I shot up the M4 like I had cruise missiles strapped to the undercarriage of my small car. One eye glancing down to a speedometer that hovered around the 98 miles per hour mark, occasionally tipping up towards 110, sometimes screaming down to 40 in response to the break lights of the cars in front. At that kind of speed in a small car, the rules are different. Brakes largely inefficient, a quick tap liable to plunge you into some kind of death spin, pinballing it across the lanes taking out cars with a â€˜baby insideâ€™ sticker before being crushed to the size of a small crate by an oncoming tanker. No, the brakes are no good. Steering is compromised. The tiniest rotation of the wheel has massive ramifications for your road position and your arms must become super sensitive, making pica-decimal angle changes to hold you locked in position. Keep them relaxed though. That way when you hit a slick bit of road at over a hundred and the car skips into aqua plane mode, you donâ€™t come down heavy handed, ending your young life in a twisted mess of metal.
The only way to drive at this kind of speed in a small car is to breathe in deep, clear your mind and keep your eyes open. Learn to read the universal rhythm of the traffic. Learn to appreciate your position in the flow. That way, you find you make adjustments to your acceleration which precisely alter your placement on that continuum. The car is desperate to go slower after all, small engine giving off a hum like a distorted mosquito mixed with a spitfire and smoke rising from the front grille. You just need to decide how much to make it go faster. Do that right and everything else sorts itself out.
Knaggâ€™s rustic Swansea palace was a welcome sight after three hours of heel toe combinations. He had camped down in a state of domestic bliss with his chosen ladyfriend, his only disharmony caused by a new puppy that insisted on defecating at will around the house, the weather that buffeted the house, rattling windows with its Welsh belligerence, and the ever present prospect of causing trouble with the in-laws due to his habits of drunken argument and well meant faux-pas.
That weekend, whenever we came in from a night out and wrapped a late night zoot, Knaggs introduced me to a programme of immense wonderment, which he had handily available in digital versatile disc format. The Mighty Boosh, a comedy of sorts, tinged with strange visions, that exactly synced with our often surreal state of mind, flooding into our brains, causing us to imagine strange creatures and stranger situations. I think, we managed to watch every episode in the time that I was there, and I came away determined to put it on my Amazon wishlist, which I did, and now I have it and indeed there was much rejoicing amongst the resident cru down here.
But once again, I digress. A fair bit happened while I was in Swansea, and I particularly remember a stroll out on a public golf course, to reach the coast, a barren cliffline and a meandering river as being a particularly helpful part of the bolo tour in terms of putting my head back together. I remember a pub, which was effectively a house, pretty much unchanged apart from the installation of a bar, where we sat in the sitting room and waxed lyrical about the state of play and the barmaidâ€™s efforts to programme in tunes to the cd changer in response to receiving pound coins. The human jukebox, blonde of hair and fair of face. Truly a fascinating thing to see and to muse upon on the way to the toilet, still outhouse based in that part of the world.
Still, I suppose those are sideshow based experiences when compared with the weekendâ€™s true focus. A trip to visit the nightlife of Swansea.
Knaggs and I wisely took the first night off to store some energy to allow myself to acclimatise to the welsh way of life, plus jet lag from my trip, but by Friday night we were ready. Out into the cold, clad in clean pressed denim and my new shoes, offensively proclaiming their cyan stripes to the world. Jump on a bus and we were both feeling pretty rinsed, but keeping it to ourselves. Out on the fringes of town and Knaggs is pointing out his office then over the road to the local branch of rinse out convenience stores.
Our way was barred by a local inbred, big face, big arms, big fucker, standing in the doorway shouting incoherent slurs to passers by and rattling the doors of the surrounding doors. Iâ€™m used to this kind of madness, wandering about London, you get used to practicing the technique of â€˜you do not exist, I cannot see you and therefore you canâ€™t hurt meâ€™. Still, it was a shame that this particular miscreant was right in the doorway that we needed and he nabbed Knaggs on the way through with a roared â€œyou got a cigarette mate?â€. Knaggs wisely informed him that though he did not, he might well be happy to furnish him with one having purchased some in the shop. It was a great tactic, because by the time we got outside again, he had picked a fight with some other chavs and was locked in some kind of wrestling grip with a burberry wearer. We took this as an opportunity to duck off.
First stop was the Rileyâ€™s pool hall where Knaggs had first worked, an Englishman abroad, trying to earn a crust. These days he was wreaking his revenge against the Welsh by enforcing bankruptcies on people, but back then, he had been living the minimum wage and concentrating hard on his pool game. It was a place of nostalgia for the young lad, full of friendly faces and we settled easily into a series of smoke filled, pint aided games where I took the thorough beating I could have predicted. Those that know me know that I thoroughly resist sporting activity of any kind bar bull baiting and as a result, it wasnâ€™t really a surprise.
Rileyâ€™s was a place of respite really, because next we were off to the Swansea branch of Revolution. Knaggs insisted we start with a chilli vodka. â€œIt burns man!â€, he insisted, and sure enough it did. Canâ€™t ever really imagine myself drinking it again.
The place was thronged with shirted blokes eyeing up docile girls, a scene I think weâ€™ve all seen before. The difference was the presence of the gangs of older women, painted up like circus freaks, their ample frames covered by scant pieces of material. This is a sight that for whatever reason you only get outside of London. It was the same in Lancaster and largely I find it a pretty amusing thing. Still, Knaggs and I were drawing some attention from these harpies and it was definitely time to skip out.
We bopped into a couple of other places, avoiding disputes and draining pints. Bumped into an extremely fit girl in a very narrow bar who insisted on showing me her mobile phone and pictures of ace boxer Ricky Hatton, who she insisted was her boyfriend. Who was I to argue? She was off her face, like sheâ€™d been rhiaphanolled or something and I felt my foolish paternal side kick in. Found myself worried that maybe something bad would happen to this girl. Wanted to make sure she was ok, but no use really, she was pretty much incommunicado. Man, Iâ€™m a sucker for fit women, and I still find myself hoping she got home ok.
By now Knaggs and I were well on the right side of battered and it was definitely time to head up to Monkey Bar for a bit of leg shaking. Once inside, I instantly realised that I had come home. The other bars had been full of characters bristling for violence, lined faces forcing cocktails down with a smile to stumble into taxis later, throwing up over the driver. Monkey wasnâ€™t like that. The clientele was a mix of hipsters, students (always no chance of violence), foreigners and funk appreciators and the queues at the bar moved at speed.
So lets have a drink. Whatâ€™s the DJ playing. Is that the Verveâ€™s lucky man, overlaid with James Brown (God rest his soul)? Yeah, lets jump to the middle. Unlock those drunk limbs, firing out arms and legs in mirth. Move around, lets make eye contact with those people, get chatting over there. Good to laugh and here the music move up a gear. Oh my, are they playing â€˜Witness the Fitnessâ€™? Yes, for sure, throw the big moves. The crufetin liveth.
Climb the stairs to the toilets, tip the man in there heavily for passing you a paper towel and come down again. Knaggs holding out some kind of evil shot, with a smile on his face, his foot tapping to Billy Jean (an overplayed dancefloor track, but ever a classic). Take it from him and spill half of it down your face.
By now, we had been joined by a pal of Knaggs from work and formed some kind of evil trio, taking turns at the bar, throwing increasingly more elaborate shapes. Dim memories here of a large lady with strange moves, causing much amusement. Much engagement. Man, I love everyoneâ€™s dancing as long as there is commitment. Hours pass and I Felt my legs start to tire, words start to slur and suddenly it was time to leave. Just forget your jacket on the way out. Itâ€™s important to have a painful return trip to make the next day. Fall into a taxi and you are home again.
Back home the Boosh was just firing up, the rizla were in their allotted place. Wake Knaggâ€™s lady up with loud chat. Go outside, smoke and you get those late night, good night moments of clarity. The feeling that all is right with the world, until you wake up on the sofa at seven in the morning thinking who put a cigarette out in my mouth and which fool had the audacity to pour this black stuff on my shoes? Oh yeah… that was me.