Now this is not an unusual activity, lots of people do it, but I only get the chance to look at
what I’ve squandered my cash on and read the contents around or about the following Tuesday.
There are free DVDs (did I really want that bloke from Lord of the Ringpiece doing Hamlet?),
glossy mags with anorexic teenagers wearing Oxfam attire, special interest features (Helena
Christensen shopping for clothes at Oxfam trying to look like a gawky teenager), things about
travel to third world countries in order to ruin their cultural economies forever, or buying a cottage in darkest North
Wales (to have it burnt down by Plaid Cymru fundamentalists). There are cultural commentaries on existential phenomenology, and the charity shops’ rationale in perpetuating 'simulacra' (this was my fathers coat, he got it from a charity shop, and, after wearing it for many years, passed it on to me, I have now given it to a charity shop, but, existentially speaking, it is still my father’s coat). What books to read (the ones you can’t find in Oxfam yet, but will in about five years). What not to wear (anything from Oxfam; if you’re over thirty you end up looking like a hobo). What to wear (if you want to be a self-obsessed fashion freak and intend to wear it once, then donate to a charity shop. Hmmm… Oxfam conspiracy theory budding here). Where to eat (strangely, McDonalds and The Colonels' "fuckintiredchicked" are never included, only poncey places with miniscule portions like Sudanese Refugee Camp handouts), and that wonder of modern publishing - articles on interior design (interior design can't be copied from a magazine, if it’s in Hello it isn't design, just shite for rich fools).
But my personal favourite is what celebs’ homes look like.
Today I am peeping round Gerard Depardieu's Paris townhouse. Gerard is strangely absent, as is any
evidence he actually resides here. No baggy Y-fronts, no G-strings scattered about the bedroom floor,
waiting for the maid to clean up the mess and scrub them with a wire brush and a clove of garlic. No
ashtrays brimming over with Disc Bleu butts and olive stones, no ‘arty’ French porn mags stuffed down the
side of the enormous three-seaters which sit side by side, and must induce severe neckache if engaged in
conversation with a visitor about existential French auteurs and coats. This place has a clinical air to it.
Gerard (we are on first name terms now I’ve been round), has a collection of "wooden nudes". They
dominate the space. He has a further collection of paintings, so I am informed, but I have yet to catch a
glimpse. "Gerard leads a simple life" I hear. The place looks like a set dressing for one of his movies; dark,
moody, and with something very dramatic waiting to happen in the next room.
I’m grateful for the chance to wander round, and intend to take up Gerard’s offer of a personal visit when I go to Paris, although somehow I doubt he’ll let me in, or even answer my knock on his big, black panel doors.
Now, don't get me wrong, I admire Gerard. He's done some good films: Cyrano De Bergerac, Napoleon, Un Pont Entre Deaux Rives, Le Chevre. But he also did 102 Dalmations, so his taste can have the odd flaw. This is confirmed by the ‘larger
than life’ wooden women with which he adorns his Parisian home. Yet Gerard is kind enough to invite whomsoever
may desire in to view his home. It's not as if he’s being paid to let us come round. Then again, I suppose he is. But
does he stand at the door giving out tickets? Is there an audio tour? Does he guide us while spouting French:
"Voila, cest toilet. Regardez vous une salon du bain"? No, he fucking doesn't. He said ‘simple life’, not ‘attendant
The last paragraph of Gerard’s tour ends with an explanation as to how you and I can emulate Gerard's style.
That's if you like huge sofas in awkward places, Belsen-style kitchens, and a home that looks like a 1920s
asylum. The Gerard look can be had from Magnet or Southerns, Conran and Mufti. You can have ‘Chez Gerard’
to own, like one of those free DVDs, at minimal cost (7000 euros a pop for each sofa, and they’re not even original -
Gerard’s simple life tastes wouldn’t stoop so low). Why would anyone want to live chez Gerard? Only Gerard can
answer, and I guess you’d have to pay him to find out. As for me, I live chez Mike Leigh, styled on Abigail’s Party.
I find it comfortable but cramped. The giant fetish wooden women wearing old coats dominate the space too much.
I can hardly wait until Sunday to see who will be home, so I can view their abode next Tuesday. See you then celebs! I’m off to Oxfam for some fashion ideas of my own. That’s if Helena hasn't taken all the good stuff.
24 Hour Drinking... Is Unwell
I got the call late last night. Like the call from God, it can come at any time and is usually unexpected.
"Reverend, what are you doing? Fancy coming out for a few drinks?" As usual I say yes, but I know the
midweek can be a fickle affair. I finish my vodka and we drive into town about 11pm. It's all lights and taxis
flashing past, so we head for a bar and settle in to watch the local cabaret unfold.
Tonight is ‘open mic night’. I've been here before, all impoverished students, free spirits and natty dreads. Not my bag, but what the hell. It's free and entertaining, and after a couple more drinks seems rather amusing. The band are called The Heretics, sort of James Brown meets a Stonehenge hippy caravan, and not a Catholic amongst them. They’re actually quite good, and the frontman has a vividly neat way to curb hecklers; he sings to them in romantic rap. The audience jump in, a few young turks get up to rap, and it begins to look like a pisspoor rendition of 8 Mile, yet redeems itself through the power of pastiche.
Why is it that white middle-class boys suddenly believe they can become black overnight? Fucked if I know, or want to understand. It's just odd hearing kids with no real social ills shout about “homies” and “bitches” and how they have so much anger, all the time wearing catalogue clothes (mind you, I’d be pissed off if my only wardrobe consisted of white trackies, cheap tomfoolery, and an ill-fitting baseball cap). When I was their age politics was for your Dad, and the nearest you got to social issues was a sneaky peek at a dog-eared copy of Health and Efficiency passed round at school. Today that’s not the sort of mag one should have in one’s possession, you could end up lynched by a mob of cheap jewellery wearing, colour-confused catalogue cackers from the local slum housing estate thinking you were a kiddie fiddler. But I digress.
Raw live music is hard to find in this town, it tends to be in the week and accompanied by cheap drinks, since no bar wants to have punters enjoying themselves at weekends. Not when there are hyped-up drinks tariffs and puke-fuelled brawls for off-day entertainment. Yet midweek has both advantages and costs.
People who can drink to excess during the week tend to be students, unemployed blaggers, or raging
alkies with no home life other than a TV and a bottle of methylated spirits. They’ve no friends save other
boozers and the socially maladjusted. This is not the usual crowd of trendsters doing coke, poke and a
sad joke, but a real mixed bag of mixed-up people. In these unsure financial times, what with most lazy
git students getting close to the poverty trap and an influx of Eastern Europeans doing all the shitty bar
work, there’s an entertainment crisis for your average midweek binge drinker. Nights which used to bustle
are now lame non-events, and places that are rammed to capacity at the weekend feel hollow and empty
on a Thursday night pre-season.
In a town that piloted 24-hour drinking I was told by three bars in a row "sorry mate we’re closing". It was only just 1:30 am. "Jesus H Christ", I mutter to myself, and carry on looking for the next open bar with something to laugh at or hopefully bump into some people I know.
We drink several shots of ‘Blood Vodka’ with vodka lime and soda chasers, followed by a couple of beers. If this was Withnail and I we’d be ahead of the game, having pissed McGann and E. Grant under the table, with Ray Milland down there alongside them. This was becoming a midweek bender that could last for days, costing heaven and earth to bank account, liver and kidneys. A few more slugs of blood stuff, and then it happened again: "Sorry Guys we’re closing". Stopped in mid-stroke, coitus interruptus. We were bollixed, both physically and alcoholically. Not even 2am, and thrown out onto the cold, mean streets, to suffer the indignities of half-cooked kebabs and cold chips. And, more to the point, no drink.
We call it a night after shovelling said dire kebab meat over our faces, and retire to the comfort of the ride home. I muse about the decline of standards, how it was never this shitty in my youth, back when there was always a party to invade for further refreshment. Fuck you New Labour. 24-hour drinking is a non-event. Home by 2:30am. You are having a laugh, but I am not. I'm voting Lib Dem next time, at least their ex-leader knew how to down a few.
This weekend is my birthday, I will be 100 years old according to My Space. I doubt I will celebrate this, every night is party night for Pastor Figgis. A birthday is just another inspired drinking excuse, and these days I don't need an excuse. I haven’t told my friends. We tend to forget birthdays anyway, so it’ll just be another night out, accompanied by occasional musings on how I've survived this self-abuse for so many years. As Jeffrey Bernard would have both acknowledged and agreed, we live in a time where personal expression is no more rebellious than pissing through one’s own letterbox. It’s a sad state of affairs when 24-hour drinking chokes on its own vomit. Roll on the weekend, when I can meet a ‘Blackbird’ with ‘Thrush’, and we can drink to oblivion together.
The Very Reverend Harry Figgis OBE is available for weddings, christenings, bar mitzvahs, and stag dos across the South coast of England. He can be contacted at TheVeryReverendHarryFiggisOBE@hotmail.com.
HOW I SPEND MY DAYS
with The Reverend Harry Figgis
Home Defence UK
A Symptom of a Greater Malaise
Sometimes, When I Can Remember,
I Pick Up The Sunday Papers
The Depardieu outside privy.
Gerard in happier times.
Gerard as Cruella De Ville.
Yesterday I Attended A “Private
No, not some dodgy backstreet brothel viewing someone’s privates, but an arts’
‘private view’. One of those little soirées where no one knows what to say or do, so
you tend to fall back on pretentious conversations of old bollocks with smatterings
of: “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like”.
Now, I’ve attended a fair few of these social gatherings for the maladjusted and
artistically challenged, and the attendees are always a mixed bag. Their purpose
is to bring together two warring factions, the artist and his public. Like oil and
water, these two allude to mixing, but somehow the combination never quite gels. It’s an experience that inevitably reverts to a form of sycophantic banter, where the enlightened and ignorant scoff blissfully side by side, consuming large amounts of free food and drink.
When I was an arts student up in the smoke, I used to find out where all the private views were. Not for any highbrow reason, like improving my limited cultural experience, or looking at weird performances involving a naked lesbian and taped sounds of inert masturbation (yes, I really have been to one like that), but for the free food and drink. If you were truly artful, as opposed to arty, you could attend two or three of these in one evening, get well hammered, enjoy canapés of exotic yet strange concoctions, mix with the arty set, and occasionally even see some interesting art. If you weren’t too pissed by then that is.
Ok, enough rambling about my youth and the masturbating lesbians, back to last night’s PV.
The event was a platform to launch a Manga book. For those who don’t know what a Manga book is, it’s a form of Japanese cultural export. Sort of similar to ‘Tora Tora Tora’ but in cartoon form - a bit like The Beano with added violence and odd looking characters who have huge, doe-like eyes. The Japanese could never draw Westerners, right from the days of ‘Marine Boy’ they got the eyes all wrong, and had a strange aversion to public nipple display. Still, I digress.
The event was housed in a giant tent, the only problem being its site was on a slight incline, so the moment you entered everyone was propelled by gravity towards the bar. Luckily this was the main reason for attending. Once caught by the bar’s gravitational pull, it was difficult to escape. There was also free food. The food area had its own gravity, so I was pulled from one to the other for most of the evening, as were many others, like satellite moons around Jupiter, bouncing between the wine and sushi.
Ahh…. sushi. No, not; ‘ahh… bisto’ or ‘arrrghhh… sushi’, more like ‘banzai! Sushi - here I come!’ I love the stuff, can’t get enough of it. Like a Japanese soldier hidden in the jungle for years, one sniff of it will bring me out of hiding, fighting to the death for Hirohito, just to gain a wafer-thin strip of raw tuna.
Once, in ‘Yo-Sushi’, Soho, I was entertained by a mate on his works’ credit card. If you’ve ever been there
you’ll know the set up; robotic waiters (no, they really are robots), and a conveyer belt system where the
food circles the bar area and you help yourself. We sat right next to the chef in order to be first in line for
the fresh meat. Tony “someone stop that gay digging in my garden!” Robinson from ‘Tit Team’ sat
opposite, but was on the wrong side of the food chain. He had to wait for the grub to circulate before
getting what he wanted. I sussed out he was after the lobster, and I made sure I ate every piece as it
came past. Before long I had irritated him so much I could hear his remarks about burials, “greedy little
cunt”, and “dig up the manager”. But before the manager could sort out Tony’s gastronomic plight, my
mate Marty stepped in and told me that enough was enough. Not to protect Mrs Robinson, but to point out
I’d scoffed £78 worth in less than ten minutes. So you see, I have a taste for it. Therefore, a PV with free sushi was nirvana, manna from heaven, a dream come true.
Trapped between the bar and a sushi chef may not sound like heaven to some, but it is to me. One odd thing I noticed, as a practiced sushi-nosher (yes, I eat it the proper way, using a little bowl of soy sauce with some ginger and green shit mixed in and those spiky wooden things), was that the Japanese who attended shovelled it in with their fingers. Mishima was right, stop Western modernisation! And don’t eat sushi with ya fingers: Bonzai!
Now, a book launch is not like launching a ship. There’s no big event, it’s a book. The book is there, you read it, then you read another, and so on. So, to make the launch an event (as one book can get a tad boring to look at for hours), you have to provide entertainment. This is expected, or everyone will just get bored and leave. The bar and food could have held my attention all night long, but there was also a troupe of young, compliant, Japanese girls doing massages and willing to let me write text on their naked bodies. A damn site more entertaining that a masturbating femi-Nazi.
But the highlight of the evening was yet to come. Just as the good and great were complaining about the raw fish, the uneven floors and wondering why the Society photographer had passed them by (yes, he was there too), or shouting about the lack of anything arty to look at, like a painting of puppies on velvet or a beautiful statue of a dolphin, along came the entertainment.
Japanese ‘Rock’ bands are a strange hybrid of pop-fused with angst-fused with dire explosive shit. They are either highly entertaining, having missed the punk era by twenty years, or are some form of singular maniacal muse bashing out loud n’ hard with little regard for volume control, sort of a Pearl Harbour of the ears. At worst, one can marvel how tiny people can make so much noise. At best one can commit ritual seppuku and end the shame of attending. The band started up. The crown dispersed like the people of Hiroshima, running in all directions to get away. I was tempted to flee with them, but the bar’s gravitational pull had me like a black hole, that and the troupe of young Japanese backing singers who looked ripe for some textual intercourse.
Before long I had total control of the sushi, and not even Tony “where’s me bleedin’ lobster gone?” Robinson
could have stood in my way. A couple of well-folded napkins plugged in the ears curtailed the apoplectic din,
and so, sparkling water to hand, I munched away until the fish was gone. I do love a running finger buffet, but
I love sushi so much more. Roll on the next PV, it’s this Saturday, but I fear there will only be twiglets and
orange juice. Oh well, you can’t have it all. But yesterday I learned that once in a while you can. Bonzai,