Oh my god. Is this it? Is this what I've been waiting all this time for? You'd better believe it. I'd just left my home in beautiful sunny Jersey for what was to be a once in a lifetime, eye opening, sexually enlightening, depraved debauchering, and lots of other words ending in 'ing experience that had never happened to anyone else, at any time, in any place and to such an extent or to such a degree that it could never be repeated and I could spend the rest of my life reminiscing with a big smile on my face, that I was the one that those corny fortieth birthday card ditties (you know the ones, "been there, seen it, did it, now surprise me") were written about. It was my sixth such trip in as many years.
Somewhere along the line I'd discovered that most of the worlds population spent the majority of their time dreaming. Consequently, with my being the nice guy that I sometimes fail to convince other people that I really am, I had taken a subconscious oath with myself that I would, on behalf of mankind, no matter how long it took, fulfill every one of those dreams before I shuffled off this mortal coil (a moment in time incidentally that I sincerely hope will not be for at least another eighty years).
I touched down at Heathrow's domestic terminal greeted by the obligatory rainfall, and for those of you who have never visited London I will explain that no matter what day, month, year or century you arrive there's always rain or fog. Actually there is one exception to the rule which I haven't brought to your attention though. All those beautiful postcard pictures you see of the Changing of the Guard and the Houses of Parliament, they were all taken on Christmas Day. Hence the song "It's Always Sunny In Foggy London Town On Christmas Morning". What song? Oh, didn't I tell you? Amongst other things I'm a songwriter and I was going to write that song. Now I come to think of it though I never did get around to it.
Sauntering through the afternoon, I wasted time until fiveish when I was due to meet Paul in a pub in Victoria. Paul was the brother of Carole who I'd lived with for a long time but we seemed to spend more time apart than together and when we split for the howmanieth time we just didn't get around to the formal reunion that we'd grown so accustomed to in the past. She's married now with all the things that she always wanted. Beautiful house. Car. Good job. You know, all that materialistic stuff that women are into. As for me, well I've got a world full of fantasies on my shoulders, no time for the real world.
Seven years is a long time to spend with one person though and even if the relationship is up and down like a yo-yo you're still bound to go through a lot together. I suppose the nitty gritty at the end of the day was that because of our personalities it was easier for us to remain friendly than being enemies, so sooner than trying to shake off something that deep down inside we both wanted to hold onto we'd managed to sustain a pretty solid platonic relationship. The family aspect was just another string in the bow of our oneness. I'd always got on great with her folks and she'd got on fine with mine, so all else aside it would have been crazy for us never to speak.
Paul finally arrived at about five-thirty after as they say a hard day at the office. He's a very conscientious hard working guy, who with one exception had been the pillar of respectability that any mother would be proud of. However as this book is intended to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, I have no intention whatsoever of disclosing his momentary falling from grace. All else aside it would probably lead to bigger repercussions now than it did at the time so let sleeping dogs lie I say.
Like myself Paul is a firm believer that life is for living and no matter what your nine to five vocation may be you should never take life too seriously. Consequently when he wasn't hard at work working he was even harder at work playing. It was one of his many positive attributes which had helped to bond our lasting friendship over the years and I knew that the hours that we were later to spend together were destined to be at least happy ones if nothing else.
We only had two drinks as he was driving and besides he had to pick up a couple from New York. Actually he was picking then up from Heathrow but you know what I mean. He'd somehow met Jet a Chinese American through his Northern Soul contacts. We were all avid record collectors and Paul had spent his adolescent years speeding up and down the country to Northern Soul all nighters collecting rare seven inch plastic or simply boogieing.
I'd always understood it to be predominately an English taste so I'm not sure where Jet fitted into the scheme of things. Nevertheless, he arrived with Patti, a real rake of a figure that talked like someone who was taking the piss out of the Yankees. Her accent really was broader than a broad broad if you'll excuse the witticism.
Don and his lady had been invited down from Paul's home county of Yorkshire for the weekend and that left Sue, Paul's live in lover and Sandy from around the corner who'd been invited to make up the numbers. As it happened Don's other half didn't make it so on the surface Sandy's existence that evening seemed a somewhat wasted exercise but a fight's good for the ego, especially if you win so I didn't complain.
I'd already given Paul a bottle of Southern Comfort as a trade in for the bed that I was never to see but Jet went one better. He proudly handed Paul a copy of the latest Bruce Springsteen pressing which absolutely blew his mind and as if that wasn't enough, he followed it up with a bottle of Russian vodka spiked with Mexican chili peppers which had been fermenting, or whatever chili peppers do in vodka for four days. Little did we realise until a few hours later though just which would be the biggest mind blower of the two but that's all to come very soon, so if you'll just be patient, we'll get there.
Dinner was served and it was obvious from the spread that firstly it was a real occasion and secondly, Sue had prepared it all. I'm afraid to say that despite Paul's many good points, when it came down to the culinary arts they weren't amongst his list of qualifications. Hence, if there wasn't a can opener in the immediate vicinity he'd aim for the nearest take away with a cheque book in one hand and a pen in the other.
For me it was like the last supper. It would be a long time before I'd sit down to eat again with a true friend. So we ate and drank, talked and drank, smoked and drank, and drank and drank by which time the well chosen table wines had long been consumed and we were well into the spiked vodka. For the uninitiated I shall take this opportunity to explain the effects of such a concoction. If you like chili and vodka as I do then all the better as you go at it with a vengeance. A few seconds after your first sip your whole throat comes alive with fire and the only antidote is a slug of beer, which despite the obvious does in fact make it hotter. Like your first hit at crack you've just got to have another, and another, and another and that' s how the night went until the bottle was gone.
Lord only knows what happened to Don because he was no longer with us and he sure as hell wasn't two hundred miles North in Yorkshire. In fact the whole night seemed to disappear as fast as Don had and before we knew what had hit us it was over. It was way past Sandy's bed time and if she stayed much longer it would have been past her breakfast time too so I took her home.
She'd bought the ground floor of a house that had been converted into two apartments and when we got there she invited me in. Instincts led me straight to the kitchen, the plan being to check out the fridge for another drink but she beat me to it. A few ice cold beers didn't cool the effect of the vodka though and certainly didn't cool my enthusiasm for the perfect end to the evening. We kind've locked together in the doorway to the lounge and then returned to fool around at the sink, me as vertical as could be expected under the circumstances and her sitting on the draining board.
She suggested that we retire to the lounge where she could show me her latest acquisition, a video called "Terrapin". Her mortgage was high so she spent a lot of time in front of the box and she'd bought the movie off a cheap rack thinking that maybe it was a spy thriller or the likes. Dimming the lights a tortoise appeared, and disappeared, and then another, and another for a full forty-five minutes until the screen went blank and the hiss brought us 'round.
By that time we'd petted ourselves out. Nothing heavy, more like the kind of situations that you get involved in when you're teenagers and you get into your girls house for the first time. Everything happens without actually taking anything off while really nothing happens at all because her insomniac father's in the room upstairs.
Besides, all those artistes are weird. I'd found out that she was an artiste about half way through the vodka. I hadn't given a thought to the guitar case in the corner until she opened it and started to warble sweet melodies about the Sunflower and Hidden Mystery which I still haven't found. All that and more accompanied be her clean, fluent finger picking which took everybody in the room through to me. Paul knew of my abilities on a box with six strings so at my turn I rattled off a few of my favourite self penned numbers about v.d. and a boy who raped his father, backed by the untimely plonk plonk plonk. Her Turkish boyfriend had just finished with her. I mean, whom in this world except an artiste or Turkess would want a Turkish boyfriend?
Well in any case, she didn't want a meaningful relationship. Third base with a run to the last was o.k. but if you got home it was a meaningful relationship. I'd settled for third base. It was a start.
I'd left Jersey under the premise that I'd be looking up an old girlfriend in the big smoke. It was a genuine intention on my part but I just didn't have enough time to see her and Paul. Consequently, with Paul living about an hour closer to the airport he had the pleasure of my company for the evening.
Paul and Jet were the two remaining survivors when I got back. They looked at me with the kind of eyes that say "you've been gone for ninety minutes and she only lives a block away" and waited for my reaction. I've never been a kiss and tell kind of person though so I smiled, they smiled, we had another drink, and crashed out.
Just over an hour later as dawn was breaking Paul woke me up for my six a.m. flight to Delhi. Oh didn't I tell you? That's what this is all about. My trip around the world.