Three solid days of pickled cabbage, dumpling and lager with PMPEP almost finished me off there, folks, but never fear, after seventy two hours sleep, a liver transplant, a course of antibiotics, some intense counselling, twice hourly vitamin injections and the tenderly remonstratory ministrations of fair Mrs Impostume, I’m as good as new (or back to square one, take your pick)
As usual what really struck me about being outside the UK was basically how civilized life is. OI, wanker! Define civilized!!! Well, let's just say that the omnipresent anger and incipient violence, paranoid defensive/combative fractiousness that you feel close its clammy hand over your soul the minute you get on the train back from Stansted, just isn’t there. Or let’s put it another away, recreational violence isn’t the main pastime, being aggro isn’t the goal. I lived in Barcelona for a year and certainly spent every night in any number of its least salubrious bars. I never saw one fight. I never saw a fight on the street. I certainly knew people who got their bags snatched/ wallets lifted, and one guy who got punched in the face a few times by a gang of kids, but your Saturday-night Kebab shop bloodbath, your, “oh fuck who are they, are they going to kick off”, your posses of hard cunts out on the piss looking to intimidate, just wasn’t there. Twelve o’clock there’s families out drinking tea in cafes with their kids. I always smile to myself when people tell me that in South America you have to be very aware of who is around you, vigilant, on the alert, it’s not like it is in England they tell me, at which point I want to say, well, have you ever walked home on your own at closing time through any reasonable sized English town or city of a weekend….vigilant? Getting back unscathed (especially as a lanky sixteen year old Goth) after a heart-thumping, eyes-and-ears-sensitised-to-a-superhuman-degree lunge homeward, trying to judge who was round the next corner, whether I should overtake these three pissed guys in front or hang back and risk the big drunken blokes behind me singing “ You Lost That Loving Feeling” catching up with me instead… well, it felt like Armistice Day had been declared when my house came in sight. You made it this time, will you be so lucky tomorrow night? It’s no wonder we drink so much, if we didn’t we’d never have the courage to leave the house. Whenever I think back to my pre-University years (which is infrequently) in Barrow-in-Furness (yes, honestly) I remember nights out with a kind of tunnel vision, a friend's face in the foreground and whatever pub we’re in as a kind of background/ peripheral blur. Because, of course, I couldn’t look round, I couldn’t just glance around the pub in case I made eye-contact with someone who might take offence and start a fight. Getting your head kicked in really was one lapse of attention away. Never relax, never become complacent or your fucked. Vigilant! Ha!
Now this dimension, or at least the extreme degree to which it’s present in the UK, is one I largely step out whenever I go to Europe, or South America for that matter. In some ways I feel safer in Buenos Aires than I do in London. Ok, there is a higher chance you’ll get shot or kidnapped (err.. by the Police) or what have you, but the endless, daily meting out of bruised ribs, broken noses, blackened eyes and worse, this Jekyll and Hyde, masochistic beer bingeing/brawling doesn’t seem to be there. At risk of making a tasteless analogy there’s a line in Primo Levi’s “If this is a man” where he wonders how the Germans can so routinely dole out blows without any anger, without any direct provocation and English violence does have that quality, a vast, free floating violence that sits over the Island like a cloudbank, rote, mechanical, ritualised. It’s this underlying (at best) expectation of violence that’s so depressing, that’s so dehumanising, that’s so estranging of us from each other. Being robbed by someone who needs to eat, or who needs drugs I can accept. Though it’s a terrifying, traumatic prospect, it doesn’t serve to undercut my faith in humanity, recreational violence certainly does. It’s sad to say that my typical position in most interactions with people I don’t know in bars abroad is wariness, consequently I’m always misjudging situations ( who the fuck are you? why are you talking to me, what do you want?) until after a few days I get out of my default protective cynicism and realize oh, ok, there just being friendly (weird..…)
Still, most importantly, the current Young God’s live set includes their death metal version of “Massie Mecker” as an encore ( along with “Speak Low”) and TV Sky’s standout track “ Night Dance” is now along for the ride. The venue was great, nice and small, the crowd extremely appreciative, the band evidently enjoying themselves. PMPEP was, surprisingly, a perfect host(ile), despite making some simply factually and objectively incorrect statements , to wit, that The Rolling Stones are better than the Velvet Underground (!!!!!) and not only that The Jesus and Mary Chain are a better band than the Smiths but that Psychocandy is the greatest record of all time(!) His fundamental criteria for current musical quality seems to have boiled down to: quantity of shouting and brevity (presumably that 0.5 second Electro Hippie's track that's just a clipped "Gluuoorgh!!!" is the fullest distillation of this ethic). Truly, age can not mellow him nor custom stale his infinite spleenality. Disconcertingly, he also saw (un)fit to take his shirt off during the Young God's gig. He’s never done this before, regardless of how sweaty the venue's been and I can only apologize to anyone standing nearby who may have inadvertently witnessed his torso in the full, sweat-slicked glory of its high hirsuity (initially I thought he was wearing a small, moth eaten, white and black mohair cape, then i realised, ah no, it's back hair!) though, leaping up and down, pounding his chest, whooping and generally “letting himself go” as he was ( I maintained the grim, slightly bedevilled, patrician air that all true Englishmen assume at moments of high excitement/orgasm) he resembled, greying now with the years , nothing less than a horribly gone-to-seed Silverback staking out it’s territory… but you know, obviously on a much smaller scale.. a kind of bonsai Silverback…..
.........and thus a new nickname is born!!!!!!!!!!
.........and thus a new nickname is born!!!!!!!!!!