In which The Author's plan starts to bear fruit
Some six months after its inception, I'm pleased to report that Project No More Nice Guy is really showing some positive results. It's been a long time since anyone conned a drink or a meal out of me, and even longer since I went on a wild goose chase after an unsuitable female.
In fact, I've managed to pretty much avoid one unsuitable female since embarking on this research project. I don't bother going to the karaoke in the Lighthouse any more, which means that the Incredible Vanishing Girl 2 and I are very rarely in the same room. It's happened a couple of times. Both times, she seemed to think I was going to say hello to her. It didn't happen. Even when she asked me if anyone was sitting in Tony Abbott's regular chair, I just shook my head and turned away.
To be honest, I've almost quit the karaoke scene entirely, because it's just bloody boring these days. There are so few of us (and I was one, remember) who ever venture away from the Great Valleys Songbook that you might as well stay at home and listen to Heart FM.
Monday afternoon karaoke is dying on its arse. Gareth had the push a couple of months ago, and Phil the bar manager/chef/DJ/singer/whatever now hosts Performance and Cock-ups himself. His PA is far more suitable for a rock band, and his mixing desk settings reflect that as well. There's always way too much reverb on the vocals, and his backing tracks seem cheap and amateurish in comparison to Gareth's. He also doesn't have the range of music that Gareth and Jocelyn have on their systems.
The biggest problem is that he has his own little clique of favourites (Clare, Adrian, the Incredible Vanishing Girl 2), and hardly anyone else gets called to sing. The exception is Danelle, who (by some weird act of Goddess) actually gets measurably worse over time. She'd be lucky to carry a tune in a bucket anyway, but every week she gets more and more tuneless. It could be a good comedy act, like Les Dawson's piano playing, if only she had the imagination to market it as such.
So I find myself between the two camps – not nearly as good as Clare or Adrian, but nowhere near as entertaining as Danelle.
As a result, I've been dropped from the squad. In fact, I was in there a few weeks ago, toying with the idea of another pint. It was early in the school holidays, and I assume most people were on holiday. After about an hour, when it seemed that Clare and Philvis had made other plans – and nobody else had grasped the nettle – Phil came over to where I was sitting.
'Where are the singers today?' he asked.
'Well, there was one here,' I said.
And I made my excuses and left.
As for Thursdays …
I had a pint with my brother earlier, and he mentioned something he'd heard on the radio this morning. A Sunderland FC fan had phoned in to Danny Baker's programme, saying how much she was looking forward to the new season. They're no longer in the Premiership, so they're not up against the likes of Manchester Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea, and so forth. There are no multi-million pound deals, and no players sitting on their hands (despite the expectations and media hype) because it's all about the money. They can get back to doing what they do best – playing football.
The Lighthouse decided a few weeks ago that Thursday karaoke was going to go the same way. It's all about the money. A series of 'heats' would decide who went through to the 'final', with £100 up for grabs at the end. After it was announced, I had a chat with Adrian, who is on the circuit anyway. He and I agreed that it would spoil the whole karaoke experience.
As I've pointed out before, plenty of people think they're singing in front of Simon Cowell et al. on an average Thursday night. With that sort of bait dangling, it's going to attract semi-pro singers from across the whole area. On that other hand, people like me, who just get up on stage because we enjoy it and have no illusions that we're ever going to hit the big time, aren't even going to bother.
Friday night karaoke in the Bonki seems to have finished very abruptly. In fact, the Bonki itself seems to have finished very abruptly. A few weeks ago Gareth told us that it had closed. I went past on the bus yesterday to double-check this rumour for myself. There was no sign of life, and no obvious reason for its sudden closure. It seems a bit strange, because it's one of the key venues for the Cwmfest music festival next month. More importantly for me, it's home to one of the Anthony Nolan Trust collection boxes. I'll need to get in touch with Simon and Kylie to find out what's going on, simply so I can retrieve the box and find it a new home if necessary.
So, in a few short months we've gone from five decent karaoke events (Lighthouse twice a week, Bonki, Cambrian, and Lindsey's fortnightly damp squib in the Glandover) to just the two.
By a strange coincidence, about six weeks ago the
ChavMackworth announced a similar competition to the Lighthouse's. Clare entered them both, of course. She qualified for the Mackworth final straight away. I didn't stay for the results of that 'heat' – I hate the pub, and won't be going for the Grand Final tomorrow night. Clare asked me last night to go along and support her, but I think I might have to decline. I don't have that much cocaine to inhale in between the performers.
Adrian didn't enter a similar contest in the Bush a couple of years ago. He's in a no-win situation (literally): if he trousers the first prize, everyone will say it's fixed because he does this for a living. If he doesn't, people will turn around and say 'Well, we all knew you were crap anyway.' It's easier to sit on the sidelines.
As I've done.
Although my sidelines are strictly metaphorical, consisting of my armchair and a decent book. That Sunday night aside, I haven't bothered going along to either of the competitions. I've heard all the competitors before and (with one or two exceptions) there's nothing to get especially excited about. I can't imagine Tina blasting some Katy Perry our way, or Martin suddenly deciding to add 'Light My Fire' to his repertoire.
However, I've noticed that Clare has started trying some more songs since we first chatted about taking up the guitar again and going to the Open Mic nights in Aberdare. It could just be a coincidence, but they're all from the Great Valleys Songbook (a John Legend song, that bloody Adele song, some modern crap which I wouldn't be able to identify in a quiz). I blame the Incredible Vanishing Girl 2, who really does pepper her set with modern crap. She's sort-of working the circuit with Phil and his band, and we all know you can't venture off the straight and narrow when you're a semi-pro musician.
Clare obviously thinks she can compete on that basis. With no transport, no equipment, no proper experience, no contacts (apart from the precious few I've given her) and no real stage presence (in spite of my encouragement), I think she's going to be strictly a Session Musician. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. You can earn decent wedge from session work. But you still need transport, equipment, contacts … See what I mean?
Anyway, last night the three of us got back together for possibly the last time.
Philvis, who at best gets the sympathy vote because of his disability, and who really can't take constructive criticism or follow helpful advice, was still sulking because Clare had got into the final of the Mackworth competition and Tina (deservedly) had won the Lighthouse competition. He's still convinced he should have won both prizes outright. He's convinced he'll clean up at the Porthcawl Elvis Festival next month. A short, short-haired, bearded, glasses-wearing bloke, with a decent voice but only a vague knowledge of the words (even wearing a white jumpsuit that cost his parents a fair few quid) isn't going to stand a snowball's chance against professional tribute acts from across the UK and further afield.
But we can't tell him that.
To do so risks unleashing the Incredible Sulk for hours (or even days) on end.
So, last night, Philvis and I sang a couple of Elvis songs together to mark the fortieth anniversary of the King taking up his job flipping burgers in a Midwest diner (please see the hilarious and totally warped Good Omens by Sir Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman for full details). Philvis won't admit it, but he had to admit defeat during 'Jailhouse Rock', when I left him standing with only my sketchy knowledge of the song.
And there's a story behind that, too.
Clare's most recent Fuck Buddy is in prison at the moment. I won't go into the details, but it seems she only decided she really wanted him when he wasn't there. Since then, her sole topic of conversation has been her Fuck Buddy. Apparently she's going to move in with him as soon as he's released, and this time she knows it's for real, as the song has it. I got bored to tears of her talking about 'their' flat when we were in Pontypridd a fortnight ago. Considering that his rented flat won't even be there when he gets out, that could be a bit of a problem.
Her brother is more fed up of this single-minded obsession than I am – hence our choice of song last night. About two hours of ignoring her hyperactive babbling about the journey to visit Fuck Buddy on Monday, we decided that taking the piss might help the message to sink in. It fell on deaf ears, though.
And talking of people who've got themselves into trouble: the Incredible Vanishing Girl 2 might end up on Pubwatch after kicking a bloke in the head. I wasn't in the pub when it happened, of course. It was a Thursday karaoke night, so I was at home watching a film. I found out about it the following day. Lucky escape, or what? It meant that I was fairly safe to go to the Cambrian with the others last night.
Only fairly safe, though. We'd been there for half an hour or so when one of the occasionals (shaved head, tattoos, muscles, no real brain functions) embarked on an argument with some of his friends. Needless to say, because I once appeared on a TV quiz show over a quarter of a century ago, I was the obvious person to adjudicate in this particular case.
Or so he thought.
My Facebook status from last night pretty much encapsulates what I told him:
Project No More Mr Nice Guy (v 5.0) now live. No, pissed steroid head, I am not under police caution, in a job interview, or taking part in a quiz. You can't ask me a fucking question. You have a smartphone and access to the Cloud. Fucking use them.
And at about 10.30 we all made our excuses and left.
I was having a pint in the Glosters this afternoon when Clare messaged me. It's always a sign that she's at a loose end. She asked me to join her for a pint in Merthyr. I don't know why she was in Merthyr. I can probably guess. It was about 3.30 at the time. I told her that I wasn't going to spend eight quid and half an hour on a bus, only to have to head back to Aberdare in less than three hours' time. For just over double that price, I could spend a whole day in London, for fuck's sake.
She messaged back to say she was on her own.
But she never is, of course.
As long as she can log on to the Cloud or pick up mobile data, she spends most of her time messaging random people she's met on Facebook. It doesn't matter that the Fuck Buddy is in prison – in spite of how much she professes to love him – as long as he's out of sight and out of mind. She told me a little while ago that she was determined to stay 'single' until he got out. Considering that she was to all intents and purposes 'single' all the time they were together, it seems to me that she wants to have her cake and eat it.
Like the Incredible Vanishing Girl 2, and many other young girls I've met in the past couple of years in fact, it seems that Clare is perfectly happy as long as her vagina is occupied. It doesn't really matter who the current occupant is, either, just as long as he's muscular, tattooed, trendily dressed, and has his hair cut in one of the town's dozen or so Turkish barber's shops who churn out clones by the hundred. Once the vagina is unoccupied, Good Old Steve gets the inevitable phone call for company and free drinks.
Which, if I'm not very much mistaken, was the inspiration for Project No More Mr Nice Guy in the first place.
Anyway, there's much more to report in detail from my Facebook statuses and Tweets over the past six months or so, but that's a very brief summary of the research so far. The full analysis will have to wait until the experiment is complete, of course.
But at this rate it could continue for the rest of my natural life.