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The scene: Barbados. Sir Julian Snagge’s dilapidated plantation house on a hilltop overlooking a broad sweep of sugar cane-fields. Off in the distance a line of palms, some luxury hotels, a beach, the blue Caribbean. Three horrible old men are sitting in the termite-riddled living room...thick stone walls, rotten roof-beams, window shutters de-hinged by repeated hurricanes, empty rum bottles all over the place courtesy of Audrey at the local rumshop. Mountgay mostly with a scattering of Cockspur. The men seem to be playing a drunken version of Texas Hold ‘Em. One of the men is me, Dick Headley, disgraced Arsenal striker and subsequently millionaire international playboy thanks to the enlightened economic policies of one Margaret Thatcher.
'Did I ever tell you about the time I ran as a Tory MP?' asks Sir Julian. Nobody answers. Oscar actually gets up and wanders off. Sir Julian continues undaunted. ‘I cannot believe how your blog has degenerated Richard.’
‘Yes, yes, Julian,’ I muse. ‘I am all too aware of the decline thank you. It seems to parallel my own physical and moral decay.’
‘You started off so well Richard. Lots of interesting characters and information, yarns about your travels and your adventures in places like Pattaya. Now what do we get? Old Rod Stewart Youtube clips! Really Richard is that the best you can do?’
At this point Oscar Pruriente, wealthy Hollywood porn magnate, staggers in from the verandah and interjects. ‘Julian is right you know Dick. What happened to the filth and innuendo?’
‘Who asked you?’ I snarl, ‘Look, I can tolerate a certain amount of criticism but it’s still my blog. I can put what I like on it.’
But they’re right. Deep down I know it’s true. My blog has definitely been going downhill lately. I’m not sure why. There just seems to be a lot of superfluous crap on it. Naturally I tend to blame everyone except myself.
Has it really all come down to this? Stuck on a tropical paradise with a semi-retired purveyor of pornography and a defrocked judge? It’s like a bad novel. So what happened? When did I go off the rails? Perhaps we need to go back to the beginning. It all began in Bangkok I suppose. Coffee on Soi.8 with David of the now defunct mangosauce.com. Oh it started innocently enough, a comment here, a quip there, the usual Bangkok insider jokes, stickman, notstickman, all that stuff. But blogging soon became a habit. One day I realized I was addicted. I wasn’t sleeping well. So, hoping to make a clean break, I took a little cruise across the Pacific on my boat ‘Milly’ and a crew of Thai girls. It was fun while it lasted but it just wasn’t intellectually satisfying somehow. So I tried to navigate the blog towards a sort of commentary on contemporary culture…which deteriorated pretty quickly. By that time I was staying with my friend Oscar on his private island in the Caribbean. Oscar is retired from the porn business but he likes to keep up with new developments so he surfs the net a lot looking for interesting sites. Thus it was that I started spending more time on the internet and one thing led to another. I even started to have illusions about writing a book. You know the kind of thing. The idea was to work everything in somehow. Write the great epic romp. My days with Arsenal, London in the sixties, divorce etc. etc., mid-life crisis, but I kept getting distracted. So that idea got shelved. That’s not to say I’ve completely given up on it. It’s all there just waiting to come out give or take a few modifications. Less bad language maybe. One of these days I’ll do it for sure. Ha, ha good one Dick.
Remember Sir Julian Snagge? I’d already met him years ago in Marylebone magistrate’s court. He was the judge that gave me two years suspended for a few Dexies. Got me kicked out of Arsenal. Drugs were frowned on in those days. I ran into him again on Tortola. He’s got a place in Barbados and it turns out his missus of 30 years left him. She went to the Barry Manilow show and never came back…yes another one. Anyway Sir Julian was shorthanded on the plantation and the cane cutting was coming up so he asked me and Oscar to go down and lend a hand with the whips. Just joking. The staff are actually quite well paid these days but it’s still a shitty job and somebody has to make sure they don’t sneak off down to the beach where package-tours loads of sex-starved white divorcees pay better. Anyone still reading?
Tell the truth I don’t mind a bit of cane-cutting. Sir Julian spends most of the day lying in his hammock pissed as a newt. He’s feeling sorry for himself since his missus left him. Silly old bugger. He should get some of the local tarts in…that young Eileen from the Orange Hill rum shop for instance…she’d soon sort him out but he says he can’t do that. Can’t be mixing with people from the village he says. We plantation owners have standards to keep up. Go on I say…bit of brown sugar just what you need, works for Cliff Richard. Cliff lives just down the road on the Sandy Lane Estate. You've all heard the rumours. Tony Blair stays there.
(Regular readers may recall how Sir J. showed up again on his yacht in Tortola. Fancied a bit of how’s your father with some of my crew-members. I fixed him up and he nearly had a heart attack. I caught it all on camera with the intention of blackmailing him at some point but I lost interest in the project.)
See what I mean about a bad novel? It wouldn’t even make a decent sub-plot. But I persist. Why? Well it’s the old Sam Beckett thing I suppose. Life won’t tolerate an empty computer screen. Some bugger has to type something. Let the words follow each other across the page however pointless.
‘Dick! Your call, asshole.’
Oscar interrupts my reverie and I know that tone of voice. He has almost certainly made a straight from the flop and now he wants me to raise him. I fold. Been caught too many times like that.
‘Bastard.’ Says Oscar.
‘Well played Richard.’ Says Sir Julian.
Crunch, crunch, say the termites. What a way to live.
Don’t mind me. I’m just having a moan. It’s not that bad really. I got a few things done. Pity about the novel though. It had promise. There was to have been a thrilling luxury yacht chase through the Caribbean culminating in Barbados. I’d even got a grand finale worked out. Here are some excerpts. Ideally they should be read by Sir Ian McKellar with Coldplay in the background singing ‘The Good Ship Venus’. All together now...
T ’was on the good ship Venus
‘Kin oath you should have seen us
The figurehead was a woman in bed
The mast was a dead man’s penis.
Frigging in the rigging
Wanking in the planking
Masturbating in the grating
‘Cause there ’s fuck-all else to do.
Hmmm...bit rude that. Sorry ladies. I’m a sensitive modern male but a few residual hormones keep kicking in from time to time.
The plot so far: Oscar’s treasure has been nicked by Blackjack and Kevin, they have taken off on their boat. Oscar is irate. He is intent on hot pursuit. I find him fitting a cannon to Milly’s foc’sle.
I hear a long of banging down at the jetty so I wander down there and there’s Oscar and the Brazilian girls banging away up the front of my boat. He’s reinforced the deck a bit and got the swivel gun installed, which prompts me to ask what’s going on. “Morning Dick,” says Oscar, “the bastards are going to pay for this that’s what. Going to blow them out of the water…it’s not the fact that they took my priceless John Holmes videos so much...it’s the hypocrisy. Pricks like that Kevin really piss me off...the way he’s so fucking saintly...bullshit...he likes porn just as much as anybody else.”
“Well I understand all that Oscar, “ but why not use your own bloody boat?”
“Because yours is faster,” says Oscar, “don’t worry. I’ll put it back the way you want it. Get your crew ready and we’ll be off.”
I have a few questions. One is how is everybody going to fit on my boat. But Oscar has it all figured out.
“Fantasia and Fabiani will follow on behind with my boat. Danny and Nok can go with them.”
“What about the flamingos?”
“They’ll have to stay here,” says Oscar, “I’ll leave them some extra shrimp in an automatic feeder. They should be OK for a week or so. Get moving.”
“What got you interested in pink flamingos Oscar?”
“Well since you ask Dick, I trace it back to my upbringing. They remind me of my roots. The place where I grew up.”
“Some tropical lagoon somewhere?”
“No. A trailer park in Wisconsin. I was also most impressed with the John Waters’ motion picture of the same name.”
“Is that the one where Divine fucks a Hungarian sheepdog?”
“The same. Did you know Dick that film has been compared to ‘Un Chien Andalou’?”
“No I didn’t know that Oscar. I heard it was compared to an exploding septic-tank. ‘Variety’ refused to review it.”
“It was ahead of its time that’s all. If it hadn’t been for ‘Pink Flamingos’ we probably would never have had ‘Deep Throat’. But enough of this banter. Let’s get going here.”
Well I still have a few reservations about all this. These aren’t the pirate days. You can’t just go shooting cannons at people just because they steal your treasure. Or maybe you can. Another thing, I’m not crazy about having Oscar on my boat for very long. A week of him is a bit more Oscar than I need. No point in trying to discuss it. He won’t listen and knowing him he’ll do what he wants anyway. Not sure why he has to bring his bloody exercise bike.
“Come on Dick,” says Oscar, “you going to stand there all day? That treasure’s half yours you know. Let’s go get it!”
Here you have to imagine vignettes of Martinique and Dominica because I haven’t written anything yet. Best just jump to the exciting climax. The attack on the Jolly Roger. OK, the Jolly Roger is a fake pirate ship sometimes rented to movie companies but mainly used as a popular day-out for tourists. Argh Jim lad.
“Pop cans full of nails,” says Oscar, “that’ll fix the bastards.” The first shot misses and makes a big hole through the sail of the Jolly Roger. The tourists are jumping up and down and waving. I can see they think this is all part of the fun. A few of them are loading up the cannon “There’s no goonpowda” shouts some geezer in a Man.U. shirt with a jock-strap on his head. It is Ricky Gervais!! Is he having a laugh?
“Throw stuff!” shouts a retired vicar who’s climbing up the rigging throwing coconuts and singing bawdy pirate songs. Out of the corner of my eye I see Johnny Depp making signals to somebody up in the crows-nest. It’s Tracey Emin with a video camera! Then I hear “Ahoy there Captain Headley!!!” and I look down and there’s Sir Julian in a dinghy “Ethel was wondering if you can spare a cup of sugar.”
“Bit busy at the moment Julian.” I say. “I thought she was in Vegas?”
“She came back Dick. Things didn’t work out with Barry.”
“Get that old scrubber out of here,” screams Oscar, “we’re breaking out the boarding gear.” He’s not kidding. There’s Fantasia and Fabiani swinging grappling hooks around their heads. One of them catches Dame Ethel Snagge up the gusset and has her dangling from the yardarm.
Sir Julian hasn’t seen the Brazilian girls before. But he’s all eyes now. I can tell he’s intrigued. He gives me a nudge. “They would look nice in school uniforms don’t you think Dick?”
“Yes they would Julian. Did you have any particular school in mind?”
“Roedean.” Shouts Sir J. “We are the Roedean girls whoopee! Come on girls, let’s have those knickers off. Never mind the treasure just get ’em off.”
Now Oscar’s stuffing a length of anchor chain down the muzzle. This is getting daft. Somebody’s going to get hurt.
“Somebody’s going to get hurt Oscar.” I observe.
“Damn right.” Says Oscar switching briefly to Elmore Leonard dialogue, “any luck this will take Kevin’s fucking head off.” He’s got a Bic lighter in one hand and he’s all ready to fire. Just then I notice Ning and Nong leaping onto Blackjack’s boat.
“Hold it Oscar!!” I say. Sir Julian is jumping across shouting “Up school!!” right behind Ning and Nong. They’ve got Blackjack down on the deck and they’re kicking him in the balls. “Debag the blighter!!” shouts Sir Julian.
Well it was all over after that. Just a question of mopping up. “What shall we do with them?” Says Oscar “Walk the plank! Walk the plank!” shout the tourists, “Keelhaul the bastards!!” shouts Chris Martin. You’ve probably got the general idea by now.
As for the blog, it’s all gone full circle in a way you could say. Old habits die hard. Posting will probably be sporadic from now on but I’ll leave the old stuff up. Memoirs of an Arsenal striker. Hiking in the Sahara with William Burroughs. Helping John Lennon with Sergeant Pepper in the EMI studios. First hand accounts of the Mount Pinatubo eruption. Lengthy philosophical discussions with Thai bar girls. Book reviews. Cameo appearances from Pamela Anderson and Michel Houellebecq. You’ll find it all in the archives if you’re interested. And there’s still plenty to write about but does anybody give a toss? Do I?
So that’s that off my chest. Can’t say I feel much different. Which reminds me. Is this the end of the road? Here in this place? Bodies rot fast in the tropics. If I have a heart attack will these blokes take care of me? Will they run me down to Bridgetown for a proper service or will they get Audrey to send up a couple of handymen to dig a hole in a cane-field? I’ll be past caring.
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