Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Not Being Gary King

Recently I saw the Simon Pegg movie “The World’s End”. I’m not usually a Pegg fan, a feeling amplified by his constant cameos in my favourite genres (he’s in Land of the Dead and sodding Star Wars: The Force Awakens to name but two). However, this movie is fab and the reason I liked it is because it struck a chord.

The plot (in brief) is that Gary King (Pegg) a Sisters of Mercy-obsessed goth in his early 40s is reminiscing about the one moment in his life when he felt like a champion. It was at the end of a pub crawl through the small town he lived in, with a bunch of his mates in tow. They didn’t actually complete the crawl but sat on the hills to watch the sunrise the next day...believing anything was possible and the world was at their feet.

Cut to the present day again and Gary is now a loser, in rehab, obsessed with recreating that one true moment of happiness from his past and endeavouring to put the old crew back together to achieve that.

The rest of the movie touches on alien infiltration of human society and mixes in touches of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Stepford Wives and even Deliverance. It’s as good as Pegg’s previous two films in the Blood & Ice Cream trilogy, Sean of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and is enjoyable, typically British and well acted.

What struck me about this movie though was that Gary King is a character that I once believed myself to be. Or to be more accurate...I was what Gary King believed he was.

He’s brash, sexually open minded, dresses like a punk, never wants to grow up, is loyal to his friends and, above all….believes his actions and behaviour to be much more memorable to those around him than they actually are. In his own mind Gary King is a true king. A man amongst men who shapes and influences the actions of those he interacts with. From High school to college to his life after THAT pub crawl, Gary King is someone who’s very fragile feelings are masked by a hugely inflated, compensatory ego and the ongoing desire to be the centre of attention at all times.

Back in 1988 I was into Climie Fisher. Then someone played me a song by the Macc Lads.

My transformation began.

I bought a cheap, black leather biker’s jacket, a Macc Lads T-shirt emblazoned with the words “FUCK! CUNT! WANK! SHIT!” and became what I used to describe as a lovable hooligan. I’d swear, belch, fart, tell dirty jokes, hardly ever bathe and be the very epitome of Outwardly Obnoxious. However, with an IQ of 138 I would be able to hold my own in a debate* and when I went to Lancashire Polytechnic (later University of Central Lancashire) I went up a couple of notches. I was a regular contributor to Pluto, the uni’s fortnightly newspaper. Most of my stuff appeared on the infamous “Bad Taste Page” and there were several attempts to get my contributions banned. I even ran for the editor’s job in 1993, coming 2nd out of 6 candidates (a result which monumentally pissed off the huge, sweating mound of lying, politically correct blubber named Matt Tucker, who ended up getting the job).

I graduated with a 3rd class Honours degree in Law, normally considered a dunce’s degree but I had revised by cramming the night before each exam. This hadn’t been to prove a point, I was basically an idle bastard and knew I could pass with that little work. I later found out that I had been a borderline 2:2 (lower 2nd class Honours) but the vote went against me 5 to 4 in the lecturer’s meeting to discuss cases like mine. This monumentally pissed of a mutual friend who had just scraped a 2:2 with 6 months of constant revision.

But I digress...

I was a king of my own making. In my own little world of uni, Pluto, beer and friends… I walked with my purple haired head held high, reveling in the freedom that uni gave me and relishing the notoriety of having ‘poems’ in Pluto such as “Girl Freshers”, “Beer & Sex & Zagros Pizzas”, or “Doccers” causing the more PC members of the uni to splutter into their lager ‘n’ limes and write letters demanding my castration.

Then reality kind of got involved in my life.

I left uni and got a temping job. My leather jacket, for the first time in 5 years, was relegated to the coat hook on the back of the bedroom door, only usually coming out on the weekends. I was determined to “make good” and put the last 3 years of uni education to good use. Sadly I had 4 jobs in horrible offices, working for revolting cunts with Napoleon complexes. Leaving the UK in 1995, disillusioned and bitter with how my work ethic had been taken advantage of (in my first temping job at a cable TV company, that lasted 6 months, I never took ONE day off sick, despite hating the job and above all Barbara Bellis, the rancid piece of dogshit that was my supervisor).

Two or three times a year from 1993 to about 1995 me and my uni friends would have reunions where we’d get drunk, reminisce and basically act like we always did. My leather jacket was always in attendance. In 1995 I moved to Italy for the next 5 years and things improved slightly.

I gave the leather jacket away to my first true love, a Milanese girl named Eleonora. She was flattered by the gift but eventually gave it back, noting that at least once per year I would put it on in her bedroom and pose around in front of the mirror wearing it.

Then the Gary King syndrome kind of crept back.

In the year 2000 we had an official Law faculty reunion, organised by the then Senior Lecturer of the school, John Hindmoor. I took the jacket out of the wardrobe and wore it to that reunion.

It was only in 2006, 13 years after I’d graduated, that I finally killed the jacket. Realising I needed to sever my ties with the past I took it out to the big wheely bins at the back of my apartment block and hacked it into six or seven pieces with a kitchen knife. It was 18 years since I'd bought it and it was a reminder of a time that was long since gone.

Now I’m 46 and while I don’t fret over my uni days any more, there are many other events from my past that I stroke with a gentle caress. It is very easy to want to always be that person who eventually became such a huge Macc Lads fan that he became an unofficial roadie for the band (1991 to 1994), drank all night and then took the best looking girl home and shagged her (2009) or actually won a fight in a bar, busting the other guy’s face so badly that he had to eat through a straw for a week (2010)**.

Deep down within me is that desire, like Gary King to bring everyone back together from the best moments of my life and throw a big party with me as the host, guest of honour, DJ and compere. In the movie The World’s End, Gary King’s heroic tendencies only come to the fore once the film derails itself from being a reunion buddy movie and instead becomes a sci-fi comedy. Up to that point he is an annoying, depressed, lonely and isolated man who pisses people off sometimes deliberately and other times without even trying to.

As I move through my life I look back with some regret but I know that I don’t want to end up like Gary King. Constantly wittering on about my glory days when I potentially have up to 50+ more years of life to look forward to.

Maybe it’s time to clean out more than just that old leather jacket. I have T-shirts from years gone by that I never wear and jewellery I haven’t worn since before Obama became President. A clean out might be in order. All accept my favourite red jumper of course, that’s not going anywhere.


* Unless of course it was with my mother, one of her relatives or one of her friends. 

** Other guy started it.

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