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Julian Isaacs

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A Bit Of Fun
By Julian Isaacs
Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Two public school chums enjoy an elongated afternoon of drugs and delusion.

 A Bit Of Fun

“It’s not comfort you want, it’s a bit of fun!”

‘South Riding ‘ - Winifred Holtby

 

“Oh the fun I’ve had at Wheeler’s!”

Bernard Walsh - maitre d’hotel of Wheeler’s restaurant to Daniel Farson, friend and biographer of Francis Bacon

 

“I’m out for a good time - all the rest is propaganda!”

‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ - Alan Sillitoe

 

(1)

…staring over the rooftops, following hoof prints, rocking on down…across the anti social housing of the superurban deserted and displaced to where the moonshine reflects on the still, dark river…

 

 

Crispin Topliss didn’t much like his name. He never had. He’d always wanted to be called Mick Jones and ride a Triumph or BSA motorcycle. Not because he liked The Clash - he didn’t much. A couple of his old mates had worked with Joe Strummer and they didn’t like him much either.

Nor was this new career as a disc jockey really happening - a bit like coming off hard drugs: a bright idea in theory but not really sustainable. Crispin had reinvented himself as Kris Tip-Top, but no-one had come forward to patent him yet. There were, surely to God, no gigs on the horizon (or next weekend). No-one seemed to want to hear the old punk stuff these days. Really, who wants to hear Eater or Generation X? Coloured vinyl or not, it wasn’t as though you could hear the colour it was pressed in! There were always a few feckless, indolent characters about who wanted to hear the Pistols, but they were usually even more feckless and indolent than the Pistols themselves.

Crispin had wanted to grow old disgracefully, as they say, like UK Subs frontman Charlie Harper for example. Well actually not like Charlie Harper at all, more like Keith Richards, but what chance now? About as much chance as the 200/1 outsider in the Cambridgeshire the other year, but then that came in, didn’t it? Well fourth, anyway.

Another thing troubling Crispin was that he didn’t know who would be the remotest bit interested in what the fuck he was up to anyway? Did he mind? Well yes, he did. He felt as a status-less refugee, a hillbilly whose banjo’d been detuned and firewater cooled. His great grandmother Eva’s full name was Evalena. Imagine if it’d been Evangelina- what a breakthrough that would’ve been. Imagine if he’d won the lottery last Wednesday - what a breakthrough that would’ve been.

H P Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, Krafft Von Ebing, the only self-defining and combining factor being that they were literate, if not literary, self-delusionists. Now that wasn’t so much to ask, was it? That, if he had to purport to grow old gracefully, he wouldn’t be denied the chance to do it in print.

Time was short and getting shorter, but then so had Arthur Askey been, and he’d done all right - at least he’d looked like he was doing all right when Crispin had seen him in panto’ at Richmond Theatre twenty-two years ago.

Crispin came to a decision. This was getting to be a habit - it couldn’t have been five years since he last made a decision. Crispin hoped this time it’d be a right one, as he vowed to have ‘a bit of fun’. Young people, he heard reputedly, had lots of fun. Conversely, he observed many young people who were ‘old before their time’, so why couldn’t he be ‘young after his time?’ He was glad he’d arranged to meet Pastor now. He hoped Pastor’d have some money and drugs. He realised that, although no money and no drugs definitely meant no fun, having money and drugs did not automatically mean fun, but he thought it’d be a good start, especially if it was Pastor’s money and drugs.

Absently, he glanced over at the copy of yesterday’s Telegraph that his mum had left when she’d popped over…

 

 

DP Gibbons-Hayforth (1957 - 2006)

 

Born in the bicentenary of England’s great visionary, William Blake, and the centenary of the French structuralist pioneer Saussure, DP (Del) Gibbons-Hayforth overcame early critical derision, linguistic incompetence and the statutory incoherence of his class to articulate other-serving metaphysical and etymological prophecies. The patron saint of compulsively obsessive, introspective extroverts and the author of mythic masterpieces, this writer trusts that Gibbons-Hayforth will now receive the representative accolades that the psychodrama of his life so richly deserves.

 

 

Crispin was impressed. Although the obituary was authored by some obscure Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford called Cyril Regis, and in the Telegraph at that, he still thought, hoped even, that he might have chanced upon the most accessible purveyor of nonsense since Edward Lear and Mervyn Peake. The obit’ went on to tell how its hero, as Crispin was starting to regard him, had been ‘breached by an unseasonably cold North Easterly onto the bleakest of Anglian fenland at New York, Lincolnshire’, and ‘been educated at Sherborne shortly after Lindsay Anderson had filmed ‘If’ on location there, going on to be expelled after an incident where he had modelled himself on the mutinous Mick Travis, chillingly portrayed by Malcolm McDowell on his insightful debut’. Who was this disturbed professorial fabular dealer? And who, indeed was this Cyril Regis person behind the senseless, unfathomable eulogy? 

Crispin shivered lightly and shrugged on a sweatshirt - in the mirror so that he could be sure the action matched the phrase - and folded yesterday’s copy of England’s only remaining broadsheet neatly in four. He glanced at his trusty Timex watch. Five past one. He’d better get going: he had to meet Pastor in Putney at half past. He could always get on the case when he had to. Unlike Pastor, who could get on the case when he wanted to, but had the luxury of such discretion. A luxury born of his situation: it was all right for Pastor with his cosy little job in Daddy’s publishing house, wandering in whenever he liked three days a week, in time to take long lunches in the Cheshire Cheese and other suitable haunts. All on expenses too: barren conversations with famous, incoherent novelists, and productive, bucolic ones with infamous, coherent poets. Crispin zipped up his old sheepskin flying jacket. It was only Wednesday but he had Friday afternoon trepidation in his Newingtons. Hey ho, he thought…

 

 

Although Pastor was committed in principle to discovering the way forward rather than recovering past misroutings and errors in ur-alter GPS co-ordinates, he was nevertheless finding it difficult to resist his instinctual urge to reconstruct the past while deconstructing the future...searching for the fine line between nostalgia and neuralgia, a sandstorm obliterating a lipstick’s traces…in plain English, Pastor was starting to wonder if he could be bothered to go and meet Crispin. 

He didn’t like the wine bar they’d agreed on, owned by a fellow they used to drink with years ago. Having failed at painting or stealing any decent pictures, the chap had inveigled someone somewhere into buying one, and put down a deposit on the lease of this wine bar. Barkers or something, it was called. Pastor found it cold, and exhibitively discreet, so that if one actually wanted to be discreet it was hard not to be observed. Pastor would’ve preferred a long lunch at Wheelers. As he sipped his favourite citrus blossomed chablis, he would’ve had a discreet word with the waiter - in the surefire knowledge that it actually was a discreet word - to: “Start by bringing us oysters till we tell you to stop.”

As it was, Crispin would probably want to drag him out on the lash round some of his various suspect riverside haunts, the most suspect of all being the ones that had undergone the failed apotheosis of conversion into gastro pubs. At least now bars were open all day he wouldn’t drag him down the Ranelagh Club - if it was even still there, which Pastor doubted - to watch with horror and incomprehension as Crispin fawned over the wannabe gangsters that went in there. Pastor had always had trouble accepting career criminals into the counter culture. Crispin, on the other hand, revelled in it.

Pastor’s only defence against Crispin’s unwelcome but predictable drinking strategy was to look as immaculate as possible. And to have a couple of liveners to inure him before setting off. The first thing Crispin would want to do would doubtless be to get him to cast a glance over some innocuous but wordy bit of writing he’d knocked up, in the mistaken belief that it was hard hitting and counter cultural. It would be neither. Pastor knew Crispin knew this, but wanted the belief eternalized, not the mistakes highlighted. As an old friend, and with a few stiff rails of Chas and a few even stiffer armagnacs inside him, Pastor would manage to deliver. 

Pastor addressed the kit dilemma next. Smart. Casual. Dress down. Mufti. Pastor decided to go for a typically eclectic combination: immaculately faded and pressed 501s, Thomas Pink striped shirt, ice blue box cut jacket and a battered but serviceable Chesterfield overcoat he’d had for years.

At least Crispin liked a bloody joke, thought Pastor, as he racked out a couple of whoppas on the case of a Funkadelic CD and poured himself a good three fingers of armagnac into a dishwasher crazed Duralex tumbler. As he hoovered up the first of the two lines he reflected that at least he retained a better hold on reality than Crispin. He was definitely enough of a realist to know that he couldn’t go out to meet Crispin without a few grams and a few hundred pounds. He’d be lucky if Crispin had a score on him. Love him though he did, Pastor thought Crispin was a bit of a fantasist in the work arena. He reckoned he was going to be a punk DJ now: fair enough he had the records, but even Pastor got fed up with “Darling Let’s Have Another Baby” by Johnny Moped after nine plays. 

Still, Pastor was actually looking forward to an afternoon off having a drink with Crispin, hence the kit. It wasn’t just to make Crispin look scruffy: by looking good, Pastor was feeling good. He brushed a stray hair from the velvet collar of his overcoat, and slid the paperback copy of A Spy In The House Of Love by Anais Nin that he’d been reading into the left hand side pocket. He quickly consumed the other line, slid the warm armagnac down his throat where it mingled nicely with the cold, clinical taste of the charlie that was rising there, making him feel cosy but alert. He felt for his keys and pulled the door of the mansion flat shut behind him…

 

(2)

 

Crispin was the first of the two evacuees to alight at East Putney tube station. He pulled up the collar of his flying jacket, clutching it together just below his Adam’s apple to ward off the biting Easterly wind, and strode purposefully along the Upper Richmond Road towards the wine bar in search of adventure and instant gratification. 

One train and six minutes behind him, Pastor tracked his steps, aimlessly anticipating resettlement and literary misdemeanour. As he walked into the wine bar - Parkers, it turned out to be called, evoking assonant nostalgia in Pastor as he recalled forgotten seventies dining haunts on the Kings Road: Parsons, Borscht and Cheers, etc. - Crispin had just downed a large gold tequila, and was discarding the unwanted lime wedge from the neck of the bottle of Sol he’d got as a chaser. He looked about him for somewhere to lodge the lime, eventually leaving it on the bar like some strange, freshly caught citric fish, there being no ashtrays about since the smoking ban.

They embraced in a swift clinch and then broke apart abruptly, as though at a referee’s command.

“Drink, darling?” Crispin asked Pastor. Pastor asked for the same as Crispin had just had, but with a Cobra to wash it down. Pastor fairly snatched the tequila from the barman’s hand, threw it down his throat, and banged his Blakey’d heel twice on the polished granite floor. 

“Here we are again,” he said, “back on the qui vive. It’s good to see you, old boy. Let’s hope now we’re grown up the chase is no longer better than the kill.” 

“Too true !” replied Crispin. “I don’t know who you think you’re calling a grown up, but I’ve cut the chasing, I’m not interested any more, not even if it’s the dragon. Let’s just cut to the chase!” he added, ordering up two more large tequilas.

They clinked glasses and tipped them back. “Cheers m’dears,” said Pastor, “I hate Wednesdays.”

There ensued a lengthy but comfortable silence.

Comfortable because Crispin was wondering whether Pastor had any charlie on him or, more accurately, knowing that he almost definitely did, when to bring up the subject. Pastor knew exactly what Crispin was thinking but, gagging as he was for a line after the tequilas, he remained determined to play Crispin at his own game and hold out…he might even strong it and go for an eyelash and have one on his own, knowing the bar was too empty for Crispin to track him in there. Needless to say, when he returned to the bar, he’d give Crispin a nudge as he slipped the bag into his coat pocket. 

The whole thing was pre-ordained, finely scripted with Beckettian pauses rehearsed to the second, accompanied by a heel to toe bop gait. Both Pastor and Crispin knew their parts and could play them out without pause for reflection just as, if they’d reformed the band they’d both been in a quarter of a century ago, they’d have been able to knock out most of their set without either mistakes or rehearsal. Crispin actually thought this and reflected that there’d be as little point to that as there was to this charade, particularly as the reality was that they’d always had precious little rehearsal and rather a lot of mistakes.

After the prerequisite three minutes, they did indeed act it out. When Crispin emerged and dutifully returned the bag to Pastor’s discreet but open palm, he picked up the tequila Pastor’d ordered while he was in the kharsi, noting Pastor’s empty glass, and downed it.

“Well, that’s lunch off the agenda!” said Pastor.

“I thought that was lunch,” Crispin replied, “so where are we going for dinner then…’cause I fancy a little ‘peritif.” He pronounced it in a cockney accent so it sounded like ‘a pair of teeth’, in deference to an ‘antique’ dealer they used to know who said it like that. The fellow owned a house down Crispin’s parents’ road; his wife drove a Volvo P90 like the Saint and was well worth a wank.

“Listen,” said Pastor, “I know a man just over the bridge, on the way back to mine, who’s got some rocks - save fucking about with the chemistry set, know what I mean - and I’ve got a bottle of 15-year old armagnac at home that I was hoping you’d help me check wasn’t poisoned, so shall I just bell him and then a cab and we’ll skip the starters?”

He was already on his mobile, as Crispin nodded his affirmation.

Pastor was thinking that at least he’d steered Crispin away from the sort of dodgy venues where it could easily come on top. 

Crispin, meanwhile, didn’t give a toss. It looked like being a fun afternoon.

 

(3)

 

Fun. Good old fashioned no name, no blame, no shame fun. Anonymous and with no attendant publicity.

 

Crispin always thought Pastor looked at his best - and most ironically eponymous - when standing over the cooker in his gleaming ceramic kitchen, collar loosened, spotted button braces with leather straps on display and slicked back hair tumbling for’ard over his eyes, with a flame at the ready, whether he was firing up a crepe suzette or, as now, a freebase pipe.

As the acrid white smoke started to billow up from the bulb and Pastor placed his lips on the stem to inhale, Crispin felt his stomach do a little anticipatory flip. He sensed an early pre-emptive whistling in his ears and reached for his glass of armagnac to ground himself. Sitting as comfortably as he would have been listening with mother, on Pastor’s Heal’s settee on the Bernardout rug on the parquet floor, Crispin pictured himself upgraded to club class on an airbus preparing to taxi down the runway to…he snapped out of this futile reverie as Pastor passed him the pipe. 

As he did so Pastor sank back, listless and spaced out, on the settee beside Crispin. He made a half-hearted attempt to sit up and reach for a Players from the packet on the coffee table, then sank back again. Rallying, he managed to grab the bottle of Evian and take a gulp just as Crispin him passed him back the pipe. Pastor took it, managing to lick his lips after the rehydration. 

“Stick some sounds on then, old bean.” he said.

Crispin was half way across the room to the stereo equipment and neat, ordered racks of vinyl and CDs when he tripped over and collapsed gratefully into a dark green leather beanbag, just in time to take the pipe back. He breathed out with a slow whistle after his next lung full. Pastor regarded him with a fixed wide-eyed stare. 

“Sixty-eight per cent, my man reckons this comes back at,” he managed to crackle, shaving a bit more off a rock the size of the Koh-i-Noor diamond.

“Like ice in the drizzle,” said Crispin huskily, a propos of fuck all.

Eventually, his pulse and thoughts racing in obsure disjunction, Crispin made it to the lengthy section of rare West coast vinyl psychedelia. Unable to make a choice, he moved along a bit, finally selecting an album by the International Submarine Band - Gram Parsons’ first outfit - and placing it on Pastor’s vintage Quad deck. With nerves taut as a top E string tuned a tone high, Crispin re-accessed the beanbag as the cold pedal steel guitar and Gram’s familiar warm drawl wafted through the room.

 

(4)

 

Hours later, they nursed very large Absolut voka and tonics as they gazed, paranoid, at the lights of a river police boat hissing yellow in a foggy Whistler dusk.

 

…staring over the rooftops, following hoof prints, rocking on down…across the anti social housing of the superurban deserted and displaced to where the moonshine reflects on the still, dark river…

 

Crispin didn’t mind that they’d smoked the last of the rocks. Those valium were kicking in now. An air of fusty somnolence - one of his favourite expressions - was seeping through his brain. Gazing blankly at the cold sun sinking over Chelsea Harbour, he reached for his mobile to ring a cab.

 

It had been nice having a bit of fun. 

 

© Julian Isaacs 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Reviewed by Frances Lynn 12/16/2011
My own criticism is I would like to this expanded into a novella.

Your characterisations of Crispin and Pastor are well drawn! From my POV, neither of them have grown up and are still stuck in that old groove of their ill-rehearsed hey-day - even though Pastor ideally would like to move on. You write humorously too. I especially liked the bit on page 3 which started off with 'Crispin always thought Peter look at his best .... because I knew what was coming next.

And of course I liked your reference to Gram Parsons - did he really have a band called the International Submarine Band?

A Bit Of Fun struck me as a quaint period piece - even though I presume it was set in modern day? Summing it up, I thought the premise was rather poignant and desperate ..... but oh so familiar in a nostalgic way! It certainly struck a chord in me re: the Old Days.I could certainly identify with it.




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