I have this theory that there are certain things in life which qualify as true 'moments'. You can't categorise them or rationalise them - they simply exist as a brief quantum event in the space-time continuum. In the same way that an atomic particle can spontaneously pop into existence, be given spin, colour, charge, charm, mass, velocity and direction (yet according to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle we can never truly measure all of it's properties) before spontaneously popping out of existence without anyone ever knowing why it came into existence in the first place, moments can occur in life which defy all of our attempts to measure their cause, effect, significance, value, meaning, etc. As Homer Simpson once so profoundly put it - life is "just a bunch of stuff that happens". Sometimes out of that stuff there pops into existence a moment. For me at least, this was one of them.
"How do. My Uncle told me to look you up whilst I was here. You used to work with him when you were a musician. Sam Read."
"Ah Sam. We worked together years ago. I remember how we'd all drive home drunk after playing gigs in Liverpool. Good musician Sam - great guitarist."
"Yeh, he taught me how to play. Do you play anymore?"
"I'm getting back into it now, playing better than I have in years. I had to give up because I was drinking too much and it affected my playing. Became alcoholic. Haven't had a drink for nine years now."
I was beginning to like this man. He seemed totally open and honest. I'd only met him a minute or so ago and already he was talking quite candidly about his drinking problem.
"I hear that you studied with John Ogden?"
"Yes, I was very close to John. Amazing technique, perhaps the greatest pianist of our time."
"Didn't he die recently?"
"Yes, back in 1989. A waste of an amazing talent. Put it all into perspective really. How's your Mum? Did she ever get married........."
More to follow. Must go and iron my sailor's outfit.
At last! Roistering lives on. There are those amongst you who thought I'd given up on this story just when it was about to get interesting. As if I could be such a tease. No, the simple reason for the prolonged gap was the intervention of Captain Coconut. Now he's been laid to rest (though there are rumours of a resurrection tour) I can crack on with this sordid little tale of bastardy, drugs and aliens.
To quickly recap; after much stalling involving lager and sausages Iain and I had finally come face to tash with my father - the gloriously non-balding Colin Fisher. Colin was still in the dark about my mission, I'd planned that little bombshell for the following night, instead we were making our first tentative foray into the Fatherdome.
"How's your Mum? Did she ever get married?"
At this point I was beginning to wonder if Colin was beginning to suspect that he had more to do with me being here (here in the existentialist sense of the word, not here as in 'here in Gran Canaria') than I'd led him to believe.
"No, she never married." Iain and I were watching his expressions and listening to his intonations very carefully. We seemed to be venturing into dangerous territory and every word spoken seemed strangely loaded.
False alarm. If he did have any inkling of what was going on he did a very good job of not showing it. We were still safely in the realms of polite conversation.
"So how long have you lived here?"
"About four years. Came away to make a fresh start and haven't been back to England since. Well, I did go back in November for a couple of days as it was my mother's funeral, but that doesn't really count as a holiday." Iain immediately realised the significance of what he'd just said. It wasn't until about twenty minutes later that it struck me.
"Oh, sorry to hear that."
"I'm going to Blackpool for a couple of weeks in June. It'll be my first real trip home".
"Actually, I once met you in Blackpool. You once took a picture of me with a monkey on my shoulder".
At this point Colin turned to the woman working on the next stall. "You hear that? I once took a picture of him at Blackpool fairground when I had the monkey. Isn't it funny how your past always catches up with you?"
This was becoming too surreal. "Isn't it funny how your past always catches up with you?" He's saying this to his illegitimate son and he's talking about a bloody monkey. Bizarre overload imminent - DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!!! RED ALERT!!!! MAN THE LIFEBOATS!!!! ICEBERG AHEAD!!!! RUN!!!!! It was time to beat a hasty retreat, but not before we'd had our futures foretold by his fortune telling computer.
Obviously this was a strange, if not unique, scenario. Imagine, if you will, a Hollywood scriptwriter trying to pitch this story to film director Ron 'Parenthood' Howard.
"Ok Ron, it's like this. We have this son - let's say Michael J. Fox and he has a dad - except he doesn't know who his dad is and his dad doesn't know he has a son. You with me so far Ron? Anyway, Michael's character, let's call him Jack Danger, gets robbed and suddenly thinks 'life stinks' (this is where Michael gets the chance to show his emotional depth as an actor and lose his 'Teenwolf' image - the same way that you lost your Richie Cunningham image from Happy Days). So, filled with feelings of anger, self-pity, pessimism, you know real kinda Robert De Niro stuff - maybe we could have a vigilante subplot for the kids? - Jack calls up his mom and says "Hi mom, just been robbed. Life can't get any worse. By the way, who's my pop, because if he's a low-life, pimpin' gangsta, drug addict, serial killin' mutha it really doesn't matter anymore."
So cut to the chase. Jack's fear were groundless. His father isn't like leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (hey, maybe we could have like some interesting dream sequence in which Jack pulls of leatherface's mask of human skin only to reveal Jack's own face staring back at him - cool). His dad was some sort of concert pianist who, now just run with this for a moment Ron, gave it all up to work with a monkey. Ok Ron, I can see I'm losing you here but just hang on in there, this is deep man, real deep.
We do lot's of character development stuff and introduce Jack's friend Iain (I see Johnny Depp), who happens to be a Private Detective. He locates Colin in Gran Canaria and they go off on this like quest - real King Arthur/Terry Gilliam stuff. It's like a road movie, a detective movie and a Tarzan adventure.
Now Ron I know you're a busy man and you want to go shopping for baseball caps real soon so I'll make this quick.
We have this scene. It's like a tableau. A sultry Canarian night. A fortune telling booth. Jack and Iain are there, face to face with Jack's Father (I see Bob Hoskin's). They talk about monkeys and then Jack's pop reads their fortunes. Like Ron man. What a scene. How Surreal. All those layers of meaning. Deep shit man. Really Deep. Only you could film this.
So, whaddaya think Ron....?"
So what did the oracle portend? Colin offered us a discount if we had both our Horoscopes and Tarot cards read by computer. We still have them. You've got to admit, it's an unusual holiday souvenir.
Hello Jason......This is your personal Astroscope....
Date of Birth - Thursday 2 July 1970 :- 10162 Days old [I hadn't been counting]...
Thursday Child Has Far to Go....
You were Born under the Star Sign of Cancer
Behind your hard outer shell [do I have a hard outer shell?] lies a sensitive caring personality. The Family unit is of great importance to you [already becoming spooky]...Some Cancerians are a bit lazy and don't have much ambition. They need to be constantly told that they are loved. Diana Rigg, Ringo Starr [nice one] and Lady Diana [not her again, she gets in everything these days].
...Chinese year of the Dog
This indicates that your life tends to be tinged with anxiety and that you become obsessed with trivia [There's nothing trivial about Roger Moore!]........
..Alan Bates, David Niven and Kate Bush [a good selection of dogs].
...And now your Horoscope
.... Your sex life should be sensational at least until next Wednesday. Then it becomes rather too much of a good thing. [What sex life??? Didn't know computers were capable of taking the piss] At work a new element is introduced and you may find yourself doing more writing [Roistering?], speaking or travelling [Coconut Island tour?]
- A reasonable Horoscope but the real coup de grace was to come in the Tarot reading -
Card Number 61
This card represents a person who is about to enter your life or may be a part of your life already. You will not be able to ignore this very powerful man, he may be a skilled business man, someone in government or a strong fatherly figure.
Things had just gone beyond any reasonable person's weirdness threshold. It was time for Iain and I to go to the pub and reflect.
We said our goodbyes to Colin and went to the nearest bar. They had a Karaoke evening on. It had to be done. Meet dad - sing karaoke. Why not? As we were making our selection (we wanted to do a slow Elvis number but the manager was keen for us to do something more up tempo to get the audience going) a thought occurred to me.
"Bloody hell Iain, that was me Gran that died in November."
"I know mate, I thought that as soon as he said his mother had died. I thought 'That's Jason's Gran.'"
"Funny old game innit?"
To be continued......
Sorry for the huge delay, as you probably know I've been away from Gormenghast's (that's the name of our house) operations centre for the past few weeks. Here 'till tomorrow so I may as well knock up the next instalment of Roistering.
You may remember that things were getting decidedly supernormal within the domain of The Fatherdome and Our two Magnum P.I.s had beat a hasty retreat to the nearest bar where we left them trying to select a Karaoke song which met with the manager's approval. Inspired by the performance of the Elvis Impersonator at La Fiesta the previous night (yes we are still only on day two) Iain and I favoured 'Love me Tender' or 'Can't Help Falling in Love', five minutes later we were up on stage strutting our stuff to 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love' from The Blues Brothers. It wasn't our choice and I did feel somewhat ridiculous having to say "And we're so happy to see so many members of Illinois law enforcement community" in a place perpetually sans Americans. Still, we performed the song with passion, gusto and even attempted to mimic the dance moves of Jake and Elwood Blues. However, our free-form interpretation of both the music and lyrics seemed lost on the audience and we could sense them slipping away from us. We mustered all our soulful reserves for the big finale and somehow managed to recover some ground before ambling off the stage to a gentle ripple of polite applause from a very bemused looking crowd, who must have been thinking to themselves "why the hell didn't they do something simple like Love Me Tender?'. Next to grace the stage was an eight year old girl who brought the house down with a tear-jerking rendition of 'I Believe I Can Fly'. Call us old cynics but Iain and I thought that she was shamelessly using her cute appeal to entice the crowd.
We left. Day two was finally coming to an end...almost.
Back at the Maracaibo hotel Iain and I wasted no time in accessing our booze reserves from the previous night. By midnight the outdoor pool had never looked more inviting. We gathered our provisions (wine , glasses, towels, etc) and headed downstairs for a dip. This was the life. England, work, money, bills all seemed to exist in some far way world. It was a moment of beautiful serenity - then Iain fell on his arse. It was a glorious fall though, almost balletic. If I was going to fall on my arse I hope I could do it in the same way. A good arse fall involves continued forward momentum and an upward motion of the legs resulting in the arse being the initial point of contact between body and floor. It also helps if the fall is immediately followed by a direct reference to the arse - "Ow! Me arse!" Iain's poolside fall fulfilled all the criteria for a good arse fall and, if a panel of judges had been present, he would no doubt have scored maximum points for both technical merit and artistic interpretation.
And that was day two. It had started with a hangover and ended with a magnificent fall, but somewhere along the line I'd met my dad. Now all I had to do was tell him. Would I do it? Could I summon the courage? What would I say? What would he say? You'll have to wait a couple of instalments to find out because in the next Roistering our two rugged adventurers go on a jeep safari - no Germans Guaranteed.
Wednesday April 29th
Some people go abroad and never really leave home. Others don't. Iain and I considered ourselves to belong to the latter category. We didn't want the ease of package holidays with pre-booked hotels, all inclusive meals (of the home cooked variety) and inane travel representatives. No, we weren't mere tourists, instead we believed ourselves to be the archetypal 'travellers' - brave, inquisitive, ready for action and adventure, calm, cool and composed in the face of danger and positively oozing savoir-faire. That's why we decided to go on a jeep safari; to get away from the beaches and the tourists and see the untamed heart of the island. However, there is one dictum upon which both the timid tourist and fearless traveller will always agree - avoid the Germans.
Iain and I had yet to encounter the teutonic hoards which descend en masse upon Gran Canaria each year, but we were becoming increasingly aware of their existence. The previous day just prior to our detective work at the Royal Oak pub, we'd notice a small tourist information booth offering jeep safaris, boat trips, watersports, etc. It was, of course, the idea of a safari that appealed to our Indiana Jones sensibilities so we decided to make some enquiries.
"He does the safaris for the English on Wednesdays and Fridays" said the Oirish girl in the booth.
"What about other days?" Asked Iain.
"Oh that's when he takes out the Germans. You don't want to go with them."
"Does he do the tours in German too then?"
"Oh no, but you wouldn't be wanting to go with the Germans."
We tried to maintain some semblance of political correctness by muttering something like "well, we're not really bothered" but the knowing smile of the girl in the booth tacitly acknowledged the fact that this was just an attempt to save face and that no one, but no one who's a Brit goes on a day out with the dreaded Hun. They may have lost the war but they've been fighting us on the beaches ever since.
We booked our tickets for the following day - Brit Day. Our encounter with the Germanic tribes had been avoided, but, as you'll soon learn, the full terror of the Master Race was still to come.
The jeep safari was to depart from Macdonalds at 9 a.m Wednesday morning. This was not good, we were both hung over and Iain was complaining of a sore arse - the result of sunburn and his spectacular poolside fall. A greasy spoon breakfast was urgently required. Macdonalds was out of the question for a number of reasons;
1) Macdonalds is an out of control corporate monster. Devouring culture in favour of conformity in it's unstoppable Godzilla-like global assault on society. Empire building has never been so bland.
2) It's shit with piss on it.
Fortunately there was a greasy spoon across the road which promised a hearty repast of egg, sausage, bacon, beans, mushrooms, fried bread and, of course, a cuppa tea - the perfect combination for soaking up alcohol from the body's fragile alco-system. There was a bloke on the table next to us still drinking beer. He told us he'd been on an all night bender and was obviously in no mood for quitting. He did, however, ask us the code for England so he could call his Mum. Perhaps he was homesick. Bless.
Iain was still not firing on all cylinders. A selection of Country and Western favourites was being played over the Cafe's sound system, on a nearby corner was a mechanical horse which would occasionally make horsy noises. Iain failed to notice the horse....
"Funny isn't it, the way they've recorded horse sounds on these songs."
"What do mean? That's not part of the music. There's a bloody mechanical horse over there you plonker!"
"Well, how was I to know? I just thought that as it's Country and Western it's fair to assume it would include the sound of horses. Anyway, it's too early, my brains not fully functioning yet."
Then the jeep arrived, we were about to begin our journey to the interior - in search of the real Gran Canaria....
Wednesday. The Jeep Safari begins. Safari? So goody!
Our travelling companions for the day were a very sweet English family (chatty Grandma, lovely Mum, doting Dad and bright seven year old boy) and a French couple who spoke very little English but smiled a lot and seemed to be enjoying themselves (I tried to tell them my one French knock-knock joke, they gave a polite and slightly bemused look of amusement/bewilderment).
Dave was our driver/guide. This was his company. He'd left behind his humdrum life back in Blighty and come to Gran Canaria to do what he loves the most - drive like a maniac on narrow, high, curvy roads. Yes, Dave was one of life's thrillseekers and he was keen to share his love of near death experiences with his passengers. Fortunately, everyone in the jeep was game for some danger and excitement. I'll never forget the thrill standing up and holding onto the roll bar and all the passengers leaning with the jeep as we took the tightest of corners at unfeasably high speeds. It was like being in The A-Team.
We saw some spectacular sights - extinct volcanoes, lakes, forests, a camel park, but the award for Most Outstanding Natural Wonder must go to the Dagenham Cleavage we saw by a roadside snack van. For those amongst you who are unfamiliar with the term Dagenham Cleavage, this in fact refers to the world-wide phenomenon of the workman's bottom - the titillating hint of bottom crack exposed when a fat workman gets down on the job. This bloke's cleavage was incredible! You could have parked your bike in it. He was enormous, sat on a very small stool, leaning forward and wearing nothing but a pair of shorts which covered only a very minor surface area of his lower bottom. I had to take a photograph. Maybe I should send it in to Workman's Weekly - show them how it should be done.
The jeep safari had been a great adventure, and best of all it had taken my mind off my plan for the evening - telling Colin Fisher he was my father. Stuff suicidal cornering, this was going to be the scariest part of the day......
Captain Coconut is no more. I'm home again and glad to be here. Time to finish this once and for all....
Wednesday Night - "In Search of the Mythical Tapas" and "Hey Pop! I'm Your Son."
The safari had been an excellent diversion from the job at hand, but the time had come to make my final and most terrifying leap into The Fatherdome and I can honestly say that I'd never felt more nervous. How do you tell a total stranger he's your father? Forget steel, this was going to take cojones of pure Kryptonite. There was no way I could do this on an empty stomach, so Iain and I decided to seek out a traditional Spanish tapas bar. If this food gave Spanish men the courage to face down a raging bull whilst wearing a ridiculous hat and effeminate trousers then maybe it would work for me. The only trouble was, despite Gran Canaria being a Spanish territory, the supposedly indigenous tapas proved to be damned elusive. So alien was the concept of sampling the local culture to the majority of waiters we questioned, that Iain and I were beginning to feel rather maverick.
"Do you serve tapas here?"
"Yes, you know - Spanish food."
"We have omelettes."
"No, we want tapas."
"What about a curry?"
"No, we want to try real Spanish food."
"Do you know where we can get tapas?"
"No, try asking the bloke at the Chinese restaurant over there. He might know."
(Bloody hell, finding tapas was proving much more difficult than it had been finding my Dad.)
We finally found the near mythical tapas bar down a small sidestreet. Not only did it serve Spanish food, but Spanish people ate there too - so that's where they'd all been hiding (probably trying to avoid the Germans).
Despite such arduous searching I can't even remember if the food was good or bad. It could have been Macdonalds for all the attention I was paying to the qui sine. Tapas was the last thing on my mind: my main concern was with Papas. His fortune telling booth was just around the corner and I knew he'd be there by now. Last night he'd told me about my future, tonight I was going to tell him a little about his past.
So, it had come this far. I could have just left things as they were, knowing that at least I'd seen my father, but that would have been a cowardly retreat. We came with a mission and I wasn't about to bottle out on the brink of completion (tempting though it was). Time for the big push...
Iain went to Snoopy's Bar, awaiting reports of my reconnaissance and mustering the lager reserves. I walked to the entrance of the plaza where Colin had his fortune telling stall. I paced. I hovered. I tried to rehearse my opening line but the more I thought about what I was going to say the more difficult it became finding the right words;
"Hey Dad!" - NO
"Do you know who my father is? I'll give you three guesses." - NO
"I've got something of yours. Your DNA!!!" - NO
"I'm so glad you're not bald. Do you know why?" - NO, NO, NO, NO!
Fuck it! Just go and tell him. I waited for his customers to leave, braced my steel cojones and manfully strode up to the stall.