Sunday, 27 July 2014

Why Shagging & Drinking Are Overrated

When I was about 5 years old I started to be interested in girls. Not in a sexual way as I had no conception of what sex was at that time, but I'd find girls my own age “pretty” or even “beautiful” and would want to be their boyfriend.

This was in retrospect kind of cute and endearing and I'm sure many little boys and little girls go through similar crushes.

When Abba were popular I wanted to marry Agnetha Faltskog and hoped she'd stay unmarried long enough for me to grow up to tie the knot with this singing blonde lady who looked so lovely and pretty and sweet. Was upset for about a day when I found out that she was married to Bjorn (or as we called him “the one that looks like a gibbon!”) from Abba.

When Star Wars was released I had a monumental crush on Princes Leia, as did most boys of my era. I wanted to marry her too.

There was no talk of sex, because my willy was only for weeing through at this point in my life. I had a desire to be with someone just because they were pretty and to maybe have a kiss and a cuddle...but no tongues, even French kissing was an alien concept and quite frankly GROSS.

Later on as I grew up my feelings evolved and I began to fancy girls a lot more. Problem was that society imposed a belief system upon children back then that you have to have an interest in the opposite sex by about the age of 11 or you were just plain odd...or possibly gay.

To have the trophy of an actual “girlfriend” was something you could parade around the playground at Primary school with your little head held high. Many wanted the accolade of an actual girlfriend but very few had that privilege and prize. The experience was based upon the fact that you were part of a higher group of boys, ones that had become attractive to girls and were like fully patched members of a motorcycle outlaw club. While you were fully expected to play football or army games with your mates at playtime or lunchtime, no one would begrudge you if you were seen talking to your “girlfriend” on the bench outside class 7. Only time you overstepped the mark was if you were caught kissing or even holding hands as that was “sissy” and “girly” and cries of “wooOOOOooo!” and whistling would result from your delighted peers.

It was very easy to lose this trophy though. One or both of you would become bored and say to the other that they were “chucked” or “packed” or “ditched”. Usually they'd get a friend to tell you as they didn't have the bottle to do it themselves. Picture the scene. Waiting after school in your best jacket with your hair brushed near the see saw at Fishponds Park playground when your girlfriend's three best mates approach and without any preamble tell you that you're “chucked” and walk off again.

So there was immense pressure to be cool enough to get a girlfriend and even more pressure to be cool enough to keep her for longer than a week. No question of sex. The very thought of putting your fingers near someone's toilet parts was quite frankly vomit inducing. You were a couple who played board games in each other's bedrooms and went for walks and stole kisses when the grown ups (or your own friends) weren't looking.

When you get to about 13 your willy grows hair and your body starts to smell different and you have to deal with the onset of puberty. Girls still seemed icky but a bit less so and then you'd see a girl who was just perfect and you'd think she was cute. Your social interaction skills would be called into play to try and impress her. Problem was that while your body was evolving into that of a man, your mind was still very much that of a child and of course your peers would take the mickey, you'd feel uncomfortable and embarrassed at any little thing and the only difference between when you were 8 or 9 and now was that you would masturbate in the bathroom with furious abandon on a daily basis.

Kids of about 13 to 15 tend to have strange bodies and acne or spots. I must have spent a fortune on Biactol and pimple cream when I was a teenager which instead of clearing up the spots, just opened up my pores to the elements so any horrible shit could flood in and toxify my complexion. Finding someone who fitted the stereotypes that you saw in American movies about teenagers was almost impossible (at my High school I think there were about two lads from nearly 100 that looked like the blokes in teen comedy Porky's**)

But I digress...

You were made to feel that not being interested in girls made you a puff***. You were told that showing too much interest made you a rampant perv. You were also told that you were a badass extraordinaire if you actually had a girlfriend. Provided of course that she was good looking.

My first girlfriend at High school was to be honest a bit of a minger and my peers would constantly take the piss out of me for dating “the frog” or “Orville”****. It was a case of the Emperor's new clothes for me though. I had a “girlfriend” and her physical attractiveness (or lack of) was something that I was unable to perceive in its true form.

Go further up to about 14 years of age and kids would have parties while someone's mum was away for the weekend. There'd be talk the following Monday of how Bob had shagged Sarah on her mum's bed and had used clingfilm and a rubber band as he couldn't find a condom. We'd all gather round Bob, this demi-god of sexual proclivity, and want to know all about it. He would of course lie and come out with a load of cobblers about what had happened. His chat up line had apparently been “get your scants off” and when we asked what being inside a girl's fanny felt like he paused and said “like when you stick your hand up a turkey's bum to pull the guts out before you cook it.”

So the cycle continued. Problem was that the feelings your body and libido foisted upon your adolescent soul, were not even remotely like the real thing. Believing for years that a vagina was a hole, I was taken aback when my friend Chris sneaked in one of his father's porn mags and it was a photo of two naked women, faces contorted in fake ecstasy with one holding the other's fanny wide open. I mean like Eww! To my adolescent brain it looked like a butcher's shop window.

When I went to college at 16 it was deemed highly insulting to call someone a “virgin” if they were a guy. It was a mark of shame to have not shagged a bird by the time you were eligible to legally do so. You were like a social leper if you hadn't shagged someone and even my parents would occasionally bring up the subject of how I “hadn't got a girlfriend yet” as if having one was a badge of office that every teenage boy should have. No regard to my own feelings, sexuality or social awkwardness. After all, I had friends who had regular girlfriends and Donkey Dixon had the same girlriend, a trainee hairdresser, for a year now. Why couldn't I be more like him?

Etc, etc.

When I went to Uni I finally got laid. I was 2 weeks from my 20th birthday (courtesy of retaking my O levels...well actually taking GCSE as I had sat the final year of O levels in June 1987). The woman in question was an 18 year old Irish girl who had a haircut like the fat one from the TV show Birds of a Feather... and was almost as fat. I was so drunk (it being the Fresher's Fortnight Three Legged Pyjama Pub Crawl) that I'd puked on myself. We went to bed sodden and stinking and my only thought as I went down on her was “please don't let me put my tongue up her bum!”

I was inside her for about 10 seconds but the next day as I wrestled with a horrible hangover, I was able to mentally tick off a box in my head that I was no longer a virgin.

Experience was utterly shite. All those years planning and thinking and wanking my brains out...and when I stuck my dick in her I didn't even cum. I had expected mountains to crumble, seas to roar and Superman to fly past the bedroom window and do a victory roll. As it was my only thought was “that's a LOT slacker than my fist!”

As I got older and experience was brought into the act, I enjoyed sex more but still rarely came from someone else's efforts. Mike Patton of Faith No More had said in an interview that imagination and masturbation are better than sex and I could see his point. Problem was that I also believed me and him were wrong for thinking that. I also felt I should want sex all the time in order to be “normal”. Overall it was a disappointing thing, losing my virginity and 24 years later I still can't understand people who will fuck strangers in pub toilets. If it's for the thrill of it then fine, but what the fuck?!! Can't you just wait? It's just a shag!!!

Drinking was another big disappointment. All those years of seeing beer commercials with delicious looking lagers and then at the age of about 12 I actually tried my first beer. Taste was horrible. It was like fizzy, cold piss. Back in the 1970s and 1980s they advertised alcohol on TV as if drinking made you a macho bastard who was irresistible to women. Skol lager had some vaguely amusing ads about “Skolars” who were able to impress the birds and their mates with tricks around sharing the cans. However they also had the irritating themse song “Lift the finger, say the word and raise the elbow high. OH, I'm a Skolar and he's a Skolar we're Skolars through and through.”

Alcohol in England was, until VERY recently, treated as a dangerous toy that the population couldn't be trusted with. Wankers in power never seemed to correlate that sending people home at 11pm every night was not a good idea. Far from keeping them sober it instead meant that they knocked back about 4 pints at 10.30 every evening and then left to fight, drink drive, beat up their spouses or fall over in the street.

On my 14th birthday I vividly recall at dinner my mother saying in a condescending tone “as it's your birthday would you like a little glass of wine?” which I drank slowly, savouring every sip. Next to me sat my brother who was 12 but wasn't allowed any as it wasn't his birthday.

In Europe at that time, especially France and Italy, kids were given a glass of wine (albeit maybe watered down) with Sunday dinner to teach them maturity and familiarity to booze. They didn't regard it as a Jekyll & Hyde brew or a licence to party or a naughty but legal drug. No, they thought of it as something that was fine, provided you took it slowly.

I meant an American tourist a few years ago who summed things up with the line, “You Brits drink like you're afraid someone's about to take it off you.”

So when I was about 15 I found the wine box in the fridge on Sunday and kept helping myself. Throughout the course of the evening I was threatening myself in the mirror (could hear my father laughing and my mother chiding him with “don't laugh it's NOT funny!”), throwing stuff around my room and falling over. Hardly a fun time but I think my folks let it happen so I'd know what effect alcohol had.

To be honest it just felt a little daring that I'd been sneaking illicit sips of wine.

As machismo in advertising for alcohol got banned (and later any claims that it would make you popular, sexually active, sexy, fit or anything even remotely positive) the commercials became cleverer. Guinness did some very weird shit with Rutger Hauer as the personification of a pint of the Irish stuff, while Castlemaine XXXX had some rib tickling adverts playing up the supposed rugged sexism of Australian men.

When I went out with my friends on a Friday or Saturday night, we'd always drink too much and always end up with stinking hangovers the next day. The kind of pubs we went to took at least 10 minutes to get served at the bar and were standing room only. There was no possibility of a proper conversation as the music was too loud and there were too many people crushed into the Birch & Billycock or the Coach & Horses.

The whole experience was decidedly underwhelming.

So now....I take my time. Sex is great if it's with someone who is either good at it or you have an emotional connection with (or both). Drinking is fun if it's to savour the taste or the company you're with (or both).

God bless you 1980s peer pressure. 

** Aspiring to be like these "teenagers" was impossible. Only found out years later that the kids were played by actors in their mid to late twenties.

*** Back in the 1980s only celebrities were gay. The word was used only to insult other kids. Even the teachers made us believe it was fundamentally wrong.

**** Nauseating and unfunny green duck puppet that had Keith Harris's hand stuck up its arse on TV.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Logan's Ruin

A few days ago I got back off a holiday that lasted a month.

A month of binge drinking, eating what I liked, smoking (don't usually indulge), shagging and generally partying and being a slob.

I love Plakias as regular readers of this blog will know. It's where my old man retired to in 1997 and it rocks.

6 years ago I stayed with him for 5 months and had a whale of a time. The following year it was 3 months.

In 2012 I stayed for only 2 weeks and it felt like I blinked and it was all over. So last year and this year I stayed for 4 weeks which is “just about right” for a holiday in what could realistically be called Narnia with raki and sex.

Something I noticed though, throughout my stay in Paradise was that I sometimes sulked (usually after a lot of alcohol) at the thought of leaving.

I mean, I was in a euphoria of cheap and delicious food, gorgeous seascapes, girls in bikinis (and not just mingers, fit birds too), beautiful landscapes, cold beer, crystal blue oceans, bluer skies and 35 degree sunshine.

But sometimes the fact that I would have to pack up and go home would wriggle into my brain and remind me of its existence, not too far into the future. This would have a knock on effect to my ability to relax and enjoy myself.

It turned out it wasn't just me. There were others who had the same sense of maudlin. My friends who have been going there for 20 years said that on a 2 week holiday they tend to get down and depressed about halfway through, with the knowledge that they will soon be going home.

I once read that the best part of the weekend is not Friday night or even Saturday night but Friday afternoon when you are still working. Reason being that this is where your imagination is at its peak with all the wonderful things that you are going to do. Dancing, drinking, hanging out with your mates, shagging. The list is churning in your head as the excitement builds. By Saturday afternoon it is already nagging at the back of your mind that by Monday you will have to go back to work.

As a child I was told by my mother that I was “stupid” (one of her catchphrases when it came to anything we disagreed on) because I said I hated Sundays as they were the day before Monday when I would have to go to school. Saturdays were a day of fun, cartoons and ice cream. I'd get up about 6.30am with my brother and we'd watch cartoons and play games until about 9am when Tiswas came on TV and then play on our bikes or meet our friends. Heaven. We had the subconscious knowledge that Sunday was there as a buffer so we'd go to bed tired but safe in the knowledge that school couldn't claim us when we woke up the next morning. Come Sunday....sulking as the next day I had to return to maths, geography and the vile shit that was Mrs Coleman.

But I digress....

I had a lovely dinner with two guys in a fish restaurant in Plakias about 10 days into my holiday and the guy noted that I wasn't relaxed and enjoying, as he put it, the “ambience”. Truth was I was very drunk and reminding myself that I would have to go home.

This is the reason that no one knows precisely when they will die. Even those with terminal diseases don't know EXACTLY when they will buy the farm. Very few of us can say “fuck it! You only live once, I'm going to party until I pass out. Life is for living”. The truth is that the majority of us resent the fact that our lives will one day end, like the childhood weekend or the holiday we looked forward to for so long.

Surrounded by beauty I would occasionally lapse into melancholy solely because I knew the beauty would one day soon be gone.

The novel Logan's Run shows a world where people die at 21 and have a life clock (crystal) implanted in their palm that changes colour every 7 years. On your 21st birthday it blinks red/black for 24 hours and within that time you must hand yourself in to a “sleep shop” to be euthanased. The people in this book (which is excellent by the way) love life and party all the time

The reality is THAT is why we don't know when we will die. Instead of living our lives, most of us would simply sit around moping at the unfairness of having to check out at some point.

When you don't know how long something will last, you appreciate it much more than when you do. Despite what hippies and religious people may tell you.

Nuff said.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Press the Small Door and Spend Freely...Part I

Like all Plakias adventures I went into this one with a clear knowledge of the abject brutality my liver would have to suffer during 4 weeks of fried red meat, shots of raki and more lager drunk in one day than I'd normally have in a week back home. I'd tried to condition myself by not going to the gym for 2 weeks before the hols began and trying to have at least 3 pints every other night down the ever reliable Murphy's bar where the Guinness is a good way to lay cement foundations in my stomach.

Got to Gatwick at 2am to find that the lightning storm I'd thought of as so very pretty and cool on the way down, was in fact a right bastard as a wayward bolt had hit South terminal and shorted out the power to the luggage conveyor belts. We stood in a long, snaking line of boredom until I realised that the “SB” on my boarding pass meant I had the right to bypass anyone else except people before me who also had “SB”. These magic letters mean Speedy Boarding and effectively puts value air flight into two categories: Pauper Class and Economy Class with Pretensions Class. Not only did we get to get on the flight before the Great Unwashed but we also got to join a MUCH smaller queue in order to check in our bags.

The reason that this is Economy Class with Pretensions Class is that the seats on an Easyjet flight are so fucking small that you almost feel it's like having a pre-birthing experience. Crammed in next to two old folk I didn't know, it was as close to the foetal position as I ever want to come.

An hour before the flight was to land in Crete the pilot cheerily announced over the intercom that, due to the lightning storm that had wiped out the luggage handling, only 60% of the hold bags had actually made it onto the flight. He then added that it was for our own good because if we'd waited for it then it would have taken about 3 hours for the flight to get airborne. He then just as cheerfully told us that our bags (if we were in the unlucky 4/10) would be sent via courier to our hotel or a destination of our choice. Old woman next to me then decided to be decidedly English with the stewardess and had a good old moan (albeit in a decidedly polite manner) about how it was just not on that we'd only been told just now about the luggage lottery. The second time she politely pointed out the dashed unfairness of this unsatisfactory piece of information being relayed at an unsatisfactory moment, I interrupted to ask her what it would have achieved if we'd been told BEFORE we took off, when it would have achieved nothing except major squabbling and people wanting a stand up argument with staff who had no power to solve the situation. She conceded the point but tutted something about how it really wasn't on.

Miserable old bitch

Got to Crete and my mate was bang on time to pick me up. Stopped off after the 2 hour journey to Plakias to get a load of beer. I'd promised my Dad that I'd take him and my brother out for dinner when I got there but both needed to remain sober so this could happen. True to form Dad was spark out on his bed snoring loudly and my brother about to turn in for a siesta when we rocked up with the carrier bags clinking full of ice cold Mythos lager. I decided to let them sleep off the afternoon's vodka tonics and raki shots and got the key for my bit of the house.

My old man lives in an apartment in a big house owned by his landlord. The flat he inhabits is one large bedroom, 2 bathrooms and a big kitchen and lounge. The landlord has a slightly smaller apartment round the front and next to that is a studio flat with a bathroom. He generously allowed me to stay there rent free for about 10 days until his son came over from the USA. His only request was that I get him a large packet of Golden Virginia rolling tobacco as a gift. Problem had been that when I walked up with a big smile to the cashier at the duty free shop, it turned out that Europeans travelling within Europe can't buy tobacco due to the tax. I offered to actually pay the tax but it turns out it's completely off limits unless you go beyond range of the Euro dollar. I had instead purchased a very expensive bottle of whiskey as a subsitute but the landlord said brightly:

“I don't drink. Why didn't you just pay the tax?”

After my explanation he said it didn't matter and with a £40 bottle of malt still in my bag, I sank a few cold ones on the balcony while I waited for my family to wake up again.

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in a hot country is something that requires either the stamina of a special forces soldier, patience or a fuck of a lot of practice. I had 4 bottles of rather mundane lager and next thing I knew woke up face down on dad's balcony to find my brother stood over me, giggling and poking me with his foot, going “wake up poof! Dearie me, what a lightweight!”

We headed back to Joe's Bar and my fairy-esque blackout was then wiped away after a lot more beer and a lot more shots.

Hangover next morning was straight from Satan's bum hole. Stayed in till about 2pm swearing at the sunlight and only getting up to piss or drink water. This was the first of about 4 days in the month I was there where I wasted most of a day lying in bed and wishing I would dissolve into the mattress. Latest wake up was 7.30pm. I long ago gave up trying to emulate my father's drinking ability. He's lived in Plakias for about 18 years and not only sinks about 4 vodka tonics and 4 shots every lunch time but also goes back and has about 5 vodka tonics and about 6 shots every evening. He has one session on Saturday off and doesn't go out at all on Sundays, to allow his liver a breather. Only explanation we have been able to come up with to explain this phenomenon of alcohol endurance in a 78 year old man is that he became a kind of Raki Hulk after his tenure in the RAF in the 1950s.

He was in the RAF and was present on Christmas Island during the testing of the H-bombs. He tells some vivid stories of sitting in a boat facing AWAY from ground zero with his helmet over his face and his hands over his helmet and STILL being able to see the blast turn the world orange. After about 20 minutes an officer said “you may now turn to look at the blast” and the iconic mushroom was there in all its lethal beauty. A plane had then flown through the stalk of the mushroom to take photos. Both the pilot and the photographer died of cancer within 2 years.

Dad has never suffered any ill effects from all this and while colleagues and acquaintaces have died over the years, he just seems to get stronger with no sign of slowing down. He never gets hangovers and knows when he's had enough, paying the barmaid, having one last shot of raki or Tequila and then going home to bed. Only theory I can reasonably come up with to explain this immunity to the effects of what is basically enough alcohol to put me in hospital for a couple of that he was the inspiration for Bruce Banner.

So I do my own thing now when it comes to heavy drinking in Plakias. A few drinks in Joe's, ponse a few cigarettes (if I've forgotten to buy my own, preferably menthol) and then make my way to Ostraco or Smirna for a late bevvy. Problem with Smirna is that the inside of the bar is dark and you can quite easily be supping till about 7am and only realise that God is hunting you with his flashlight when you turn around to find the sun has come up and some people are heading off to work.