I am tracking a tourist bus through the mean streets of Stoke, and I expect you are wondering how I'm getting on. I have made a particular study of buses, as you would imagine from someone in my position. I have familiarised myself with every aspect of them, and can identify them from the tiniest clues - a whiff of exhaust fumes, a fleck of paint, the taste of rubber left by a screeching tyre. So, shuffling along on my hands and knees, my nose pressed firmly to the tarmac, I was having no difficulty in following the trail.
I was slightly annoyed by people shouting at me to get out of the road, the honking traffic and so on. And the fag ends, sticky chewing gum and doggy do with which I was gradually getting coated was becoming unpleasant. But I did my best to ignore these unpleasant distractions and was making significant progress when I was stopped by a policeman. He motioned to me to pull over to the side of the road, so I grudgingly shuffled over into the gutter, where all the muck and doggy do was even worse.
"Evening sir," he says to me. "What do you think you is doing?"
I told him that I was trying to catch a bus.
He didn't like that and walloped me with his truncheon. "Very funny, sir," he says to me. "May I ask why you were in the road on your hands and knees, and not in a vehicle like other road users?"
I explained that if I had a vehicle I wouldn't be trying to catch a bus, which I thought was witty. He didn't and walloped me with his truncheon again.
"Can I ask if you have a licence for those knees?" was what he asked me next.
I said that I didn't think you had to have a licence for knees, and he explained that you do if you want to use them on the Queen's highway, then he walloped me again and arrested me for being illegally parked.
When you have been a top-selling rock and rolling person in a number one popperoony banjo band with a couple of wild and crazy meerkats, you kind of lose touch with reality. Trust me, I've been there. Oh yes, I've known the glitz and the glamour of life in the fast lane, even if it was only for just shy of twenty-four hours. I was surrounded by yes-men, my every whim was catered for, and gradually my brain dribbled out of my ears as I came to believe my own myth. I'd lost my direction. I'd abandoned my purpose. I didn't know who I was anymore!
Specifically, I had completely forgotten that I had set out to track down my giant sandwich, which had grown to a horrifyingly massive size, had lumbered off on its own, and had last been heard of enjoying a relaxing holiday in the Lake District. You see, normal, everyday stuff like that - you just become completely cocooned from reality. So when I saw my sandwich whooshing past me on an open-topped bus, it all came flooding back: the anguish, the anger, the crippling sense of loss and the hunger. Yes, especially the hunger.
But now I was back on the trail. I hailed a taxi. "Follow that bus!" I cried. "What bus?" said the taxi man. He had a point - by this time the bus had gone. I told him that I was very sorry for bothering him, but by that time the taxi man had gone as well. Luckily, I know a little bit about buses. I can track them by their spore. So I got down on my hands and knees, got my nose right down in it and before long I was hot on the trail.
Good news! Our debut album is at number one, we're all over the music press and we've been booked to go on The One Show. Bad news - the record company has ripped us off and we're not getting a penny, Sniffy Pickles has left the band due to creative differences and Itchy MacGyver has sold our banjos and fled to Mauritius with the proceeds. So the band is no more, which is a real pity since I was really looking forward to going on The One Show and sitting next to some perplexed Hollywood B-lister while they play a report on the state of the drains in Cirencester. "Well Ryan, I bet you don't have problems like this with the drains in Beverly Hills." "No... er, no Alex. Can we talk about my movie now, please?"
The really really really surprising thing is that Sniffy already has a solo album out, and he's made a couple of videos, and he's already playing solo shows. I can't figure out when he found the time to do all this. I think it must have been yesterday afternoon. He said he was nipping out to a dentist's appointment, but I think we now know what he was really up to.
So now my dreams of stardom are over. After this whirlwind of touring and press junkets, I've finally come back down to earth with a bump. I didn't even know where I was, so I stepped outside the hotel and found I was in Stoke on Trent. Like I said, down to earth with a bump. But then I looked up and saw something extraordinary. There was an open-topped tourist bus going by, and there, on the top, listening to the tour guide pointing out places of interest, was my sandwich! I couldn't believe it. Who would want to go on an open-topped bus tour of Stoke?
Our album is due for release at ten o'clock today. We received an advance copy at 9:50. The album is called Twanging All Night Long by The Fly By Night Jazz Merchants, which is us. However, when we play it, it appears to be a crackly old recording of The Andrews Sisters from 1945. For people who do not know, The Andrews Sisters were a group of ladies who were famous during the war for taking out machine gun nests, bombing raids on enemy ammunition dumps and for singing 'Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree'. I was very surprised to hear them on our record because I don't remember them being on the rooftop when we recorded it. Of course, there was a lot going on at the time, so I could have been mistaken. I gave our producer a ring and he explained that after he'd removed all the swearing and the screaming from our recording, what was left sounded 'a bit thin', so he had bulked it out by sampling some old records that were now out of copyright. But he assured us that we were still on the record, just really low down in the mix.
We were admittedly a bit miffed at this and felt that it offended our integrity as creative and innovative musicians, but then the record started to sell really well, so we figured that on this occasion it was perfectly acceptable for our integrity to go and get stuffed.
We have reconvened to continue our recording session. Itchy MacGyver has suggested that maybe we are not at our best in the studio environment and has suggested that we go up onto the roof to record. So, this is what we do - we get set up, the tape is rolling and we run through our set. There's quite a commotion down on the ground as people stop to watch us, shouting comments, hurling abuse and throwing missiles. Unfortunately, as this is only a single storey building, we are well within range of the bottles and brickbats, and half the pipe band is taken out before we reach the second chorus.
As if that wasn't enough, we are also set upon by pigeons, who seemed to have taken exception to us for reasons of their own. Clack clack clack, go their beaks; squawk squawk squawk and scratch scratch scratch. Nevertheless, the show must go on, and so we keep at it until, forty minutes later, bruised, bleeding and covered in poo, we hit the last sustained twang of the final number then drop our banjos and run for cover.
Once inside, we listen to the playback and can hardly hear ourselves for all the squawking, squealing, shouting and crying. Nevertheless, our producer seems very pleased with it. He says that it all adds atmosphere and that it will be fine after he's done all sorts of technical computery things to it. He looks at his watch and says it should be ready for release by ten o'clock tomorrow.
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Picturesque county goes on tour.
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of the Bleeding Obvious
All material Copyright © Paul Farnsworth 2000-2021, and may not be reproduced without the express permission of the author. All characters, companies and organisations are fictitious, and any similarity to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
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