Memory – All Alone in The Moonlight !

As Paul sat on a hot day in southern Spain dreaming of his next foreign adventure, a random Facebook post by a friend had made him instead  harken back to a time he’d put far aside!

His time as a ‘resting’ actor in London.

It had come in intervals, much like his theatre work.

At times it seemed, to him at least, as though some of those intermissions were as long as the entire Musical! Some kind of employ was eventually always a necessity,  and so Paul took on a horrible number of jobs to make end’s meet! On his first bout of unemployment his end was definitely met, as he took a gig as a ‘Life model’, in a posh house in Chiswick .He knew it sounded better described that way. Yet he suspected it probably had a touch of the ‘glamour’ world about it, wrapped up in some arty shite.

But then again it did pay 25 quid.

And he wasn’t shy!

After his first session he was semi-sure he’d been right about the porno element. There was too many an artist trying to finger his sponge finger mid custard-cream during the tea-break! It was hardly the renaissance – but almost the start of something.  He had, however, noticed some of them could actually paint. So he stayed on posing for some weeks longer.

He had then been offered a role in ‘A Christmas Carol’ at a terribly auspicious repertory theatre in North Wales. Paul thought the whole thing an anomaly, a decent theatre in the middle of nowhere,  but went along with his agent when she assured him he had a twenty-minute scene with Ebenezer Scrooge as the piece’s finale.

It was only whilst suffering three shows a day, staying in a very bleak house, outside a shithole called ‘Mould'(or something like that!), that Paul realised he longed for ‘unemployment’ again.  His lauded ‘big scene’ between him and the star of the show, had seen him draped from head to foot in a heavy black blanket and a Darth Vader mask, as he pointed a gloved finger to various plastic grave stones. He was nothing more than the ghost of the future.

No number.

No lines.

No face.

Not even his own fucking fingers!

It had not been his favourite time treading the boards – in fact, he’d grown quite bored of treading them.

His next ‘resting’ job was the one that had started his reverie. His employment as a rider of a ‘Monkey Bike’. His job was drive the motorcycle to  pissed-up posh folk, take it apart, stow it in their boot  and return the  drunk people home in their expensive motors.

It had been a dreadful idea from the start. But Paul had practically grown up on a moped, and despite a couple of gashes here and there, had not come off that badly.

Well, maybe once!

So he was ready for a challenge – especially after having just survived as a deathly spirit for three months. He longed to feel alive.

He was trained in a scrapyard in north Clapham for half a day. He was taught how to take the motorbike apart in three minutes, store it in the boot of the car one was to drive, then unpack it and re-assemble after having dropped off one’s merry crew.

It had all seemed kind of simple to Paul at the time. Besides, he and Andrew needed the cash. They were certainly not able to survive on his partner’s shitty  ‘West End’ wage — despite him playing one of the lead roles.  It never ceased to amaze Paul that despite getting to the top of one’s profession the wage never merited the experience one brought, unless you’d appeared in ‘The Bill’ or ‘Casualty’. It had been one of the reasons he’s decided to abscond from that world.

That and ‘Monkey Bikes’!

The company had promised Paul that he would not be called on until he had time to familiarise himself with his machine.  He rode stiffly back home, dwarfing the tiny motorbike with his gangly limbs. Andrew laughed hard as he saw him pull up outside their flat.  They both found it amusing, but Paul suspected Andrew was secretly a little impressed that he was giving it a go. After all, the traffic in ‘sarf’ London was somewhat notorious.

Paul sat familiarising himself with the bike’s manual as Andrew devoured some shit television. It was his one night off — the rest of the time he was at work. The theatre was unforgiving in that respect as well.

The phone rang. They still did back then. Paul answered with trepidation, he already knew who it was….

He was given an address near Battersea Bridge from he was to pick up a drunken crowd in their huge car and take them to somewhere near Kingston.  Paul knew he couldn’t refuse — the job would be over.

‘On my  way’ he said in his butchest biker tone.  He went downstairs and mounted the pygmy machine with as much aplomb as he could muster and pootled off down the road. He turned to look at Andrew briefly, but his over-tight helmet and the look of terrified amusement on Andrew’s face made him turn back swiftly to the road.

Half an hour later he had taken the bike apart and stashed it in the boot of the client’s very, very expensive car. His passengers were wasted, yet charming, and driving them ten miles down the A3 had been the easy part. Especially as they had tipped him three times more than he was going to earn.  The difficult moment had come three hours later when Paul was still attempting to fix the shitty thing together in a pitch black lane outside Surbiton! He had no mobile — no-one did then. Apart from wankers with briefcase-size penis extensions and much too much to spend.

He was alone.

Just him; a wrench; and a ‘Monkey Bike’ in five pieces! And he was certain it was meant to be just three. Wasn’t it?

Finally he’d got it into a shape that looked rideable. Even bike-able! He had owned a ‘Mechano’ set after all – his paranoid father had insisted on that.  But he knew the machine neither looked or felt entirely how he’d been shown the previous afternoon.

He turned the ignition and the machine lurched forward, to Paul’s surprise it continued going, and soon he was on the busy dual carriageway known as the A3 – on his way back into town. His only concern, as he glanced at the handlebars, was that they were turned more towards Londonderry than London.

‘Mechano’ had never been his forte!

He rode with confidence. Adjusting all the way – turning left wasn’t easy, but then it never had been! Eventually he made it back to the depot. With all five pieces of the bike and most of himself intact.

Inside – he’d crashed.

Get me back to stage he thought – before I end up in a different kind of theatre!

When he got home to Andrew, who had waited up nervously, he was amused to see that his partner was more scared than himself.

‘I think I’ll get it babe’ Paul said,’eventually’.  He then told Andrew of his experience on the A3.

‘No darl,’ Andrew answered, ‘I don’t want you doing that. It’s too bloody dangerous. Tell them tomorrow you’ve finished.’

Paul reluctantly did as his partner suggested.

It had been a good move.

Just under a week later one of the guys who had undertaken the ‘training’ alongside Paul, came off his bike and suffered severe brain damage. The company lasted just another month. They realised one could not simply pay peanuts – for that, all you got was monkeys.

And it certainly required more than one of those to take apart and re-assemble a ‘Monkey-Bike’ all alone in the moonlight. Especially on one’s first gig! Paul had found it much easier to point at gravestones!

He knew he’d had a lucky escape. But he’d had a go. Even with no great expectations. So he felt a little brave.

A few weeks later he got a job with ‘Lionel Bart’, the genius that produced ‘Oliver’! It was only a three week workshop. Oh well, but it was still back to the boards and off the wheels.

So Paul thought, ‘What the Dickens!’ Let’s go for the ride. And there won’t be time to get bored!

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Categories: The Lola Boys

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