Brief Encounter: 1

Brief EncountersBy Eamonn ‘The Budgie’ Keyes

Life generally moves itself along in a fairly humdrum fashion. Often a highlight will be nothing more than finding steak in Tesco’s out-of-date section, a tenner stuck down the side of the chair, or even that the hangover you’ve dreaded all night hasn’t materialised.

I’ve been equally blessed and cursed with finding myself in occasionally bizarre situations. Sometimes the rich and famous have been involved and sometimes it’s merely a very dangerous animal attempting to sample me.

I’ve come to accept these occasions as little gifts bestowed on me at random by the universe, and they’ve become tales to press onto weary strangers, like some modern Ancient Mariner.

These have become my Brief Encounters….

It was 1993, Nirvana and Metallica ruled the real music world, with Mr Blobby doing it for the kids and a Whitney Houston with more teeth would always love you, apparently.

I’d been asked to mentor a school band from Bangor, Northern Ireland in the National Panasonic Battle of The Bands contest. I worked hard with the 4 boys, all about 16, and they won the Irish heats, getting them through to the finals in London, which would be filmed for televising.

I was asked by the headmaster if I could accompany them and look after them. What could go wrong?

The final was in the Grand Theatre, Clapham, and after two days rehearsals and dress rehearsals, eyeing up the competition, the big night arrived.

Presenter on the night was Jools Holland, the judges were two members of Madness, DJ Tommy Vance, comedian Roland Rivron and, inexplicably, Joan Collin’s daughter, Tara Newley, not known for anything much.

With a couple of hours before the kick off, we were milling around the lobby when we were intercepted by recent celebrity Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edward, who was interviewing for Radio 5 Live, aided by a beautiful young blonde female producer.

 Eddie was utterly hapless, and the BBC, not knowing quite to do with him, were trying out something else he couldn’t do. After several excruciating interview attempts Eddie gave up, with his producer shouting at him, and suddenly, in full view of everyone, I had Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards crying on my shoulder, slumped and sobbing about how nobody liked him. I ended up sitting with my arm around him as he cried, the tears running off his sharp nose and weird little moustache whilst I lied about how great he was. Anything to get him to stop. Thankfully he eventually did.

It all went hazy from there. I’d been offered an as-yet-unopened bottle of Bushmills Single Malt for a fiver by the barman, and decided to drink it. The night went hazy, the band didn’t win, and we celebrated not winning in a fountain. In December.The only pleasant memory I was left with was being sick on the buffet just as Tara Newley got to it. That, as they say, is as Rock N Roll as it gets.

Brief EncountersEamonn ‘The Budgie’ Keyes is a new contributor to The Orkney News. Follow his Brief Encounters 


6 replies »

  1. “I’ve been equally blessed and cursed with finding myself in occasionally bizarre situations”

    That caught my eye in the general listings for ‘The Orkney News’ – of course it did.
    I know the feeling, Eamonn.
    It genuinely is a funny old world, and there are many, many situations where all you can do is say “There’s ‘nowt so queer as folk”, deal with what’s happening.
    Good to see another person contributing to ‘The Orkney News’.
    One thing – I can’t let a mention of someone shopping at Tesco go by without a Tesco rant, if only a minor one. They are A BAD THING, in so many ways – please, people, shop at the Co-op – please. Ethical trading – ethical shopping.

    “People still shop at Tesco
    Why? I really don’t know
    Tesco deceive, and they pressure
    Bad ethics without measure
    Some day – I hope they just GO.”

    And that’s keeping it as short as possible!
    On a lighter note – Mike just got back from Glasgow where he stayed in a super-trendy, very modern hotel, where everything was worked from an iPad. It would make a good episode for a sit-com – blinds going up and down and up and down, lights doing weird ‘mood’ things when he just wanted to switch them off ( or on). Makes life interesting, but can be infuriating when you’re not a young hipster – you are, in fact, a ‘country mouse’, middle-aged academic who just wants to get to sleep!

  2. Witter, witter – and then I’ll go away – you’ll find I have a habit of hi-jacking interesting blogs and pieces written by other people………….
    This is a letter I wrote to ‘The Orcadian’ – 3.4.2008. It says much of how I feel about Tesco, and why.
    Mutter, mutter, mutter.

    “Dear Editor
    So Orkney is to get a Tesco store, not surprising, as, “whatever Tesco wants, Tesco gets”. Here’s a vision of the future, and when it happens, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
    Tesco, as a supermarket, are HUGE, so they can afford to under-cut smaller shops on prices. Not all the small shops will shut, as, those in remote areas are still needed for convenience, but, will shops which are presently independent become Tesco Express stores, thereby limiting the choice of goods available and dictating terms and conditions to the shop-keepers? ( Did anyone see the episode of ‘Still Game’ where the local shop was taken over?). And what about the Tesco petrol station? If asked, the Tesco bosses would say that there are no plans, at the moment, for a petrol station, as there are no plans “at the moment” to extend the present Somerfield store when Tesco take over. But, it’s sure to happen. Again, the Tesco petrol station will be able to afford to under-cut prices. The public’s initial response will be “good, cheaper petrol”, but, what about when the smaller petrol stations close, your car is running out of petrol way down on South Ronaldsay, and the only place you can buy petrol is in Tescos, Kirkwall?
    Why am I so against Tesco? Because I used to live in Suffolk, near Lowestoft, and saw what happened there. The small shops (and Post Offices!) shut down or were taken over, usually, they shut down. The only ‘choice’ to be had, was what Tesco chose to offer! The customer doesn’t matter, what matters is what’s convenient for Tesco, and what makes a profit for their share-holders. The customer in Tesco tends to be seen as something to be processed and out of the door as quickly as possible. I resented the fact that Tesco was my only option when I lived in Lowestoft, and I’ll resent it again when it rears its ugly head in Kirkwall.
    This could be seen as one of those letters from someone who has come to live in Orkney as a kind-of fairy-land, where the realities of shopping don’t come into it. A chocolate-box picture of cute little shops with a rosy-cheeked lady behind the counter. That isn’t the case. The simple fact is, I’ve seen what Tesco can do to the economy of an area, and also, they’re just too big and profit is God to them. They say that they will be looking to source local produce, but Tesco are infamous for dictating impossible terms to farmers both on prices and size and shape of produce, again, leaving the farmers with no choice but to knuckle under to Tesco. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”.
    Keep this letter, and see what’s happened in five years’ time.

    Yours faithfully

    By the way – the Somerfield store which I mention, after being taken over by Tesco, was suddenly deemed to be unfit for use and was knocked down and replaced by a HUGE Tesco. Selling clothes, electrical goods, etc. etc. as well as food. Well, well, well.

    • I’m more of a Lidl man myself, Bernie.
      The low GI cob being the greatest bread since a Neolithic farmer decided to throw a load of seeds into the ground. I agree with most of what you wrote, but I also reserve the right to use Tesco in analogies, similes and metaphors.
      In the same way, saying someone is as drunk as a lord doesn’t imply support for the aristocracy.

  3. Fair enough. And, yes, folk do use ‘Tesco’ as a generic supermarket name, in comedy, stories etc. I see that as free publicity for the ********. I just, honestly, simply, can’t let a reference to someone shopping at Tesco, go by me without a rant – either major or minor. My friends have all heard it all before – some took notice and actually don’t shop there now! Some agreed, but, laziness means they still shop at Tesco.
    I do go on about things, maybe that’s why I don’t have many friends, and those I have tend to be as odd as I am.
    My husband says I’m like a terrier with a stick, once I get something in my head. And he’s right!
    Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Grrrrrrrrrrrrr

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