One Three One: A Time-Shifting Gnostic Hooligan Road Novel (4 page)

BOOK: One Three One: A Time-Shifting Gnostic Hooligan Road Novel
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5.30pm, Saturday June 10th, 2006
131 heading south

Around twenty minutes later, the grand Buick convertible surged uphill atop the concrete gantries of the 131, itself here no more than a treacherous and too-modern causeway cutting through the timeless urban rooftops of once-sleepy Bornova. As we sped through, I looked back on the events of the day and wondered whether or not I should bother calling Mick. With Dean’s corpse still warm and Mick stuck in England, what could all this bizarre new info do to him? But then, out of the tumbling tightness of the olive-black Mannu river valley, the Buick rushed up on to the high plains of the Altopiano Campeda, where as we reached the highest land I caught a glimpse of my mobile phone approaching full reception. Oh dammit, how I wish I hadn’t noticed. Feeling utterly duty-bound, however, I motioned to Anna to slow down a bit while the phone signal up here was good. Dialling his number resignedly, I prepared for the M. Goodby onslaught.

: Section. At last. How do fat women fit into leotards?

An obscure opening gambit was this even for the poet Goodby, until I clocked from the uproar coming down his end of the phone – the cackling, the giggling, the ostentatious over-breathing, the clucking air of female-voiced hysteria – that Mick’s question had been clearly staged for a gathered throng,
that ye Bard was currently at his town centre Exercise Club surrounded by several new fuller-figured middle-aged ladies all in a hurry to enlist, and all hanging on to his every word. Now was certainly not a good time to speak to Mick even if I’d needed to. Like his old time attitudes to poetry readings, DJ stints and Brits Abroad gigs, Mick’s sessions at his Exercise Club are truly sacred times. He doesn’t gig anymore so these are his only performances. Like a town-crier announcing his own genius, Mick commences every Exercise Club session by belting out his own worth from the steps of his establishment: Get Yourselves In, Mick’s About To Begin! Even now – cunted here in Sarduland – I could picture him framed by the grand oval arch of his elegant red-and-white Liverpool F.C.-inspired ‘entrance’, towering over the impressionable women, sucking his belly into that rugged all-black tracksuit and standing there self-importantly being six-foot-three-inches tall with his mane of just-washed curly blond hair. Sammy Hagar the Horrible or what! Now, at the other end of the phone, I could hear Hagar giving ladies individual bits of expert advice, pointing directions to the changing rooms, even writing down mobile phone numbers. Mick’s Exercise Club is a phenomenon in the north of England because he successfully teaches middle-aged women all kinds of yoga, meditation and breathing, but always sells it under the catch-all banner ‘Exercise Club’. ‘Call it Exercise and their husbands keep out of the way,’ says Mick. ‘Call it yoga or meditation and the men think I’m some New Age fiddler.’ His exercise CDs sell by the bucketload, are God-awful to the point of being near Pop Art, and one effort culled from his last, ahem, album even went Top Ten. Entitled ‘Kick’, the song simply involved a particularly flailing Mick yelling that one word over and over a repeated sample of the Doors’ cheesey-cheesey ‘Light
My Fire’ intro. And they call
doing your thing! Anyway, suddenly the poet pulled his head out of the goldfish bowl of women and returned to my phone.

: Section. What news from Detchy?

I began immediately to explain that my intentions to head south to R.A.F. Decimomannu for M.G.R. (Mick Goodby Research) had been thus far thwarted, but that Anna and I were now indeed on course and no more than two hours away from our destination. But Mick had soon got caught up again with females and his class was about to start. I heard ‘Kick’ booming over the P.A. and Mick running up on to the stage.

: Section. Gimme two mo’s.

I hung on and hung on and hung on waiting for the guru, but the 131’s snaky and shaky course through the landscape began to cut once again through harshly excavated rock. The phone went dead. At least Mick has some kind of mission restored, I consoled myself – but with Dean just now gone, even I’d expected a momentary crack in Mick’s telephone bravura, surrounded by adoring women or not. This was a man so guilty about the kidnappings that he couldn’t leave the cupboard under his mother’s stairs for three years. This was the man who promised his sister he’d look after her twin teenage boys at Italia ’90, and then through his own ego flailings got them kidnapped and raped. That Italia ’90 summer he was totally out-of-control! Brits Abroad was top of the charts with ‘Last Tango in Paris’ and Mick had even name-checked himself in his own hit! Drunk with power was Mick! Drunk with Mick possibilities! Couldn’t
leave well alone. Our fave Machiavellian upstart even used his own brief stardom to allow our admittedly lovely posh friend Full English Breakfast to leapfrog the other long-term band members of our big mates the Kit Kat Rappers – Stu, Yeh-Yeh and Gary Have-a-laugh – by writing a special ‘Posh Rap’ for Breakfast only! Who’d Mick think he was, Prometheus? Of course ‘Her Majesty’s Pleasure’ was a hit for Breakfast, and of course it was a fucking great hit, but it was a jade’s trick to pull on the other three. They’d all been in the band two years longer than Breakfast! Saint Mick, however, could never see these tinkerings as failings until it all coalesced at Italia ’90 and death came a-falling.

Back at the lay-by, I’d retrieved my copy of Barry Hertzog’s
Prison Writings
from my bag, and now sat fumbling with it looking for new clues. But the disparity between Hertzog’s published words and what he’d said face-to-face was just too great to make sense of. I remembered the vicious expression on that enraged and imprisoned Dutch phizzog when he’d described first hearing Brits Abroad on Hilversum Radio. How it had made him change his plans. How he and his Party Orange gangsters had, throughout 1986, tried to book Liverpool’s trundling Half Man Half Biscuit at his club Slag Van Blowdriver just to kidnap them. Apparently their songs’ vacuous subject matter obliged Party Orange to do this. That is, until M. Goodby’s Brits Abroad had poked its even uglier head into the UK Top Ten, thereby creating accelerated threats of Cultural Vacuity
at a truly MTV level. Although
Prison Writings
contained none of Hertzog’s threats of violence, kidnap and judgement, his book’s index of negative entries concerning Half Man Half Biscuit most certainly provided me with endless entertaining quotes, the best surely one that called them:

“Cynical, corn-fed, semi-artistic pseuds vampiring and suckling at the unhygienic overflow tap of bubbling TV trash, all the while stewing comatose in a glorious Welfare State safety net of near heavenly size, rather than deploying their modicum of nous to try in any way to stem the megaflow of the Monoculture’s effluence into the minds of the surrounding population.” (
Prison Writings
, 120)

Fair enough. Hertzog had pointed out how, as a 25-year football devotee of Dokkum’s semi-pro Be Quick, he’d initially admired Half Man Half Biscuit’s parochial devotion to little tiny Tranmere Rovers, even found it valiant and inspiring. But then the Judge had explained how, on Half Man Half Biscuit’s debut LP
Back in the D.H.S.S
., their lyrical skewering of Liverpool icon Nerys Hughes of
The Liver Birds
had made his blood boil, commenting:

“When some evil old bird called Thatcher could be filling up Nigel’s time, instead he’s getting a blather on for my favourite Liver Bird. I want to know why? Half Man Half Biscuit’s worldview is akin to knowing full well that a mass murderer is roaming your asylum, but still choosing to complain to administrators about the nose picker in the next bed.” (
Prison Writings
, 122)

Thereafter, Hertzog had gone through all of their lyrics and come to the conclusion that – by wasting their iffy songwriting prowess on picking fights with minor TV celebs and transient media phenomena of the kind that
each and every knob-end in the world
would wish to barf over – Half Man Half Biscuit were a bunch of Dwindlers content merely to hold up the most
delicate of hand mirrors to society, rather than daring to smash its smug face in with a hammer. And
Prison Writings
’ final prognostication as regards Half Man?

“I met Nigel [the singer/songwriter] once, I puked. His pop star haircut but no balls to be one. Ducking behind the cultural sofa, taking pot shots at gooleyless Kids TV presenters, but still he’s at home in the mirror gelling up a squarky-bird haircut. Always safe with Tranmere Rovers. Yes, I stuck with Be Quick for football and friends, but for international violence I graduated also to F.C. Groningen.” (
Prison Writings,

Face-to-face, Hertzog had spoken similarly harsh words to me, and all in that clipped, stentorian manner of his. Fuck, was this Dutch lunatic committed. According to his
Prison Writings
, Hertzog’s fiery relationship with the ‘nihilistic/apathistic’ lyrics of Half Man Half Biscuit had forced him in late 1986 upon a quest to purge …

“… from my soul all of the casual, White Supremacist feeling that has dwelled so peacefully within me whilst up here in my natural German border habitat.” (
Prison Writings
, 28)

To confront then re-engage with his true Inner Barbarian, according to
Prison Writings
, Hertzog next armed himself with an orange spray can and declared himself the First Indie Football Hooligan in F.C. Groningen’s monthly magazine, writing:

“In a democracy such as ours, the rigour with which you wield your spray can denotes your level of artistry. And
in such a democracy, where such materials can be readily bought, owning your own spray can does not alone make you an artist.” (
Prison Writings,
Introduction iii)

Furthermore, as a damaged N. Netherlander whose family and friends still had so much Nazi collaboration to put behind them, Hertzog was the kind of put-upon Ugly Customer that felt justification in seeking their truth anywhere. Anywhere at all. From his
Prison Writings
rants, it sounds as though Judge Barry – after he’d learned from Malcolm X ‘The True Story of the White People and How We Got Here’ – well, Judge Barry had just jumped on all that as justification for his own World Anger. White people were bred to rebel and go crazy up north, wrote the Prophet Malcolm in his World Massive autobiography. Thinks Hertzog: ‘That exempts me from responsibility for the bad way I feel,’ and daubs a massive X across his face for Italia ’90. Welcome to our nightmare.

Reading further extracts from
Prison Writings
and gradually reconstituting the words of our penitentiary meeting almost word for fuzzy word, I realised with certainty that had it not been for the arrival of Mick Fizz and his Last Tango in Paris, Messrs Half Man & Biscuit would be rotting on the damp floor of the Waddenzee, but you know what? Fuck Hertzog. He’s fluent in English and that fucker is an Anglophile with a Liverpool background himself,
he’d even had his own big hit in English. So of course Hertzog understood Mick’s words enough to be incensed by their vacuousness. But I’d watched Anna listening to that stupid Brits Abroad hit today, jigging about on top of the car and entirely clueless as to what it was about.

: You like it a lot?

: (
So happy
) I love the film, too!

What? Let me get this straight once and for all, clear it up. The subject matter of the Brits Abroad song that got us all targeted, kidnapped and what-have-you was about Mick and his Liverpool F.C. buddies running riot down La Place de la Concorde because some poor little Parisian 3rd div. team they were playing ran out of the cold fizzy drinks that fuel M. Goodby’s existence. Unable to access the right kind of fizz, Mick got hauled off by the gendarmes for grabbing half a Tango out of some youth’s hand. But even though the shiny pop video had made it clear, crystal clear, most Euros still somehow remember the song as being after the Brando movie
Last Tango in Paris
. Ummm. So what Mick’s first few ranty verses must sound like to foreigners, I really can’t hope to imagine. It started out in the mid-’80s as an epic poem that Mick told at pubs before Liverpool matches. Stu and Gary Have-a-laugh would be strategically placed at the bar to offer homey support, questioning and urging: ‘Was it the final Britvic in Bury?’ ‘No, it was the last Tango in Paris.’ And Mick only wrote in that twee dodgy third verse for the primary school kiddies’ choir at the behest of producer Arthur Tadgell, who believed it could be a proper hit. Have a re-listen to that flailing M. Goodby vocal on the 7" single version of ‘Last Tango …’ and, well, Mick’s semi-pro Northern accent always floated somewhere between Stoke and Lancaster at the best of times, but never was it so Pan-Pennine as on that hit single. Tell you what, how about I here proffer the entire lyrical libretto to M. Goodby’s ‘Last Tango in Paris’, so you can understand why Hertzog got so mad, not.

Last Tango in Paris


Sugary drinks across the ages,

Tales of pick-me-ups by sages,

Caffeinated to the max,

Delivering drinks down ancient tracks,

‘The King of Vienna needs some sugar,

You’re heading east, you lucky bugger.’


Red Bull comes in cans, I know,

I’ve followed its career,

Since I chanced upon its Austrian debut,

It was 1987 and our youth team played East Tyrol,

Where the fighting hordes are few.

So we loaded up with Kola Max,

We loaded up with sickly snacks,

Got overloaded on the aeroplane,

Then descended as one sugary mass,

We crossed the tarmac,

Reached the grass,

Then retched collectively, ooh!

) Let’s start again.

Sugary drinks across the ages,

Tales of pick-me-ups by sages,

Caffeinated to the max,

Delivering drinks down ancient tracks,

‘The King of France, he needs some sugar,

You’re heading south, you lucky bugger.’


Red Star, Paris: green-and-white,

A year or so ago,

Your soft drinks were all gone long before Half Time,

So I had to mug a tourist fairly near the Eiffel Tower,

Half a Tango is no crime!

Your Honour, it was lack of fizz,

Your Honour, Coke won’t do the biz,

And your baggage handlers cracked the fizz I’d packed,

If you run a Euro football club,

We Anglos don’t all need the pub,

White sugar: it’s a fact.


School choir

Mick collects the kind of drinks that keep you up all night,

All you kiddies, too much pop will make you sick,

Unto every son and daughter,

Give them juice and give them water,

Then there’s all the more for Mick.

Chorus (
Vocals shared between Mick, Stu and Gary


Was it the first Vimto in Cannock?

No, it was the last Tango in Paris,

Was it the final Britvic in Bury?

No, it was the last Tango in Paris.

It was not the penultimate Coke in Berlin

Quaffed down with a bongload of charis;

Indeed, it would go down in history

As the last Tango in Paris.

Was it the final R. White’s in Westminster?

No, it was the last Tango in Paris.

It was not the penultimate Tizer in Hull,

It was the last Tango in Paris.

Was it the ultimate Fanta in Nazi Germany?

The last Dr. Pepper on Broadway?

The last Kia-Ora to escape from Andorra?

Just take this Ribena and go away.

Was it the last Dandelion and Burdock in the Quantocks?

No, I won’t speak of it longer,

The only contender was My Mum’s Cola,

And that’s only because it’s stronger.

Was it the second-to-last Irn Bru in the Shetlands?

Or the final Corona on Skye?

Well, me I can’t answer,

All clammy and sweaty,

Just gimme one quick or I’ll die.

BOOK: One Three One: A Time-Shifting Gnostic Hooligan Road Novel
9.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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