I heard The Killing of Georgie by Rod Stewart on the radio this morning. It threw back me into a time and place as cleanly if I’d just been shown a Polaroid of myself as seventeen year old.
When I was at catering school I used to work part-time as a waiter in a restaurant called the Old Vicarage. The place was a family run affair near a moor in Stoke; it was a slightly untypical kind of family in that the father was colourfully out of the closet but on the other hand he still lived with his wife and kids (four school aged boys). She was head chef; he ran the front of house. The eldest two boys used to help out. Jezzer, the second born, about fourteen and a kung-fu expert, assisted in the kitchen and would occasionally call his dad a fucking gay twat when he came in to harass the staff (ie his wife and child) about late orders and tables that had been waiting for half-a-fucking-hour. The gay twat, let’s call him P, took his son’s commentary pretty well by saying he supposed it was all that he deserved to have spawned a horrible little homophobe such as the one that stood before him slamming a grilled half grapefruit with a cherry in the middle and a slice of chicken liver pate down onto ‘the pass’.
When service was over P used to chill in the bar and regale those waiting staff who hung about in the hope of receiving free whisky (me) with his stories while playing the same record over and over again, Rod Stewart’s A Night on the Town, which contains that Killing of Georgie track. P was David Gower-like to look at, slight and dapper, with John Lennon specs and sometimes the addition of a neckerchief cravat tied like chefs used to tie theirs. I guess he was the first Bohemian I ever encountered and I liked him a lot. His wife was a bit of a dragon, but she had a lot to be a dragon about and in her quiet moments I would sometimes notice her doing the Guardian crossword and looking sorry for herself I would feel sad for her. P used to drive me home after the whiskies and the Rod, never forgetting to emphasise that he was on his way to ‘the club.’ One night he persuaded me to go to ‘the club’ with him; I knew what it was going to be, but I was still pretty taken aback. To disguise its actual business, from the outside it looked like a warehouse (I think it was called the one-to-one, or, more likely, I suppose, the 1-2-1). Once I was on the inside (long dark corridor, two sets of security checks) I was in another world. I had never seen anything like the clientelle, not in a film, and most certainly not in real life: downtown Manhattan YMCA meets Stoke pork butcher. They would have given drag queens nightmares; after a while, as my terrors subsided slightly, I got to wondering this – where did these people live in the daytime, and how had they got from wherever that was to here alive.