Week 78: Me & Damon Albarn From Blur

Friday, 28 June 2019Reading time 03 minutes 16 seconds

As a child I longed for a normal, conventional family. I dreamed of going to museums or the cinema. It’s only as I’ve grown older I’ve learned that normal and conventional are myths and our family outings to an evening at the dog track were very special. They were glorious nights and I could never work out of it was trust or neglect as us four kids were left to our own devices to run around while our parents drank, smoked and gambled.  

As an adult I continued to go greyhound racing and have always felt nostalgic, almost romantic surrounded by the smell of beer, cigarettes and the sweat of desperation from the gamblers. 

Then I met Damon Albarn from Blur and ruined it.

Walthamstow Dog Track was sadly closing. The place was legendary, it had a nightclub named Charlie Chans underneath it and Harry jungle winning Redknapp would be a regular at the track and the club on a Saturday night. It really was a mecca for all types of cockneys. Sadly Harry left London and his losses every weekend probably had a financial effect on the place hence its demise.

The final night was a beautiful warm summers evening, I was there with old friends drinking, smoking and gambling. The Trifecta of Happiness. 

I pointed out Jude Law to my Mrs. but was corrected immediately that it was Damon Albarn from Blur. Later in a queue waiting to hand over my never to be seen again wages to a bookie I ended up standing next to him and he struck up a conversation.
He enquired if I was having a good night and I replied with “You’re Damon Albarn from Blur”.  

He repeated his question and I told him that I liked the Gorillaz and his charity work, he then asked me again if I was having a good night.  
I then forgot that he was Damon Albarn from Blur and we spoke like normal people.

I explained that I’d lost about a ton and he said he’d won a monkey. Damon Albarn from Blur was part Cockney.

I told him of my love and nostalgic feelings for the dog track, the noise, the atmosphere, how my stepmom and dad would bring us here when we were kids.  
He laughed as he had bought his kids with him, they were running around somewhere. The trust or neglect in him was as great as my dad’s. He was a proper Cockney!

He then one upped me on the love of dog racing by saying the cover of the album Park Life was from Walthamstow Dog Track, 

OK Albarn, you win this round.  

We then just hung out having a beer together laughing and chatted about life. His kid ran over and he wasn’t any older than I was when my dad bought me here. Maybe one day this child would grow to be an adult and he could meet Damon Albarn from Blur at a dog track……or in his kitchen.

I was eyed cautiously by the little Albarn, and he threw his arms around his dads waist in shyness. I don’t really like children, but this one was my new mate Damon Albarn’s from Blur child so I thought I should make an effort. His dad introduced me, and young Mr Albarn then relaxed. Me and Damon Albarn from Blur continued to laugh and drink, I may have been a bit tipsy because I dropped my beer onto a ledge and it hit another which created a domino effect with all the bottles resting on the there. I watched as each fell and cascaded into the next, the final one toppled over and poured is contents onto the head of the little Albarn. 

It contained fag butts and dredges of beer in that bottle or at least it did before it became shampoo which sadly ran down the angelic face of little Damon Albarn from Blur’s child. He and Damon Albarn from Blur were quite angry.  

In fact, I’d fathom a guess that I may have ruined his last ever night at Walthamstow Dogs. 

I was mortally embarrassed, and was angrily told to leave. By Damon Albarn from Blur that is, not his kid. He just stood there crying. Like a child.

I slinked off back to my pals who weren’t Damon Albarn from Blur, and we carried on drinking and laughing, with no Brit Pop legend in sight. 

Later on a pal leaned over to me and drunkenly said “Were you getting drunk with Jude Law earlier?

Picture: Me on the Minty Fox Glacier, New Zealand. 

Week 77: I’m A Rat Part 2

Friday, 21 June 2019

Reading time 03 minutes 16 seconds 

Part 2 – Continued from week 76

“What Makes You Angry Jack?”, “People, all sorts of people” – Jack, a guy I once knew

Early morning is my favourite part of the day as the endless possibilities of life await. I would say I’m always at my happiest and this day was no different as I sat on the 6:20am from York to London in my favoured quiet carriage.

Next to, and opposite, me were two female nurses. Every third minute they would discuss work for 90 seconds, stop talking and carry on with their tasks. 
As they were senior nurses their work was clearly important because they kept telling each other so. Whilst I should have nipped their chattering in the bud I reasoned I’ve a lot of time for nurses as I’ve always been amazed by their compassion and kindness when I’ve been hospitalized so it was only fair to pay the kindness forward and bite my tongue. If the talking got too bad, then at least two medical professionals were on hand who could offer advice on a damaged tongue.

At the next stop a red corduroy trouser wearing man boarded. No further description is required.

He sat down and immediately started a chat with a man who had previously been glaring at the Nurses for their own chattering. He was loud, and liked the sound of his own voice, and I was expecting him to be put back in his box but much to my utter disgust it was a reciprocal conversation. The British sense of politeness is evidently different in the North of England and I’m confident this encounter would not have taken place in London particularly with rude Londoners like me.

They were loudly discussing the merits of protein versus carbohydrates which in turn set the nurses off again. Anarchy started to reign and my happiness was like steam evaporating from a kettle of hate. Whilst I was mad at them I was angrier at myself as I promised I’d say something if this happened again. I didn’t. Maturity had the better of me, so I had a word with myself to stop being so ridiculous. I only had two more hours to put up with this infuriating nonsense and I could handle that. If this was the worst thing that happened then today was going to be a good day.

I calmly breathed in, and then out, with serenity washing over me.

I tuned into their conversation and Red Corduroy was enlightening us all about his trip to London where he was to speak at a conference on mental health and wellbeing.

Serenity Now!

His new blathering friend announced to the entire carriage that he was on his way to court to be an expert witness. 

Serenity Now!

The expert witness annoyed me not only because he disobeyed the rules of the quiet carriage but also because he thought it OK to start talking about the trial. This would not stand. Some rules need to be enforced and my inner African man started to work out an eloquent quip to shut this person up before they caused a mistrial.

I then heard a shout. 


When I looked to see the loud sounds origin I was not that surprised to find it was me. I continued in a very loud voice.

“Excuse me! I booked this carriage, so I could get some work done and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet but since you have got on you have not shut up. There is a sticker on the window that clearly states it’s a quiet coach.”

I paused for effect and with as much melodrama as I could muster pointed to the sticker just above the nurse’s heads.

Red Corduroy looked at me
The expert witness stared at the floor
The nurses looked dumbfounded
My inner Africa man looked on with pride and doffed his cap

I’ve been told that when I lose my temper I look scary. Luckily, I hadn’t lost my temper as I’d moved straight from temper to rage and everyone’s mouth was hanging down. 

I hadn’t delivered my speech calmly I had let 48 years of aggression spill out into the quiet coach. 

I then leaned back in the seat that I hadn’t remembered leaning out of. Red Corduroy looked up, and foolishly decided to speak.

“You know what you are absolutely right.”

I let him have it.

“I know I’m bloody right, now shut it and obey the rules!” I realised I was Eskimo kissing him, so once again I sat back into my seat. 

All other talking had ceased, and heads were bowed.

I sat there fuming. I tried to find serenity, but it had jumped out of the window a few miles back. I wanted a round of applause, but I’d made it abundantly clear that noise was not an option. Would it be asking too much to expect a sign language jazz hands applause?

There is no happy or funny ending here. I just sat there shaking with fury on what had become the longest and most awkward 2 hours I’d ever spent on a train. My fellow passengers hated me, and I hated them. 

My inner African man however gave me a hug and told me it was the happiest day of his life.

Picture: Me After a Skydive. Check out the Cats on the suit and the pink Piping on my rig. I had it going on!

Week 76: I’m A Rat Part 1

Friday, 14 June 2019

Reading time 03 minutes 36 seconds 

And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls” And whispered in the sounds of silence – Paul Simon

When I was young I travelled a lot with my mum on trains. My mind believes we traversed the globe but in reality, we only went to one place. Clacton-on-Sea. 

My joy with train travel has lasted and I’ve been on some epic journeys, zig zagging across India, crisscrossing Thailand and I’ve even survived southern London to Brighton, although that was mainly on a bus replacement service.

Not all journeys are fun though as most of the time they are ruined by people. Humans are horrible on trains. With their to-ing and fro-ing, pushing and shoving and offering up seats to folk who are not me. But it is mainly the chat that kills it.

My little cup of joy overflowed when I recently discovered that some train companies have introduced a quiet carriage. Someone felt the same as me in wanting a bit of peace and a feeling of not being alone in the world anymore was answered. This is how Shrek must have felt when he met Princess Fiona. 

I now always book a quiet carriage as that stops the chat. I figure I can unwind, sit and watch this gorgeous country pass by and not let it be spoilt by the pesky inhabitants jabbering on.  

The people that break my harmonious journeys are those who don’t follow the rules whereas I’m a stickler for rules and always try to follow them. On the windows of the quiet coach for example the stickers clearly state you should “sit back, relax and unwind” and where possible I do that. What tends to happen however is I hunch forward, as I’m so wound up by my non-compliant fellow passengers.

If there was a button to press, so the planet exploded into its component atoms, I’d punch it after the first clearing of some idiot’s throat.

Recently I sat in my booked seat, on the quiet coach, and my promised view was spoilt by a window divider. When I mentioned this to the ticket collector he pointed out it was better because I had two windows. 

I then mentioned to him that we were in a quiet coach and asked if he would kindly go and ask the couple speaking 3 seats down to shut their pie holes. In a normal non-quiet carriage this kind of chatter would go unnoticed, but I had paid for, and wanted, serenity. British people don’t like to complain face to face but put us on the phone, or in print, and we become world champions. 

I consider myself one part African, or rather was partially raised by an African lady, and my roots have taught me not to take crap from anyone. My Step-Mum tried to instil in me and my siblings to stand up and fight, although not physically. Once me and my step brother had a fight and we got in so much trouble. She said, “Never react with violence, you should use your words Matthew as they are more dangerous than any fist.” In some ways she was like Mr Miyagi or Yoda, but taller and scarier.

So when I am confronted with wanting to complain I get a partially spilt personality and my Britishness kicks in. Be polite, be tolerant, say nothing. Then the angry short African man within says that I should stand up to injustice and be true to the values I was taught and argue for the rights of all. 

On the quiet carriage though I chose not to do that in person but with a proxy. The ticket collector. When I put in my request a wry smile crossed his face. It was if he needed permission to enforce the rules and I’d just given it to him. 

He was so pleased with the task set that he altogether stopped collecting tickets and strode with purpose. He leaned down and I heard him whisper (badly) that this was a quiet coach, and the other passengers in the area were being disturbed. He suggested they vacate and find another carriage if they wished to continue talking.

They shut up. 

I liked this guy, but I’d unleashed a monster. 

The ticket collector then took to the tannoy and proceeded to make announcements every few minutes about how people in quiet carriages must be quiet. It disturbed our areas harmony and the irony was not lost me on or the chap opposite me who thought it (quietly) hilarious. 

Within minutes a teenager boarded our carriage and proceeded to talk loudly on his phone. The ‘harrumphs’ could be heard in the next carriage. The tannoy man also chipped in to try and shut him up.

And then a beautiful thing happened.

I had empowered people around me like a little William Wallace because the chap opposite turned round and told the teenager the rules, which is what I should have done rather than asking the ticket collector to fight my battles. The teenager departed, complaining about old people, I’m sure he meant the other guy as I only feel old but don’t look it.

I decided that next time I would be brave like my friend opposite and would deal with the matter myself. I’d no longer need others to fight my battles. 

And on the return journey I did exactly that and that’s where it all went very horribly wrong. 

To be continued…….

Picture: Me, Guinness, Fag, Princess Leia costume. Nothing more is required for Happiness! 

Week 75: You’re Famous? Don’t Trust me

Friday, 7 June 2019

Reading time 1 minute 20 seconds

They say you should never meet your heroes – They

I’m not the type of person who typically gets star struck. 
For example, in my youth I met Fergie, the Princess not the Black-Eyed Pea, and Lineker the football pundit not the Ibiza beach club mogul. 
To me they were just people, nice ones at that. To be honest I thought being star struck was a myth until I met someone who I consider a star.

I’d recently had my hip replaced and was watching a documentary on TV which had Nina Conti, who is a comedian I very much admire, in it and her pain in the story touched my soul. Later that year I enrolled in a workshop and she was there. As in right there, right in front me. It was as if she was on my TV but was real.

I looked at her and I was in awe. She is so talented as a comic I’ve seen her many times and have always been amazed at her mastery of the craft I love.

During the first exercise we had to pair up with a random person and despite doing my best to avoid Nina I ended up with her. 
The exercise was about establishing trust and consisted of walking your blindfolded partner around a large room to ensure they didn’t get hurt. Like a scratched record stuck on a loop my loopy mind was repeatedly telling me to act cool and to not blow it. However, having not long been clear of the drugs for the hip I wasn’t completely right in the head, so I did the decent thing and mentally collapsed.

I walked her straight into a wall. If you have ever accidentally smashed someone’s face into a wall you know how hard it is to get them to trust you again.

When it was then my turn to be blindfolded I assumed that Nina, who is an accomplished ventriloquist, would make look like a complete dummy. Luckily for me she didn’t but it did remind of the time I felt like a real dummy when I found out my proctologist was also a ventriloquist.

I thank you….