Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Take a Strip Down Memory Lane...

The whole world is turning into one big, depressing place. You turn on the news, open a newspaper, flick through the internet and its all war, pestilence and famine.

The biggest stories seem to involve this new threat, the IS (Islamic State militants). To most people they have popped up out of nowhere to ruin people’s lives and bring on the next global terror threat. However, it’s not new to me. The Islamic fundamentalists ruined my life some time ago…

Growing up there are key moments in a boy’s life that stand out, maybe made a difference, changed who you are or formed an opinion that has stayed with you for the rest of your life.

There are also moments that stand the test of time that you remember forever. This is especially true when it comes to sex, women and various other taboo subjects like finding your Dad’s porn collection (on VHS, all grainy from the 70s) and making sure you rewind to the exact spot you started it on!

The times as a teen where you are too old to play kiss catch, but too young to go sample the fruits of a local pub with real women is a time of much frustration. So sneaking into pubs at 15 was always an adventure. And it was easier and much more relaxed back then than it is now.

People with fake pub IDs ("You sure you’re called Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, born 22nd May 1859?!?!") and landlords who would turn a blind eye as long as their quiet pub was taking in some cold, hard cash…

One such occasion when I was 15, on the cusp of 16, and I’d snuck to the pub as usual on a Friday night ("Mum, am sleeping at my mate’s house…. See ya tomorrow") with my mates, only to be greeted by my Dad and his mate! Busted…

Or maybe not…

As it turns out and am sure everyone has heard this, I was doing nothing he didn’t do when he was a young man. And as long as I was sensible about it and kept out of trouble where was the harm.

It was that same evening, feeling like a young adult, that my Dad and his mate took us to a small strip club in the town centre known as Belle Vue… It was like a rite of passage, father passing on the torch to his eldest.

So along with two mates I went along to this new experience. Excited and nervous, but trying to keep a cool persona about me…

I was about to see ladies take their clothes off, FOR REAL!!!

As I stood waiting to get in, bricking it in case they didn’t believe I was Arthur, I could hear cheers and music playing. Then it was our go to be ushered in after paying a whopping 70p! What can you get for 70p nowadays really? Back in the 90’s it got you naked women!!

We went to the bar ("Pint of ale please, good bartender…"), then took our seats stage side as the lights dimmed (They switched the big light off!)…

Obviously back then these young women were the stuff a teenage boy dreams of, but thinking back now I’m not sure all of them were even born women! (I jest, honest!).

The fantasy of it at the time was this gentleman’s club, a classy joint, the kind you see in gangster films. You know the type, sharp suits drinking posh cocktails and sultry looking women performing exotic dances in a romantic haze of cigar smoke… The truth of it though was you stuck to the floor (god I hope that’s just alcohol!), in a run down pub that served real ale for £1.20 a pint, pork pie and gravy for another £1.10 and you were surrounded by dirty old pervs in 3 day old clothes, dribbling from their toothless mouths at these women who just pitied their audience in order to make some money.

Regardless of the surroundings and the peeling 70’s d├ęcor, that night will be one of those that you always remember, a snapshot in your life. Although I don’t think that last blonde on stage that night was really christened Portia…

The group I was in kept going for the next few months, it became our Friday night ritual. People in school would hear of our adventures and for a brief time people seemed in awe (mainly the lads of course). Again, maybe that’s just the whole hazy fantasy of teenage-hood glossing over the actual look of scorn we got.

We became part of the furniture for a brief time, always sitting at the same table, getting to know the owner and the DJ very well, as well as a few of the locals. We even played pool in between dances, with the strippers and their boyfriends!

Then as quickly as this adventure started it came to an abrupt end…

The usual Friday night, local pub then taxi to Belle Vue, was on the cards. All dressed up and smelling good to hit the town… well, new Reebok jumper and the now sickening smell of Joop that is (a must for all 90’s teenage boys).

Then our small insignificant world came crashing down around us…

70p in hand I walked the steps all cock sure, a million miles away from that first time I entered the building. I strode in expecting to be greeted by the owner and the bar staff only to be faced by 20 Muslims praying together!!

Where was the DJ? Where was Portia?? Why didn’t I stick to the floor anymore?!?!?
We were ushered out quickly and brought to a sign on the door that stated our Belle Vue, our beloved venue of Friday night fodder, was now an Islamic Fundamental Centre!!!

That was the moment when I should have realised the threat now apparent in the present day, was a clear and present danger back then! First the Belle Vue… next stop… The World!!!

I feel that was the first time my little heart experienced anything like heart break. The relationship between young man and strip bar had come to a sudden and dramatic end. It was time to move on.

And as all teenage boys do, we did move on, we moved onto the next adventure, but nothing ever captured that initial wonder of those early Belle Vue days… Innocence was long gone.

Suddenly, watching the news these days, the cold realisation of what I saw all those years back, the early impending signs, the visions of desperation and horror going on… The great threat hanging over us, no in fact the promise that was very much real, was that I will never, ever get into a strip club again for only 70p!!

Oh and the threat of IS. Twats!