Fielding comebacks from Noel


“That’s a very Georgian beard,” a drunken artist said to me recently, and then when I looked like I might be about to thank him, he clarified; “That means weak.”

It’s a ruff not a beard, dumbass

I went away and thought about what I should have said. A few suggestions came to mind in the first 10 minutes:

“You, sir, are drunk and fat, and I shall be-” this is where I would falter and look at the floor – “weak bearded in the morning.”

No, Churchill couldn’t help me. What about:

“It’s not a beard, it’s pubes,” and as this sunk in, I’d add; “So, what you think is my body is actually my penis.”

That was too scary an image even for me. A month later, it came to me as I was having a shower:

“You, sir, have a Tudor physique.” And as he worked through his monarchical history, I’d save him the trouble: “That means morbidly obese.”

It’s so-so, I know. The best comeback I ever came back with was effectively handed to me on a plate. I’d bought some Prince-style high heel ankle boots from an ebay shop that catered to women with really big feet (men) and had just managed to make it to the bank machine in Spar before my night out.

“I like your shoes, mate,” came a voice from behind me and I turned to see a ten-headed man-pack. “My mum would like them,” Head No. 1 added, “I’ll give you her number.”

His face fell as he said the last bit, the words drifting over the cold tiled floor towards me like balloons towards a birthday boy.

“Thanks,” I said genuinely. “But I’ve already got it.”

Game Over. He didn’t even pretend he was going to beat me up, he/they just nodded and left.

All Hail the Winner!

Mostly though, while everybody else is on twitter-time, bouncing ideas around as fast as they can think them, I’m still posting my ideas by pigeon mail. Only the other day I was trying to sing a love song to Esther but I couldn’t remember the words:

Me: ♬ You’re the something something something of the something something, oh baby, oh baby… ♬

Esther: I like that, is it Steve Martin?

Me: No, it’s Stevie Wonder, I just can’t sing.

I’m well jel of the way stand up comedians can riff endlessly on the spot like action figures with longer than normal pull strings on their backs. Noel Fielding is a prime example. The other week I asked if I could interview Noel as he was passing through Sheffield on his solo tour. His PR asked me for my number and told me he’d be ringing me at midday on a Thursday for a 15 minute interview. Ringing me! Unfortunately, I had lots of students booked in that day, so I swiftly told them all to jog on so I could have a 2 hour gap just in case, you know, we became BFFs. Finally, at 5 minutes to 12, after having emptied my bowels and bought a cappuccino to sip as I was talking to him – no biggie my casual slurps would say – I received a text: ‘Really sorry but Noel has cancelled all interviews today’. Arsecockles! Three hours later, I got another text saying he could ring me at 6 if still convenient. Well, I’m still not going to say no, am I? The next half an hour was a frantic scrabble to keep up with someone who’s mind is a rhinestone-studded random idea generator, where every other line is a comeback to himself: Noel: Hello, is that Sheffield? Me: Hi Noel…I mean, is that London calling? Noel: (giggling) Yes, this is London calling.

Me: Do you mind if I record this? Noel: What, for training purposes?

Me: Ha, no I’m not a very fast writer…

Noel: Is it so you can touch yourself listening to me later?

Me: Haha, (silence as I actually consider it) erm, can I then?

Noel: Ooh I just dropped my contact lens and it killed a passing flying ant… Me: Oh (taking it half seriously) – you’d better pick it up. Noel: No, it was actually a bottle lid, it landed on a small boy’s face… Me: (Giggling) erm… I guess with celebs the smooth stone of their personas is created by the social encounters that flow over and round them every moment of their waking lives. I guess once you give up the idea that you’re ever going to be left alone, you can start having some fun… Or as Johnny Rotten put it when I asked if it was him:

It’s Farrrrrquharrrrr Farrrrrtybottom. I’m here, I’m ready, I’m free!

One day I’ll think of the perfect comebacks and I’ll ring the buggers up to tell them…

Me: You know that time you said that thing…

Them: No. Who are you?

Me: Well what you said was…Hello? Are you there? Come back, I know what to say now!

It seems I’m the Prince Regent of Comebacks.

So on second thoughts, I’ll take Tay’s advice and shake it off! 

James, Sharon and Taylor Too


Tuesday

Pal George, he of our regular man-dates, has got us all guest tickets to see his uncle, singer of 90s indie gods James. They are playing the Academy, supported by Echo & the Bunnymen, self-proclaimed Best Band in the World Ever.

When we get there at 8pm, they’ve already started.

“This is the best fucking song in the world,” slurs Ian McCulloch as the glissando first notes of The Killing Moon drizzle down our spines. The class of 1984 are here in force, filled out and worked over by time’s cruel bullying. But before we know it, the Echo has faded, leaving just some weird Kabbalah cursing in the toilets and a lake of tepid piss traversing the cubicles, looking for something 30 years too late.

James’ appearance on stage summons up unheard-of acts from men I would cross the street to avoid. In comparison, McCulloch’s lairy bravado was just a childish front, and now the soft underbelly of a thousand blokes can wobble in lovely sentimentality.

The only way I can see the stage is from the far corner of the balcony. Here, the floor shakes with drunken stomping, and tipsy men gyrate with 12 pint grins.

I eavesdrop a text convo between a fan and his absent wife (perks of being tall).

“Has he told you to sit down yet?”

“Nah. He’s played our album though, and some new ones what are good.”

Our album. Bless.

These hard men are united by soft anthems, as Tim Booth wiggles his metrosexual hips, a luminary in loon pants.

With Just Like Fred Astaire, (which he sang at George and Demi’s wedding), Tim walks among his people like Ben Kinglsey as Ghandi, a forest of arms sprout cameraphones along his path. He is their skinhead poet, their Singing Counsellor who listens while they softly weep of neglected boyhoods and the hard shell the world made them wear. This is Rimbaud, not Rambo, and the mad jesters of Madchester recite his poems with chest pounding love.

This is an armistice on machismo, a peace corp of men wearing flower t-shirts. Sit Down vs. The Killing Moon: I never thought such an anthem of domesticity and inaction would win devotion over such thrusting, masculine yearning, but tonight I glimpse my part in the phalanx of the phallus and it is just like everyone else’s.

“It’s weird”, Tim tells me afterwards, “but our fans are different everywhere we go. In Mexico, it’s teenagers; in Greece it’s 30 something women. And here it’s big blokes.”

As we leave, I make the mistake I always do, and try to pat Tim on the back and get some sort of friendly validation even we’ve only met once. He doesn’t turn round.

"When I open my eyes, I want you to be gone"

“When I open my eyes, I want you to be gone”

Wednesday

I’ve been referred to a Mindfulness course by my doctor. Mindfulness is like Buddhism, without the silly Buddha bit.

I manage to be 10 minutes late to the first one today.

There’s about eight of us here, and we all say our names, to ease the tension. It so happens that the two women either side of me are called Sharon. I can’t help myself.

“I’m in a Sharon sandwich!” I blurt out, leaning forward conspiratorially. Both Sharons stiffen in their seats.

Oh no.
After a few seconds of awkward silence, one of the women running the group forces out a chuckle and says,

“Ho Ho, well done!”

The Sharons start to relax again.

"Don't get fruity, Sharon."

“Don’t get fruity, Sharon.”

Thursday

I can’t stop thinking about a practical joke involving a rubber glove, with one finger smeared with Nutella. It would fall out of your victim’s bag at a crucial point, like an interview or first date.

They might lick it to prove it wasn’t poo, but that would be even worse.

"I always carry the essentials"

“I always carry the essentials”

Friday

Why do really camp men always look like their faces are in a wind tunnel?

Saturday

Summer is here. We’ve had 1.5 hours of sun and already the air is choked with BBQs, and a boy has cycled past me in a zebra onesie with a zebra face mask. He looked right at me, the face of something symbolic. No idea what.

"Look into my eyes. No around the eyes, into the eyes."

“Look into my eyes. No around the eyes, into the eyes.”

There’s a man in the pub. He’s so average. I wish I was average. He’s small, and cutely proportioned and he has a normal length neck. He is so healthy & taut that even the skin of his inner ear shines.

Monday

I’m off to interview funny Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams for Flux Magazine. His gallery are paying for me to go by train to his studio in Caernarvon. I’ve spent all week trying to come up with questions. I’m bricking it. I’ve tried to think of some really serious questions. And I’ve got my usual childish, inane ones that right now I am embarrassed of.

I have 20 minutes to get from one station to another in Warrington and I can’t resist going in a charity shop. Madonna is playing on the radio. I find a pair of big 70s sunglasses and try them on. About time for an Acid jazz revival, I tell myself. I get myself a red silk shirt too. When I get home later, I’ll realise that I was slightly delirious.

"Why ever not?"

“Why ever not?”

Bedwyr picks me up from Bangor station. Within seconds, I know the silly questions will work. He really reminds me of someone I used to know, but I can’t think who. Maybe this boy that we called Sexual Sam who played Thirteenth Floor Elevators on vinyl and I was sick in his garden after a bong.

Every so often as he’s driving, he turns to me with an impish Malcolm McDowell grin. We seem to get on pretty well. But then he tells me he’s already had people from The Times, Observer and Guardian to see him, with their witty anecdotes about famous people. All I have is a silly hat which I bought from Oxfam and now think was a bad idea. All the best material happens when we’re chatting on the way there and back- as soon as I turn on my Dictaphone, things go a bit stiff and formal.

But time flies and he drives me back to the station with only seconds to spare. “I’ll wait in case you miss the train,” he says, which means he gets to see my silly run where I have to pull my skinny jeans up every 3 steps of the way because my belt won’t work. Mine is the generation who can’t run anywhere.

Finally, on the train, I devour the pasta salad that I didn’t eat on the way in the hope that Bedwyr would feed me something interesting. I start reading the book of performance scripts that he gave me, and it makes me manically grin and choke on laughter, so I have to put it away. Still flush with the overfamiliarity of interview, I text him about laughing at his book, like he’s a drinking buddy.

He doesn’t reply.

Wednesday
The thought police have declared an armistice.

“Give up your most dangerous ideas,” they say, “and you’ll come to no harm.”

I can’t think of anything worth handing in.

Thursday
There’s a pair of gay ducks in the stream on my way to work. Sometimes a moorhen hangs out with them like a fag-hag.

I submitted a short story about Taylor Swift for discussion in my writing class tonight. It leads to the immortal line;

“You know the bit in your story that starts ‘She pushed me against the big tit…’?”

I may never beat this moment.

Friday
I’m so sick of walking Goldie in the park and hearing hundreds of birds who somehow manage to totter round the other side of branches when I look up. But I have a plan. If I can weaponize some rohypnol, I can fire a canister into the trees and take my time catching them in a net and ruffling their tummy feathers, before setting them back in their roosts.

I sit down on the grass for the first time this year, enjoying the sun
while Goldie eats grass like a sheep. I feel nostalgic, and remember when Russia used to be called CCCP. That was weird.

"Nyet! Not TCP, CCCP!"

“Nyet! Not TCP, CCCP!”