The question that needed answering was “Do the Greeks speak English? The answer that came back was however slightly unexpected and at first I thought ‘very ungrammatical’. But little was I to know!
“The Greek doos speak English” was the response.
“The Greeks DO speak English” I thoughtfully corrected…….. but It was me that was wrong, for the answer was correct as I was to discover.
I can confirm that the Greek DOOS do speak English!
Not a lot I admit – sort of pigeon English I suppose – and mainly in little Punch and Judy argumentative showpieces right outside my window. Each morning they are at it bringing me with a disorienting shock, out of the night-time pleasures of a tryst with Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry where I am playing hard to get despite their insistent overtures, to be confronted by the witterings of two different burds.
It’s always just as I am about to succumb, with a knowing smile and climactic resignation, into their silky, soft, glowing and voluptuous charms, that the dawn cooing of the pigeon equivalent of loggerheads rends the air, alternately between the two trees either side of my balcony, leaving me with another unfulfilled dream, and Halle and Angelina with another day to wait before their frustrations can be sated.
My immediate reaction is of course murderous and cruel; to capture the wee bastards – preferably with as much pain as they can endure – and then pluck their feathers from their scrawny living carcasses and prepare them for a poolside barbecue at which they will be the sacrifice to the satan of wet-dream-interruptus.
But a moment passes and their coos take on a pattern, a split second later discernable syllables and finally fully fledged (I like that wee pun) words. Aye, the Pigeons start to speak and specifically they start to speak to ME and no longer am I just a listener, I am at the core of their conversation. I am the subject of the pigeon parley!
The one on the left is the intellectual powerhouse of the duo. He is a considerate and deep thinker only speaking when the subject is of some importance and one that he feels the world should be aware of. His utterances are so evidently true that it would be impossible for all but the most contrary to contradict him. He reminds me of me.
But then there is his alter ego across the no-pigeon-land of the balcony.
Little thought and even less logic go into the position that this stroppy example of the dove population adopts in response to the invaluable information that he has been provided with. His stance is simple – whatever is said – he will disagree. He is a ringer – another pun – for my pal Pat. (Note: I have assumed that both of our feathered friends here are male).
The exchanges, deep as the subjects are, have been necessarily limited due the limitations of the avian physiology. It is hard to construct sentences when you have no real evolved voice-box and the brain the size of a raisin. But, and we only have to look slightly west of our own Gorbalian intellectual academia in Glasgow, to see that even those limitations can be partially overcome. Pigeons may indeed be rats with wings but they could teach the congealed stain on humanity at Ibrox a thing or two!
Anyway, the fine feathered member of the noble soaring community, whom I have nicknamed Matt The Avian Aesthete (MTAA) always speaks in the pattern of “Coo Coo Coo Coo”, while the retort from the rather more down-at-heel, scruffy and patchy feathered antagonist now officially known as Pat the Particularly Ponderous Pedant (PTPPP) is as predictable as it is boring, albeit in the slightly different metre of “coo coo coo coo coo”.
This results in such table tennis type exchanges as follows (each thrust and parry going on for about ten minutes):
MTAA :“Don’t drink the coke”
PTPPP : “Go on drink the coke”
MTAA :“Don’t drink the coke”
PTPPP : “Go on drink the coke”
MTAA : “Don’t go to town”
PTPPP : “Go on go to town” etc…
MTAA : “Don’t ask for ice”
PTPPP : “Go on ask for ice” etc….
And the slightly more philosophical
MTAA : “The war is full”
PTPPP : “The war is not full” etc….
I didn’t understand the exchange on Tuesday and I ended up with a really bad stomach. So I assume that it was probably along the lines of “Don’t eat the eggs”…… “Go on eat the eggs”.
Sadly I ate the eggs and they commenced to eat my intestine lining.
But then on Thursday last the mystery started to unravel. After all I am in the Dodecanese, the islands that appear like a fistful of giant pebbles tossed by Zeus from Olympus’ peak to pepper the green/blue Aegean and Mediterranean waters with star-gates to intrigue and magic (and pigeons that can speak in English!)Whether the whole rigmarole was inspired by Zeus himself, just Aphrodite getting a wee bit jealous of Halle and Angelina or the rediscovery of my ancient ability to speak to the animals I don’t know, but as I tumbled from another night of unrequited passion, off went MTAA.
“You need a job”
PTPPP though self obsessed with the Health and safety aspects of working in trees, looked up from his unconventional breakfast of chicken a la crème with fish, and responded as expected:
“You don’t need a job”
And then on Friday the coup de grace or psychological stab in the back!
MTAA : “You’ve got no dosh”
PTPPP : “You’ve got loads of dosh”
As much as I wanted to believe PTPPP, I knew that if MTAA had said that the moon was made of rocks, PTPPP would have said it wasn’t. So I went down to the complex cafe, ordered a pint, hacked into their wifi to save me the €3 and checked my bank balance.
Torrential doesn’t describe the flood of tears that engulfed the immediate vicinity. It is however fair to say that if it had continued unabated a call would have had to go out to a descendent of Noah to build a new ark.
Anyway the whole episode got me thinking about work, my historic association with it, and my deepest feelings about the very concept of becoming once more a be-suited, be-tied, be-shackled and be-trothed spouse to a desk, computer and a company-provided forelock …‘for the tugging thereof’.
As everyone knows, I always loved my work!
Every day was like a fairground visit with helter skelters, jungle rides, dodgems and waltzers. Aye, work itself was marvellous; it was just the getting up to go there that was like boarding the ghost train.
Monday as always was the real bastard. Not only was it ‘another first day at work’, but it was accompanied by that manic depression brought on by a weekend of skulling pints, a dehydrated brain, a palate reminiscent of the contents of a pencil sharpener and a nervous system that went to pieces as a really loud envelope was posted through the door. (It is my contention that the loudest envelopes always arrive on a Monday morning). You might as well have waved the shrunken head of a voodoo sacrifice in front of me and cursed me with the eternal damnation of as I stared at the clock willing it to say 5.30 am rather than 6.30, clenching my bladder against the unstoppable force of urology, knowing that once I got out of the sanctuary of the holy pit, that would be it and the demons of another week would chew my conscience all the way to the pleasure-dome.
Mind you I may have overstated the ‘I loved my work’ assertion above.
In fact I feckin hated every minute of the following five days forcing myself to use my telephone voice, turning my nose up in righteous disgust at those who went for a lunchtime pint (“I didn’t get where I am today by drinking at dinner time. Are you sure you don’t have a drink problem?”), and generally staring at myself in the mirror and wondering just who this man of authority and ill fitting power and suit was, and where he had actually arisen from? After all, there didn’t seem to be any potential seeds sown in the wee torn arsed, short trousered, snottery urchin from Coatbridge whose favourite pass time with his pals was seeing who could do the biggest jobby down by the Luggy burn.
A Thousand and one Coatbridge nights – A tale within a tale
For those who are interested, we wiped our bums with Doken leaves! (They were also really good for rubbing on your skin if you happened to fall in the jaggy nettles.) In fact I’m sure that Doken leaves (or Doke leaves as some people called them ) may have been the original multi-purpose elixir for every ailment known to man; Mr Doran at number 48 even tried to make booze by fermenting and distilling the stuff. I can’t remember just how long he was in hospital, but it did cure his constipation.
Mind you the Dorans were not all that they seemed. Their real name was Higgins, as verified by Suzy – my mammy, and Cathy – my mammy’s best pal. Rumours circulating about everything from who murdered who, to who was wearing too much make up for her age, and why, had to be verified at the court of Suzy and Cathy. Of course once verified the whole of Coatbridge soon knew. Both the local Polis and the ‘Advertiser’ had our sleuthful duo to thank for many an arrest and front page scoop! Mind you when it came to anything to do with the Irish Diaspora or alleged ‘incidents’ etc, they magically transformed into Suzy O’Deaf and Cathy O’Mute!
So when the whisper that a Doran to Higgins name change had been needed following a particularly tasty scandal, witnessing Suzy/Cathy’s raising of an eyebrow and the synchronised adjustment to their corsets, confirmed that it was a closed case.
I of course, the latest gifted one in a long line of psychics, being the first son of a third daughter (a long neglected but powerful combination), had an even greater insight into the history of the Dorans/Higgins.
“It’s no’ jist some hanky panky skeleton in the cupboard” I reliably informed my comrades and fellow C-Brigade members in the never ending battle against the forces of the crown who were forever invading our piggery. (although I preferred to think of us the Trotskyite forces for revolution vanquishing the white Tsarist royalist evil empire) “No it’s even mair tasty.”
Conspiratorially I looked around and then addressed the assembled huddle (one used long before the late and unlamented Tony Mowbray scratched his name on ‘The History’).
“They’ve run away from the circus” a brief pause for effect, but not enough to allow an interruption, “and according to my sources their real name wisnae even Higgins. It was ……Martellovic!! Gypsy travellers from the east who the polis found out to be running a trade in kidnapping dwarves and then brainwashing them into thinking that they weren’t dwarves at all, but just orphaned children who the kind Martellovics had adopted. Ma and Pa Martellovic then claimed loads and loads of Children’s allowances and milk tokens while still making the midgets earn extra keep by appearing in pantomimes, cleaning chimneys and learning to play red-neck instrumentals on a banjo”!
Charlie (Cathy’s son and my best pal at the time) had that look of ‘yer haverin’ on his face but being my mucker – and knowing that my outpourings in the past had led to all sorts of adventures, piped up;
“Right we need to start a round the clock watch on their hoose to gather evidence. Huv we got anything against them at the moment? Other than the suspicion of their trade in wee people!”
Lynchy voiced his reservations of the eldest boy (now renamed the biggest dwarf) – Jim Doran/Higgins/Martellovic.
“I’ve noticed he never goes to school or even moves away from his front door. He seems to have a mysterious talent with whittlin twigs which surely can’t be so well developed in somebody who is supposed to be a wean!!”
“Whit dae ye mean” we all asked in one breathless question.
“Well yesterday, as I passed he shouted at me ‘Ma da can build a bomb shelter quicker than yours’. Ah jist shouted back ‘aye well you’ll need wan soon enough ya weirdo’. He didnae bite, but sniggered and just kept whittlin’ away at his hawthorn twig. Ah went tae the shops got ten capstan fur ma da an’ twenty fur ma ma an’ pit a line on fur ma uncle Willie. Ah couldnae have been gone mair than fifteen minutes and when ah passed by again ye’ll never guess whit he’d made oot o’ that twig!”
“A full feckin workin model of the Kremlin and Red square.”
“Ah feckin knew it” Roasty interrupted. “Commie dwarfs. Nuthin worse. Wee reds under the bed”.
Roasty never really fitted with our more revolutionary group. His da wis a self employed odd-job man wae pretensions to becoming a pot man of some substance. He had imbued his boys Roasty and Slappy wae a similar capitalist outlook on life. We made allowances for this since he had a real bow and arrow and a leather football, so we jist ignored his reactionary tripe and got on with the problem at hand.
Wee Kin butted in.
“Listen but there’s mair. Remember last week when Mrs Doran/Higgins/Martellovic got all dressed up as snow white and the family followed her oot the hoose dressed as ….DWARVES. Brazen or whit? How come the polis huvnae noticed it?”
“Shut yer cakehole” his elder brother Big Kin fired at him delivering simultaneously an affectionate brotherly kick in the erse. “It was feckin Halloween ya numpty!”
“Aye but whit aboot their dug kennel” continued Wee Kin rubbing vigorously at the Bayne and Duckett gutty indentation in his left buttock.
“Whit aboot the dug Kennel?” he repeated.
This caught our imagination and attention. It was surely important!
Wee Kin did wan o’ they dashes intae the house that we jist knew meant somethin’. Ye know, wan o’they meaningful dashes!
“Where’s he feckin gone?” enquired anti-Marxist Roasty!
“jist wait and see, this means something” as representative of the revolutionary arm of the street, I replied for all my fellow travellers.
Wee Kin was back before anyone could argue, and with him he’d brought a big marrowbone and a pig’s trotter.
“That better no’ be oor dinner” said Brother Big Kin!
“Naw ah got it oot o’ auld Baldy’s bin. The miserable git is officially oan a liquid diet since he got his left an’ right confused an’ pit his false teeth on the fire and the potato peelings in his mooth. So he cannae eat anything with a greater consistency than lentil soup.”
Me and Charlie looked at each other, agreeing silently with a narrowing of eyes to verify this ‘fact’ with Suzy and Cathy at the earliest opportunity.
“Anyway. Follow me and I’ll reveal the secret of the dog kennel!!”
The green wooden kennel sat guarding the front door of the terraced council house.
Put yer hand on the gate and it would set off ‘Rex’ – its name proclaimed above the kennel opening – into a volley of life threatening barks, spits and growls.
“So?” we group mumbled.
“Well” continued wee Kin – although we weren’t allowed to call him ‘wee’ in front of his ma because she said it would give him an inferiority complex. Although I suggested it might be because since he lived at number 46 the fact that he wis wee made him a prime target for the marauding Martellovics!
“Well…” continued compact and to scale Kin, “it must be feckin well trained, it never barks at the postie, the doctor, or the Betterware man. But it gives pure laldy tae the rent-man. But there’s mair. Watch this.”
Wae the trained throwing arm of a chib fanatic and card carrying member of the ‘Coatbridge sheath-knife young Catholic men’s society’ he launched the pigs trotter and marrowbone in an arc that finished with them landing right by the threshold of Rex’s kennel.
We waited on the potential carnage that would surely follow when the hound from hell would advance to ravage and gorge on the meaty morsels that of course would be no more than an appetiser to such a carnivorous canine.
The roars got louder and louder.
But nothing happened. Not even a snout appeared from the hound’s hoose.
And then we scattered as the door to the demented dwarf dwelling creaked open and darkness flooded out to extinguish a rare winter sun.
Mrs Doran/Higgins/Martellovic advanced in her curlers, slippers and figure hugging five apartment tent. Her eyes were her greatest and most noticeable feature, but due to a sad affliction of an overactive thyroid caused them to protrude in a sort of Marge Simpson (although we didn’t know about the Simpsons at the time) fashion.
(As well brought-up lads we obviously sympathised with this poor woman and many a night was spent outside their back fence serenading her with….”I’m Popeye the sailor man”.)
With one swift scoop of her shovel hands, she gathered up the marrowbone and pigs trotter, disappeared back inside and shut the door, the watery setting sun reappearing from behind a cloud of fear to return a semblance of colour to the blood-drained street.
“That’s ma feckin dinner” said wee Kin before he could stop himself.
“Ya wee shite” screamed Big Kin and guttied him up and down the road “Wait till ma mammy get’s a hold o’ ye, this’ll be nuthin! ….Aw shite.”
Big Kin looked down at his jean turn-ups (stitched by Mothers to allow for growth and unstitched by the wearer to hide illicit single fags nicked from their da’s packet while he slept aff the afternoon swally.) He reached in and withdrew the remaining mixture of tobacco and charcoal Bristol tips. He was about to batter Wee Kin again when the younger one exclaimed.
“Look, Ah know the secret of Rex’s Kennel, don’t hit me an’ ah’ll show ye.”
It was a deal; they could sort out the missing dinner problem later. So we climbed over the fence into number 50, the McIlroys, next door down from the Dorans/Higgins/Martellovic homestead.
The McIlroys were another fine addition to the street. There didn’t seem to be any evidence of a permanently resident Mr McIlroy, but Mrs McIlroy and her assorted variety (colour, complexion, features, build and health) of fifteen children were definitely the subject of much corset adjustment and arching of eyebrows.
It was twilight by now and as per normal it was all change in the McIlroy household.The weans were all moved upstairs to the overcrowded dormitory (double bedroom to most families). This gave them direct access to the front door, thus avoiding the living room and kitchen which could be easily accessed from the back door, by the regular line of ‘gentlemen’ who happened to be just passing and keen to help Mrs McIlroy out in any way they could.
So there we were, out of sight of the Doran/Higgins/Martellovic front windae when all hell broke loose as the whole McIlroy clan broke free from the confines of the house, battering each other in a close-nit demonstration of family love, high jinks, assault and battery.
Tommy McIlroy, the middle one of the mixture of singles twins and triplets and who by some strange quirk of fate bore a striking resemblance to Mr O’Hara at number 37, was by this time being held down by another four of his kin and was also being subjected to the ‘blade of grass up the nostril’ torture.
In between the desperate break-dance to uncontrolled hysterical-laughing-pish-stained-death, he managed to shout:
“look……ha ha ha ha……..there’s the …..ha ha ha ha ha …….ah’m peein masel…..ha ha ha…..the big boys in oor garden……..ha ha ha ha…….Ah gee in, Ah gee in!”
Mick McIlroy, our occasional pal when he wisn’t in care, came over and whispered ‘Whits afoot then lads?’
“Twelve inches” replied Charlie.
“Ha feckin ha” fired back Mick “Whits up?”
I quickly related the story all the way up to Wee Kin’s plan to unravel the secret of the kennel.
Mick thought for a second or two.
“Right we’ll need a detour.”
“Ye mean a decoy” said Tommy.
Mick slapped him and threatened him with a blade of freshly plucked grass before repeating “As I said, we’ll need a decoy”.
“McIlroys at the ready.” He called out. “Time to liberate some mair of Doran’s tumshies”.
The clan began to rush off through the close tae the back where to be fair, Mr Doran did indeed grow the best tumshies, for the nicking thereof, in the whole of the Monkland’s district.
“Wait.Wait.” commanded Mick “Wait on the final order frae the gang master”
“When yer ready ‘Harpic’” he said to me. ‘Harpic’ was my affectionate nickname because like the product itself I could claim to be ‘Clean round the Bend’. Although leader, it is fair to say that our wee group was a socialistic brotherhood, and so I delegated the task to wee Kin. “it’s your plan pal. You take the lead”!
His chest puffed out like a syphilitic scrotum as he took charge, cockily casting a smirk at Brother Big Kin!
“Right lads, lassies and especially the Strange McIlroys”
A wee giggle came from the branded ones dressed in both pink pyjama bottoms and blue superman capes. “That’s us he’s talking about”
Wee Kin almost broke into a early version of Rhythmic American Poetry .
“Time for the old Brady bunch, rabbit punch, plum an’ duff, double bluff. Charlie, your task is tae get the dog barking. Any way you want, but simple is the best. Jist go back out ontae the street and pit yer haund on the gate tae the gingerbread cottage (Wee Kin was still in class three, while we had moved on to the Hardy boys and the mystery of the Railway Ghost). When the barking and growling and spitting starts we’ll throw wan o’ the Strange McIlroys intae the garden. Ah’ve heard they dugs like fresh blood!”
He turned and moved his pointed finger across the blue and pink hermaphroditic cowering McIlroys.
“He’s talking about us again” they stuttered, but this time there wis no giggle.
“Ha ha, that got ye’s. Ah wis jist hivven a ‘vodka an coke’. Ye know – wee Joke. Anyway when the dug reacts, see aw you McIlroys, strange and normal, invade the back garden and pull up every tumshie ye can get yer haunds on. If Ah’m right, then what we do next will reveal the secret of the green kennel. But If ah’m wrang, we’ll be joining Mick at that school where they gob in yer soup. Are we still up for it?”
For gawd’s sake. We were ten years old, well the more mature of us were, and the option of spending the next 5 years locked up in Longriggend wae bad boys, lumpy soup and havin tae mix wae all sorts, (mibbe even huns), versus the possibility of unveiling a Dwarf Kidnapping ring was a simple decision. Especially when for a few brief seconds I wrestled the conch back frae wee Kin and presented a quick précis (we’d started French wae Miss Rho-yeux-rhone-que-nous) of the state of play to enable an informed decision.
“We have here a family that has not only changed its name from Higgins tae Doran , but according to reliable sources was originally called Martellovic and in the middle of a performance by Bisto the Magician disappeared through a trapdoor hidden behind the scenic gravy box just as the polis were about to apprehend them at the shows up Jackson street. This of course is circumstantial, but also bear in mind that Jim (the biggest dwarf) not only doesn’t go to any known school, Catholic, Proddy, Approved, Special or even Sunday, he is however the Rolf Harris of the twig world and shaves twice a day. Mr Doran or whatever his real name is grows tumshies….in Coatbridge …..and who likes tumshies (of the cooked variety)? Mrs whatshername has sticky oot eyes and the rest of the weans are reputed to mix wae the folk down in Sikeside.That is the equivalent of coming from Mars. I think all the evidence points to them being dwarf abductors but we can only prove it by unravelling the mystery of Rex’s kennel”
I drew breath and concluded with,
“I believe we have no option. We have to mount operation plum an’duff”
The weight of the decision was difficult to bear, but I wis the gang-master and such is the legacy that I had inherited when winning the ‘tig’ battle wae the deid cat!
You could see that there was still a bit of indecision. Fortunately Mick McIlroy came to the rescue.
“Look we should get some crackin tumshies out of the night and anyway there’s plenty of salt to put in the soup. An’ if we’re all in the tin pail….well we’ll be together, won’t we!”.
The cheer for action was unmistakeable and if I am not mistaken I am sure that some muted celebration was also heard from within the confines of Number 48’s loft where I was convinced that the next generation of brainwashed dwarves were being held against the graded marks on the wall to ensure that they stayed within the calibrated measurement of ‘weans’.
And so with all the jigsaw pieces in place, but slightly apart from each other, the first move was made.
The frost had started to smir the tarmac pavement, the moons light sparkling off its surface like a reflection of the myriad stars in the night sky. Charlie casually sauntering in his da’s cast off wellies, a sure fire preventative of fallin on yer arse (but not a great burd puller), PUT HIS HAND ON THE GATE!!!!!
Rex went intae overdrive an’ we all recoiled in horror as we thought that the kennel itself was about to shatter into a thousand pieces of kindling! The McIlroys made their move through the close and headed for the manure pile, realising probably a wee bit late that it wasn’t as tasty as it looked ….and then set about the tumshie patch!
Panic ensued within the Doran/Higgins/Martellovic household as the scream went out “Naw no’ the McIlroys….they’re marauding in the tumshies. Git the hose oot.”
The kitchen light went on, the dug started barkin and with a cry of ‘Freedom!!!!!’, wee Kin led us over the trenches and ripped the Kennel from its whittled foundation.
We stared in amazement, triumph, bemusement and fulfilment. For there sat our potential nemesis,our evil Baskervillian nightmare, Rex!….A feckin loudspeaker!!”
“A feckin wee gauze covered box, the terrifying snarl coming from two wee wires cunningly concealed beneath the soil and leading through the ventilation brick intae the house of the horribles.
Wee Kin grew to twice his size and chuffingly jist said “Ah telt ye all! A feckin con!”
“Jist as I had always suspected” I said, grabbing back the initiative.
“Let’s cut the wires” Said Lynchy.
“Naw, lets’s leave it as our secret………”
Ma wisdom was rudely scythed as the McIlroys came belting back through the close, this time laden down wae tumshies, soakin wet from a severe dowsing and smelling of mushroom dung!
Wee Kin slammed the kennel back in place and we all took off like Tam O’Shanter as the Doran/Higgins/Martellovic equivalent of Cutty Sark came screaming through the close screaming like a banshee, spraying the hose like a madman who hadn’t had a pish for a month.
He would have got us as well, if it hadn’t been for the fact that the range of the hose ran out and he was abruptly pulled from his feet and trajectory, cracking his head on the weed strewn paving stones and for a few moments lying suspiciously like a Dick Dastardly cadaver on the slab of number 48!
We had of course made our escape and also and more importantly we had the knowledge of the impotent kennel, and the inhabitants of the kidnapper’s keep didn’t know that we knew what they knew and that was a good thing to know that they didn’t know what we knew that they knew but didn’t know that we knew what they knew.
That’s now the end of the knews!
And then God intervened to save wee Kin from a hiding.
Wee Alice McIlroy, aged 4, one of the strange McIlroys wae her blonde curly ringlets and tan that would have given cherry blossom a new boot polish, came out the close and stepped over Mr Doran/Higgins/Martellovic, holding a wee plastic bag in her hand.
“Look whit Ah’ve got” she proclaimed.
And inside the bag was a Pig’s trotter and a by now well matured Marrowbone.
“Ah got it frae their kitchen. Will ah take it back?”
Wee Kin almost offered tae give her all his green bools in his relief, grabbed the bag and done another of those meaningful dashes back tae his house.
Anyway all things considered it meant that we could assume our stakeout safe in the knowledge that we were not going to become PAL for Rex.
And so for the next three years we kept up our surveillance which yielded incontrovertible evidence of the shenanigans going on in number 48. Each year without fail another unsuspecting dwarf would be dragged screaming and kicking into the Cosa Martellovic, right under the noses of the authorities who true to their general level of intelligence were fooled by the subterfuge of disguising the victims as new born weans. But of course we knew better.
Eventually however the official complacency rubbed off on us and we became a bit bored by the whole rigmarole. Well boredom and the fact that we were three years older and were now on the trail of someone far more befitting our quest for justice and truth. He had appeared from nowhere it seemed and he had made his haunt the ‘wireworks’, where we use to get our pigeons from while clambering in the girders above the red hot molten furnaces.
Anyway one day as we were making our way out from the factory, a blood curling scream was heard and as we turned in terror into the face of another wintery and watery sun, a figure dressed all in black like Zorro, wide brimmed black hat, black cape spread wide in the wind, black trews and shirt, all tastefully finished with black cowboy boots but with the added menace of a balaclava under his wide brimmed hat appeared at the top of the rise.
A double barrelled black shotgun in one hand and a black shield emblazoned with an flaming red Olympic style torch in the other one, he shrieked ,
“I am Stopples The Fire. And you will be my dinner!”
He took off at full pelt, firing his gun in gay abandon. But we were Road-Runner to his Wily Coyote and once back in the gang hut we decided that something had to be done about ‘Stopples The Fire’.
But that is another story.
End of the first of ‘A Thousand and one Coatbridge nights’.
Anyway back at work, as the week progressed and the big problems facing a big company reached a crescendo of total boredom, my mood would improve as over the horizon of a Wednesday I could see the breeze rustling the palm trees, the hula dancers shaking their grass skirts and ‘De plane! De plane’ preparing for touch-down and another weekend’s fantasy island. And so for just a few days Paradise would be regained as Friday’s twilight beckoned with “roll ‘em up, ride ‘em out ….raawwwwhiiiddde…”…………………………………..And then it was feckin Monday again!
The whole point of this ramble is just to say that it’s a wee bit different here at the Fat Club in Kos. Every morning is the start of the longest weekend since I first drew arse-skelped breath and dreaded the first day at school, still five-ish tears ahead but as I said being the first son of a third daughter my second sight is third to none.
Here in this beautiful island as the pigeons’ alarm call from the greenery comes to an end, I make the super human effort to turn my wrist and attached watch towards my one functioning Venetian blinded eye and squint at the digital counter ticking out the tocks that mark the total uselessness of my unrecoverable wasted existence.
“ Will you look at the time, for god’s sake it’s almost half ten……and …for fecks sake will you look at the date! Oh feck it, I’ve overslept again! All this exercise is knackering me!”
And then it’s under the shower, brush teeth, on with shorts and trainers, buy a bottle of water and head of for my morning run; which I then render totally useless when I get back by having a full breakfast and four pints of lager. That’s before I open the bottle of Cretan red. Mind you, in a recognition that all things should be taken in moderation I make sure that the lager and wine last until at least 2 pm; I then burn of the excess calories by swimming to the other end of the pool and hit the Retsina before making the return journey in the evening for more fun frolic filled lager and banter with the flood of Geordies who have arrived probably in the belief that the Greeks speak the same language as them. The Greeks are actually more comprehensible…..and slimmer. Even most of Greek islands scattered throughout the Aegean and the Mediterranean are slighter than the north east of England’s travelling Michelin man show.
Remember that bit at the beginning of Monty Python where the pianist disappeared in a resounding echo of flatulence up the backside of a descending mammoth sized pair of a woman’s buttocks. Multiply that twenty-fold, add in a few sumo wrestlers to appreciate the scale of obesity and you will have an idea of the gargantuan nature of female fleshy folds that surround the pool like a protective moat of play-dough.
Mind you a little fun is to be had with the gap in languages, cultures and general progress up the ladder of evolution. One (I’m pretty sure it was one) lass who bore a striking resemblance to the tree in ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’, had gone off with her husband – who looked suspiciously like the pianist mentioned above, on their (presumably reinforced) motorbike, only to return about an hour later complaining about the weather in Kos Town.
She muttered something to me that with a few moments thought I worked out to be a question, enquiring whether it had rained today.
“Rained? Rained?” I answered. “You should have seen it; the black clouds came over like a manic depression, thunder rolled like raging gods on Olympus, bolts of lightning flashed and the swimming pool turned into a ferment of deadly waves. It took mighty efforts to save them from the eternal damnation of Davy Jones’ locker and it got so bad that the two wee girls on their Donald duck water-ring got into severe distress and we had to send out the lifeboat from Tagkaki to save them. It was carnage!”
She looked at me quizzically and said.
“Aye, it rained too in Kos. That’s why we’re back early”.
I poured another wine and sighed.
Things then actually got worse.
Paul, the owner, bartender, electrician, DJ, stage act and chef, has a liking for the heyday of pop-music and is right into such great musicals as……? Well one only – ‘Grease’.
4pm is ‘Grease’ time!
Unfortunately ‘oor lasses’ are also right into Grease and as the strains of ‘you’re the one that I want’ boomed out so the surrounding sun-bed-bound massed choir, got their arms and legs in the air, cleared their throats and launched into their own unique rendition.
Bad enough! No?
It was then that the thigh slapping started at one corner of the pool. And so like the famed butterfly effect (although in this case a Giant Moa would be more appropriate) it took off as the ripple from one orange peel thigh connected with the next and the next until the pulsating circle of giant drumsticks took on the power of an unstoppable Mexican wave.
By 4.10 pm, it had reached critical mass, took on a life of its own, escaped from the complex and headed out to sea and was last seen heading with some maliciousness towards Italy. The Greek authorities have put out an all points bulletin warning as the inhabitants of that country were about to find out just what that people of Pompeii had suffered. Unfortunately the warning was too late for the hovering fleet of Japanese whaling ships that were totally wiped out by the 30 metre tsunami of cataclysmic cellulite!
This whole scenario was the subject of a discussion between me and Dave (frae Paisley) or as his brother and sister called him…Derek, (he answered to both names, which was interesting as the day he got lost me and his kin were out searching for him at the other end of the pool shouting “David, Derek, where are you?”
I pointed out that since he was lost he probably wouldn’t be within hearing range. However they logically pointed out in response that should they venture too far to look for him that they would probably also get lost and even worse, lose their seats at the Retsina bar.
Anyway. Once Dave/Derek resurfaced, I subtly alluded to the gargantuan amounts of epidermis on display.
“They’ve just got a healthy respect for the beauty of their bodies” Dave absent-mindedly remarked.
“Listen” I said “I have a healthy respect for my first shite of the morning, but I don’t spread it across two sunbeds and occasionally throw it into the pool for everyone to see!”
As well as bringing the conversation to an end, it was probably at that stage that the gods on Olympus decided that they had had enough. I had thrown their advice back in their faces one time too many. Drinking coke, putting ice in my drink, going to town and denying that the war was full was bad enough but now …well you’ve read what I said and that was it.
They were going to really feck my life up now.
And so it transpired that Groundhog days would come to an end.
I awoke as normal, well perhaps at a slightly different angle and orientation than was perhaps usual. My head strategically placed at guillotine right angles to my body, was staring at the disorienting reflection of the room in the mirrored wall, mouth agape and tongue covered in suicidal or possibly just drunk mosquitoes.
With the super human effort of one who is accustomed to the exertions of early morning extreme exercise, I spat as many of mozzies out, swallowed the rest and raised my head above the horizon of my room.
As my vision passed through all points passing my chest and recognised my feet (Celtic sock emblazoned) at the other end of the bed I noticed the massive lump beneath the sheets towards the foot of the bed which turned out to be the head of the bed as I was the wrong way up. And there was something weird about this particular lump.
Specifically as I went through my routine of looking at my watch and bemoaning all the lost years spent sleeping and hence not drinking, I nearly jumped out of my sweat as a strange indecipherable language penetrated the heady atmosphere of the left over super nova from a night of retsina, raki, ouzo, and a packet of cheese and onion.
The lump spoke…..sort of!
“Whit?” I queried, recoiling at the effect of the brain curdling outburst and accent on my frontal lobe. The noise came again and that sudden flood of fear swept over me I suppose like the way that a fighter pilot feels as he suddenly sees the magnetic approach of a homing missile. Realisation came with the sinking feeling of a bullet to the groin!
“Oh naw, no’ a feckin Geordie!!”
This time she (I hoped) giggled as well.
I took the initiative!
“How ye doin Beautiful?”
It was more a statement than a question but I always thought that was a good opening line when you couldn’t remember a burd’s name in the morning, and even more importantly when you couldn’t see her at all and was talking to an ill-defined lump!
(The alternative, ma mammy’s advice, for the first time seemed off the mark. She had always told me “If you bump into someone and you can’t remember their name, jist greet them like an old friend…‘Ah it’s yerself then’. I didn’t think that that was appropriate when talking to a lump at the top/bottom of the bed.
At first she just revealed a bangled wrist, and then her other tastefully tattooed one. Then two, and I have to admit this, fine slender ankles, in total destruction of the fat Geordie syndrome that had been in evidence earlier. Finally with one sudden and powerful exposition, she cast off the blankets and stood in front of me in all her glory……..fully clothed! And pretty good looking as far as I was concerned.
It was then that I noticed that I was still dressed to the nines, white trousered, white shirted and white socked (with a sophisticated four leaf clover on the tops) like an extra from a hooped version of Top Gun!
“Ah don’t mean to be presumptive beautiful but how did we end up like this.?”
“Well we got back last night and as you would expect, one thing led to another and as we coiled on the mattress I lost a contact lens. So I started to look for it, you started to snore and the next thing I know that I’m coming round in the darkness of a quilt and your spitting mozzies complaining about your lost youth!”
“Did you find your contact?” I sensitively enquired.
“Not yet” she replied “By the way, you look alright considering I was absolutely rollicked last night. Normally I end up with real munters but you are passable.”
“Which eye are you looking through?” I asked.
“It doesn’t really matter loov, dae ye want tae get back under the sheets and help me look fur it”.
“feck all else to do I suppose.”
MTAA and PTAA sat on their respective branches shaking their heads.
Thinking about what then happened, I have to admit that it may have been one of my greatest achievements!
Margaret Thatcher (immortalised by Christy Moore as the reason he gave up drinking when in the midst of terrible DTs he dreamt that he was ‘in a Jacuzzi wae that old whore at number 10’) once corrupted the sentiments of St Anthony when she said ‘where there is discord let us bring harmony, where there is anger let us bring peace etc’ but even she could not have imagined the miracle that was witnessed that morning on Kos!
MTAA : “To be fair she’s a bit of a looker!”
PTPPP : “You know, I actually agree wae you there”.
MTAA : “We can’t let that become a habit now can we”
PTPPP: “I agree with you on that as well.”
MTAA: “OK let’s go for a brag hand prile of agreements then. See that Estadio he doesn’t half talk a lot of shite.
PTPPP: “Couldn’t have put it better masel. BTW are you a boy burd or a girl burd?”
MTAA : “feckin boy burd.”
PTPPP. “Welcome tae yer lottery win big boy, jist have a look at this egg laying machine!”
And wing to wing the now peaceful pigeons promised perpetual (something else beginning with a ‘P’) but I’m now pished!