The Passenger

There was an interesting piece the other day in the Leicester Mercury about punks in the city in the late 70’s at a Damned gig at the De Montfort Hall. Now I wasn’t living in Leicester then, I wasn’t even a teenager back in Glasgow, and didn’t got a gig til Blondie at the Apollo in the early 80’s then I was off banging round the city seeing gigs in places like Rooftops, The Mayfair (where I first saw The Fall) and of course Strathclyde and Glasgow Uni not to mention the Barrowlands which has barely changed in the decades.

But in 1988 I moved to Leicester, experienced the joys the De Montfort Hall, the Princess Charlotte (still one of the best pub venues I’ve ever been in and now sadly gone as a venue) and of course the bus trips to Nottingham for whatever was on at Rock City. Leicester’s close location to London meant that I’d often vanish into the gaudy neon lit streets of London, specifically Camden and Kentish Town, though it’d not be unrealistic to end up in a pub or club in Soho to bide the time before waking up the next day in bed/on the floor depending on how lucky one got.

Then Bristol became somewhere I’d go to and again I’d experience the nitelife there, so my teenage and formative years up to my mid 20’s was scattered across the UK like precious  Infinity Stones as I didn’t just belong in one place, but many but at the same time I didn’t really centre myself in one scene but many.

Now, the point of all this nostalgia is this. Since my stroke and cancer, and in particular, since moving to Glasgow I’ve essentially become rooted in one place considering what I’m actually going to do for however many years I’ve got left but I’ve been doing my best to avoid making any actual decision by getting a job that vaguely pays or generally devolving any serious thought as much as possible. Well, tomorrow I go to the hospital for my 6-month cancer checkup and should, barring incident, be told only to come see the hospital once a year which means I can’t put off decisions or hide much longer. See I don’t want all my futures to be sitting wallowing in nostalgia, fun though that may be, but I want to create new moments and fashion new gems of memory to collect as time goes on that is beyond just existing and doing alright.

Tomorrow I may have to finally move on from the holding pattern I’m in and finally grasp the steering wheel of my life to guide myself to whatever is next. We shall see what happens…

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Another Halloween tale…

A few years ago I told a wee Halloween story from my youth and promised to tell the story of the time I saw a UFO. This isn’t that story but it’s another wee Halloween story, this time from my time living in Nottingham in the early 1990’s and of either a drug-induced hallucination or a close shave with someone, or something.

Back in the early 90’s, Nottingham was an up and coming city. It was also a young city in terms of population but a very, very old city with many areas 5-10 years away from any sort of gentrification. For folk into the ‘alternative’ cultures available at the time, the city was a dream where one could indulge themselves to their heart’s delight, or indeed, any other part of the body that pumped blood.To aid with this, one would spend an evening at Rock City which back then, was somewhat of a free for all on certain nights, so nights would be drunken, druggy and messy. It wasn’t uncommon to leave Rock City attached to a larger crew after closing to end up in someone’s house to wake up hours later on the couch/floor/bed/wherever.

Basically just what you should be doing in your early 20’s.

One late autumnal Saturday night I headed down to Rock City having little to do after having done a comic mart that afternoon, so I went to see who was there. It was, as you’d expect, a messy night and various people were there doing various things in what was a fun night which when it came to 2am, most of us didn’t want to stop. One chap on the fringes of the scene invited a bunch of us back to his in Hyson Green which was near where I lived. From here on in I need to make clear names have either been lost to memory, or changed to protect the innocent.

The chap’s name was Brian, and he lived in a squat in an old Victorian house off the Mansfield Road. It was a fair walk from Rock City, so we headed off with the promise of drugs, beer and spare rooms to fiddle around with others in. To get to his place meant walking by the old Church Cemetery which even in daylight was a fucking gnarly place to walk by.

One of the other lads, Dennis and his girlfriend Denise weren’t too keen on Brian’s suggestion we dive in and drop some MDMA which he had on him. In fact myself, another girl Amy and her friends weren’t too keen on playing the Goth cliché to this extreme, so we convinced Brian to take us to his place as by now most of us were sobering up and it was cold, dank and wet as we hung around outside a cemetery arguing whether you want to go in it at 3am.

Eventually we hit Gregory Boulevard, which meant I was nearly home, but we trudged further up the road til we went past the Asda in Hyson Green, and entered a large house on a dark street off a main road. We got into a sparsely furnished living room but with just enough seats if people sat on various knees,and so it was that finally the booze and drugs were broken out of Brian’s secret stash. One of the other lads, Bruce, wanted to know if we’d wake anyone up but Brian said nobody else was in the house that weekend and in fact we could crash in the spare rooms, of which there was a few. as we discovered upon playing around in the dark old house which looked as if it’d been in a sorry state for some decades.

It was Bruce who found the basement. The stairs down to it looked like this.

The main difference being there was an electricity meter on the wall, and the steps led down to a large cellar. See, Nottingham is very, very old and as a city is riddled with underground cellars,caves and catacombs with many lost in time. This wasn’t the worst I’ve seen in terms of creepy chills but when you’re in a strange house on drugs and pissed the mind plays tricks and I’m sure things were moving down there in the darkened haze. I thought not to mention it in case I scared Amy who by now had linked up with me for a variety of reasons, but partly I presume to have some sort of protection from an increasingly sketchy Brian who was a changed man on MDMA.

As the night progressed and Brian became odder (not nasty, just odd) he insisted people crash in the house overnight, but it was bare, empty and cold not to mention when Amy and myself checked out one of the rooms it looked as if the mattress was overdue a letter from the Queen congratulating it for getting to the age it clearly was. Upon going back downstairs I suggested we leave and go back to mine which wasn’t too far away but it had things like bedding, warmth and a lack of an increasingly sketchy Goth who was now insisting we go downstairs to ‘check it out, man’.

It was Denis who was the first out the door. He’d humoured Brian and went down towards the cellar and who as we were coming downstairs, was making a sharp exit out, with the others closely behind them. Myself and Amy had Brian in front of us telling us to stay and chill, not to worry and yeah he was the only person in the house as I heard the door to the cellar rattle behind me followed by shuffling sounds on stone steps behind wood. Neither myself or Amy were keen on finding out what was coming up behind us, so pushing Brian aside we walked out into the vague daylight of a wet Sunday morning and made our way as quickly as I could with someone in high heel boots in tow.

As we hit the main road I glanced back to see Brian still standing at the open door and Amy was sure, positive even with the drugs and booze in her system, something was standing behind him that didn’t quite look right.

We ran as quickly as we good onto the well lit main road, and hastily walked to mine where we promptly got to bed and slept as soon as heads hit the pillow sleeping til the late afternoon of that Sunday. We didn’t actually talk about what happened til the next day when Amy asked if I minded going back to hers to grab some clothes so she could stay at mine for a bit and we spoke about it to her flatmate. She also vaguely knew Brian as someone on the fringes of the scene and in fact nearly went back to his squat until she felt something was wrong, and decided against it. That night we went into town to the Salutation to see who was there from Saturday night (in those pre-mobile days one’s social life was infinitely more random) but ended up in the Trip to Jerusalem after being told by the staff that’s where folk went.

So we met with people and told those not in the know what had happened. Denis was adamant he saw something, and I totally believed Amy saw something and I’m sure I saw something but we were all drunk, on drugs in a weird old house occupied by a weirder Goth. Basically we tried rationalising it and anyhow, next time we’d go to Rock City we’d probably see Brian.

Except we didn’t. The autumn turned to winter and while Amy went home to Liverpool for two weeks I bummed around Nottingham for a bit, before spending Christmas in Leicester and coming back for the New Year’s Eve all nighter at Rock City where I’d arranged to go with friends. It wasn’t a great night. One couple split up because both though they were shagging other people, which was true and both knew it, but the lie broke down that evening, while I was loaded with flu missing Amy who I’d now not see til the middle of January as I’d arranged to go down to Bristol and London for a bit to help a pair of friends out with a big comic con that was coming up so that night in the squat started to fade into memory as Brian passed also into local folklore, and seeing as he had no real mates, people stopped mentioning his name.

Then one afternoon shortly after my birthday in February I’d taken Amy into town for lunch and a trip to Selectadisc, while I sneaked off for a wee bit of comics retailing. We’d arranged to meet in the pub so I got there before here, bought a couple of drinks and sat down to read some comics while I waited for her to spend what money I’d given her on records. When she came in she looked whiter than usual for a Goth, and sat down to tell me that she’d seen Brian in Selectadisc but had tried to ignore him before he made eye contact and said hello. She asked how he was and what he was up to, so he said he was there to sell records as he was broke which was why we’d not seen him in ages. She also said he looked awful and that he’d clearly taken a kicking at some point recently but she said her goodbyes, and that she was off to meet me.

We thought his problem was drugs, serious drugs, and we’d probably not see much of him again. Except that night at mine as Amy was drawing the curtains she was sure she saw Brian standing over the road. I said I’d have a look when I dumped the rubbish downstairs in the bin, and he was nowhere near the front of the house but as I went round the back something was moving around which was too heavy for a cat or a fox, too heavy for the skinny Brian and anyhow, it had a shape in the neon streetlights that made me leg it quickly back up to our wee flat and lock the doors double behind me. Whether my imagination was playing with me or not, I wasn’t going to hang around too long to  see if things were in fact there and real.

That was the last time I saw Brian, or indeed, that something which seemed to follow him like something out of Poe or Lovecraft. I’d split with Amy in the messy aftermath of Glastonbury 1991 so there was nothing in Nottingham for me, and I thought moving back to Leicester was a good idea.

And I thought nothing of that night since except one time a year or so later where I took the bus to Glasgow, it passed through Nottingham and I swear I saw Brian sitting begging at the bus station with sad, dead eyes not to mention the suggestion of something just out the corner of my eye when I looked at him.

Next time I tell a story like this I promise it’ll be one of the UFO stories sitting in my memory bank…

Go read my UKCAC piece in Fanscene #2

I’ve written a number of UKCAC pieces on my blog here. One of them has been slightly adapted for the second issue of the splendid fanzine, Fanscene.

The 50th anniversary mentioned is of the first British comic convention in Birmingham in 1968 which essentially spawned not just the British fan scene, but also the British comics industry. Every year since 1968 there’s been at least one large convention held in the UK,  sometimes these events were thrown together in the last minute, or in the case of today there’s at least a dozen or so large conventions with hundreds of smaller cons of varying quality filling up a busy calender but there’s no way this would exist were it not for the work done in the 50 years since that first con.

So, download the magazine here and enjoy what is a smashing good read.

Glastonbury ticket day tension…

Today was Glastonbury ticket day which is basically the day where my blood pressure goes beyond what my doctor would recommend. So from 9am today I logged onto the ticket website and was face with this which is a step up from the last few years I lived in Bristol and only got white screens:

Luckily over the years we’ve come up with a cunning planning that’s akin to as close to utilising infinite monkeys as one can get, except it’s people and not infinite. Thankfully the system gave me a ticket so I’m off again to the festival I first went to in 1992 but most folk ended up with this screen after 40 minutes.

There’s talk of making the system better, but few realistic options which would solve the issue of people missing out. The reality is there’s around a million people trying for 150k tickets all at the same time so demand has vastly outstripped supply, and with the 50th anniversary next year demand will mean even more stress as I’ve done the 25th and 40th anniversary festivals so it’d be rude to miss the 50th.

For those who missed out on tickets now, there’s a resale in April, plus dozens of options of working there. All I can say is good luck, but for me, I can chill out and prepare for the new Doctor Who

Remember Cyborg and Muton?

Back in the 1970’s Action Man still ruled the hearts and minds of boys all over the UK, and in the mid-1970s the only other real contender for the crown were the range of Mego action figures. I loved both as a kid but the other day I was tidying up my Ebay sales/purchases and stumbled down a rabbit hole to rediscover Cyborg and Muton action figures.

Produced by Denys Fisher based off a set of Japanese toys which in themselves were Japanese offshoots of the fantastic Captain Action figure of the 60s. Released to a pre-Star Wars crowd, the backstory for the set of toys was wonderfully dark even for those Cold War days of constantly worrying about nuclear doom.

The figures featured interchangeable limbs, as well as vehicles, and they looked like nothing on earth having been adapted from Japan which at that point, was still a relatively alien culture to Westerners.Had Denys Fisher used the toys as they were in Japan it’d have been a lot weirder for kids.

The toys didn’t do well, partly because that larger size action figure was relatively expensive and secondly Star Wars ruled all. Once that film came out nothing could stop it and it’s sales of merchandise outweighed all others so Cyborg, Muton and the lesser known third figure, Android, were swept away to become barely remember things of nostalgia in the 21st century.

There was a legacy. The figures were shrunk and renamed the Micronauts but that’s a whole other story…