10 August 2012


OK, like what're the chances here in Corfu - in English - twice in as many days - of hearing the phrase 'doing bird'?

Yesterday, eavesdropping on some fit types in the 02 musicarium and hooch dispenser: "Mumble mumble ... anyone heard from Kenny? That Monte Negro job come thru?"

"Nah, he's doing bird up dahn Holloway. Went back to see his bit of gash n they was like waiting for him, yeah?"

Followed by some manly banter on the siren lure of 'a bit of the other', another wonderful phrase.

And the second was this morning over gins and tonic. Courtly gent pal of my mother. Old school, staying with pals in a CV villa over in San Stefanos.

I could hardly refuse to see him - gardener and admirer of maman.

"But I have to tell you, Sir Martin, that the garden has fallen into disrepair."

"Don't blame you. Not really your game, was it? Don't worry, dear boy, I shall avert my eyes."

I was talking about a Hong Kong pal who'd got himself locked up.

Long drag of his Churchmans #3.

"Yess ... I did a bit of bird ... back in the sixties ... 'civil disobedience', dont know if that's still going ... not proud of it ... bit 'nancy', don't you think?"
Ice blue eyes like dad - bristling moustache, ramrod straight.

The first time he came to dinner dad did his usual courteous homework.

"I've looked this chap up in Who's Who ... served in every show going ... decorated up to the epaulettes."
Two old war-horses, modest to a fault.

" ... but of course you were before my time, British Army Aid Group behind the lines. That must have been a bit touch and go, padding around Jap-occupied Hong Kong?"
Pained expression. 'Well, we were merely following orders thru a distant chain of command.' "Quite" End of discussion.

Slang ~ like all fops, I love to fool myself with street cred verbal, and this one looks right up my street, which provides a useful segue into my Alex story.

Met this American here in Corfu and invited him to stay in London if he passed thru. He'd never been to England, asked me if I was serious, and we agreed on September.

Alex. From Pittsburgh. Instant soul-mate.

My girlfriend at the time fell deeply in love with him but Al wasnt having owt to do with it.

"Hey, broads are two a dollar - even Pippa - but a buddy is a buddy. Want me to move out?"

One day Pips and I were meeting Alex in some pub off Tottenham Court Road. First thing he asked was, "Do I look like a Bill?

P ~ "Why? And no, you definitely do not.

"Well, the barman asked me if I was old Bill."

P, hoots of laughter, excuse to hug him: "The old bill! Oh how funny, don't you think so, darling? No, of course he doesnt. Chris would give his left testicle to be taken for a rozzer - plain clothes, to boot!"

And it was true. Ever after I kept noticing respectful attitudes, and they treat you differently in pubs.

To me: "You was next, guv. What's it to be? Right, jolly old pint of Youngs and a bottle of Ram, was that? And a white wine for the lady? No problem. That'll be two pound exactly, thank you very much."

Alex - we walk in and it's crowded with Hoorahs like me. 'Ah, forget it, Al, we'll never get served.'

Over the packed heads, barman jerks his head:

"Yes, chief. What'll it be? Two pints of Youngs, Ram by the neck? And for the ... got it. You want to grab a seat and Liz'll bring it to you?"
Drove me crazy with jalousie, and of course Pippa ...

And of course the bastard played the guitar. Didn't let on - not like me who'd announce it up front - just one evening at a party, surrounded by debbie adoreuses, I'd finished some milksop rendering of a Peter Paul Mary and Al leaned across, 'Hey, you know this one?'

And in he went, no intro, just a dead ringer for Tom Rush's handling of Mobile. OK, not a dead dead ringer, he chucked in some bottle-neck with his ring.

Panting Deb - that was amaazing. How do you do that slidey bit?"

'Just with this ring'

'Let's see (much fondling of ring finger as Pippa's eyes narrow) ... gosh, I see. So, are you married?'

"No, ma'am"

I mean, fuck you, Al. Best friend I had but I could murmur 'No ma'm' til the cows come home and I'd never get the bedroom eyes you got.

Pippa, exhaling her Sobranie Black Russian, eyes like Angela Rippon reading the economic forecast: "No, of course he's not married."

Me, trampling angels in my haste to make absolutely sure that I slept on the sofa that night: "Why 'of course'?"

Good times.

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