I stuck two fingers up at 126 people the other night. I was in Liverpool, on a stage, being heckled by drunk Scousers.
Their heckles were simultaneously funny and disturbing. They were comparing me to Bamber Gascoigne and laughing at their own wit. So I made like the Scousers and gave them ‘the rods’.
When my two fingers shot up, I expected a boo. I thought they’d go ‘gerr off’, then shake their hands up and down like Bill and Ben flower puppets, the way Scousers do. I thought the more-drunk among them might storm the stage and whack me.
Such is my febrile imagination. They didn’t, they loved it. There was a big cheer. Liverpool and I bonded in the moment that I stuck two fingers up at them. How strange. God bless Scouse.
‘The rods’ are my ninja gun. They are my go-to weapon in moments of extreme anxiety. They are my ‘in-case-of-emergency-break-glass’ tool.
They elicit different responses in different circumstances. On one occasion they might as well have been a ninja gun that I pointed directly at my feet, before pulling the trigger. This is what happened. I was driving to West Brom to see a then-girlfriend.
Pretty much all of my stories start with: ‘I was going to see a girlfriend, when….’, you know, the way most blokes’ stories start with: ‘I was down the pub, when….’ It’s been that sort of life.
Anyway. On my journey through to the Charlemont estate, two big fellas in a Ford Sierra stopped quickly at a newsagents on Hall Green Road. I broke sharply, my inner monologue swore, then I wound down the window of my yellow Mini Clubman and gave them the rods before whistling past.
What followed still leaves me a little shaky.
The two blokes – you know the sort, necks as wide as a rottweiler’s belly, tattoos on their eyes (ok, I lied about that bit, but it wouldn’t have surprised me) – jumped back in the car.
In car Top Trumps, Sierra always beats Mini.
I watched them in my rear view mirror, fear rising in me like water in a flood. Even from that distance, their intentions were pretty clear. I swung a left, into Friar Park, though why I thought that was a good idea still mystifies me. Then I swung a right, into a street to hide.
After a minute, I no longer needed to use my rear view mirror. I could hear them bearing down on me. So I did what I’ve seen people do in the movies. I rolled to a stop. The fellas drew alongside me, ready to get out of their car and, ahem, remonstrate. You can, of course, substitute the word remonstrate for kick the hell out of me.
I waited for a moment, my heart pounding like a snare drum, the taste of metallic fear filling my mouth. Then I cranked my little old Mini into reverse and screeched up the road backwards – being careful not to break the 30mph speed limit, or drive in a way that could be construed as careless, should any policemen be reading. I did a reverse three-point turn and vamooshed into the night.
When I arrived at my then-girlfriend’s, she was puzzled. “You’re a bit late,” she said, miffed at my lack of punctuality.
You can guess what gesture I gave her.
And if any of you lot call me Bamber, I’ll do the same to you.