It is because of Head Porter’s foray into the eclectic world of social media that I now find myself standing in The Jiggery Pokery, a less than salubrious drinking establishment situated on the darker side of The City. And I am not alone. Head Porter himself is also in attendance, albeit in the guise of his recently created alter-ego, Sebastian Nash – struggling musician extraordinaire. It hasn’t been made clear quite how or why Head Porter has embarked on this interesting second life, but the prospect of meeting with some of his new-found associates has certainly taken his mind from tracking down his hideous offspring.
Brandishing a Casio Midi guitar, so loved by JJ Cale, Head Porter – or, as he insists on being referred to, Sebastian – is carrying off the part with aplomb in a double denim ensemble and tousled hair. Not blending in quite so well is The Dean, resplendent as he is in his freshly laundered Zorro outfit. He absolutely insisted on coming with us on the grounds that it would be a waste of a dry cleaning bill if he didn’t get to wear the Zorro outfit. The reason he absolutely must wear the Zorro outfit is that he is The Dean Of College and simply cannot be recognised frequenting such a place as The Jiggery Pokery. Now, there’s some academic logic for you.
“Do you actually know how to play that?” I ask Head Porter, nodding towards the instrument he is clutching tightly in his sweaty hands.
“I had a bit of a go on it earlier and I managed to get a sound out of it, no problem” replies Head Porter. “Besides, I’m a struggling musician, not a successful musician. I don’t have to be particularly good.” It’s a reasonable, if unlikely, argument.
“But what if someone actually wants you to play something, Head Porter?” asks The Dean, rather too loudly.
“Shhh! I am Sebastian Nash, remember?”
A nearby group of serious-looking musoes looks over towards us and eyes The Dean with some interest. It seems that he does not look intriguing enough for their attention to be held for too long so I can only assume that stranger things do indeed happen in this place.
“Look, it doesn’t matter about that,” Head Porter continues. “Deputy Head Porter here can cover for me.”
I have brought along my bass guitar, an electric blue Aria Pro 2, which I play a little. In another time and another place I was in a band and being in a pub such as this brings back happy memories, many of which I can only half remember due to the alcohol involved at the time.
“Hopefully it won’t come to that,” I reply.
“Hopefully not!” remarks The Dean. “I was hoping to regale you both with fascinating tales about how I am always right. If you two are up singing songs all night I shall barely have a chance to get halfway through!”
Faced with the prospect of this, I have to think quickly.
“Well, maybe we should have a plan up our sleeves just in case we end up having to play something,” I suggest, the prospect of looking mildly ridiculous before a group of people I am never likely to see again being preferable to The Dean’s offer. “What sort of music are you supposed to play… Sebastian?”
Head Porter looks excited for a moment, then strangely ponderous.
“D’you know, I hadn’t thought of that,” he replies. “What do you think? Bluegrass? I might be quite good at reggae, I think.”
“Do you know any hip hop?” asks The Dean, helpfully. “I believe that to be very popular.”
“We need something fairly straightforward, I think” I suggest.
Looking across to the ramshackle stage at the far end of the bar, I see a bohemian-looking lady with corkscrew hair and combat trousers performing what I assume to be spoken word poetry, whilst an elderly gentleman bereft of rhythm plays bongo drums. This might not be as bad as I first thought. I think we can string together something approximating what evidently passes for entertainment in this place. Besides, what we lack in talent we can more than make up for with enthusiasm.
“Oh my god, dude – it’s Sebastian Nash!” a throaty cry from amidst the throng causes us to spin around in amazement – someone has recognised Head Porter! A slick-looking hipster chap emerges from the crowd and slaps him on the back in an overly friendly manner, almost causing the startled Head Porter to drop his guitar. “Man, it’s so awesome that you made it down tonight! Hey, this must be your band.”
Head Porter regains his composure and returns the greeting with an awkward back slap. The Dean and I nod and smile politely and attempt to adopt the persona of ‘the band’.
“Hello… dude!” replies Head Porter “Yes, it’s… super cool to see you, man. Groovy.” This is toe-curlingly excruciating.
“Me and the guys can’t wait to hear you play, dude,” the hipster continues. “This is going to be so awesome.”
Despite the hipster’s assurances, I notice something decidedly un-awesome occurring in close proximity. A group of shaven-headed and heavily tattooed undesirables are muttering and pointing angrily in our general direction. They do not look best pleased and appear to be heading towards us with a grim determination. The largest one steps forward and jabs a filthy finger into Head Porter’s shoulder.
“Oi! Are you Sebastian Nash?”
Head Porter looks up into the face of the man-beast and a dreadful sense of foreboding washes over me.
“Of course it’s Sebastian Nash!” the hipster declares “The man’s a legend!”
“‘E’s been chatting up my missus on the internet!” man-beast roars back. “‘E’s about to be a very messy legend!”
I fire a furious look towards Head Porter, who is quietly trying to vanish into thin air. I wish that I could drag him somewhere quiet and have a few stern words about what he has been up to. But now is not the time. Now is the time to extricate ourselves from this situation as swiftly as possible.
“Now see here!” says The Dean, striding forward with a meaningful swish of his cape. “We’ll have none of that here, thank you very much. I suggest you rapscallions make good your escape, or you shall have me to answer to!”
The man-beast looks The Dean up and down. A variety of emotions fight for precedence on his swarthy features and I idly wonder if I should be using this time to smack him with my bass guitar. I think that, in all probability, that would make matters somewhat worse.
“I’m sorry but I don’t take no notice of fictional characters,” the man-beast replies, finally. “C’mon lads, let’s ‘ave him!”
“HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!”
These booming words cut through the melee and for a moment, time stands still. Out of nowhere strides a leather-clad figure brandishing the most beautiful instrument I have ever seen.
“These chaps here are my friends and if you don’t leave them alone there will be trouble,” the figure says ominously. “Back off my band!”
Man-beast and his compadres melt back into the crowd, muttering darkly as I desperately try to identify our saviour in black leather.
The rock & roll outfit is distracting and he is clearly wearing a wig but it’s definitely him.
Well, I never.
Some credit for this post must be given to the fabulous FictionFan and Old College regular Professor VJ Duke – the pair of them got very carried away with the idea of Open Mic Night and their persistent pestering ensured that this (and the follow-up post) got written. The creative inspiration must be attributed to them.