This post is about the best friend I ever had. That and fear. We’re not mates anymore because he doesn’t want to know and I don’t really blame him. It’s also about the usual sorts of things I write about: being confused; being stupid; not knowing how to put things right; not knowing how to deal with mutually exclusive realities. Mainly confusion and stupidity though. And selfishness. And fear.
At the start of holidays I find, slightly melodramatically, the need to decompress. The ends of all terms tend to get a bit hectic and it’s hard not to just sort of hang on for grim death and grow more and more tense until Friday night when you find you can’t turn off. Well, irritatingly for all concerned, that can be me sometimes, so I have to do things to get my brain to relax so I can make it do what I want it to do, rather than it being, primordially, alert and ready to face danger. Which, to be honest, it doesn’t need to be, even where I work, which can be a bit hairy. That’s evolution for you, what are you going to do?
Anyway, at the start of the summer holidays, I tend to read a Steven King book and that settles my agitated little brain down and I can get on with things, as opposed to looking for things to be annoyed by and, inevitably, finding something that fits the bill.
I don’t know if Steven King’s got a very literary reputation or not. I suspect he hasn’t and I also suspect he’s not arsed about it. I don’t know if he’s a ‘great writer’ or not: I lose clarity about what that even means from time to time, now being one of those times. I know what I’m supposed to think, but I don’t always agree with it.
This year, I intended to read ‘Misery’, which I’ve never read. I often re-read books, which the current Mrs Middlerabbit finds peculiar. I didn’t re-read any of his books, either, but I did think about it, even if I didn’t do it.
Specifically, about the film, “Stand By Me”, although the book was called, “The Body”. Not that I watched that either, you understand. I just thought about it. Even more specifically, what I thought about was the end of it, when the writer of the story – one of the kids in it – delivered the epilogue that Chris – River Phoenix’s character – had been killed trying to break a fight up and that made him think about being a kid. The last line is, “…I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
And it presses all the right buttons, for a lot of people, anyway. It sits on the old nostalgia menu, garnished with a pleasing dollop of melancholy and those two things go together like tomato sauce and chips.
Personally, I think it’s a bit cheap, but you have to have an ending and Steven King doesn’t do endings very well. He does the residents of small town America and he does them well. The endings of his stories are often a bit of a damp squib, but it doesn’t really matter because he explores his ideas nicely, if that’s not derogatory to a supposed ‘horror’ writer.
I was thinking about that line earlier this evening and I realised that the friends I had when I was twelve weren’t all that similar to the ones in ‘Stand By Me’ in that we didn’t cry in front of each other and confide our fears and feelings. There wasn’t any touching, either. The part where two of the kids hold either end of a stick and lean outwards, holding each other up on the railway tracks would have been considered homoerotic. In fact, even knowing the word homoerotic would have been considered unacceptably homoerotic. Different times, I suppose.
However, that might be more a reflection on my own retarded mental development because that came much, much later than twelve.
My equivalent to Will Wheaton’s River Phoenix was Dave. Dave’s not dead, at least I hope he isn’t. The truth is, I don’t have any idea how he is because we’ve not spoken to each other for over fifteen years now.
I’ve briefly mentioned that I met Dave at Spiders nightclub already, and that we both dug dancing like soft lads in about 1968 which, for me at least, was very close to the reality, at least in my head.
The thing that Dave was, I suppose, he was like a dog, at least in terms of being pleased to see you. In terms of other things that dogs do, particularly Towser, who I’ll talk about briefly later, he wasn’t doglike at all. I love dogs – most dogs – and the greeting’s a big part of it. Dave was like that from the off and, among other things, that drew me to him.
The night we met, I was driving, so I hadn’t drunk or taken anything. The reason I remember that is because, towards the end of the night, Dave and his mates were talking about getting a taxi home and I was asked how I was getting home. I told them my car was round the back and I could give them a lift if they wanted, which they did.
A few weeks after that, Dave told me that they thought I was about fifteen and must have nicked it. I was a year or two older than most of them.
Anyway, I dropped them off in Sutton Park, which was the opposite direction to my house, but I was quite taken by this bunch of kids. Dave, in particular had mentioned a few things that I was into, but knew nobody else who was – sixties psychedelia in particular.
The next couple of weeks saw us meet up again in Spiders and, after a while, we started meeting up in town on Saturdays and going round each others’ houses. I say going round each others’ house, I went to theirs. I had a car and they didn’t, their mothers were rather less highly strung than mine.
Mainly, I went to Dave’s. Balf lived next door to him. The rest of them, including Ploggy, had all been to school together and were now at a sixth form college. I was at Trading Standards and not making any attempt to feign diligence because I’d got an offer at university that autumn.
Dave had a room on the ground floor of his parents’ house. He was, like me, an only child. Despite being younger than me, he had, or appeared to have, his shit together to a far greater extent than I did and it was to him I looked for, for advice. About everything, really: music, books, films, girls, parents – you name it.
In short, we did the Steven King “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” thing, although six years later in my case. Better late than never, eh?
What we mainly did in the early days was listen to records and talk. We spent a lot of time in that room.
One time, listening to ‘2000 Light Years From Home’ by The Rolling Stones with just his lava lamp spraying green and yellow custard onto the walls, his old man walked in on us having a rave up, as they called freaky dancing in the sixties. He sighed, shook his head and closed the door again.
Another time, a hot day, Dave was in the back yard, sunning his shirtless body and spraying water onto his chest.
“Do you want to spray some water on yourself, Middlerabbit?” he asked.
“Er, I’m not convinced that’s a very good idea, Dave.”
“Nah, I’ve got suncream on.”
“Do you not think you’ll be washing it off with that?”
Next day, he was burned to a crisp, but laughing about it. He was, on the whole, a happy kid. Or at least, he seemed happy. Resilient.
We both went off to our separate universities, he a year after I went, but I was older anyway. In those pre-internet days, I used to write letters – a lot. In fact, with writing to my girlfriend who was in Italy, to Dave in Lancaster and various other people, it’s a wonder I spent any time writing essays and doing any work. Well, I didn’t do too much work. There was no danger of burning out, which I daresay happens to some people. Some people with a work ethic instilled in them anyway…
We’d go and visit one another – not at Bosworth Field – occasionally, but mainly we wrote to each other and sent tapes of whatever we were into at the time which, in my case, pretty much hasn’t changed. I don’t know about Dave.
I worked during the holidays, he showed no sign of looking for a job, which I found a bit odd, but never mentioned it. When I wasn’t at work, or at my girlfriend’s, I’d be round at Dave’s mam’s. Dave’s mam – Kris – was (probably still is) a lovely woman. Warm, friendly, funny and open. His dad was (probably still is) one of those extremely quiet men who looked hard as nails. Amateur tattoos on his hands – and this is in the 80s when you didn’t see many.
Dave’s mam once sat the pair of us down before we went out one night to Silhouette – basically a gay club – and told us that we had to stick together at all times.
“Why though, Dave’s mam?” I asked.
“Because, Middlerabbit, they’ve (gay men) got the strength of ten men and if they want to have you, they will.” she was very serious about it.
“But how’s that going to work, Dave’s mam,” I asked. “There’s only two of us and we’re going to need another eight heterosexuals at least if we don’t want to get bummed,”
“Don’t you get clever with me, Middlerabbit,” she said, “Just stick together. That’s all.”
She also used to tell us stories about the weirdoes she knew when she was a little girl and she was really funny. The only thing was, she couldn’t remember any of their names.
“Ooh, now what was he called?” she’d wonder, tapping her chin and gazing at the ceiling.
“Was it ‘Harry Shit’?” I’d ask.
“No, it bloody wasn’t, Middlerabbit. Don’t talk so bloody daft.” she’d say.
Periodically, Dave would complain about the way I spoke to his mother, but I didn’t really get it. I thought it was nice that you could be open and normal around someone’s mother because you sure as hell couldn’t around mine. I think that’s probably what he meant. In which case, fair dos, even though I didn’t change.
We’d sit around, listening to records and drink endless cups of tea while talking, talking, talking. In some ways, it was a bit like being at school again because here was a kid who appeared to know about all sorts of things – some of them pretty obscure – at a tender age and I knew absolutely bugger all about any of it. I wondered how he’d heard of the stuff he came out with, similar to when I was at school. Except Dave wasn’t a bullshitter. He didn’t pretend to know about things he knew nothing about in order to look good; he could back it up and he wasn’t a clever sod about it, either. He was generous, kind and helpful to a fault, really.
He introduced me to ‘El Topo’, which I can now tell you was, more or less, the start of the midnight movie ‘phenomenon’ that began in America in the late 1960s. I didn’t ask him how he found out about it, but I presume that he got it from reading something about John Lennon, who funded the director’s (Alejandro Jodorowsky) next film, ‘The Holy Mountain’ because he’d loved ‘El Topo’ so much. Anyway, Dave had both of them on VHS somehow. I say ‘somehow’, because you couldn’t get the bastards anywhere. Well, I couldn’t.
We watched ‘El Topo’, which is a sort of psychedelic Western in two parts. I’m not going to go into it here, but it’s pretty wild. I don’t know if you’d dig it, but I think it’s ace. I like ‘Holy Mountain’ too, but ‘El Topo’‘s the one, it blew my tiny mind and, I suppose, it still does. You can’t get it now as well, although you could for a bit about ten years ago.
Anyway, we watched quite a lot of films together and never found ourselves short of topics for discussion but it was more than just a pair of sixties fixated nobheads rabbiting away because it was, as I said, a bit ‘Stand By Me’.
Dave knew me alright. He was a sensitive kid who was exceptionally good at gauging my moods and understanding how to, I suppose, manipulate them for everyone’s benefit. Most of all though, he was kind and I, as anyone who’s read any of this stuff will have gathered, wasn’t.
Not that I didn’t try. In some ways, despite my being older, I saw him as a bit of a role model for me. Faced with situations, I’d ask myself, “What would Dave do?” Not that I could follow through and actually do what I guessed he’d do because, I suppose, I wasn’t him and it would have been like wearing someone else’s shoes. Someone else’s appealing, groovy shoes that nonetheless didn’t really fit you.
Of our group of mates, Dave and I tended to be the ones who had girlfriends. The first real girlfriend he had was called Catherine and her parents were – unlike either of ours – quite bohemian. They had a lot of records, played musical instruments, did arty things and what have you. Dave borrowed Catherine’s acoustic guitar and, one day when I called round, he played and sang me a song he’d written. It wasn’t the greatest thing in the world, but what it was, was a revelation for someone like me because I didn’t realise that anybody could just write a song. I thought it was, a bit like people who bought records when I was a little kid, something that other people did. I didn’t know who. I didn’t know anybody who’d ever written a song, even if it was just about taking his dog for a walk, or whatever it was about, so that blew my mind too.
So, I got myself a guitar and a ‘Teach Yourself The Guitar’ book and realised that I couldn’t read music and, consequently, couldn’t teach myself how to play the guitar either. Not from the book I’d bought anyway. I asked Dave how he’d done it and he told me that he couldn’t really play the guitar. He could have fooled me. Yeah, maybe he wasn’t Jimi Hendrix, but he looked and sounded like he was playing one to me. He told me about chords and I got a book of them and a Beatles chord songbook and I was off.
As it turned out, Dave wasn’t even all that interested in playing the guitar. So long as he could strum a few chords together and write a song about how his girlfriend’s hair smelled of cherries, he was happy, but I wasn’t. I wanted to know how to play the fancy sounding bits on Day Tripper, Ticket To Ride, Drive My Car, stuff like that, so I’d lock myself in my bedroom and spend hours and hours playing the same song over and over again on the record player and slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y plunking away, trying to work out guitar lines without ever really having much idea about what I was doing, although, like most things, it became easier the more I did it. Having got to the point where I could change chords without having to use my other hand to position my fingers properly, I started writing my own songs.
I’ve said I was into bubblegum pop and Dave and I had the idea to put together a band of our own. A bubblegum pop band. Like most bands, it never actually got past the point of thinking of a name (The Bobbles, like the bobbles on old wooly tights, which appealed to both of us. Go figure, as Steven King might have written). Actually, it got slightly past that because we wrote some songs together. We never recorded anything – no four track at that point – but I remember them alright. There was “Ringo’s Magic Sweetshop”, which was a trite as the title implies (top line – “Ringo’s Magic Sweet Shop’s fab, Ringo’s Magic Sweet Shop’s gear: Ice cream cones and ginger beer”); “Space Chick”, the most memorable line of which was, “I sat and watched her reach orgasm, up to my neck in ectoplasm” and “Winona”, which was about getting Winona Ryder to notice you among all the devastatingly hip dudes she probably hung around with (“They argue which one’s best (John Coltrane’s) ‘Om’ or (Miles Davis’) Sketches of Spain”).
Mainly, we had a good laugh. This is all from my perspective, remember, so while I’m painting myself as the junior partner, he must have gotten something out of me too, I just lack the perspective to see what. It might have been as simple as the fact that I was interested in the same things he was and he didn’t really have anyone else to talk to about them, same as I didn’t.
I graduated the year before he did and came back to Hull. I went with Balf to visit him at Lancaster. We and a couple of his mates caught the train to Liverpool and we just ran around like soft lads, looking for Beatles landmarks which, if you’ve ever been to Liverpool, are pretty much everywhere. I wondered what Liverpool would have done had The Beatles not come from there, so ubiquitous were The Fabs.
By then, Dave was going out with a girl from a village near Gloucester who was called Gillian. Gill was a really nice lass who moved to Hull with him once he’d graduated. They lived together in a downstairs flat on Mayfield Street with a massive front window, which was what drew them to it. It was more or less on the way home for me from the Odeon, where I still worked, so I called in on the pair of them regularly. We went on days out – I drove us to York one day to buy Ian McDonald’s “Revolution In The Head”, his classic book about the Beatles’ songs on the day it came out because bookshops in Hull were shit. We got caught in thick fog on the way back. It took us about five hours to get home, laughing all the way. There were plenty of good days as far as I could tell, but Dave told me that it was often a different story when it was just the pair of them.
I tended to get on pretty well with Dave’s girlfriends, Gill included. They had a hard time of it – they couldn’t get any work and Dave was honest, perhaps to a fault. On the dole, if he got a night’s work at a pub, he’d always declare it and end up being no better off because the dole would always take whatever he’d earned off his next cheque. Gill got bits and pieces of temp work in offices, but nothing substantial enough to provide either of them with any sort of security and that’s not very helpful when it comes down to people’s relationships.
Being about the last person in the world who’s likely to extoll the virtues of work, even I can see that there are some benefits to it, not least the fact that you don’t have to spend every waking moment in your partner’s company. I know some people want that and some people are happy with that, but I don’t think I would be. Even if all work does is make you appreciate the times you’re not at work, it can do some good. Even if it’s just meeting people who you’re glad you don’t have to spend much time with and you appreciate the people at home.
Anyway, neither of them had that. In particular, Gill had moved to a city where she knew precisely one person and everybody else she met was a friend of Dave’s and, as I’ve said, none of them had a girlfriend, so she didn’t have any other girls to talk to. By that point, I was back in Dumpsville, population: Middlerabbit, with no intention of ever leaving it after the upset of my last relationship. However, I was trying to be a grown up about it and, occasionally still saw Clare. Sometimes I managed not to vomit in her presence, too. Mind you, it’s just popped in my head, walking down Beverley Road about three o’clock one morning with Ploggy, coming home from Silhouette’s, we bumped into her and – despite not having drunk anything at all – my immediate reaction at seeing her unexpectedly was to spew into a hedge. She said, “Have you just been sick?”
I pretended I hadn’t and she spent the brief, awkward conversation that followed, glancing with concern at the erstwhile contents of my stomach as it dribbled down and from the leaves and onto the pavement. When we said goodbye, Ploggy and I broke into singing, “How Do You Sleep?” from the otherwise dreadful Second Coming. Not too groovy. Again…
Anyway, trying to help Dave and Gill out, I got hold of Clare and told her about Dave and Gill’s situation and how about inviting Gill on a night out with her and her mates, without making out she was doing her too much of a favour. You know. Well, fair dos, she did, but Gill only went the once and told me that she hadn’t been too taken with Clare or her mates – fair enough. Similarly, Dave wasn’t taken with Clare either. Dave wasn’t taken with anyone I went out with and that never changed.
After nearly a year, Dave and Gill moved to her parents’ house near Gloucester. It was the village where they filmed Lovejoy, apparently. Wherever that is. So, we recommenced our letter writing. He’d come back periodically to visit and that went on for maybe another year or so.
Then they split up and he came home – literally – to his parents’ house. I suggested we get a flat, but he wasn’t into it. Fair enough. As I was still living on Desmond Avenue, now he’d come ’round to mine and we’d sit in my room, doing what we’d always done. By this time, I was in bands and was teaching Psychology A Level part time, so I wasn’t around as much as I had been and that was a shame because, by this point, I think Dave needed me.
All through the tumultuous Clare years, Dave had patiently listened, sympathised and advised me, even though he thought she wasn’t worth it. The words that particularly stick with me about her when he first met her was that she looked, “Well slept-in”, which was a new one on me. It’s not a very groovy thing to say, but I suppose he was right in a way. In the way that she was a shagabout. Not that I’m in a position to cast any stones… So, yeah, Dave did a lot of very patient listening to me, with a very wet shoulder most of the time. And, again, he was generally kind about it.
I say, ‘generally’, but I even appreciated the bits that weren’t kind because they were rarely, if ever, nasty. When Clare told me we were having a month’s trial separation so I could sort myself out, Dave and I went to the Adelphi to watch Cast. Now, Cast, as we all know, were a big pile of shit from the very first record they put out – like an indie Simple Minds or something – but before they got signed, they played the Adelphi most months and, shocking as it might sound, they were really good. I suspect John Power decided that he was going to play the game after being in The La’s (who also played the Adelphi every month in the mid-late 80s) and not playing the game at all. I don’t blame him, but I wasn’t interested. Anyhow, Clare was there, with a new bloke and I wasn’t coping very well with it. Not being an arsehole, just wobbly, really.
As we walked home, I asked Dave what he thought about me and Clare.
“Do you want me to tell you the truth, or do you want me to lie to you?” He asked.
“The truth,” I replied, only really wanting the truth if it was what I wanted to hear, which I already knew it wouldn’t be.
“She doesn’t give a fuck, man,” was his considered judgement.
Pretty blunt, but sometimes it’s all I understand, and I think he understood that too, so while it hurt and I didn’t want to accept it, I needed somebody to tell me. Not that it made much difference, you understand. I was heartbroken.
Back to Dave having moved home though. He was having a bad time. It’s never easy, going home to your folks’ after you’ve moved out. I knew that from experience. When I went home after being at university, my mother had reconfigured her image of me as some sort of angelic six year old when the reality was that, having done exactly what I felt like doing, whenever I felt like doing it for the past three years, I was even further from her imagined son than I had been before I left. I moved back out within a month.
Dave didn’t though. Dave stayed at home, signing on. Now I’m an old fart, I think I can understand that his mam and dad were worried about him: he was just drifting really, which is alright providing you’re not watching your kid doing it in front of you, 24 hours a day.
When things became, presumably, intolerable for all concerned, he moved in with his nan – Kris’s mam – on the blocks of flats on Anlaby Road.
By then, I’d come in from work, or rehearsal, or gigs, and find Dave sat in my room. Ploggy or Balf or someone’d let him in and he’d sit at the chair in the window, drinking tea and listening to my records, which I didn’t mind.
Often, I was alone when I returned, but not always. If I had company, it tended to be a girl – Poor Sharon or Nicola by that point: neither of whom he had any time for. I didn’t really mind that too much, although I did wonder if he’d ever get on with anyone I went out with.
While he was a sensitive kid about a lot of things – especially when it came down to me, I’m not suggesting he was sensitive about himself and totally insensitive about everyone else, because that would be a lie – he could be surprisingly thick skinned about some things, too. One girl I went out with for a few months had a dog – bear with me – and this dog slept in her bed with her. When I was there, the sleeping arrangements didn’t change, which didn’t bother me. In fact, I liked it because my family’s dogs had always shared my bed and I missed it. Anyway, her dog – Towser – slept with us, but when we, er, were in bed together, but not sleeping, Towser’d slope off until the hair pulling and jumping about had stopped and then he’d hop back up and nod off in his usual spot. What I’m going around the houses about is that Towser understood that boyfriends and girlfriends sometimes need a little bit of time alone together but Dave didn’t.
He just wouldn’t leave. Wouldn’t take the hint.
On those days when I feel like flagellating myself about such things, I tend to think that the reason he wouldn’t go was because he didn’t really have anywhere to go. Or he had something he wanted to talk about that couldn’t wait and I was more interested in doing what the contents of my shreddies wanted me to do.
Other times, I don’t think that. Other times, I think back to when I moved out of Desmond Avenue and got a flat by myself on Pearson Park and he’d be sat on my doorstep when I turned up and, having to get up for work at about seven in the morning, I’d tell him I had to go to bed and he’d just say, “Is it alright if I get myself another cup of tea?” and I didn’t have the heart to say, “No.”
After quite a few months of that sort of thing, I’d just tell him I was going to bed and leave him to it. Sometimes he’d be there in the morning, sawing them off on the settee, sometimes he wouldn’t be.
When I met the current Mrs. Middlerabbit, I was living on Pearson Avenue and, inevitably, Dave was there one day when we came back.
Diversion – The Current Mrs. Middlerabbit.
I dumped Nicola to go out with Emma, who I jokingly refer to as the current Mrs Middlerabbit in 1998. As far as I was concerned, we’d not met previously, but it turned out that, actually, we had. Sort of.
Whilst ensconced at Desmond Avenue, Balf told me that he’d seen the most beautiful girl he’d ever laid eyes on. From experience, I knew full well that nothing would ever come of it but, at his behest, I walked with him one day to Asian Kitchen – a Pakistani Takeaway on Princes Avenue (Prinny Ave, if you want to blend in) – where this vision of pulchritude worked, so he could stir himself up about her.
It was two or three miles away from Desmond Avenue, but I liked walking, so happily toddled along with him and listened to him wax lyrical about this girl who, I had already decided, I wasn’t even going to look at. I don’t know why I decided that, but I remember being quite adamant with myself about it.
Balf bought himself a chicken kebab – which were, to be fair, absolutely beautiful, never mind who took your money for them. I didn’t get anything, because I couldn’t afford it and nor did I look at the girl. All the way home, Balf was talking about how stunning she was and what should he say and do in order to get her to go out with him. I pretty much just nodded a lot and made non-committal noises.
The morning after Emma and I got together, the phone rang. It was Balf, asking what I was up to and I told him I’d just started seeing a new girl.
“Is she good-looking?” was the first thing he asked. With hindsight, I don’t know what he was on about because, as far as I’m concerned, I’m shallow enough to have only gone out with very good looking girls.
Emma was sitting in the living room with me as I spoke to Balf on the ‘phone and we looked at each other as I did.
“Is she good-looking?” I repeated so that Emma could follow the conversation. “I don’t know. She’s a bit funny looking, really…”
Emma, whatever else she is, is a very good-looking woman who apparently doesn’t mind chucking herself away on shite like me, so I didn’t think she’d be bothered, and she wasn’t.
Not long after that, I introduced her to Balf and he looked quite surprised. When Emma nipped to the loo, Balf said, “You do realise she’s the lass I took you to see at Asian Kitchen, don’t you?”
“Is she? Small world, isn’t it?” I said, laughing.
“Fuck off,” Balf said, “Like you didn’t know that. You went with me. You saw her!”
“Nah,” I said, “I didn’t look,”
“You didn’t look? Why not? You walked miles to see her!”
“Don’t know,” I said, “Probably so you wouldn’t accuse me of getting off with lasses you fancied.”
“How’s that working out for you?”
“I’m not complaining,” I said.
The current Mrs Middlerabbit is complaining though. When I write these posts, she always moans that I’m not writing about her. What I tell her is that this is getting the past off my chest but she’s not having any of that.
“Every last girl you’ve been out with, you write about on your stupid fucking blog and not a word about me. You’re a nobhead.”
I am a nobhead. Mind you, that’s hardly news to her. I don’t really write about her because this is all about the past. I don’t see or speak to any of the people I’ve written about. Well, not most of them. Balf lives somewhere in the Middle East now, with a wife who can’t speak English, but I still have some contact with him. Ploggy’s dead, Nicola and B od’d and pretty much everybody else I’ve written about is estranged from me – mainly at their behest. Well, no actually, entirely at their behests. I’d talk to them, but everybody else doesn’t want to know, which is fair enough. So, that’s why I don’t write about Emma: I still see her and I don’t want to piss her off any more than I already do, which is, I expect, plenty.
End of Diversion.
So, when Emma met Dave, I still had some hope that Dave might get on with her, but he didn’t. He wasn’t taken.
One night, after we’d been together maybe six months or so, Dave turned up and did his limpet thing, you know, settling down for the night with no intention of doing a Towser, even temporarily.
Time passed to the point at which I was going to have to go to bed because I had to be at school in about five hours. Emma didn’t have an early morning get up, so I thought it might be nice for them to get to know each other without me around to get in the way. So, I went to bed and left them to it.
Next morning, Dave had gone home and Emma was next to me. I asked her how she’d gotten on with Dave last night and she made a face.
“I don’t think Dave’s very nice,”
“Don’t you? Why not?”
“He just wasn’t very nice to me,”
And that’s as much as I’ve ever got out of her about it, even after all these years.
As it does when you don’t get enough information, your brain tries to fill in blanks with hypotheticals: was Dave being a twat? Was he just looking out for me, after my (largely, if not exclusively, self-inflicted) travails with women? Or what?
The closest I’ve ever had to clarity from Emma about Dave is that she thinks he was in love with me and just couldn’t stand me having a girlfriend.
I don’t subscribe to that particular opinion, myself but I can see why she thinks it, even if it’s not true.
So, I had to keep my best friend and my girlfriend apart. It was alright, I suppose. I erred on the side of Emma. Being, as I was, in bands, the kids I was in bands with tended to have girlfriends, as musos often do. Waggling your arse around with a guitar on does no harm in terms of having girls wanting to talk to you is what I found. Anyway, my bandmates got on with Emma, as did their girlfriends.
Maybe six months after we’d first got together, Emma and I broke up – which I’m not going to go into here – and I moved in with the drummer, who’d recently split up with his girlfriend, whom Emma got on best with, probably.
The result of that was that Dave and I got on better again and we started hanging around again. Until Emma and I hooked up again.
By this point, the drummer was going berserk about various and I couldn’t be doing with Dave being arsey around Emma. I gather it’s different for girls, in that you shouldn’t put boyfriends above mates, but my experience is that it’s exactly the opposite with men. It was for me, anyway. I’m not the first one to have thought of that. There’s that old song that goes, “Wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine,” which is the same thing, really.
So, I killed a job lot of birds with one stone on the day I moved out of the drummer’s flat: I didn’t tell him where I was going, he got sacked from the band, I moved in with Emma on Westbourne Avenue and, finally, I also didn’t tell Dave I was moving out.
And he needed me at that point, too.
I don’t think there’s much doubt that Dave did a lot more for me than I ever did for him, certainly in terms of listening to him and being attentive, if not in terms of having somewhere quiet and safe to hang out with plenty of tea, records and dooberage, and I feel bad about it.
We bumped into each other a couple of years after that, outside the Virgin shop in Princes’ (Prinny) Quay. It was awkward. I wanted to talk to him, but he didn’t want to talk to me and I didn’t blame him. Then nothing.
I wrote him a letter a couple of years ago. Sent it to his mom’s house. I said that I was sorry that I’d been such a cunt, what with fucking off and not telling him where I was going. Not being there when he needed a friend and I should have been. That sort of thing. I told him I wasn’t after anything, by which I meant that I wasn’t on the make. I wouldn’t have minded being mates with him again, although I’m not sure how it would have worked with Emma and him. Sometimes, I’ll see a book, a film or a record and think about buying it and sending it to his him, care of his mam, but I never pull the trigger and not out of being a tightarse either.
Balf, who lived next door to him and his mam and dad as a kid and whose parents still do has also lost contact with him. At Ploggy’s funeral, where I thought he might turn up but didn’t, none of the old crowd had seen him in years either. “You were closest to him, I thought you’d know,” was the response I got from them. When I last saw Balf, who also wasn’t there due to being in Saudi Arabia or somewhere, he told me that he’d found Dave to be increasingly difficult to be around, to the point where he purposely drifted away from him.
It sort of made me feel better and worse about me having done the same. Dave, above everything else, probably, had time for people and, when it came to him needing a bit of someone else’s time, specifically mine, I didn’t want to know, did I? Despite having taken up vast amounts of his time and patience when it suited me. Which is a shit trick, isn’t it? I can’t even justify it by saying how wearing it was for me, coping with other people’s mental health issues because he coped with mine.
When Emma and I broke up, before I moved in with the drummer, I lost the plot completely. I found myself lying on the living room floor because I couldn’t see the point of getting up. It wasn’t the break up that was the problem, even if it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I think things had just been building up. I’ve been on happy pills and they did more harm than good for me, although I know people whose lives have been changed immeasurably for the better due to them, but they’re not for me.
In my case, it’s because I don’t think I have a chemical imbalance in my brain, but I do think it’s drawn some fairly warped conclusions from things that have happened. What works for me – so far – is, ungroovily, basically, hobbies. Playing the guitar, learning and writing songs, painting, walking, writing my book, writing this: I like doing them, but mainly what it is, is having to concentrate on something. I understand why some people get totally plastered on whatever their poison is. It’s exactly the same deal as mine: don’t let your brain get any ideas, just with different methods. Mine’s sort of distraction, wreck heads’ is more destruction.
In my youth, I did those same things but with a different incentive. I wanted to get paid for doing those things, particularly on my own terms. When it became apparent that, that wasn’t about to happen, I stopped doing them because what was the point? Later, I realised that the reason I’d started doing all of those things was because I liked doing them. I didn’t start doing any of them for any reason other than admiring other people’s doings and I wanted to know how they worked.
And what I’ve learned is that I can’t take a pill that makes everything alright, but I can do things that help. I know, it’s obvious. Everybody knows that. Well, not everybody.
Writing this isn’t going to get me any money, it’s not even going to remedy any situations with any of the people I’ve been writing about because they’re not going to know it exists. Even if they did, I can’t see any of them liking what they see very much. Yeah, I’m contrite, but so fucking what? What writing this is doing, is preventing my brain from going off on one and being the nobhead it so effortlessly turns into. Again, it’s selfish and it’s all about me, even though I’m mainly writing about other people.
Perhaps, if doing things is what I’ve found I have to, er, do, then what I ought to be doing is finding these people, the ones who aren’t dead, and doing something about it. Even if it’s just saying ‘sorry’. I’ve thought about it, but I don’t want to push it with anyone. In most cases, I’ve been the twat and, you know, once bitten, twice shy. Don’t go back to a lit firework. That sort of thing.
But maybe that’s just fear. On my part. Dave thought fear was the motivating – or the unmotivating, I suppose – force behind most things and I’m inclined to agree with him about that, like on so many other things. Especially in my case.
And, to paraphrase someone else who knows a thing or two about fear: horror writer, Steven King, (King Fear, do you see? It’s almost like I’ve thought about it, isn’t it?) writing about people whose development isn’t as arrested as mine – “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had from 18 to about thirty. Jesus, does anyone?”
The answer being, ‘yes’, they probably do. People who aren’t nobheads, anyway.