Notes from a fragile island 1

October 9 2004

The Ship: Magic, Fashion & Ronnie are sat around one of the barrels in the front window. Magic nods, smiles through a beer froth beard. His teeth are small. Fashion & Ronnie are sharing a giant Yorkshire pudding. “A hat,” says Ronnie. And, I suppose, it is rather like a hat – a sombrero – a batter sombrero filled with mashed potato and sausage. Yellow mustard is directed at it by Fashion. Ronnie says to sit, to join her and Fashion in a lovely glass of Pinot, but the smell (the idea of the smell) of the batter and the potato and the sausage and the Pinot and the yellow mustard squirt begins to make me retch, so I sit at the bar instead and smoke and nurse a beer and watch the punters in the back mirror.


The Embalmer arrives. She is as excitable as ever and, with an ooh and an aah and a thank you, sorry, ABBA, she joins Ronnie and Fashion and Magic at the barrel in the window and says sorry for smoking a minty whilst food is being consumed. “How rude,” she says. “How very rude.” But no one really cares, Fashion just laughs and Ronnie says not to be silly, and, actually, Magic insists that she does smoke and yes, he wouldn’t mind a menthol. “A minty,” says The Embalmer. “A minty!” She looks to me like a stunned and myopic rabbit; quite beautiful, the curls of over-processed hair framing her head, the Dusty Springfield eyes behind the horn-rims, the busy hands, the bangles singing. Magic smokes a minty.

The Sussex Squares arrive and begin to set up on the tiny stage. Their drummer is Miranda who used to go out with Magic. Everyone says he turned her gay. Well, not everyone, but that is the general. I don’t think his magic is that strong though! Nipper is drunk on vodka and he insists that his bass is not nearly loud enough over the PA. The soundman, a bespectacled ginger, pretends to raise the volume of the already ridiculously overblown and farting bass. He does this by sliding a fader slowly further and further up the sound board whilst calling out to Nipper, “How about now?”


“How about now?”



“That’ll do.”

The soundman is Dr. Strange. He is a doctor because he bought a diploma saying so on the internet. He let me into the secret of the Ship’s sound board one time last year. One fader is marked with masking tape, the letters DDN are biro’d there. It is this fader he slowly pushes higher and higher for the drunken bass player.

“What is DDN?” I asked.

“Doesn’t Do Nothing,” he tells me.


Whilst pissing, Ten Foot Jon asks if I’d like to be on the next Tall Order compilation. I tell him that I would. “Well, finish your piss and we’ll talk.” I wonder if all rock n roll careers begin like this, with an unzipped, unnecessary meeting in the pissoir. I wee my initials into the ceramic and leave. “I hate talking in the Gents,” says Ten Foot Jon. Then why do it I wonder. I imagine women do almost nothing but natter as they urinate. But they are generally less encumbered by idiocy.

“Men prefer to keep schtum, legs apart, heads to the wall, concentrate on producing a powerful sounding stream,” Ten Foot tells me as if he’d discovered a new planet.

“Rather like The Ramones,” I say. But he says nothing.

The Sussex Squares play a blinding set. Nipper stumbles from the low stage almost immediately and plays the whole gig in the crowd. He dances round and round, his bass held high and close to his chest. He smiles manically. His Harrington is inside out – the neck of a quarter bottle of vodka bounces up and down within a chequered nylon field.

7 thoughts on “Notes from a fragile island 1

  1. ‘a batter sombrero filled with mashed potato and sausage.’ – poetry of Northern life! Incidentally, I’ve never heard a woman talk in a public toilet except to ask for loo roll under the door…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My gut reaction to your story was, Oh, he has this exactly right! Every detail, every nuance is perfectly true to life. My next thought was, Wait a minute. I can’t know that. The story is completely outside of my own frame of reference. What am I saying?

    What I am saying is that you are a master of your craft. (Love the DDN fader, by the way.)

    Liked by 1 person

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