Pre-face… It suddenly occurred to me, as many things spuriously do, that I have a reputation to live up to. At least, a meagre one within the bounds of Trash City – let’s say the McLennan crowned King of High Weirdness.
Nominally, I don’t consider my exploits or persona weird in any way. True, at times, I remark on “how strange” recent events have been (1992-1997), or how “that person in the shop gave me a disturbed look as I walked past”. All things being relative, I think just about every other living being I chance upon is distinctly weird, a minor tremor of disconcerting reaction quivering through my mental ionosphere. I rarely analyse the circumstances I exist in, or the body blows and seductive caresses destiny deals me. I live pretty much from day to day, pausing only to discern some discernible linear structure in my world. This may be, of course, by examining a map, or taking a rough guess at which phase of the moon I’m in. Obviously, then I have to wait for nightfall to challenge my earlier celestial presumption. Usually, I am completely wrong, and if you were to see my glimmering face in the solar-neon-wash bouncing off a lurid full moon, you might think “Now there’s a man who looks confused”, expecting, as I was, to be staring heavenward at a pretty innocuous ‘first quarter’.
On to the chosen title of my latest piece. Luckily, for you, and for my organic psychosis, the previously mooted verbiage on Vomiting was never, well, spewed up. It could have been good, but we’ll never get to digest it.
‘Stitched Up’ is a passionate account of a sometime deranged flatmate, hospital insanity, film making, red-red kroovy and pigs trotters.
IN A CRAMPED STUDIO ROOM
Barnes north, suggesting itself to be a film crew, were four horrendously tired people. A camera lent crazily on insecure legs, teetering as we did, pointing in all directions, trying to follow just one. Midnight had slunk past like a junkie cat at the end of a fishing line, and everyone felt envious of the imagined sleeping masses around. The final shot in the short film – admittedly at my behest – was an explosion. I admit under questioning that I have a penchant for things that destruct amid brimstone and fire. For your benefit, I have included a copy of the storyboard in question [see fig. EXPLO #1. Minds are turning now, I feel your outcast mental processes shuddering – drug damaged neurons plaintively trying to connect with others – but there are no others! But one, lone neuron! Sorry, reading the psychiatrists report. You sick little monkeys – yes! Yes, I was injured! Wait, you gore fiends!]
That sketchy hand – my hand! It was my hand! That speaker? Fabricated, as was my future ‘reason for injury’ tale to interested parties. Even though it’s 2:29am, I am in a generous mood. I will provide a diagrammatic representation of the explosive used. I like to taste fear in my mouth, but not to have it piss down my throat. Therefore, I took safety precautions…….
- Crash Helmet! Good for deflecting flaming pieces of debris!
- Cardboard taped around waist. You never know!
- Bollock guard. Stuff me full of grapes, I forgot to bring one.
Spend two hours carefully placing the charge on a carefully angled metal plate, and very carefully placing both into a carefully constructed cavity. Carefully drill out sections of the wood sides of the speaker which aren’t in camera view, so as to hopefully manipulate the explosive force. Which will blow out the carefully positioned speaker cone, of course being held back at a distance of 0.14 inches by a carefully secured tension wire. The carefully weighted structure will ensure the desired energy transference, and a spectacular visual effect! Lovely!
Hmmmm! I smile when I think back. How cunning my plan was. How exacting my devious construction. How fucking perfectly it would all go. With the camera assistant crouched fearfully behind a bunch of boxes (“Don’t like loud bangs”), and the camera operator crouched fearfully behind that teetering camera, me stood bravely and without an ounce of pussy-whipped fear in his body before the awesome danger (alright, I was a little anxious) – Sarah, my sometime wild flatmate and director of said film, pushed the button.
At this juncture, it might be useful to tell you what that button was. Operating instructions on the explosive charge mention something about a pissing NINE VOLTS. I laughed with righteous scorn. Toys take 9 volts. Safety devices take nine volts. A glorious moment was not going to be born to a stubby-chunk of over-priced electro chemicals. No. I jacked the whole contraption straight into the mains. “There we go”, I grinned. “That will light a fire under it’s arse”.
Later, in hospital, I learned of regret. Two hours into NHS purgatory and mental insanity, I learned of hell. Charing Cross Hospital is a Mecca to the deranged. A terminally drunken, stinking woman in a wheelchair constantly shouting “Excuse me! excuse me!” to anyone that came near her, then “Where am I? What time is it?” OK, you take pity, you tell her what’s what. Not after two hours of the same monologue. You want to introduce her to a Remington 10 Gauge. Men walking into walls. Combat trained ants. Nodding cameras when you proffer your wound to its roving lens. Psychos. Crazies. The wounded, the dying. Sure, just like any New Cross pub – but when you’re in pain, sadistically denied any painkillers, blatant NHS travesties. One of many. At 2:30am, 2 hours after I had first limped thorough the foreboding doors, a meek and apologetic nurse emerged from the bowels of the protoplasmic hospital. “I’m very sorry, but we only have one doctor on at the moment. You’ll probably have to wait another two hours.” Spittle flecked my lips, but I was too tired for remonstration.
I went home. To nurse my sorrows and blast damaged arm. Familiar surroundings brought me to my senses. The next day, I found myself in St. Thomas’. Ah, yes. The sanctuary of a world famous hospital. As I checked in, at the incongruous reception for A&E, the outside doors nearby burst open and a stretcher was thrust in, hurried along by ambulance personnel and a few policemen, carrion like. The man on it didn’t look so good. In fact, somebody was heaving up and down frantically on his chest. For a fleeting second, I thought I was watching a staged theatrical version of Casualty. He disappeared with attendants through to the emergency ward. Minutes later, I laid eyes upon several despondent solemn faces as they emerged; another tragic loss. I had witnessed my first clinical death. The reality of the scene I had experienced hit home. With a lurching stomach, clutching at re-awakened mortality, I headed into the casualty to have my hand stitched up.
In a small cubicle. A small trolley laden with a practitioner’s tools was wheeled in by a disarmingly charming female doctor. I felt better already. “So, ” I started, “is it true you practice stitching on pigs skin?” She faltered for a moment, needle and local anaesthetic in hand, then replied “Yes. Well, on pig’s trotters actually.” She leant forward. “Sorry, but I have to inject this into the actual wound.” The length of steel ebbed into raw, open flesh. Hmmm. Fluid and blood leaked out like forced tears. Pain flooded into my cerebellum. Think of the pig, Andy, I reminded myself: Bacon, pork and post-mortem stitching practice. Some afterlife. Later, I carried myself home on the No. 88 to Clapham, nursing small plastic strands poking out from my hand. A small sacrifice for one’s art I believed, as I keyed my front door, and headed for the bed once more.
Wounds happen like chance meetings with disastrous consequences. Foolishly, I ratified the fact in my brain that this was the year’s quota of knotting together accidentally separated flesh. I can laugh now. How I can laugh. Not for the first time in my life, I was gravely mistaken. Playing with fire has always been my downfall – a spiritual hazard – my mind wanders back in time……..
A NIGHTCLUB! FREE VODKA! FREE BEER!
Am I dreaming some imagined paradise? No! It was real! A record label party. New toons, new faces. Acclimatise, listen without prejudice, fight the seething mass for another double Vodka. The top level of the Subterranea warms my soul, engages my emotive spirit. To drink, to forget, to enjoy, to have a bloody good time at someone else’s expense.
A certain tome by Milton ebbs into my consciousness. Sarah, sometime wild flatmate, something to do with that fire hazard I was talking about, was conspicuously drunk. Leaning strangely against the balcony railing, having left my misappropriated chatting up of a Chinese girl (boyfriend was there too – but, honestly, I didn’t mean anything – blah, blah, blah).
Suddenly, afore-mentioned flatmate cries my name; it registers in the dim void that is my consciousness Aaaa….. nnnnn…. dddd….. eeeee! The noise is lost in the inner tumult that is vodka drenched brain cells. She leaps on me. From behind. Charmed, I’m sure. My legs buckle, you can guess the rest. The scene, the moment of utter embarrassment, pain and loss of dignity – oh, how cruelly it is etched on my mind. The first points of contact with the floor, in order of descent: (a) chin (b) elbow (c) knee. None survived. My chin split open like (I want to say “ripe melon”, but besides being cliched, I have never imagined my chin as a large fruit) – like a rabbit’s side being hit by a Ford Granada doing 40 mph (how’s that?). I lay, dazed and confused, blood leaking around. Pain. Lots of pain. Staring at me was, amongst other people the manager of the record label who I had been talking to not 30 minutes earlier. I struggled to my feet, heavily concussed. I can’t remember the exact phrase hurled at Sarah, but she hurried off. I couldn’t see the wound, obviously. Hey, I’m a big man. Didn’t feel that bad.
The stares of horror I was getting seemed to contradict my diagnosis. I wobbled to the bar. The manager was concerned. The barman was concerned. “Christ, that’s really bad.” Shit. “Do you want a drink?” Yeah. Yeah, there’s a good idea. Goo dripped from my head. I knew what it must feel like to be hit by Tyson. Commiserations to the loser. “Vodka. Big vodka”. More vodka. The club manager had now appeared on the scene. Oh-my-God. The evening had turned well and truly sour. A medi-kit appeared, and I was ushered – supported – into the toilets. There, through an endorphin haze, I saw what had once been my chin. A fleshy, split beaver of a chin (well, it had to come, didn’t it?). I felt sick. A huge dressing was taped over. Thanking everyone, as you do, I had to make my way through the entire crowd, to the awaiting taxi.
Sarah came with me. Guess where we were going? Paddington Hospital. Enter. Triage nurse. Classification of injury. Sit down. Wait your turn. I knew the procedure. Meek, drunken apologies from my flatmate. Hmmm. Now, as you might be thinking, the madness must be coming to an end. Ha. Ha. Ha. Sitting to my left was Methadone Man. Junkie Man. Crazy fucking man.
“Alright mate. How did you get that?” I duly explained. “What are you in for, man?” I quizzed. He grinned and peeled back a suspicious dressing on his lower leg. I saw a festering hole in the muscle. “Heroin, man. Inject it, but can’t use any of the veins in my arms, or neck, ‘cos they’ve all collapsed….” – my stomach flipped – “so began injecting my cock.” What do you say? I merely nodded. “But that’s all fucked up, so I started on my leg. But as you can see……”. Jesus Christ. This is what they didn’t show you in ‘Trainspotting’. We chatted. Compared veins. That sort of thing. Still drunk, I found solace in personal amusement – as you have to. Even when he plopped a copy of The Guardian on my lap. A bleeding heart Liberal, eh? Underneath he told me, was a present. I looked. “100mg. of Methadone. Pharmaceutical. Don’t give it to your friend, because she’s drunk.” I didn’t understand. “Man, if she takes this when she’s drunk, she’ll die.” I clearly relived that scene from Pulp Fiction, and made a note absolutely not to give her any. Ever. “Ur, thanks.” I replied. “Something for a rainy day”, he grinned. “Great!”, I concluded.
Finally, I was in the work room. That room – with the stretcher, the overhead light rig, the surgeons tools. And with the gorgeous doctor. It works. It really works; the pain vanished before feminine radiance. I lay down. Putty. She placed one of those green surgical numbers on me. But over my head, with my mashed chin poking through a small rectangle! This is fucking ridiculous, I thought. “How did you get that?” she chirped. “Ah, urm, well, I was at this nightclub, and, well, free Vodka, and the girl I was with, well, she leapt on me, and, well, yeah, this is what happened.” We laughed together, until she jammed a thin bit of steel into my flesh. The smile vanished. 7 stitches later, I was uncovered like a medical display, fiddled with my new plastic stubble, and headed out into the night. I can shave properly now, just a small lump to remind me of that grim evening. But further bad karma-sutres lie ahead, I’m sure…
[Please, do not try and re-create any of these stunts at home, dear readers.
Remember, Andy Collins is a trained professional…]