after 56 hours or so. I started hearing and seeing things and thought the exercise was of limited use.

We should thank our lucky stars Adolf didn't sack it off after 56 hours. You've got an uptight, paranoid, speed-freak in charge of the German war machine, well it's going to go tits up isn't it? And it's no wonder he shot himself. After six years of eating speed constantly, imagine the comedown. There was no other possible outcome.

But look at me. I'm ranting incoherently about a subject I know nothing about. This is what lack of sleep does to me. Maybe some hot milk will sort me out? Failing that I've got a bottle of gin stashed somewhere. That'll do the trick.
Someone keeps stealing my iPod usb lead and I'm getting pretty angry about it. It's not the first time it has gone missing. Mine disappeared ages ago, and now my girlfriend's lead has gone too. It's infuriating. I just downloaded loads of music, thereby sticking a dagger into the heart of capitalism (or something) and saving me loads of money, and I can't even listen to it on the go. I have to gaffer tape my laptop to my chest and use it as a massive Walkman. Which is no good at all. Especially since my laptop is essentially a typewriter hooked up to an etch-a-sketch. The battery life is laughable. I get half way through the opening bars of 'I Walk The Line' and it shuts down.

If anyone has my iPod lead, will they return it to me safely. There's no reward, but by returning it we will avoid a Mel Gibson 'Ransom' type situation.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Everyone has a mate called Badger. Or at least knows someone with a mate called Badger. I've been assured that this is fact, so feel free to distribute that particular piece of knowledge. My Badger lives back in Grantham, where I grew up. He sent me a text the other day saying "I hear there's a picture of you in MORE magazine...?"

I was kind of hoping no one would notice. Actually I was hoping more that the picture would get cut from the magazine, as surely my inane gurns would cause outrage and dismay. But the picture did get published, and my mate on the other side of the country found out about it from an ex-girlfriend. What are the chances? Both of Badger actually having an ex-girlfriend and of her seeing the picture. (Just kidding dude, before you go texting me saying "I hear you've been slagging me off on the internet...)

So yeah, I am in MORE magazine. And no doubt my picture is adorning the walls of teenage girls across the land. Or not. For as anyone who has seen the picture will testify, I look like I'm choking back a mouthful of vomit. Maybe I was? I can't remember.

A girl at work saw the article and picture and told me that it had given her hope. Apparently if I can get in More magazine, then she can achieve anything she wants. I'm not sure if she meant that in a nice way or not.