Sunday, July 23, 2006

Big Weller Fans

When meeting one half of a song-writing duo, do not tell them that you actually prefer the other one.

So this is it. The big one. A lesson learnt the hard way.

Some years ago, a friend (M) and I attended a Gene gig at Cardiff's Coal Exchange. We arrived at the venue early and decided to have a wander around until other people started turning up. At the back of the venue we found the tour bus. Before we had chance to think anything else, a door opened and out popped Mick Talbot of The Style Council. He was the session keyboard player for the night. Being fans of Paul Weller, we were obviously thrilled to meet his Style Council partner in crime. This was an exciting celeb spotting moment! Without thinking, M began to yell "Mick...Mick....Mick...MICK!!" (a bit like Alan Partridge in that episode where he yells "Dan!" about 20 times). Finally, Mick turned around.

Mick: Yes boys.

(Silence)

(We all looked at each other. The silence was deafening).

M: Er, Umm....

And then he said the words that still haunt me today.

M: Big Weller Fans!!

(Another long silence follows. The expression on M's face was now like that of Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters when he realises that he has just summoned Mr Stay Puft).

Mick: (looking deeply offended) Oh thanks lads.

And then he walked off. Possibly fighting back tears. During the concert he also seemed to be banging away at the keys a little harder than he normally would. Yep, those were hurtful words.



A few years later, I spotted Mick again at another concert where he was playing the keys. I looked in his direction. He looked in mine. Our eyes met. I really wanted to make amends. He gave me an icy stare. Not unlike the one that Brad Pitt's character gives to Rachel in that Thanksgiving episode of Friends. Oh yes, he remembered me. And he wasnt ready to forgive.

These days, I eagerly await Mick's inevitable autobiography and the chapter dedicated to the day his ego took a battering and he lost his self-esteem. So I'm sorry Mick. You're a true hero. Especially when you wear sailing attire and a straw boater.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Pictures Of Lizzy

The Queen is (possibly) a fan of The Who.

One summer's day, I went to a record fair at Cardiff's City Hall with L and M. As we arrived, we saw a crowd forming. We ignored this, presuming that there were just a lot of particularly good vendors at the fair this time around. After some hours, we left and saw that the hundreds of people outside were watching something happening further up the road. Asking around, we discovered that HM The Queen was on her way through the city centre before heading off to Cardiff Bay to open the Welsh Assembly.

Pushing our way to the front, we got there just as Her Maj was approaching. We suddenly realised that everybody was waving flags except us.

The Queen was getting closer.

She was looking in our direction.

She was not amused.

Fearful that she may have thought we were protestors (or worse, streakers), M reached into his bag and pulled out the tatty copy of The Who's brown-sleeved Live At Leeds that he had purchased earlier. M began waving it frantically in the air. The Queen took a moment to have a lingering look in our direction. She saw what was being waved and a huge smile appeared on her face. She even turned to Prince Phillip to point it out. As her car went past, I like to think that we really made her day.



Later, on the evening news, what seemed to be a brown paper bag could be seen waving at the bottom of the screen. The camera cut to The Queen and there was that smile again. We hadn't imagined it. Gawd Bless You, Ma'am. Keep on rocking.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Don't It Make You Feel Good?

Always cherish a celebrity encounter, no matter how small. A comeback is always on the cards.

OR

Listening to mid-90s techno music will make you irresistible to attractive Australian ladies.


Since his triumphant return to Neighbours in 2006, it is hard to believe that there was once a time when Stefan Dennis was possibly the most uncool person in the world. This was the case back in 1999. Stefan's post-Neighbours single Don't It Make You Feel Good had fumbled its way into the UK chart earlier in the decade but he had pretty much disappeared save for a few appearances on Dream Team.


Therefore, imagine our surprise when a friend (R) and I found ourselves no more than eight feet away from the man himself in a Soho record store. When I first nudged R to point this out, he thought that I was just playing the look-alikes game. Who can blame him? After all, what would Stefan Dennis possibly have to do in London? But, when R looked, he confirmed that it really was a genuine '80s icon in the flesh.



For a short time we stood in dumbfounded awe. After all, this was Paul Robinson - a man who got to fool around with both of the Alessi twins in Neighbours. Soon, we had entered stealth mode and were listening in on the conversation that he was having with the record store assistant:


Stefan: So yeah, they were recommended to me. I really want to get hold of it. I think it's by Orbital?


At this point we decided to leave. We had to take it all in, away from Mr Dennis. Once it did hit us we realised that we had a solid gold story to tell. Next day, I bashed out an email to Channel 4 Teletext's The Void. It was along the lines of "ha ha, Stefan Dennis listens to Orbital". The day after that, I tuned into teletext and saw that an entire page had been dedicated to my story. A good laugh was indeed had by all.


But who's laughing now? Stefan is back in Neighbours. He's brilliant in Neighbours. He does a funny walk every couple of episodes. He got to fool around with Izzy (she even dressed up as Mrs Santa for him one Christmas - I'm still recovering from that). The man is cool again. Cooler than before. So Stefan, I apologise. You are not an embarrassment and Orbital are not "old hat."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Something's Quo-ing On In My Head

I first remember liking a bit of boogie-woogie rock when I was about five. I saw a live performance of Status Quo singing Rockin' All Over The World and Caroline which made me bounce around the room. Looking back, it's quite likely that it was their Live Aid performance in the summer of 1985. Anyway, as luck would have it, my cousin N was (and still is) a huge Status Quo fan. He used to spoil me rotten when I was little. He was in the Army and would bring back loads of toys from his travels - little Nintendo Game & Watch games from Germany for example, or walkie talkies from Northern Ireland. However, the best gift that he ever gave me was the triple-vinyl boxed set of Quo's From The Makers Of...



For years, I only ever listened to the third disc. It was an early '80s live recording from Birmingham's NEC in honour of the Prince's Trust. It was a greatest hits show, but I only ever listened to the two songs that I knew - Rockin' All Over The World and Caroline. This was the case for months, if not years. I would sit in my room playing air guitar along to my little record player. Quite cute really.

As I got older and really discovered music, I wanted to hear more of what Quo had to offer. That's how I found myself doing the unthinkable - putting the needle at the start of the record rather than frantically searching for the groove halfway through (it signalled the keyboard introduction to Rockin' All Over The World). Soon I discovered that every song was brilliant - Roll Over Lay Down, Over The Edge and Don't Waste My Time in particular - and I was soon ripping the other discs out of their protective cases and discovering more and more songs from the back catalogue.

From The Makers Of... came with detailed inlay leaflets that told the life story of the band. I remember that the first line referred to Alan Lancaster as "Peckham's answer to Kenny Ball." I had no idea what that meant at the time, but I see now that the likeness is astounding.



All around the edge of one of the leaflets were pictures of every Quo album to date. It was then, aged nine or ten, that I decided to make it my life mission to own every single one of them. The process started slowly. The first album that I actually bought was another compilation - Rocking All Over The Years. It had many of the same songs on it as From The Makers Of..., but I didn't let that put me off. Firstly, because the first disc of FTMO had become warped (resulting in Big Fat Mama going from slow-motion to Alvin And The Chipmunks speed) and secondly, because I just couldn't resist that double-cassette package on the shelf of John Menzies. Anyway, it brought the Quo back catalogue up to date a little more and I was introduced to the post-Alan Lancaster period in style - In The Army Now, Rollin' Home and Burning Bridges were all present and correct (although perhaps not as manly as Al would have wished).

Slowly but surely, my collection increased - a copy of Hello! one Christmas, Rock 'Til You Drop for my birthday and even a couple of video compilations for Easter (which were packed with images of busty, brunette women (I particularly liked the girls in the video for Ol' Rag Blues). You could probably say that they have a lot to answer for...

By 1992 I had reached a dead-end. It was becoming increasingly difficult to find any more albums on cassette and I didn't have a CD player at that time. But just as I was getting tired of listening to the same half a dozen albums over and over, something happened that gave me the incentive to keep on trying.

Opening the South Wales Echo one day in June '92, I saw a full page advert for Status Quo's Christmas tour and they were coming to Cardiff. So far, I had not been lucky enough to see them live. However I had a huge thirst for it, having just seen snippets on television from their concert for Radio 1's twenty-fifth birthday in Birmingham. I hurriedly phoned my friend M to tell him the news (by that time, he had also developed a fondness for the mighty Quo and all band news had to be relayed to each other as it became available). We begged our parents to let us go, but as we were only twelve-years-old they were reluctant to let us attend. To quote my mother, "there might be druggies there."

However, after much gentle persuasion, my mother agreed to accompany us to the concert. She phoned the venue (the now-demolished Cardiff Ice Rink) to confirm that there were tickets left and went in next day to buy them. But then, disaster! The woman in the Box Office informed her that tickets had in fact sold out weeks ago. Well, my mother can be a feisty one when she wants to be and she didn't let that stop her. In a rage, she wrote to everybody- from the promoters to Garry Bushell, the television critic at The Sun newspaper. Surprisingly, it was Bushell - the least likely of all her options (and I still don't understand the logic behind it) - who came through in the end. The staff at the paper were so upset about her tale of two bitterly disappointed twelve-year-olds, that they sent complimentary tickets directly to our house. I don't think the smile left our faces for months. And that's why Bushell is fine by me. Even if he did make far too many episodes of Bushell On The Box.

M and I spent months preparing for the big night out. We watched the Rock 'Til You Drop video on repeat - even going so far as to repeatedly quote our favourite catchphrase: "I cannae believe it, I'm gonna see the Quo!" (these words were uttered by a Scottish man (could you not tell from my accent?) who actually changed his name by Deed Poll to Status Quo. Later in the video, you see him meeting the band. On the bus, Rick Parfitt shouts out, "Status just smacked me in the gob!").

We arrived at the Ice Rink at half past six and there was already a queue around the entire perimeter of the (also now demolished) Toys R Us store. The atmosphere was buzzing and it felt like an age before we were finally allowed into the arena. Once there, huge letters spelt out "Quo" across the stage. As the lights went down, we couldn't contain ourselves anymore and let out very girly screams. These were a little premature. Not understanding live concert etiquette, we didn't realise that a support band had to come on first. So, as we screamed "QUO-O-O-O-O!", a little known Hair Rock band called Firehouse took to the stage and gave us a look that could kill. I don't remember much about them, except for the fact that their drummer threw his sticks up into the air at any given opportunity. However, according to their website, they're still going strong - ah yes, I do remember them doing the song Rock On The Radio now.

When Quo finally arrived on stage, we almost collapsed. Finally! Our heroes performing our favourite songs. They opened with Whatever You Want and ended with the Roadhouse Medley (basically the entire Live Alive Quo album). The only disappointment was that they didn't play Down Down, one of my favourite songs. Oh, and we couldn't see keyboardist Andy Bown either because he was hidden behind a twenty-foot "O". However, our ringing ears were proof that a good night was had by all, and Francis and Rick even waved at us. As we clutched our official tour programmes outside, we couldn't have been more content. And we didn't meet one druggy.

The concert inspired a need to hear more. That Christmas, I received my first CD player and there was no stopping me. Regular trips were taken into Virgin Megastore in order to secure CDs such as Picturesque Matchstickable Messages From The Status Quo or Dog Of Two Head. However, with such a vast back catalogue, it was impossible to afford every single album and many of them had been deleted anyway. But I didn't give up. Instead, I discovered record fairs.

These days, you can download even the most hard-to-find track from various sources online. I think that this can often take the fun out of desperately rooting through dusty boxes in a tiny room at the back of St David's Hall, hoping that you'll find that single rare copy of Spare Parts, or a limited edition picture disc of Come On You Reds. This is how I finally completed my collection (yes, I even managed to get hold of the tin boxed-set version of From The Makers Of...). It took me a long time of course - I was still going to record fairs during my time as an undergraduate and it was only a couple of years ago that I finally got the last CD (Blue For You) required to complete the back catalogue (I now have everything twice - once on vinyl, once on CD. The vinyl never gets played and is only there for display purposes - particularly the very manly picture of Alan Lancaster that houses the second disc of 1976's Status Quo Live album). I take great pleasure in admiring over fifteen years of collecting though, and it's good to know that I rose to my childhood challenge.

I never really used to have a favourite member of Status Quo. It was only when I read the band's 1993 autobiography, Just For The Record that I learnt about their individual personalities. I loved the stories about past members, such as the time when original keyboardist Roy Lynes got off the train at Crewe and never came back. However, it was Lancaster who gave me the most laughs. Who can forget the time he punched an airport official in Vienna and got the band arrested and thrown into jail? (Which also provided a classic Parfitt quote - "Hey, something funny's going on in here!"). How can you not like a guy who refused to play bass on Marguerita Time because it wasn't "manly" enough? And best of all, this is the man who refused to fly back from Australia to appear in the Rockin' All Over The World video, forcing the band to rent out an inflatable Alan.

However, the Just For The Record book has a special place in my heart for another reason. After the 1992 tickets debacle, my mother wasted no time in buying tickets for the band's 1993 tour as soon as they went on sale. This time, M and I were permitted to go on our own. Yes, we felt like big men as we walked through the doors without any adult supervision (although we were wise enough to politely say "yes, Firehouse were fantastic last year" to a bunch of large men who were comparing them to 1993's support, Little Egypt. We didn't want any trouble, you see.) Even though the concert was superb once again (although they still didn't play Down Down), next day was even better.

When our tickets arrived for the '93 concert, they were accompanied by a flyer advertising a book signing session at Cardiff's Lear's Bookstore the day after the concert. Well of course, we had to go. Our parents arranged for us to have the day off school and we set off early that morning. We expected a large crowd to be present, but in fact we were the first ones there. It wasn't like that album signing in This Is Spinal Tap where nobody turned up though. No, we were so early that the band hadn't even arrived. However, we were allowed to start queueing and we felt immense pride as older Quo fans turned up expecting to be first in line, only to be beaten by two teenagers. How we laughed. At least, we did until the band arrived. Then we nearly collapsed. My mother later told me that she had never seen me go so white in the face. I could feel M trembling next to me too. We stood there as Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt stared back, waiting for me to walk over to them. Finally, M pushed me in their direction and I had no choice but to continue walking. You can see my fear in these photos:





Holding onto myself tightly didn't help in the slightest (and that crazed female fan to the right of the picture was making me feel a little uneasy too). They obviously sensed my fear too, because they were lovely to me. They said how nice it was to see me, enquired if I enjoyed the show the night before and even asked if I had any other merchandise for them to sign (I didn't). I mumbled some answers to them and said something about how I had been a fan for years, but all my planned questions were out of the window. I certainly didn't have the courage to ask for an exclusive Alan Lancaster story.

M was even more nervous - you can just see him at the edge of this photo:



I think they said exactly the same thing to him and he managed to mumble some praise in their direction, but it was generally just a very overwhelming day. But we had achieved our ambition to meet our heroes and nothing could spoil it (not even the terrible service at Pillar's restaurant afterwards). And of course, it was all worth it:



To this day, when it comes to Quo, I have never topped that experience. I have seen them in concert over half a dozen times since, but nothing beats those two shows at Cardiff Ice Rink in the early '90s. Sure, it was quite good when a girl asked me if I wanted to see her tits at the 1996 Cardiff Arena gig. It was also hilarious to see M dancing with Steeleye Span's Maddy Prior during the Don't Stop tour. However, it will take a lot to surpass the nervous energy and immense excitement that was created on that December day in 1993 when we met the band.

I suppose the only downside of being a Status Quo fan is that you often get people making fun of your tastes. However, people can be converted. L made fun of me for years until she realised that she did actually like Caroline...and Down Down....and Ol' Rag Blues...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

What Is History?

On the morning of September 30th 1998, I was one of fifteen scared Journalism students standing outside a Cardiff University meeting room nervously waiting for our seminar tutor to arrive. We had been introduced to the group of postgraduate students who would be taking the classes during our welcome lecture the previous week. We all agreed that we would not mind which tutor had been assigned to us, as long as it was not the fearsome looking man who had been sitting in the front row of the lecture theatre, wearing the full national costume of Nigeria and making notes faster than the lecturer was actually speaking.

I think you can guess what happened next.

Distant footsteps could be heard further down the corridor. We all looked in the direction of the sound. At precisely this moment, a leg covered in the most luxurious Nigerian silk appeared at the corner. It was then followed by another. If the theme tune to Reservoir Dogs had started playing at that moment, I wouldn't have been surprised. Better yet, the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Yes, it was Eghosa.

He walked down the corridor towards us, seemingly in slow motion. His eyes pierced into us and he seemed to be smirking, as if thinking "I'm gonna eat you alive."

After what seemed like an hour, he arrived. He uttered not one single word, but simply reached into his pocket and pulled out a key (good to know that national costume can still be practical). He unlocked the door and walked in. We continued standing outside. He looked at us, still not speaking, and it seemed as if his eyes were now acting as magnets drawing us in to his world. Or at least, into the room.

We each took a seat. At least three of us fought over one at the back of the room, aiming to be as far away from Eghosa as possible. Unfortunately, I lost that battle - not a good omen - and I soon found myself sitting next to the man himself.

After taking an eternity to unpack his briefcase (which seemed to only contain his copious notes from the previous lecture and an apple), he arose from his seat and walked to the white board. Picking up a marker pen, he wrote something illegible on the board. Then he spoke.

"My name" he bellowed "is Eghosa Aimufha."

We all stared at him with a nervous look. Partly because we were all scared of him and partly because nobody wanted to tell him that he had written on the board with a permanent marker.

"You will notice that there is a 'G' in my name" he continued. "May I please inform you that the 'G' is silent. SI-LENT!"

Nobody spoke. He looked pleased with himself.

"Now that we have cleared that little matter up, I have one thing to say."

We waited nervously.

"What is History?"

No replies were forthcoming. Partly because we were not sure if the question was rhetorical and partly because we wondered how he would manage to teach us Journalism if he didn't couldn’t even grasp the basics of History.

"Are you people deaf? What is History?"

I was seriously contemplating using the excuse of "yes, I am deaf" at this point. Anything to break the silence. But then he proceeded to break it himself by tapping loudly on the white board and pointing in the vicinity of his illegible writing.

"Maybe you cannot understand my accent" he barked "What. Is. His. Story?"

Nobody had spoken for ten minutes and there were no volunteers to be the first to break that trend.

"This is getting silly, man" he said, as if he had learnt English from watching one too many episodes of Desmond's. "Won't somebody tell me the answer?"

Then he pointed at me.

Dramatic Reconstruction


"You - tall boy!" he yelled, not even caring about my name. "You can tell me about History!"

I cleared my throat and tried to remember the definition that I had learnt off-by-heart when I was at school.

"Well, Eghosa" I began, sounding the 'G'.

"Tut, tut, tut, man" he responded. "The 'G' is silent. SI-LENT! It is E-hosa, E-hosa, E-hosa. Say it with me. E-hosa"

Soon, a group of fifteen first year Journalism students were chanting his name in a very eerie fashion. We did this until the end of class and he never did get his answer.

The following week, I was not looking forward to the second seminar. I already knew that these weekly meetings would be the low-point of the course. I had been to other seminars during the previous week and they had been led by the most lovely, understanding postgraduate students you could imagine. They played games with us to help us learn each other's names and understood that we were the new kids on a very strange block.

But Eghosa was different.

Maybe that's why, ten minutes before our second seminar was to begin, I was the only person waiting outside the meeting room. I began to feel nervous. Had I memorised my timetable incorrectly? Should I be somewhere else? And then the big one hit me.

Am I going to be alone with Eghosa for an hour?

My fears were allayed a little with the arrival of T, who was also from Cardiff, and C from Bristol. The three of us stood there in fear. We knew that nobody else was going to arrive. Why didn't we have the sense to stay in bed that morning? Just as we were debating whether to leave and go to Starbucks, the unmistakable sound of footsteps was heard and Eghosa's theme tune started to play in my head. We were trapped, and he was coming towards us like an ant to a crumb.

The same routine applied. He unlocked the door. We walked in silently. He unpacked his briefcase. The only difference was that he didn't have to write on the white board - his question from the previous week was still there for all to see, along with a comment that somebody had added that read "which idiot did this?"

He looked at the three of us. We were huddled together in the corner.

They hadn't told us about experiences like this in the prospectus.

"Hmmm. It seems that there are one or two people absent" he said, looking in the direction of an empty chair as if somebody was sitting in it.

We hoped that he would send us home. But this was Eghosa.

"Not to worry. Now. Where were we?"

He was actually going to teach us?

"What is History?"

Does this man have eyes?

"You - blondie!" he said, pointing in the direction of C and still not caring about names, "what is History?"

"Well, umm, it's, err, complicated" she stammered.

"Woman! There is nothing complicated about History" he shouted.

We couldn't believe what we were hearing.

"For the last time. What is Heeeeeee-storreeeeeeeeeeeee?" he screamed.

By now, the three of us were sat in each other's laps, clinging on for dear life.

"Man. You guys. Do you not listen in class? The definition of History is simple. It is His Story!"

We looked at him, hoping for more of an explanation. After staring back at us with an accomplished grin, he picked up the permanent marker and wrote something else illegible on the board. As before, he tapped impatiently.

"Now. What is Censorship?"

If we had been characters in a comic strip, the word "thud" would have been written above our heads as we collapsed to the ground.

By now, my stories about Eghosa were spreading throughout the Journalism department. Other students, who didn't have to endure the suffering each week, thought that he sounded hilarious. They all had lovely seminar tutors though. One person who did understand the problem was R. He had experienced Eghosa first-hand in another seminar. In fact, it is partly thanks to Eghosa that we became such good friends in the first place. We bonded by telling stories and showing off our Eghosa impersonations. Although we also had a mutual appreciation of Alan Lancaster-era Status Quo, so that helped too.

Our favourite stories involved Eghosa's great talent for getting television programme titles wrong. His habit initially led to confusion. He made references to "Scott In Antarctica" when we should have been discussing Scott Of The Antarctic and referred to "A Countryside Practice" rather than A Country Practice. However, it soon became natural to hear these slip-ups and the new titles somehow sounded even better. Indeed, I still can’t get used to the current trailers for the Sex & The City movie, because I always expect them to refer to “Sex And The City Life”, as Eghosa used to say. Of course, this always leads to disappointment, but when a newsreader recently slipped up and referred to Jessica Sarah Parker, I did wonder if Aimufha had perhaps taken up a new career as a television scriptwriter.

Perhaps the funniest thing is that nobody ever corrected Eghosa. I remember during one lecture when Eghosa got a little confused about Professor Tulloch’s Bell Theory ("every time a bell rings in A Country Practice, somebody is talking about AIDS"). On this occasion, nobody really blamed him.

From the back of the theatre, we saw Eghosa in the front row raising his hand.

"Excuse me" he yelled, interrupting Professor Tulloch mid-sentence, "could you please clarify your theory about 'A Countryside Practice?'"

Tulloch looked a little confused (not to mention a little flustered), then did as he was requested. However, he didn't correct Eghosa. Instead he started referring to "A Countryside Practice" himself for the rest of the lecture. It was such a strain on him that he broke out into a coughing fit so vicious that he had to send his female co-lecturer out to get him a jug of water. She was clearly not too pleased about that.

As the weeks went by, it became clear that nobody was ever going to turn up to Eghosa's seminars apart from me, T and C. I'm not entirely sure why we continued to attend, to be perfectly honest. Probably due to some mutual fear that the very week we didn't turn up would be the exact time that Eghosa would finally remember to take a register of attendance (that's the only way that all the absentees got away with it - no member of staff was even aware that they weren't turning up). Knowing Eghosa, he probably would have still yelled questions at an empty room.

By now, R and I had re-named Eghosa as "Jose Muffy" because of the way that he always emphasised the "Hosa" and "Muf" parts of his name. In fact, R had even written "Jose Muffy" on the official end of semester Tutor Evaluation form and no member of staff even noticed.

In addition to this, we had created a fictional world in which we envisaged Eghosa living. A world where he called everyone "man" or "woman", where every sentence began "What is..?", and where, when he wasn't speaking, he would walk around saying "Aaayyyy!" like a Nigerian version of The Fonz.

It is hard to picture this without smiling, which is why it was probably not the best idea to let my imagination run riot during one of Eghosa's seminars.
He was asking his usual questions and offending C by calling her "blondie" for the umpteenth time. I was miles away, thinking about how funny it would be if Eghosa was a character on Emmerdale ("Hey man, what is farming?"). I was awoken from my daydream by Muffy banging on the table in front of me with a thirty-centimetre ruler that had "Nigerian National Bank" written on the side.

"Hey man, why you always smiling?" he asked.

I said the first thing that came into my head.

"You just make me so happy, Eghosa!" I replied.

"Man, you is a strange boy. And it's a silent 'G'. SI-LENT!"

I must admit that I felt a tinge of sadness when Eghosa was replaced after the Christmas break. Apparently, he had received such heavy criticism in those end of semester evaluations that it was decided that he may be better off returning to his research duties.

However, Eghosa is still at large in Cardiff. The last time I saw him was in the Tesco store on Wellfield Road (or is it Albany Road? I always confuse the two). He was interrogating a sales assistant at the time:

"Hey man, how much are these eggs?"

I felt a strong urge to go up to him and say "that's a silent 'G' Eghosa. SI-LENT!" But I was in a rush for a bus and he would have kept me there all day.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Chips N Tits

My step-father is a superb after-dinner speaker. At least, he would be if he could contain his excitement and stop telling the stories during the meal! In his youth during the 1960s-70s, he was a successful sportsman and enjoyed the life that came with it. Over the years, he has told me many great stories about his exploits around Cardiff. Many of his tales are clearly a product of the past, which is probably why they are still so entertaining today.

I’m sure I never did them justice, but when I wasn’t turning into Mick Hucknall, I would often regurgitate those golden oldies to my university friends during lunch. Or perhaps a particularly boring lecture. Either way, a big favourite was always the one about a long-forgotten, Friday night tradition.

The site where the Cardiff Marriott stands (an area which, thanks to demolition and redevelopment, currently looks like a war zone) was once a fruit market where my step-father began his working life. At the end of the working week, he and his co-workers would go along to an establishment to unwind. By day, the premises acted as a standard pub and restaurant. By night, it would show adult movies and stage a revue show called Chips N Tits.

The idea was quite simple. Your group would be seated at a table and served a delicious meal of chicken and chips. A chance to enjoy a breast before the breasts, I suppose. At the end of the meal, the lights would dim and a drum roll would begin. A young lady would then appear on the small stage and remove her clothes in an erotic manner. Anyone foolish enough to sit in the front row would be treated to a show so in-their-face that they would have some difficulty finishing their meal.




At the end of the performance, the house lights would be turned back on in time for the barman to call last orders.

It was during an evening of Chips N Tits that this particular story is set.

My step-father was never happy to just watch the main show. He liked to speak to the performers afterwards too. I suppose that you could say that he was Cardiff's first (and possibly only) Chips N Tits groupie.

He soon became a regular at the venue and his face became recognised by staff members and performers alike. He actually became the unofficial Chips N Tits chauffeur and would often find himself driving the girls back to their homes in the early hours of the morning (any excuse, eh?). Splott, Tremorfa, Lisvane - no distance was too far.

He therefore thought nothing of it when a new performer asked him for a lift home one night. As usual, he just asked her to direct him as he drove and away they went. It wasn't until he got to the M4 and she still hadn't shown any indication that they were nearly at her destination that he thought to ask “where do you live?”

"Wolverhampton", she replied.

True to his word, he did take her all the way to her door. As my mother was present when he told me this story, I'm not entirely sure what happened when they arrived in the West Midlands. However, I do know that he arrived back home in Cardiff at lunchtime the next day and slept until the following morning.

By the end of the 1970s, Chips N Tits was no more. However, as one friend once remarked, "I'd pass on the Wetherspoon's Curry Night for the Chips N Tits deal any day."

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