Thursday, 19 April 2018

Out of Tunes

In which The Author puts his thumb to his nose
I'm sitting in the bar in Jacs at the time of writing. It's Thursday, and a decent gang of younger lads are in to take advantage of the free pool table. Amanda and I have been using the small table near the electric sockets to work on promo material for the venue, and thereby hangs a tale.
Ordinarily we'd have had to put our gear away tonight to make way for the small-scale karaoke set-up. Alternatively, I'd be in the music room helping Barrie to rig up the kit in there instead.
But it ain't happening!
The last time we did karaoke in the music room was over a month ago. It was a Thursday night, of course, a couple of weeks after Lindsey's birthday. I'd called into the Glosters for a mid-afternoon pint. I hadn't been in there very long when a gang of lads in their early twenties came in. I recognised Chazza's brother – not the sort of person you'd normally expect to see in the bar. Hot on their heels was Chazza herself. She spotted me sitting at the bar, said hello, and looked really pleased to see me. I got the impression that she'd been trying to give her brother and his mates the slip all day. I decided to rescue her, so I got her a drink and invited her to join me in the evening.
When we walked into the bar, Philvis was horrified. He'd thought (as I had) that we'd never speak to each other again. But the three of us sat down and had a chat before we went through to the music room. Chazza had never seen the stage before, and it blew her away. When she got up to sing, I knew straight away that this was why she'd spent all her time pissing about in the Lighthouse, the Bush and the Cambrian. After all that practice on crappy little systems in awful places, she was totally ready for Barrie's system.
I actually thought that she'd spread the word around, and that we'd be able to establish a nice Thursday night scene in here.
It didn't happen.
On Maundy Thursday, Barrie wasn't even going to bother setting up the gear. But a few people messaged us to ask if karaoke was on. So we went small-scale in the bar. And in fairness, we had a decent gang here through the evening. People were still coming in after our usual time to shut down, as well. For a moment, it looked as though we'd finally found the winning formula.
That was three weeks ago.
Not even Philvis has been here since. He's delusional enough to think he's in with a shout for the hundred quid prize in the Bush. Or the Lighthouse. Or whichever pub is hosting the professionals tonight. Yeah, as I told Barrie and Amanda the following weekend, they're all a bunch of fucking breadheads.
Three weeks ago Barrie set up the gear in the bar. He and I messed about for a couple of hours trying out songs we've always wanted to do. Adrian drifted in as part of his circuit around town, sang a couple of songs, and buggered off again. Barrie and I soldiered on and tore the gear down at about 10 p.m.
A fortnight ago, it was the same story.
Last Thursday, when only the three of us (and Amanda, obviously) were in the bar anyway, we decided it just wasn't worth fucking bothering.
On Saturday, when Barrie and the rest of the gang were at the races, Amanda and I took Thursday Night Karaoke off our Facebook listings. Amanda's just taken it off the website as well. I put a status on Facebook earlier, telling everyone that Karaoke isn't happening tonight. Lindsey responded with an unhappy emoji – a bit cheeky, I thought, since she baled out on her own birthday and hasn't been seen since. I know she works, and she's got her own singing career at weekends, but we got it going again purely because it was Lindsey's birthday and she asked Barrie if we could set it up again.
The Incredible Vanishing Girl has lived up to her bill matter, and hasn't been in her since. In fact, she was supposed to have joined me for the John Otway gig here. No show. At least Chazza could conceivably win the ton on a good night.
Barrie and I are of the same mind when it comes to the professional game. As I've said before, I think it's rather like going down the Ynys on Sunday for a five-a-side kickabout and Gareth Bale turning out for the opposition. Barrie's been a professional singer for a long time, but he treats karaoke in the same spirit as I do. Last week, we suggested going for a walk to the Lighthouse, Barrie entering the competition, and walking away with a ton in his arse pocket. I wonder how long it would take the rest of the crowd to cry foul.
Ironically, Steff and Wendy have just walked in, wanting to do karaoke. I know them both, but neither of them are on my Friends List. If they didn't see the various posts on the Jacs Facebook page either, that ain't our fucking problem, is it?
Remember, boys and girls, karaoke is for life, not just for birthdays and bank holidays

Monday, 16 April 2018

Just Another Silly Sunday

In which The Author really should have stayed at home
Where do I even start with this one?
Actually, I'll start on Saturday evening, when you'd have found me in Jac's (my weekend second home).
I had intended to watch the Shameless in the music room, but I got captured in the bar by my pal Liam (see I'll Have a Large Retcon, Please) and his parents Andrew and Jude. We had one of our customary free jazz conversations about all manner of things and a fair amount of alcohol was consumed. I spotted Phil having a smoke in the beer garden when I passed the window. I was wondering whether to drag the rest of the gang in to watch the band, when I saw Karen leaving the ladies' toilet. Cowardice is the better part of valour, so I decided to stay put until she'd gone walkabout.
It was around this point that Barrie, Paul, Farmer, James H., and the rest of the evening regulars burst in. They'd spent the day at the races in Chepstow, followed by a rare Welsh appearance by Bad Manners. The lads are all massive Ska fans, and it would have been daft to miss out on this gig. Needless to say, they'd also had a fair scoop during the course of the day.
In fact, when I popped in at lunchtime yesterday, Barrie didn't even remember saying goodnight to me when I left at stop tap on Saturday night.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I called into Thereisnospoon for a late(ish) working breakfast yesterday. My pal Christopher Pegler-Lambert is a professional actor. He'd posted on Facebook on Saturday, asking for volunteers to get involved with a photographic project he's trying to organise. It's going to be right up my street, and I know a couple of photographers who would probably be interested as well. (Stop Press: I met them for lunch today. They're well up for it.)
Liam, rather surprisingly, remembered that he'd agreed to join us as well – he's a very keen amateur actor and a stalwart of Showcase Sioegerdd. I'd suggested that the project might appeal to him as well. We had a good chat, I mentioned a couple of other pals who might be able to help out, and it seems as though Chris's idea might have legs.
We strolled over to Jac's to throw some more ideas around. Barrie was looking a little fragile from his Saturday out, and none of the others had surfaced. When Liam and Chris left to do the traditional family Sunday stuff, I chatted to Barrie for a while. I think we were both surprised when the rest of the gang rocked up. I think half of them were still pissed from the day before, and between the hangovers and the random music selections on the jukebox, the stage was set for a silly day.
Barrie got his second wind after a pint or two, and decided he was going to do an impromptu set in the bar during the evening. He put an announcement on Facebook, and I shared it, with the following warning attached:
This might degenerate into random karaoke nonsense if we're really unlucky. But Barrie's in the mood for a song, so why not pop along and have a drink with good company?
Sometimes I swear that the Goddess of Chaos must read my statuses and think, game on, bitch!
Have you ever organised a party to which nobody came?
Yeah, that's pretty much what happened. Rhian saw my post and came in for a pint. The rest of the gang were drifting off, having been defeated by two days of solid drinking. Eggy was soldiering on, though, as he's on holiday until Wednesday. Alyssa, Barrie and Amanda's younger daughter, had joined us as well. Barrie's set was working quite smoothly. We were having a nice mellow evening in good (if somewhat thin) company.
Then James P. strolled in.
ERRATUM: For strolled please read zig-zagged down the front path, bouncing off the exterior of the building at intervals.
James and I have been good friends since he joined Defcon, over thirty years ago. One of his many musical projects is Cool Beans, a very fluid and experimental band with (among others) Chris from Cripplecreek, Nick from Skacasm, and my mate Simon B. They recently opened for John Otway at Jac's (for the full story, please see the official Jac's blog, written by your humble Author). He's always been a loose cannon, with a very offbeat approach to music and life in general. He likes a pint and he likes a smoke. I've seen him stoned off his chops on many occasions. But I've never seen him as heroically pissed as he was last night. We thought he was clowning around when he first appeared through the front gate. As soon as he embarked on his major expedition to reach the main door, we knew he was in total earnest.
Had I been in barmaid mode, I think I'd have probably refused to serve him. But Amanda sold him a bottle of Spitfire, and all Hell broke loose.
'Karaoke!' he bellowed, and took control of the mic while Barrie looked on in despair. He improvised a very strange song about blue skies through the window (it was actually pissing down at the time), and then decided he was going to sing a Queen song. There's a nice white Les Paul copy which lives in the music room. It's missing a strap button, and (obviously) it wasn't plugged into the sound system. But I grabbed it, and together we 'played' the song. Well, James sang it while I mimed all the right notes, not necessarily in the right order. We did another Queen song, and then James decided to do his John Otway tribute act. He did a forward roll across the pool table, and then starting headbutting one of the pouffes. Amanda was videoing the whole thing, Barrie was sitting with his head in his hands, and Rhian was almost crying with laughter. You can find the video on the Jac's Facebook page if you're feeling really brave.
And the moral of the story, boys and girls, is this:
Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it.

Friday, 9 February 2018

The Cat's Out of the Bag

In which The Author cannot be trusted with small animals
Rhian has gone away this weekend, on a journey into unknown territory. She's spending a couple of days in Poole, Dorset – a place that neither of us have visited before. As the official transport planner, I'd already established the train as the only practical means of making the journey (see A Dip in the Poole in my blog about public transport). Rhian booked the tickets a couple of weeks ago. It fits around her work shifts, so she's not using any holiday. It's also a rugby weekend, so Rhian will be deep in enemy territory by the time the match kicks off tomorrow. A plan was coming together.
That left only one problem: Alvin.
Alvin is a cat which Rhian acquired about a year ago. He's small, black, lively, and a bloody nuisance. He managed to go walkabout when he was still quite young. He turned up on the Heads of the Valleys Road between Hirwaun and Merthyr Tydfil. Some people driving along spotted him, decided he was a stray, and took him to their house in Rhymney. Alvin and Rhian were eventually reunited through social media, but the mystery is still how he got to Baverstocks in the first place. Our theory is that he climbed into a box outside a house in Trecynon, was picked up in the morning along with the rest of the recycling, and escaped when the refuse lorry reached Bryn Pica, halfway to Merthyr.
I lost count of the number of times he claimed to want to go outside on Xmas night, while Rhian and I were trying to watch a film. He was even worse a few weeks back, when we were (again) trying to watch a film. I've never liked cats anyway, and Alvin has done little to change my opinion. Somehow Rhian has decided that I'd be the perfect person to feed him while she was away. I know I live literally around the corner, but I was sure there must be someone better suited to cat-sitting. Someone who likes cats, for instance.
I've mentioned this problem to a number of my friends, and they've all said much the same thing: 'A cat will last three days without food.' Rhian was horrified when I told her that. I think she thought I was actually serious. Half-serious, maybe.
Last week Rhian managed to convince Rebecca, the former Goth barmaid (who's also Rhian's cousin), to call in twice a day and feed the cat. It was all settled, except that yesterday Rhian couldn't get hold of Rebecca to give her the spare house key. She texted me instead, asking me if I could meet her after work and take the key to pass on to Rebecca. I took the key home last night, and that should have been the end of the story.
This morning, Rhian and I had the following exchange over Facebook Messenger. I knew she was catching the 1122 train from Aberdare, so I left it until then to get in touch.
Me: Remember you're catching the Portsmouth Harbour train (probably platform 1 or 2) and changing at Southampton Central. Beyond Salisbury you're on your own, so if you get stuck you'll have to talk to an English person. Have a great weekend!
Rhian: Lol ok thanks
Me: From Southampton, some trains terminate at Poole while the rest run semi-fast to Weymouth. Make sure the Weymouth train actually stops at Poole before you get on it.
Rhian: Ok I will that would be my luck getting on wrong train
Me: I know, that's why I'm looking at the live departure boards now.
Rhian: You are a great friend
Me: Not that great. I came out without your key, so I'll have to go back for it (or feed the beast myself later on).