Dear Friends

DF 11 - Meanwhile (June 99)

Dear Friends,

I think I met Beavis and Butthead at the Maritim Hotel in Darmstadt.

Whilst putting down my towel on the sauna bench, I glanced around in the dim red light to acknowledge others present; which is the usual courtesy. In sanctuaries such as this, greetings normally take the form of a nod or a quiet hello.

'Hey dude'and a staccato burst of 'HEH,HEH,HEH,HEH' made me check my whereabouts. For a moment it went through my mind that I must have died and gone to MTV.

Serves me right I suppose. Wow, this must be the lowest level. Was I really that bad? Couldn't I have been given Purgatory or Limbo? or at the very least that place where you stand up to your waist in liquid excrement (known coarsely as the Sea of Shit), and it doesn't seem so bad until the Devil comes by on his jet-ski, and, in tones of demented hilarity, screams 'OK you scumbuckets! Tea-break's over, back on yer heads'.

The moment passed. I glanced reassuringly at my nakedness and that of my closest neighbour, who was uncomfortably returning from her brief state of flushed invisibility. We smiled bleakly at our immediate future, but it wasn't so bad.

Beavis and Butthead (I'm sure it was them) got up and left after a few more minutes, courteously 'Hey duding' and 'HEH,HEH,HEH,HEHing' as they went. We exhaled.

I replayed the scene. Incongruity headed the bill. A rhino leaping out of your wardrobe, that sort of thing. Well maybe not a rhino, they don't exactly leap do they; but certainly a tiger. Yes, you're reaching in, fumbling through pockets in search of some long forgotten note that will purchase the cure for an imminent thirst, when you hear the rumble of an idling Harley Davidson down amongst your shoes.

Fearful of alerting downstairs to your immoderate intentions, you try to muffle the roar by closing the door quietly, with a squinced expression. Not that you can shut a door with anything so feeble as an expression; unless, perhaps, you frown quite hard at the same time as you are squincing. That would be a puckered squince, which triggers a primitive form of tele-kinesis. But it still needs practise. So this Bengal Harley unexpectedly gggrrraaawwwws in your face, and thankfully you pass out; rather more painlessly and a lot earlier than planned.

Meanwhile, back in Darmstadt, I was assimilating my MTV experience. I have never, ever, seen anyone go into (or, as it happens, come out of) a sauna with all their clothes on. Those two 'dudes' were very fashionably clad. Very big trainers, very big socks, very big shorts and very big tee-shirts (all the more noticeable in contrast to their very small heads). No, I've never seen that before; not in a sauna. It was definitely Beavis and Butthead.

Most hotels have a pool and a sauna or a steam room, and I use them all the time. They are particularly useful when, accidentally, I might have had one too many the night before, and wake up with a cauliflower tongue.

Talking about notes. A well-publicised announcement from Mr. Blur (a red herring to other infamy, no doubt) stated that the Bank of England is going to sell most of it's gold. Promisary notes, bank notes, bearer notes, whatever you like to call them; 'I promise to pay the bearer upon demand etc.' will henceforth be supported, or underwritten, by, erm, 'something else but we haven't worked it out yet, anyway the important thing is gold is old-fashioned stuff and don't forget lots of other people in Europe don't like it because we've got more than them and oops.' And so on. Really, this happens all the time.

The next day a strange thing happened. Faced with the news that England was about to dump its load and therefore create a glut, the price of gold collapsed. Who would have thought it possible?

When the Pound does collapse, what will happen to that 'promise to pay'? With what? 'Sorry, we sold the gold. How about some, erm, Euros?' Oh, that'll do nicely Mr. Blur.

Our incumbent prime-minister seems just as nice as the last one, and not nearly so fierce as the one before. I am strangely attracted to the onomatopoeic value of the Belfast pronunciation of his name; he certainly has progressed (if that's the word) from Mr.Blah, as his honeymoon luvvies would have it (the Bruce Forsyth of Europe, 'nice to see you, to see you, nice', right down to the floppy hand movements) to Mr.Blur (the man for all seasons).

It is a very difficult job, being a world leader. A higher perspective must often make it appear, to your adherents, that you are sacrificing your principles, when in fact you may be presenting them more cunningly; for the greater good; this being difficult to explain right now to the folks back home, because you're busily trying to convince the rest of the world that every action you take is somehow to their advantage and not yours. It's a tricky business alright.

Meanwhile, back on the planet, I was watching a sailing-dinghy drifting away across the water, as I sat on the edge of a small lake in the Czech Republic. I waved at two girls on the other side, but they didn't see me. Their eyes were focused on a little yacht, which was sailing towards them. That is just two ways of looking at one simple scene. The points of view are limitless.

Meanwhile, on the same theme, I heard the following story from my old mate Squiffy, when we were talking on the phone last week. His real name is Graham Underwood and we have been close friends for many years. He was the greater force in our dynamic team of two; particularly in the category, mad-inventors. We were also co-partners in the construction company known as FLU Ltd. Some of the things we came up with, I must admit, were just not appreciated. Either that or we were ahead of our time. The world was not ready for our mechanised garden fork, lovely thing that it was. Squiffy has also been round the world with me a few times. On the very last trip (Repo Depo) he was looking after the Mayor of Hell. Now he is a successful painter.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are camping in the grounds of Lord Upham's estate. Carrying out surveillance in an attempt to solve the mystery of the slow theft of his castle. It is disappearing stone by stone.

Looking up at the night sky, Holmes murmurs 'Watson, tell me what you can deduce by studying the heavens.'

'Well Holmes' says Watson

'Astrologically, I'd say that the signs were propitious, and we can be optimistic regarding the outcome of our surveillance.

Astronomically, we are but a speck in a universe of unknown dimensions.

Horologically, it's about a quarter past two.

Meteorologically, there is low humidity and there are no clouds, so it stands every chance of being a fine day tomorrow.'

'No, no, no Holmes. This won't do at all. You're missing the point entirely. Can't you see? It's as plain as the nose on your face. Some bugger has nicked our tent.'

I like sport, I used to play football a lot, but I broke my foot quite badly and I can't kick a ball anymore. However I'm still a huge fan and I follow the game (all sports in fact) on TV wherever I can. Most hotels offer one or two sports channels, and then of course there is always Paicey. He carries around his own satellite dish, and we rarely miss an important event. Often he tapes it, and for a small consideration, he allows us to watch it later, on the bus. If it's live, I go to his room, pay an entrance fee, and watch it there.

I'm not alone when I complain of some disturbing trends in 'the beautiful game', as it is known today. It may be beautiful in the sense that the players are pretty and precious, but it is not beautiful at all in the higher aspect. Cheating is part of the game. Nobody, ever, retreats the required ten yards at a free kick. Players whine at the referee for every whistle, and, quite disgracefully, attempt to get opponents yellow-carded or worse. They roll over and over in exquisite pain when they get mud on their shirts; well, you've seen it haven't you. A linesman is now to be called a referee's assistant (give me strength), but for all that improved PC nomenclature they are no different. Not a single one of them knows that off-side is judged from the moment the ball is passed, as opposed to the moment it is received, not one of them.

On the subject of shirts I have a suggestion. The players should be encouraged to wear body-loving-lycra or spray-on-spandex outfits. This would surely eliminate all the shirt-tugging and have the added benefit of making the French-kissing, simulated sex, cartwheels, back somersaults etc. so much more understandable.

This is turning into an alliteration-fest.

Meanwhile, since the scandalous attitude of the elite members of the IOC (International Olympic Committee) has been made public (nobody really cottoned on when Princess Anne resigned twenty years ago), I have been following the ways of these insidious little worms, who wiggle their way to the pinnacles of power in their various fields of sport, with self-aggrandisement as their sole messianic focus.

Football, Cricket, Rugby, Athletics, Snooker (?) all of them run by very odd people. This is in England. Do other countries have the same problem, I wonder?

Formula One, Grand Prix motor racing. That dare-devil-may-care epitome of testosterone-loaded-technology is being destroyed by the crapulous actions of one Max Mosley, a barrister by trade, but even more worthless than that, he is the president of FIA ; the sport's ruling body.

Formula One, the phrase evokes such feelings about a spectacle to which I, and millions of others, have been addicted since Fangio, Von Trips, Moss, Stewart, Prost and Senna (forgive the worthy omissions) put their lives on the line. They were the kind of men who would have done so whether we were watching or not, just for the sheer thrill of racing.

The vicarious surge shared by the crowds at these great events, and those (like me) who would sit up all night to watch on TV, the qualifying session, live from Japan or Brazil and then, to the great despair of mothers, and later wives, repeat the whole procedure 24hrs. later, when the race itself took place.

Blue flags and back-markers, always a delicate issue.

Ferrari's brilliant Shooie, and his faithful No.2 (who used to star in 'Thunderbirds, didn't he?) David Cool is it 'tard or 'thard? Even he's not sure; which is probably why he finds overtaking difficult. Hill jnr., Mad Mansell, Hunt the Shunt, Murray Walker, Monaco, Nurburgring, Silverstone. All beyond the reach of mortals. I'm not very mechanically minded. I equate the activity under the bonnet of a car with three-dimensional chess (cubed). However, I can hold my own quite well in a debate on the relative merits of tyres, a crucial area this. Do you hold your nerve and stick to slicks, or pull in and switch to galoshes at the first sign of a cloud?

Entomological fascination with the pit-stop (nano-seconds in slo-mo) and it's strategic importance; not just tyres, fuel and a tweak of the spoiler; to lessen or improve the downdraft, but is it to be one, two or even three stops? A cunning team boss might see an advantage for his inferior car by improving the power-to-weight ratio, and so carrying less fuel, thus going faster but having to stop more often. Nice theory, but it never works.

Meanwhile, the public, the teams, everyone who cares and, most importantly, the drivers are complaining about the lack of competitiveness brought about by the most recent change of regulations. No slicks no more; they are all grooved. Also the cars are narrower. So there is turbulence and lack of ground-effect behind other vehicles, and speeds are reduced, along with the ability of even the bravest and the best, to overtake.

Most people would agree that overtaking is the one element required to be present in a race, in order that it may distinguish itself from a procession. Not so, our odious Max. No, his haute dismissiveness puts him right up there with Samaranch and the Earl Haig.

In response to protestations he said 'as long as the cars are safe we (?) are not concerned whether the drivers like them or not. Because they are paid so much they are not entitled to like them or dislike them. It's not up to them.'

What a megalomanic prat he is. If his ruling prevails, then the signs should be removed from every circuit. The signs which warn 'MOTOR RACING IS DANGEROUS'.

Meanwhile, on a very sad note. My friend Screaming Lord Sutch died yesterday. He hanged himself after suffering great depression since the death of his mother, to whom he had always been very close. Dave Sutch was a larger than life character. Internationally famous for his 'invasion' of the US, when he toured in his Union Jack emblazoned Rolls-Royce.

Throughout the Sixties Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages played to packed houses, and every self-respecting pro musician would die to have this gig on his CV. I saw him many times in his various fantastic roles. One day he'd be Jack the Ripper, and the next day he'd be a demented Fireman; once wounding himself terribly on the forehead with his famous hand-bell.

Ritchie Blackmore enjoyed his stint as a Savage. He used to delight in telling me how Screaming (as he was known to his friends) made the band change into their stage gear in the toilet on a small ferry in Scandinavia. Apparently he had arranged for some press people to meet the boat (Screaming was always very publicity conscious). Imagine the scene, Ritchie, and the other Savages, in furry, off-the-shoulder, leopard-skin, caveman-type outfits, guitars in one hand, suitcases in the other, running madly down the ramp, to be greeted by a few bewildered children and a small dog.

That was typical Sutch. He never claimed to be a singer, in the conventional sense; not in any sense at all, as far as I could make out. But he was an entertainer. A great entertainer. No matter how brilliant the individuals in his band, you never looked at them when Screaming Lord Sutch was on stage. He dwarfed them.

He made a seamless progression into his second career as a politician, and contested every general election until quite recently. With his huge and ludicrous top-hat, rosettes as large as sunflowers, and a gap-toothed smile that lit up the night, he would stand on the rostrum next to nervous Prime-Ministers and dodgy Chancellors. All this on National TV.

The results; the names of the candidates, together with the number of votes cast, would be announced by a mediaeval clerk to the assembled and varied supporters in the town hall.

In England, it is traditional for the television commentator to add sotto voce asides, indicating the party allegiances of the candidates.

So you would hear from the clerk.'Jonathan Blithering-Smythe' then an urgent whisper from the TV guy, who inserted, as if we didn't know, 'Conservative Party'. just in time to hear from the clerk again...... fourteen thousand, two hundred and twenty six'.this greeted with a small ripple of applause and boos from the crowd, and a superior, insipid sneer from the con (as his kind is happily abbreviated).

Then..'Fred Livid'(sensually)'Labour Party'fourteen thousand, two hundred and twenty seven; wild ripple from seven or eight; Fred gives a manic glare, and the old two-fingers, to the 'ondotcon, who's face is in rictus.

Meanwhile, because no-one except the Lib-Dems (and there are only eight of them anyway) is interested in anything else but the absolute highlight of the evening, we wait until.'David Sutch'..and then, in cultured and dispassionate, breathy BeaBeaCea parenthesis (The Monster Raving Loony Party)..yessss!...seven hundred and four. The whole nation cheers. Lord Sutch reaches out and, with an air of great magnanimity, shakes hands all round. Everyone knows that the main thrust of his manifesto (voting rights for dogs) was perhaps a tad progressive, but we cheer him anyway, because we love him.

I'll catch up with you later mate.

The other stuff I was going to write will have to wait, because no-one can follow Screaming Lord Sutch RIP.

Yours sincerely,

Peace & love,
Ian Gillan
Copyright © Ian Gillan 1999

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