We were hired by a large senior holiday company to play a slot for a music weekend. 100’s of people had come to the hotel by the coach load to party at night and probably bumble about during the day. I have so many stories about this weekend. I’ve mentioned before about having to print out AA route planner pages for our journey and this trip to Wales was no exception. We also, yet again, travelled in the Duke’s Citroen Picasso people carrier complete with child seats, moist baby wipes strewn on the back seat and various hoards of confectionary stuffed into nooks and crevasses in the upholstery.
The Duke was a terrible driver. He drove too fast and didn’t have the foresight to predict bad outcomes. He assumed that everyone would get out of his way and when he had to react to a situation and lift his arm off the window ledge, he would shout profanities at the other drivers. It was his ability to react quickly however that got him out of the inevitable scrapes. He would drive blindly into a dangerous situation and then swerve at the last second to avoid a collision. It actually angered me that he always seemed to ‘get away with it’. He had used up so many of his cat lives that the odds of surviving a journey with him was becoming increasingly small. It was on this trip that I really thought that I had finally been dealt the bad hand that I was expecting. As we approached the hotel on the right hand side, The Duke veered onto the opposite side of the road to get a better angle for the driveway. He didn’t realise that this maneuverer was undertaken on a blind hill crest and another car suddenly appeared and rapidly approached. Both vehicles were travelling around 50mph and as I saw the oncoming car I slammed my feet onto imaginary pedals, my butt tightened and I imagined how far my shattered body would propel through the windscreen. The Duke managed to swerve into the drive and Clancey let out a small whimper from the back. It had happened so quickly that there were no angry gestures, no blaring horns, just a split second instinctive flick of the steering wheel from both drivers to avoid a head on collision. We continued down the hotel drive and I looked round at the Doctor, who was half asleep and Clancey who was ashen grey and had bitten his finger nails down to small stumps. The Duke calmly turned to me and said:
“That was a bit close, wasn’t it?” in a smile mixed with spearmint gum.
As we entered the hotel a young manager hastily shuffled to us to inform us that the whole building was in lockdown because of an outbreak of Norovirus. She asked if we still wanted to proceed with the performance even though there was a risk of catching it. At this point we all looked at The Duke for a verdict. He was in a position to check the contract and see what terms were included which meant that we would not have to play and that we would be financially compensated. However, we all knew deep down that the contract was probably sat on his hall carpet unopened and he had absolutely no idea. We decided to take the gig and get paid!
Dinner was provided which required us two go through a human sheep dip process before helping ourselves to a buffet of overcooked vegetables and dry turkey. There was no real queue as 90% of the hotel occupants were in bed throwing their guts up.
We then went to set up in the entertainment centre and prepare for the gig. We had 2, possibly 3 dancers which we took as a win. We had never played a gig where everyone refused to dance. Even if there was one person shuffling about in the corner, we’d take it!
The dressing room was full of signed promotional photos of C list celebrities and we felt like we’d hit the big time when we saw the likes of Bobby Davro and the Krankies! We ignored the vacant, Shining-esque hotel experience and decided to have a good time as we were all staying the night.
After sinking a few at the bar we realised that the only people available to continue the party were the residential staff so we started to get friendly with them. The lack of punters had made the staff’s job very easy so they were able to join us for a few drinks. We drank with the bar tenders, some of the chefs from the kitchen and the dancers/entertainers that had performed in the support act. Good Times had already been watching one particular female dancer and when we were all invited up for a party in her room, Good Times rounded us all up and practically sprinted up to the top floor after her. The staff dormitories were in the attic of the old hotel. As a musician it can be fun to see both sides of a building. You get the public front and then the dogsbody backstage area. In this case we were not only walking through the beautiful corridors of this old building but we had sanction to proceed through all doors marked ‘Staff Only’. It was through one of these doors that led up to the highest point of the hotel. We found the girl’s room easily not only for the music that was blaring from a small stereo but the plume of fragrant smoke that filled the entire floor.
At this point I would like to announce that although my memory is fairly sound, I was heavily intoxicated and certain parts of this story are just blank. I remember being in the dancers room. There were 2 or possibly 3 girls sharing this space and they had a few other staff members crammed in. There was a guy in the corner rolling joints, another guy who was the token boyfriend of one of the dancers but I think the rest of the party were female. Good Times was in prime position as he had latched onto the best looking dancer. The Duke was chatting with the whole room and enjoying relating cool stories to an audience 10 or 15 years his younger. I’m fairly sure Double Meat was there and drinking shots of whatever left over alcohol the staff could get away with sneaking upstairs, I think it was Apple Schnapps. I was so pleased for Good Times as this was an occasion where he had done everything right. He had bought this girl drinks, been a gentleman, made her laugh, played it cool, interacted with her friends and accepted an invitation to carry on the party. I could see though that now that he was about to close the deal he was getting more and more edgy. Like a lot of arty types, this girl was flirting but it wasn't 100% focused on one person and it could easily be misconstrued as messing with us or just having fun at a party. Good Times tried to steer the conversation and quizzed them about their dance routine and eventually how athletic and supple they all seemed.
“Oh yeah,” said the good-looking dancer. “I can get my legs round the back of my neck”.
It was said so matter of fact but it stunned the room into silence as every male head swung round at a hundred miles an hour.
Good Times’ rectangular face was even longer than usual as his jaw had dropped to the floor. All he could eventually spit out was:
It was said in admiration and astonishment but mixed in the youthful lust of a relativity inexperienced man completely spell bound by a playful female.
The dancer remained seated on the floor of her dorm and placed one leg behind her head as demonstration of her claim.
Good Times was unable to speak and his clearness of mind had gone to complete shit. I didn't leave the party with him but he didn't stay there either. He dropped the ball as he was so flummoxed. That night I think he scared himself. He realised that he had some moves and although he needed to work on pulling the trigger, he could get a girl to literally bend over back wards to please him. If you have gone through life with classic long term relationships as Good Times had, it’s sometimes frightening to realise that you can quite easily dip into a more sordid, lustful and brief relationship with the opposite sex, but he was far too romantic for that!
We all managed to avoid the sickness bug apart from The Doctor who took 5 days to recover.