When your nearest and dearest is a professional musician, there are certain expectations to be met One of which, is to attend the odd gig (odd being the most appropriate word in most cases, as I have recently discovered).
The chance to earn some much-needed cash on an otherwise dreary Sunday afternoon was too great an opportunity to resist for my rock god, which is why, one chilly day in November, we ended up two hours drive away, at the edge of civilisation, in Lowestoft!
After carefully selecting a suitable space in which to park the car….. near enough to the front door to avoid a hernia while carrying equipment, but far enough away to avoid our shiny new Ford Focus getting in the way of any idiots falling out of the pub after guzzling a tad too much of the local jungle juice…. I acted as door-person, so that him indoors could struggle with an assortment of cases.
Lucky we weren’t at Stansted, heading off for sunnier climes, or I fear the excess baggage charge would’ve rendered us bankrupt. As the rather animated landlady greeted us with open arms, I suspected that it was going to be an interesting afternoon. I wasn’t wrong.
Now, there is a certain etiquette involved in being the partner of he who is being paid to entertain the masses. No excessively foul language and no picking fights is a given, however it will do nothing to aid potential re-bookings if you park yourself in a dark, dank corner and scowl at anyone who dares to glance in your general direction. And so my Public Relations role began.
While my musical mate was busying himself with all manner of fancy electrical gubbins, I was being introduced to the ‘regulars’. Boy, was I in for a treat!
Well, there was Syd, a folically challenged, elderly gentleman, already so drunk at he was unable to stand without assistance. Bless him, he tried to communicate, but I fear that his strong, possibly Irish, accent, and the fact he was ejecting gallons of saliva each time he opened his mouth, meant that I wasn’t able to answer his question, especially in the absence of a brolly. I wonder what he said?
Then there was the delightful Terry, who’ll never see 60 again, but was hanging onto his youth for grim death. The Levi jacket and Wrangler jeans had apparently left him in a 70’s time warp, from which he had no visible means of escape. Don’t worry what other people say Tel, I loved the Status Quo T-shirt, especially when paired up with those rather fancy cowboy boots.
Terry’s enchanting girlfriend….. another one who’ll never see 60 again……also appeared to be stuck in the same era as her dearly beloved, sporting a tight denim mini skirt and Quo T-shirt combo, despite the fact that Mabel clearly loves a pint, (or seven), along with the occasional pie, and is actually the size of Heybridge.
I was reliably informed that the delicious hot buffet…. which I assumed to be something along the lines of sausage rolls and mini pizzas…..would make an appearance during the break, and that I should help myself to whatever nosh myself and my chap required, before spitty Syd found his way to the table. Erm…..thanks, but I’ve already eaten. No doubt Terry’s bird would get there first in any case.
After what seemed an eternity, but in reality was less than 20 minutes, the live music began. Hurrah. I was rather hoping that the focus would now fall on the man with the guitar, allowing me a few moments respite from all the inane grinning I’d been doing ever since we’d arrived.
The previously hyperactive landlady had seemingly calmed down, and was now propping up the bar chatting to a tall, scruffy-looking woman, sporting a short spiky haircut, and they appeared to be looking in my direction.
I did my dutiful smiley face, which was unfortunately misinterpreted as “Come and get me”, which Ms tall and scruffy instantly did. As she lent towards me I reciprocated, thinking that she wanted to speak to me. The volume of the music, along with the indecipherable bellowing of rent-a-mob, was now at many more decibels than I usually care for, so it seemed an obvious thing to put my ear close to her mouth, to enable communication to commence.
Hindsight’s a wonderful thing, and I was thinking this as I was trying to surgically remove the stunned look off my face after she’d taken both my ears in her sweaty little palms, pulled me towards her, and kissed me full on the lips!
As a child of the 60s, and a teen of the 70s, I consider myself extremely broad-minded. I have many friends who are gay, and I completely accept and respect their particular lifestyle choices without so much as a raised eyebrow.
However, having a total stranger (emphasis on strange) attempt to snog me….. and a woman at that…. was not, in my opinion, within the boundaries of acceptability where partner of the entertainer etiquette is concerned.
I somehow managed to retain a sliver of composure, goodness knows how, and attempted to explain that I was ‘not that way inclined’ and was here with my man, who’d seen the whole fiasco and was now trying to suppress his obvious amusement at my predicament. Yes dear, very funny.
Unfortunately, this information appeared to fall on deaf ears, as although she did retreat back the bar area, she blatantly kept eyeing me up and winking at me for the entire duration of the gig. I’ve never grabbed onto my other half quite so hard as I did during his 15 minute break.
With the buffet gong reverberating throughout the pub, the bunfight began. To my astonishment, piles of crisp brown
Yorkshire puddings had been carefully stacked high, alongside crunchy roasties and huge chunks of beef. What appeared to be a bucket of gravy was slopped over everyone’s plates, as random hands grabbed at giant slices of crusty bread and butter, presumably for mopping up the inevitable gravy spillages. The sight of Syd zig-zagging towards the feast with his chin smothered in drool was thankfully enough to put my other half off the thought of eating, so, for now, I remained safely chaperoned.
After all pigs had successfully emptied the trough, act two began, leaving me at the mercy of all and sundry once more. Luckily, El Tel decided to regale me with his life story, while Mad Mabel shook her thang to the music, although I couldn’t hear a word he was saying.
I seemed to have got away with it though, politely nodding and frowning in more or less the correct places, interrupted only by a large, ginger-headed, similarly-bearded man, in what looked like a lumberjack shirt, shouting at me “Does he do any Elvis?”, pointing at my long-haired rock-type in full Hendrix mode.
I shook my head, to which he responded “Does he do any Country and Western?!” I shook my head again, and the despondent Honey Monster turned and walked away. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all.
Eventually, the end of the gig was in sight, and I for one was losing the will to live, when a rather large crowd of Nike-clad hobbledehoys tumbled through the doors. They were clearly the worse for wear, and I was concerned for my fella’s safety, however I needn’t have concerned myself as the re-animated landlady simply bellowed at them “Behave or get out!” (I’ve removed the expletives, which, for a very short sentence, were more numerous than you might imagine). They behaved.
The predictable encores meant that my jaw muscles had to endure a further 10 agonizing minutes of fixed grinning, but at least the majority of crowd seemed suitably impressed with their afternoon’s entertainment, which, after all was the main object of the exercise.
I somehow managed to make myself totally unavailable to members of the general public, while all equipment was stashed back into its various bags and boxes, busying myself with trips to and from the car trying to look pre-occupied, followed by much feet-watching with unwavering concentration.
Once that all financial matters had been concluded, and the final goodbyes had been administered, we beat a hasty retreat to the relative sanctuary of the car. Well, I can honestly say I’ve never had a Sunday afternoon quite like that before – and, to be brutally frank, it’ll be a cold day in hell before I ever agree to an encore.