Friday, March 2, 2012

Musings From Underground: Tiddle-ee-aye-go

Ian Mole on the strange games we play as children. Illustrated by Harry Wareham.

You’ve managed to escape your attacker and he’s turned away to try and grab someone else so you take your chance and hurtle towards the pavement, where the attacker’s partner is holding your friends. Your friends scream and shout encouragement as you pick up speed and race through the holding-pen so fast that you can’t be stopped without the attacker’s partner being dragged inside. As you do so you shout at the top of your voice “ tiddle-ee-ayeeeeee-go!” and all your friends run free. Don’t worry, this isn’t street crime we’re talking about here but childhood street games.

Kids don’t seem to play in the streets very much these days so I imagine games like this may seem completely alien to them but they certainly kept us highly entertained as we grew up in Sunderland back in the early Sixties.  The rules of these games were passed on by older kids and parents weren’t involved at all, except to drag you in kicking and screaming when it was bedtime.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Musings From Underground: Having A Haircut

Ian Mole on the cultural language of haircuts. Illustrated by Harry Wareham.
I’ve twice found myself sitting in a barber’s chair in Greece trying to explain to a man who didn’t speak any English exactly how I’d like my hair cut. I spoke very little Greek so by maximizing this and using a good deal of gesturing, pointing at a few models’ photos on the wall and making a big wish I walked out of there looking just like I’d wanted to. Come to think of it, a lot of barbers in London are of Greek Cypriot origin so I wasn’t really straying too far into unknown territory but when it comes to haircuts, you don’t get a second chance.

I’m a child of the Sixties and so I’ve always had an aversion to getting my hair cut. I recall my brother returning from the barber’s in 1967 to be greeted by my dad’s angry voice “I thought you were getting your hair cut!”. “I’ve just been” came his smug reply as he dared to preen a little before the mirror. I used to dread the inevitable day as my hair was just growing nicely over my collar when dad would issue his terrible command that I had to get it cut. If it wasn’t him, it was our school headmaster, Sid, who hated long hair even more. One morning I was walking up the steep bank near our school when I felt a sharp poke in my back. I turned to see Sid’s odious face – he’d poked me with his umbrella – and he ordered me to get my haircut. A year or two later he told a mate of mine to do the same so he came in the next day with his long hair in tiny ringlets. He got a good bollocking for this so the next day he came in with his mother’s wavy ginger wig perched above his thick black sideburns. There mustn’t have been anything in the rule-book against this as he was allowed to continue in this mode for the rest of the year until he left.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Musings From Underground: Smoking

Ian Mole ponders the strange culture, and sexual allure behind smoking. Illustrated by Harry Wareham.

I never fancied smoking after having sex like they do in all those French movies – it seems a most unpleasant thing to do actually and it also reminds me of the joke “Do you smoke after intercourse?” “I don’t know; I’ve never looked.” I have to say though, for me there was usually a strong sexual connection to smoking. I felt the urge to have a cigarette when I was sitting in the pub at the weekend, having consumed a few drinks, and a woman I found attractive made eye-contact with me. I experienced a frisson and the desire to suck on a cigarette flooded me with a warm glow.

I don't smoke now but I was only ever a social smoker and if I had more than five a night, I felt dreadful the next day. The only time I went way beyond my usual limit was when I was at a gig or on tour with the bands I was managing – booze, fags and pizza were the order of the day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Musings From Underground: Brian and the Pillow-Making Machine

Ian Mole on the eccentricities of hospitals. Illustrated by Harry Wareham.

I was never quite sure how Brian got into the state he was in. The pain and discomfort from my own injuries and the frequent attention they received from doctors, nurses, radiographers, physiotherapists, dieticians and the hospital padre together with regular injections of morphine hampered my efforts to get to the bottom of his story.

I was laid up in an orthopedic ward of St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington following a fall from a third floor window-ledge at my home. I was obliged to lie flat on my back for nearly four weeks and my jaws were wired together for six weeks. My left arm resembled a Flowerpot Man’s and my right foot, which my sister said looked like it was made of rubber and came from a joke shop, was placed on a bag of ice to reduce the swelling. A pillow was placed over my foot, though I’m not sure why.
I’d lost a lot of blood in my accident and I received a three or four pint transfusion. It took something like fourteen hours and when I woke up in a druggy state some time in the early hours I was very confused as to where I was. At first I thought that I was the Duchess of Kensington and that I was in my palace. I considered this possibility for a while as my thoughts ebbed and flowed but then it occurred to me that I was in a factory. I beckoned the night nurse over to try to confirm this theory but what with my wired jaws and the gibberish that was coming from between them, she didn’t stick around long.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Musings From Underground: Having A Piss

This week, Ian Mole ponders taking a leak. Illustrated by Harry Wareham.

Two hundred yards from home and you seriously wonder whether you’re going to make it. The pressure on your bladder begs for the sweet joy of release and while focusing your mind on something, anything else you force your legs to move in a strong regular stride as any sudden change of rhythm could result in a jet of piss streaming down your left leg. You’ve made it from the bus-stop to the main road and are almost opposite your flat but the traffic conspires to detain you and you undergo soft agonies of constriction as yet another set of car-lights appears around the bend. Finally you hurry across  - your keys of course have long since been produced with the one for the front door pointing forward between your thumb and index finger, eager for action. The key slips straight in and you’re almost there with dreams of steaming Niagaras thrumming through your ears but then it’s a switch of keys to open your flat-door and an ecstasy of fumbling as you hurry up the stairs and stick it in the lock. As you jiggle the bunch to liberate the mortis key you suddenly drop the lot and when you bend to retrieve them, a few drops burst free but then, thank God, with a final summoning of will you’re in, the door is closed, all baggage is discarded and you’re standing in front of the bowl pulling down your zip, yanking out your Hampton and then…………………. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHAAAAAA!!! Then you may allow yourself a few joyful tears, my friend.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Musings From Underground: What's In A Name?

In his latest subterranean musing, Ian Mole asks: 'what's in a name?' Illustrated by Harry Wareham.

Apparently the phrase ‘any Tom, Dick or Harry’ has a German equivalent – Hans, Fritz oder Willy. In English many names have, over the years, found themselves attached to a variety of nouns and adjectives to denote archetypal figures. Often the names have been chosen purely because of their pleasantly alliterative effect or their rhyme e.g. Moaning Minnie, Cheeky Charlie and Silly Billy.

My name’s Ian and I’ve never heard any phrase in which it’s habitually used, though the other day I did hear Jools Holland refer to his piano as Ian. My middle name is Henry and of course we have the comparatively recent usage of Hooray Henries. Other names have a number of common usages e.g. there’s a Peeping Tom, whoever he was, and a couple of colloquial ones from my hometown of Sunderland – a Raggy Tommy and a Tommy Noddy (all head and no body). Joe has a few too – a Fag-End Joe is a guy who picks up fag-ends to smoke and a Holy Joe is a priest. Joe Soap has come to mean an everyman figure as have Joe Bloggs, Joe Blow, Joe Public and, in America, John Doe. John Bull is your archetypal Englishman. Jack is a much-used word and gives rise to Jack of all trades, every man Jack and new Jack on the block among many others.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Musings From Underground: Hangovers

Ian Mole on the self-inflicted suffering of hangovers. Illustration by Harry Wareham

The worst ones are those that sneak up on you. You wake up expecting the worst but to your surprise you feel as fresh as a daisy. So you go about your morning routine with an air of reprieve glowing around you. Then after a couple of hours you gradually start to feel like shit. Your head feels heavy and starts to throb; you’ve got to sit down; you feel like puking; you reach for the Panadol and guzzle a couple down with as much water as you can swallow; you’ve got to lie down and close your eyes promising yourself that you’ll never let this happen again.

The best way to avoid hangovers of course is not to drink but if you succumb to the Arch Fiend Intemperance, how can you avoid feeling as rough as a badger the next morning? First of all, the pre-drinks lining of the stomach is important and any food is good here, as drinking on an empty stomach will probably get you pissed quicker. Something on the oily side is recommended and personally I’d go for a good slurp of milk too.

Everyone knows it’s not a good idea to mix your drinks, especially beer followed by wine, even if it seems to be such good fun at the time. Someone told me once that if you take forty-five minutes or more to drink each pint, you’ll not get drunk and will avoid a hangover as your body can process the alcohol effectively in this time as long as it isn’t overloaded.

If you’ve over-indulged and know that as soon as your head hits the pillow the room will be spinning round and bad times lie ahead, then I can suggest a few hints that have worked for me. This presupposes of course that you’re not so pissed that you’ve flaked out on the settee with your cat tucking into your half-eaten kebab. It’s well known that one of the main causes of hangovers is that the body is dehydrated, which in itself is a strange thing considering the copious draughts that you’ve recently consumed. So it’s good to restore the water balance as soon as you can. Sure it may well mean that you have to get up to go to the lav during the night but that’s better than feeling rough in the morning. N.B. just make sure that you actually find the toilet as the tales involving wardrobes and places even more horrible are legion.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Musings From Underground: Farting

Ian Mole on the age old human relationship with flatulence. With artwork by Harry Wareham.

Why is farting so funny? It’s definitely something to do with the sound and the fact that it’s generally an illicit activity makes it mischievous. I remember during a school assembly when the headmaster was solemnly reading out a list of football results, my friend Keith began letting off a fusillade of farts that had whole rows of us silently heaving and howling. Is it the smell? Well, I think it’s fair to say that a lot of us quite like the smell of our own farts but the malodour of anyone else’s can also create humorous ructions at the very least.

A good mate of mine recently told me that he’d never heard his own brother fart and I do find that odd. I was thinking of doing my own version of ‘Women Are From Venus etc.’ entitled ‘Do Girls Fart? Do Boys Cry?’ as I’ve rarely heard a woman fart. To be fair I haven’t usually farted in front of my girlfriends either - it’s not exactly a way of advertising your sexual appeal, though if you do plan to stay together, then sooner or later you have to get on to what my dad called farting terms. A recent report stated that on average every man and woman farts fifteen times a day. I reckon I must sometimes make a major contribution to that average by my own efforts. If you’re on your own and there’s no one else to inconvenience, then having a good fart is the perfect complement to a lazy afternoon’s reading or snoozing.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Musings From Underground: Being A Vegan

In the first of his 'Musings From Underground'Ian Mole describes life as a vegan. Illustrated by Harry Wareham.

“Why did you become a vegan, Ian?” This is a question I’ve been asked many times and no doubt I’ll be asked it again, and again… But it’s a perfectly reasonable one and I usually try to give a constructive response.

It didn’t happen overnight, and it took around 10 years from my first dabblings with vegetarianism to becoming a fully paid-up vegan. I’d always scorned health-food freaks until there was a sudden explosion of media interest in the subject around 1984, when I began to think about it more carefully. At the time I was boozing regularly, smoking a fair bit as well as having the occasional toot of amphetamine sulphate and it occurred to me that it wouldn’t do any harm to balance out these bad habits with a few good ones. 

I had a serious accident in August 1984 when I fell off a high window-ledge and so I had plenty of time to mull over my existence while recuperating from all of my injuries. I decided to try to adopt a healthier lifestyle, part of which would be to see if I could cut out eating meat from New Year’s Day 1985.

I hadn’t eaten much meat in my life anyway. I didn’t like the taste, the smell or the look of a lot of it when I was a kid. I attended school dinners for over four years and they used to put a lot of pressure on us to eat our meals, including all kinds of horrible bits of dead animals. I recall one particular occasion vividly – I was nine and a certain male teacher, who clearly never liked me, forced me to eat a large piece of liver. At the age of twelve I stayed for a week at my friend’s grandmother’s house and when she heard that “Ian doesn’t like much meat”, she insisted on giving me loads of it with big bits of fat wobbling all over the place. She was a lovely woman and was only doing what she thought was best for a growing lad but this was typical of grown-ups’ attitudes at that time. Also she was probably showing that she had a decent home; one that could afford to put meat on the table.

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