There are always at least two sides to every story and, where Emma’s concerned, there are usually a good few more than two. Now take this incident with Spanish contortionist, for instance! She had me hook, line and sinker on that one. I mean, there was me believing every word of it. But then, luckily, I ran into Kevin. Well, not so much ran into him as slipped over him on account of the fact that he was covered in baby oil at the time.
Down the Old Duck and Knackers this was, which is this really seedy gay pub down Clapham way. I don’t normally get that far out into the sticks, myself, but I’d heard there was a talent night on and, as I’ve always had an interest in things of a theatrical bent, I decided to go down and get and eyeful.
And what an eyeful I got! One of the talents on show belonged to none other than ‘Snakeman Jim’ (to use his professional name) who, it turned out was none other than Emma’s one-time boyfriend, Jim (aka Jimbo), of whom I have spoken in previous entries in this journal. Well, now at last, I have seen exactly what she saw in him. Suffice to say it isn’t his witty personality and amusing anecdotes!
However, Jim is but a sideline in the bizarre tale which I am about to relate. You will recall, no doubt, the episode I mentioned a few days ago which began when Emma was accosted by a Spanish contortionist under a table in the Purple Pussycat. In the version of the story which Emma related to me and which I, in my innocence, was about to re-relate to you, she and this contortionist (whose name, she informed me was Senor Slinkini - ha! as though I’d be taken in for one second by such an obviously made-up nom de stage !) were tootling along the street when who should pop up out of the shadows but Emma’s other boyfriend, Norm! There then ensued a battle of words and fisticuffs in which Norm emerged triumphant and Senor Slinkini slunk off to nurse his wounds and, no doubt, massage his battered bonce with his fingers, knees, elbows and toes. Thus was Emma saved by the noble Norm from a night of debauchery and set back on the straight and narrow path to virtue, modesty and (in the fullness of time), a semi-detached in Esher and membership of the local Women’s Institute.
Pah! is what I say... nay, not merely Pah!. I think this calls for a full-throated Damn’ it all!
The blasted woman led me up the garden path with her tale of derring-do between double-jointed Spaniards and the hellish fury of scorned Norms. Further investigation reveals that the truth is very far from the tale which I was spun.
Which brings me back to Kevin.
This, I should perhaps remind you, is the same Kevin who, having once masqueraded as a butcher’s boy from Plaistow, has now been revealed to be none other than the voice of TV’s favourite glove-puppet, Flapjack the Duck. So what, you may quite legitimately be asking yourself, was the alter-ego of Flapjack the Duck, doing dripping with baby oil in a seedy gay pub on the outskirts of Clapham? And, moreover, how was this related to the fictitious tale of Spanish bone-benders with which the perfidious Emma had so recently bamboozled me?
I’d love to tell you. Believe me, I would. Unfortunately, I am already well behind schedule with an article I’m writing for Flexipop! (Kevin Rowland’s ‘Testament of Youth’ - which tells the truly bizarre story of the Dexy’s Midnight Runners frontman’s adolescent exploits with the vicar’s daughter and his unfulfilled interests in women’s clothing), so the full, unexpurgated truth of Emma’s latest liaison will have to wait until another day.
That Steve Strange doesn’t half sound Welsh when he gets going! Worse than Bonnie Tyler, and that’s saying something.
There’s a lot of Welsh pop stars, when you think about it - Steve Strange, Bonnie Tyler, Shaking Stevens, Tom Jones, Mary Hopkin, Elvis Preseli. I’ve been thinking about branching out into a bit of pop singing myself, you know, on account of the lush golden tones of my singing voice which, as anyone will tell you, really has to be heard to be believed.
I did this interview with Steve Strange yesterday, see, for Kicks magazine. So it turns out that I am now one of the first ‘in the know’ on the next big fashion craze. Just when you thought that double-breasted suits were all the trend, it turns out that all that Kid Creole stuff is last year’s thing. Hobbits. That’s the coming craze, apparently.
Steve was doing a photo shoot when I interviewed him, all kitted out in hobbit-style, which, as far as I can see is pretty much indistinguishable from a scarecrow - except for the slap, that is, of which young Strange was wearing a goodly amount. He’s a martyr to the makeup, if you ask me. As, incidentally, is Shirley Bassey, who is yet another big Welsh singer star, though somehow I can’t see her sacrificing the sequins for the pleasure of dressing up as a hobbit.
But I digress. I was about to tell you the strange story of how my friend Emma met Senior Slinkini, the contortionist. She was on the floor at the time which, if the truth be told, she all too frequently is, under a table in the Purple Pussycat, which, as I believe I have mentioned previously in my journals, is a nocturnal drinking establishment of somewhat dubious repute - when all of a sudden a leg appeared, followed in quick succession by an arm, another arm, a head and another leg. All the above appendages, it turned out, belonged to one Senor Slinkini ‘the Spanish Contortionist’.
Emma tells me (and, given her breath of worldly experience, I confess to being surprised by the revelation) that she has never had a liaison with a contortionist, Spanish or otherwise, so her interest was, quite naturally, piqued. Well, to cut a long story short, she picked herself up off the floor, quaffed a couple of banana daiquiris, fluttered her mascara-heavy lids at him and whisked him away in the general direction of her flat.
But, as someone who’s name I forget once said, the best planned lays of mice and men gang often gang awry (or some such nonsense) and thus it was to be for Emma. For no sooner had she dragged the aforementioned Spanish contortionist into the public highway and thrust out a shapely thigh by way of attracting the attention of a passing cabbie, when who should stagger out of a nearby doorway but Emma’s boyfriend!
Ah, but now you are asking yourself to which boyfriend I refer, Emma being well-known for getting through boyfriends at a brisk rate of knots.
Well, I’d like to tell you but it’ll have to wait. I’ve got this article to write up for Kicks so, much to my chagrin (a French word, meaning ‘pissed-bloody-offedness’), my Saturday night will be spend cloistered indoors here in my luxury Kentish Town hovel, listening to a crackly cassette of Steve Strange wombling on about bloody hobbits.
Have you ever seen Spit The Dog? Well! A mankier looking mutt I’ve never clapped eyes on! All he does is just sit there and spit. Where’s the entertainment value in that, ‘ey?
Then there’s that emu. He’s another one that gets right on my threepenny bits. I mean, it’s not as though the bloody thing even says anything. He just attacks people. I don’t know if you saw him attacking Michael Parkinson on telly that time. Well! The damn’ bird went straight for Parkinson’s you-know-what! I mean, everyone knows emu’s beak is really just Rod Hull’s hand. If he hadn’t had his arm stuffed inside the damn’ emu it’d have been obscene.
Flapjack the Duck, on the other hand (when I say ‘on the other hand’ I don’t mean on Rod Hull’s other hand, of course, since Rod Hull’s hands only ever go into emus, not ducks)… Flapjack the Duck, as I was saying, can be quite witty. You might have seen him on children’s TV on a Saturday morning. There’s that man with the greasy blond hair who sits behind a desk telling jokes and insulting the kids and every so often this feathery yellow thing pops up next to him and says “Quack-quack! What a quacker!” - I mean, he says lots of other stuff too, but “Quack-quack! What a quacker!” is his pièce de résistance as you might say.
Well, it was as I was saying before I got interrupted by my working week which, amongst other things, involved a very peculiar interview with a chap from Basildon who’s the singer in a group called Depeshay Mode or something, but I’ll have to tell you about that some other time… as I was saying, if it hadn’t been for Flapjack The Duck, I’d probably be languishing in a French police dungeon instead of sitting here in my bijou Kentish Town mews flat penning this memoir.
You will recall that Fate had conspired to fling me, reeling from a blow to the head and pursued by armies of ferocious gendarmes, beneath the dank and dripping arches of a bridge spanning the river Seine in gay Paree when, all of a sudden and out of the blue, the still night air was rent asunder by the terrified cries of a young and helpless Mademoiselle gasping her last from somewhere in the middle of the river. This naturally gave the gendarmes the idea that maybe they should go off and save the dusky beauty rather than menace me and Kevin (with whom I was stuck beneath said dank and dismal bridge), a fact which gave us the opportunity of legging it speedily in the other direction while the gendarmes were otherwise engaged.
So where, you may wonder, does Flapjack The Duck enter into my tale?
Well, you may recall that I have alluded previously to Kevin’s terrible secret. I shall now reveal it in all its awfulness. Sit down. Brace yourself. Here it is: Kevin is Flapjack the Duck!
Quel horror, you are no doubt thinking. This lissom and goodly featured youth whom previously you had taken to be a virile young butcher’s boy from Plaistow, is, in reality, nothing of the sort. On the contrary, instead of doing butch and manly things such as wrapping up half pounds of tripe with a bit of brisket on the side, he spends his Saturday mornings crouched beneath a table, snuggled up to the sweaty legs of a man with greasy blond hair, with his arm thrust up a duck’s backside saying “Quack-quack! What a quacker!”
I too once felt as you no doubt feel now - pale, sickened and wan at the very thought of such a pitiful existence. However, having experienced the benefits of his ventriloquial arts in a tight corner, I must confess that I now take a different view.
But anyway, that’s old news. I have far stranger matters to relate. Now, you remember my friend Emma, I expect? Well, you’ll never believe this but what’ happened is that she’s gone and got herself into a very sticky situation. It all happened after a contortionist called Senor Slinkini approached her down at the Purple Pussycat…
Kevin, of course, should never have been in Paris in the first place. But Janet, the press officer (you remember - she’s the one who offered me the tickets) wanted me to go with a photographer. To take pictures of whoever it was I was supposed to be interviewing. Ha! As though you can just pluck a photographer out of thin air! However, without a photographer there would be no tickets. The only person who came readily to hand was Kevin so, thinking quickly (as is my wont), I told Janet that he was a photographer. Well, how difficult can it be to take photos, anyway? People do it all the time. I’ve even done it myself. You just point the camera in the right direction, press the button and hope for the best.
Not that it mattered in the end on account of the fact that we never got to see the concert and do the interviews and what-have-you thanks to the record company’s French representative inconsiderately positioning himself in the path of a teetering taxidermed pachyderm. So instead of being ensconced in a luxury suite eating fish-paste sandwiches and interviewing Meat Loaf (or Alice Cooper or whoever it was whose concert we’d missed) we found ourselves huddled beneath the dripping arches of a French bridge while a none-too-friendly gendarme twitched his fingers over the trigger of his gun.
The gendarme looked at us and said…. well, I’m not quite sure what he said, as a matter of fact; his enunciation left much to be desired. I think the gist of is was that he wished us to accompany him to the station. But then, at that very moment, an eerie wailing sound echoed across the surface of the river:
“Oscoo! Oscoo!” it wailed.
“Mon Dieu! Sacré Bleu! Zut Alors!” exclaimed the gendarme.
Then he shouted something at us which I think meant, “Stay put till I come back” and off he ran, obviously with the gallant intention of rescuing some poor forlorn Mademoiselle who was at that very moment drowning in the murky waters of the Seine.
Now just in case your French is a bit rusty I probably ought to explain that “Oscoo! Oscoo!” is the French for “Help!” Kevin informed me of this just after the gendarme had scarpered, though of course I knew that already. But Kevin was obviously proud of his little bit of French so I just nodded and said “Ah?” as though it was all news to me. Then we scarpered in the opposite direction from that in which the gendarme had scarpered a few moments before.
Later, back in the bar of our squalid little hotel, I began to see the funny side of it all. Oh how we would chuckle over this as we sat in a pub back in dear old Kentish Town, I thought! I wasn’t exactly in a chuckling mood at that very moment, however, due to the throbbing in my head resulting from a wine bottle having been battered over my skull just an hour or so before (see previous entry).
But you are probably wondering whatever became of the drowning Mademoiselle? Ah, now that’s the funny thing. There never was one. Which brings me on to Flapjack The Duck. Do you know Flapjack The Duck? A cuddly yellow sort of feathery thing with big blue eyes and an orange beak. See him on the telly a lot on Saturday mornings, if you happen to be up at that time. Pops up from behind a sort of a desk affair and has a chat with that blond chap with the peculiar accent and a vacant expression. “Quack-quack! What a quacker!” That’s one of Flapjack’s catchphrases. Has them rolling in the aisles apparently.
Well, anyway, as I was saying, had it not been for Flapjack The Duck, I should probably at this very moment be languishing in a dank cell deep within the bowels of a Parisian police station. Instead of which I am sitting here in my bijou apartmentette in London’s fashionable Kentish Town.
You see what happened was this….
Oh blooming heck! Is that the time? I’m supposed to be meeting Kevin down the Black Cap in ten minutes. I’ll have to rush. So anyway, I’ll explain all about Flapjack tomorrow…
Well, I’m up and about again, you’ll be glad to hear and the swelling has definitely started to go down. I must admit that I’m still feeling a bit shaky after the events of last night but at least the gendarme didn’t shoot us, which, I suppose, is some consolation. The thing is, we never would have been under the bridge in the first place if hadn’t been for the German chap in the dodgy wig whose name was Helmut (the chap, that is, not the wig).
But just a moment. I know what you are saying to yourself. You are saying, he hasn’t even mentioned the swelling before. Well, no, not in so many words perhaps. But then again, if it hadn’t been for the swelling I wouldn’t have been flat on my back in the first place, would I? And I told you all about that yesterday so you surely can’t have forgotten it already.
Helmut arrived on the scene just as Kevin and I were leaving the hotel following the unfortunate incident with the elephant. To be honest, he didn’t so much arrive on the scene as leapt into it with arms waving and wig flapping in the breeze.
“You are English!” he cried, “I am a doctor!”
“Bugger off!” I wittily riposted. I was in no mood for German doctors with or without wigs of dubious origin. I had suddenly found myself in possession of a large sum of somebody else’s money and my entire thoughts were concentrated upon ways of spending it.
But Helmut was not to be so easily shaken off.
“No, no,” he blathered, “You are English. I am German. I speak English. We must have a drink.”
I have to be honest with you. I couldn’t entirely follow the flow of logic in his reasoning. However, noticing that he was brandishing a cheque book and, deciding it would be impolite to tell him that I was Welsh rather than English, I discreetly tucked away my wad of ill-gotten francs into an inside pocket, smiled sweetly, tugged Kevin briskly by the arm and determined to follow Helmut wheresoever he might go - which, in the event, turned out to be a dimly lit hostelry called Le Jabberwocky. Once inside, Helmut plied us freely with brandy while he regaled us with amusing anecdotes about varicose veins and the debilitating conditions to which they are prone. I thought of the woman who lives in the flat above mine in London. She’s the only person I’ve ever met who’s half as fascinated by varicose veins as Helmut. But Helmut’s interest, unlike hers, was of a professional rather than a personal nature. It was not his own varicose veins that fascinated him but varicose veins in general. It turns out he is one of the world’s most eminent varicose vein specialists and he had come to Paris to deliver a speech at a big varicose vein conference. I tried to look fascinated but I suspect I didn’t fully succeed.
Anyway, we had progressed to our fifth brandies and about the two hundredth interesting complication of the veins of the upper thigh when a large man with a small bushy moustache about the size of a Chihuahua staggered up to our table and said, “You blithering bounder!” in a sort of well-ripened English accent spiced with a dash of French. I noticed that Helmut blenched at the sight of the man. It is true that he didn’t blench very visibly on account of the low level of lighting in that part of the bar but I was watching him closely and if I tell you he blenched, you can take it from me that blench is what he did.
I am not entirely sure what happened next. All I know for certain is that somewhere between Le Jabberwocky and the bridge, we lost Helmut and the man with the Chihuahua moustache while, in their place, I had acquired a pounding headache and a prominent swelling on the back of my head. Kevin is of the opinion that the swelling was caused by a wine bottle and that the wine bottle was, at the moment of impact, clutched in the meaty hand of the man with the Chihuahua moustache. I can’t say for certain if that was the case as I was looking in the opposite direction at the time.
A few seconds later the gendarme arrived. He had a nasty expression on his face and was wagging his finger at us in a way that some people would say was distinctly less than brimming over with entente cordiale. Moreover, he was jabbering away in French which, given the circumstances, seemed uncalled for. As you probably know, French is second nature to me. I speak the language so fluently that, at times, it almost seems to make sense. But just at that moment I couldn’t quite make out what the gendarme was saying on account of the loud ringing in my ears and the stars swirling before my eyes. If you’ve ever been bumped on the back of the head with a wine bottle, you will no doubt have a good idea of what I’m talking about. However, while I couldn’t make out the words, I did get a firm impression that the gendarme was not welcoming us to the beautiful town of Paris and hoping that we would enjoy our stay. I replied, in French, with the perfectly reasonable comment: “Monsieur, nous sommes des sujets de sa gracieuse Majesté, la reine Elizabeth Deux,” which, roughly translated means, “For goodness sake, man, pull yourself together, we’re British.” This did not have the desired calming effect, however, and I swear that I saw the gendarme reaching for his gun when suddenly Kevin did that peculiar thing that he does. I have mentioned Kevin’s peculiar talent before, haven’t I? I must say that until that moment, I hadn’t thought much of it. But when he did it then, it would not be overstating matters to say that I was flabbergasted. And so was the gendarme. In fact he was so flabbergasted that….
Oh, who’s that? Someone’s knocking on the door. I think it’s Kevin. You’ll have to excuse me. The poor boy sounds in a bit of a panic.
I’m flat on my back in a cheap hotel in Paris. Don’t ask! What a couple of weeks this has been! I’ve fallen so far behind with writing this, it’s going to be a struggle even to remember what I’ve been up to.
Now, let me explain about Emma and Norm first. I haven’t told you about what happened with Jimbo, have I? You remember Jimbo - that male stripper that Emma was seeing a lot of (if you know what I mean). Oh no, but before I get onto that, I’d better explain about Kevin. But wait a minute, before I get onto that you’re probably wondering what I’m doing in Paris.
Well, what happened was this. First of all Janet rang up. You know, the press office from RCA or MCA or Decca or somewhere? Or is it EMI? Oh, I don’t know, one of those record companies. And anyway, it turns out she had these tickets for some concert in Paris - one of them big-shot bands from America: Kiss or ZZ Top or someone like that, I can’t really remember which and I never went to the concert anyway because this bloke called Marcel, or Jean or Jacques or something took us out for dinner. Oh, did I mention that Kevin came with me? To Paris, I mean. You remember Kevin, I expect - the butcher’s boy from Plaistow? So anyway this Marcel or Jean or Francois or whatever he’s called takes me and Kevin out to this swanky restaurant where they serve all kinds of slimy things on crushed ice and the idea was that we’d just get a bite to eat and then go on to the concert to see Kiss or Van Halen or whoever, but then a stuffed elephant fell on us and so all our plans went right out of the window.
Now you’re probably thinking, how did they manage to get a stuffed elephant into a restaurant in the first place? I should have explained that we’d left the restaurant by that time. We were in the foyer of some big hotel. There were two stuffed camels, one elephant and a couple of giraffes. I can’t recall why we went to the hotel in the first place. I think it was to go to the cocktail bar or something. At any rate it was Marcel’s idea and he was paying so I didn’t argue. There were all these men in overalls in the foyer putting the stuffed animals into aesthetically pleasing positions when one of the men, who was up on a ladder, overbalanced and sent the elephant flying on top of us.
Well, I jumped out of the way just in time as my reactions have been sharpened like a razor by years of pop music journalism. Kevin, as you would expect (or at least you would expect if you knew about his peculiar talents, which, now I come to think about it, I haven’t got around to explaining yet), was nowhere to be seen. But poor Pierre was practically squashed.
Then all hell broke loose. The manager of the hotel arrived and started jabbering in French. Well, I mean, normally I’d jabber back at him with more of the same as I can converse like a native in the lingo when I’m in the mood. But for some reason, I didn’t seem to be in the mood just at that moment. Well, if you’ve ever seen someone squashed by a stuffed elephant in the foyer of a French hotel, you’ll know just how I felt. It puts you off your stride somehow. And then the next thing I knew the place was crawling with nurses and doctors and people carrying a stretcher upon which was the prostrate, mumbling body of the semi-squashed Marcel. He wasn’t half making a fuss and, due to the shock no doubt, he had reverted to his native French most of which I could have understood if I hadn’t been in shock myself but which, given the circumstances, might just as well have been a foreign language for all it meant to me. But in spite of all the fuss he was making, I don’t think he was hurt much really. Leastways I didn’t see any blood or giblets sloshing about the place so it can’t have been all that bad, can it!
The upshot of all this was that me and Kevin were left at a bit of a loose end. Neither of us had any idea where the bloody concert was and we couldn’t ask anyone since Kevin doesn’t speak a word of French and we didn’t know who was doing the concert anyway so it was no good asking. But, as luck would have it, I had somehow managed to acquire a huge wad of French francs which I’m pretty sure I hadn’t had a half hour earlier. Goodness knows where it came from; I can’t remember for the life of me. My theory is that Marcel must have handed it to me as they carried him out on the stretcher so that we could carry on enjoying the hospitality of the record company in his absence but Kevin reckons it was the hotel manager who gave me the money, having come to the peculiar conclusion that I was a business associate of Pierre’s and that I would sue the ass off the hotel unless I was well and truly placated. I don’t know, I suppose that’s possible. All I can say is that if this is the way that French hotel managers placate people, bring on the stuffed elephants!