Eviscerated Panda - Chapter 2

By Sarah Tipper

We thought, let's try something new. Something different. Over the next issues of Metal On Loud, we will publish a chapter out of Sarah Tipper's "Eviscerated Panda - A Metal Tale" book, making this our very own literary mini series! Last month we presented you chapter 1, enjoy chapter 2 in this issue!

Chapter Two

 

In which the Pandas play gigs in Reading and Swindon and have a barbecue sleepover party.

 

The Pandas were playing a headline gig on Saturday night in the Edge Bar and it was Nick’s birthday. It had been three weeks since their first gig and they had practised enthusiastically in Phil’s basement every week since, anticipating eagerly the next time they would be on stage. They had promoted tonight’s gig much more extensively than they had promoted their first gig.

Saturday was their preferred night of the week for playing as it pretty much guaranteed a large audience. Phil was trying to steer the Pandas away from doing things that hadn’t worked well for his previous band, Nightshade Milkshake. He’d found that Friday and Saturday gigs were always the best attended, not surprisingly, and that gigs on a Monday night could result in a very low turnout. He had played to an audience of seven people before and it wasn’t a great feeling. One of the seven had been the barman and five had been friends and partners of the band. The seventh and some might say only genuine audience member was a sales rep called Reggie who was hoping for a quiet pint and had left after two songs. Phil was going to try to ensure that that didn’t happen to the Pandas. He’d heard that Nightshade Milkshake had reformed without him or the drummer and were playing dates in Newbury and Swindon. Phil felt he’d been the prime mover in the Shakes and that he now fulfilled this role in the Pandas.

They had printed flyers as soon as the date was set and left them in the Edge Bar, The Right Note and in the Green Man. Jenni had emailed the Rock Society at the University of Reading and put posters on university noticeboards although because it was exam time she wasn’t hopeful it would help much. She’d noticed there were mostly only permanent staff and a small number of language students there to read them. Phil had emailed her to thank her profusely. He’d written; I’m sure any guys you’ve invited will come along if they know you’ll be there. The Pandas and their friends had invited everyone they knew and anyone they saw around town in a metal T-shirt.

Phil had been busy making a basic website for the band. He was planning to add to it over the coming months with gig dates and photos. They had spent many an evening in the Green Man recently, plotting their rise to fame, fortune and critical acclaim. Each week they thought of more places they’d like to play and more strategies to get themselves noticed. They had also begun to plan recording a demo and were looking into local studios and deciding which of their tracks they would record. Phil had set up a mailing list which had three hundred names on so far. He was happy to put the hours in to help the Panda’s cause. They were lucky to have him, he thought.

Phil had emailed Jenni the day after the first gig to thank her for the photos she’d taken at the first gig and that he’d put some of them on the website. Jenni had thought that they weren’t very good. She had asked Carl, a good friend of hers from work who was a keen photographer and liked rock music to come and take photos this time. Phil’s email said they should get some photos of Jenni and Cleo in something revealing next time as they were much prettier than the band and it would help get traffic to the web site. Jenni had emailed back to say taking photos was no trouble and hadn’t replied to the bit about photos of her and Cleo, there being no appropriate response. If she said ‘yes they should’ she thought it sounded compliant and perhaps arrogant and if she said ‘no’ it sounded disagreeable. She’d shown the email to Cleo who said childishly

Oooooh! He wants you to be his web-based honey trap in skimpy panties’.

And you, he wants both of us’. Jenni replied.

What do you think of him really?’

I don’t know. He’s mostly polite and he looks okay for his age but he’s also a bit weird’.

Phil had been clumsily flirting but as he spent more time working from home with ever more frequent breaks to watch pornography he was losing his ability to make women feel comfortable around him along with his ability to appear charming and slightly naughty in an intriguing way.

Phil had recently resolved to limit his porn viewing and to meet real women. He’d been flicking through the TV channels recently and a feature on ‘This Morning’ about porn addiction had caught his attention. As the presenter read a checklist of the signs to watch out for Phil mentally ticked all the boxes in his head. Funny, he thought to himself, I thought it was going to be the booze I got addicted to.

Phil had stopped smoking when he hit thirty and he didn’t do any other drugs, except alcohol. He’d dabbled in his youth but seen people around him get messed up fast. Those that didn’t get messed up fast he had noticed getting boring and slow-witted with regular drug use. He saw himself as an industrious go-getter and preferred to keep a mostly clear head. His escapism of choice was sex. He’d read once that Socrates said the male libido was like being chained to a lunatic. I hear you, my Ancient Greek brother, he’d thought.

All of the Pandas were fairly clean-living. Nick was the only one who smoked and then only at weekends. But they all enjoyed a pint which helped band cohesion considerably. Right now they all felt part of something exciting. None of them had tried to count the hours they spent practising or thinking about the band in other ways, it had just become part of them all. For Phil being in a band was not a hobby, it was a way of life and he was keen to indoctrinate Nick and Ian with this viewpoint. Jim he found unambitious and didn’t bother talking to about his big plans. Paul, he thought, already agreed with him that the Pandas were the most important thing in their future.

Ian spent a lot of time looking at the Panda’s website. He was the second most computer literate member of the Pandas, after Phil. It had a front page on which Phil intended to put band news. There were five tabs on this front page. Firstly there was the ‘Live’ tab for tour dates, this was a bit sparse at the moment but Phil hoped that bookings would soon be flooding in. The next tab was ‘Biography’, this contained a paragraph about each of the band individually and a couple of paragraphs about how they got together and what their influences were. This section ended with their aim of playing great original music and having a good time all of the time. Next there was a tab called ‘Photos’. Phil hoped this would soon be full of photos of him looking desirable and women would be emailing hoping to hook up. Next was ‘Music’. There was just a live version of ‘Metal Fix’ on here at the moment. The final tab was ‘Contact’ which allowed promoters or anyone who desired to get in touch. It also had a link to sign up to the mailing list.

Phil wanted the website to be simple and to look professional. For promoters who he didn’t know personally it would provide their first impression of Eviscerated Panda. Before he made it live he asked Ian to try out all the links and proof read it. Ian felt important, being given this task. This was one of those non-glamorous parts of being in a band that less experienced personnel often overlooked but Ian was glad to do it. Phil indulged in day dreaming about having a personal assistant to do all this for them in the future. He decided the next step was to get some tracks recorded and available on the web. He was channelling Dave Mustaine and he wanted to run the Pandas with an iron fist.

All of the Pandas seemed to have developed more confidence since their first gig, even Jim. He and Suzy were getting on better than usual and Suzy was trying her hardest to keep a (heavily mascaraed) lid on her wandering eyes. Jim was trying his hardest to be exciting, including role playing rock star and groupie to keep her happy in the bedroom. He couldn’t really see the point of role play, the sex felt the same to him whether he pretended Suzy was a groupie he’d just met or whether he had sex with her in her usual and actual role as his girlfriend. He didn’t know if it was women he didn’t understand or just Suzy. He found it easiest to reduce any situation to one of mechanics, where he was competent and sure of himself, but if he asked Suzy if he could look under her bonnet or check her oil with his dipstick she got cross and bemoaned his lack of romance. Jim felt like he couldn’t win sometimes. Suzy liked a man to be an animal in the bedroom. Unfortunately Jim was often a sloth.

 

What time shall we go to the Edge bar?’ Cleo asked Jenni.

Let’s go at nine, I said I’d meet Carl about then’.

Is he hot?’

I’ve never thought about it, I try not to get distracted at work. If you’ve got a pipette full of something and you need to squirt all of it neatly into one of ninety-six available holes it’s best to stay focused’.

It’s different in biscuits. In biscuits you can let your mind wander. Would I think he was hot?’

Unlikely, he’s not metal enough for your discerning tastes’.

Cleo and Jenni were in the Green Man, planning to wander over to the Edge Bar after all the dull moving gear about and sound checking had been done. They were well aware that a lot of work went into the forty-five minutes or so that the Pandas were on stage but didn’t feel they needed to witness it. They were happy to turn up and admire the finished product, all loud and shiny. Nick and Ian came into the Green Man after they’d set up to try and drum up some extra audience.

You may honour me with birthday drinks and kisses’. Nick said.

Jenni got up and hugged and kissed Nick and then Ian.

Cleo went to the bar and bought Nick a birthday pint, Ian a good luck pint and Jenni a you’re my best mate Jack Daniels and Coke. Then she and Jenni gave Nick a big thick lined notebook they had bought for him as a birthday gift. It had a skull print cover.

Nick had mentioned that he preferred to write lyrics on paper rather than on a computer. They had written ‘Happy Birthday Nick’ in blood drippy red writing with a felt pen in the front of the book. On the next page they had written a list of words to put in metal lyrics and a list of words that shouldn’t be in metal lyrics.

Their list of words to include were; heavy, loud, war, death, demon, revenge, entrails, hate, darkness, conflict, fight, fear, pain, battle, blood, shadow, midnight and evil.

Their list of inappropriate words were; cushion, Alan Titchmarsh, guinea-pig, lollipop, tiramisu, butterfly, mortgage, daffodil, yoga, sunshine, tickle, sandals, flamingo, mankini and puppy.

They had added the foot note that there are exceptions, for instance Spinal Tap’s ‘Big Bottom’ featured the lyric ‘The bigger the cushion, the sweeter the pushin’. On the next page they had noted that Nick shared his birthday with Tom Jones but had he been born two days later would have had the same birthday as Les Paul and Johnny Depp.

The final page Jenni and Cleo had written on asked five questions. They were big questions, of the sort best thought about slowly and perhaps with a drink;

Where do you want Eviscerated Panda to be in a year?

Where do you want Eviscerated Panda to be in two years?

Where do you want Eviscerated Panda to be in five years?

Where do you want Eviscerated Panda to be in ten years?

Where do you want Eviscerated Panda to be in twenty years?

Ian smiled at this. It was adapted from an assignment he, Jenni and Cleo had done in English class at school. They had been aged fifteen and labouring under the frazzled but well-meaning tutelage of Miss Wallace.

Miss Wallace was a good teacher but too sensitive for their school. She had once left the room crying when the class wouldn’t be quiet. She had looked really pale and sickly all the time, like a thirteen year old who had just got her period. She had told the class to spend half an hour in silence, writing down where they thought they would be in the future. She told them they should write whatever they wanted and that they would not be asked to share this exercise with the class unless they wanted to.

Unbeknown to her class, Miss Wallace was trying to prepare them for the careers interviews they would soon have. She had no faith whatsoever in the school’s careers advisor. He had already written off the vast majority of the students as ne’er do wells, thickies and layabouts. He steered them in directions that were easy for him to administrate, such as staying on in the school sixth form and having work experience in places he already had links with. This was mostly shops and factories. Any youthful exuberance for a different path was soon thwarted. He was a discourager of tentative lofty ideas and sometimes a crusher of dreams.

The young Cleo had written;

In one year I’ll be sixteen. I will be old enough to legally leave school, to leave home, to buy cigarettes and to have sexual intercourse.

She suppressed a snicker at this and showed it to Jenni who sat next to her.

And what else? She gave it some thought and tried to fast forward one year in her mind. It wasn’t a great mental picture. Her Dad would still be dead. Her Mum Peggy would still be prone to irrational tantrums followed by periods of emotional flatness. She tried to think of something better, some beacon of hope.

I hope I’ll have seen Alice Cooper in concert, she wrote.

She gave some thought to two years into the future and wrote;

In two years I’ll be doing A levels. I want to take English Literature, Sociology and Psychology. I will be almost old enough to buy alcohol.

Peggy didn’t care if Cleo stayed on at school or not. Peggy didn’t really value education having received a poor one herself, all needlework, typing and cooking, none of which she had either enjoyed or been good at. The lack of pressure and her ability to do well in most subjects meant that Cleo was doing well at school and she liked the idea of staying on. Also Jenni was staying on. Jenni’s parents valued education highly and encouraged Jenni to try hard. They had even considered moving her to a better school but had decided not to as she was so settled.

Cleo thought ahead five years. She struggled to imagine the passage of five years. Five years ago she had only been ten and her ambition would have been to have collected all of the Care Bears. She took a mental leap into her future and wrote;

In five years I’ll be working in a shop like my Mum did and I’ll have left home.

In ten years I’ll probably be married and have children.

Cleo didn’t write anything for in twenty years. There was blank space on the page and in her head. She would be thirty-five years old and she couldn’t see that far.

Jenni’s pen had flown across the page, swiftly and optimistically mapping her life out.

In one year I will have passed all my GCSEs and I’ll have my nose pierced, she wrote.

Her parents had agreed that if she got five A grades at GCSE she could have her first piercing provided it was only her nose.

In two years I’ll be doing Biology, Chemistry and Maths A levels, I will have purple hair, a leather mini skirt and have seen The Sisters of Mercy.

Jenni’s Mum, Pam, had recently refused to spend fifty pounds on a black leather skirt Jenni had wanted. Usually Pam gave in to clothing requests but this time she was digging her heels in. Pam’s actual heels were shorter by far than Jenni’s four inch patent leather stiletto heels she’d bought in a charity shop. Pam had forbidden her from wearing them and Jenni was respecting this. Pam was pleased but didn’t realise that it was because Jenni had found she couldn’t walk in them for more than five minutes without her ankles beginning to shake and her feet feeling really uncomfortable.

In five years I will have a Biology degree.

In ten years I’ll be a scientist and will research and cure heart disease.

In twenty years I’ll get married and have children but still do all the things I want to. I will take my children to Glastonbury.

She put her pen down, not needing to add anything more. For a fifteen year old she had a crystal clear idea of what she wanted. She had added the heart disease research because Cleo’s Dad’s death had not surprisingly affected her too. She had felt powerless to do anything to help her friend and this would be her way of helping, deferred to a date in the future when she’d gained the skills to do something practical about it.

Ian had thought for five minutes before starting to write. He wrote slowly at the moment because he wrote the letter ‘m’ in a pointy style like the first ‘m’ in Metallica’s logo, the letter ‘a’ as if it was in the Iron Maiden logo and his ‘s’ was written as if it was the first letter of Slayer’s logo.

His pen dawdled out the words;

In one year I’ll have passed my GCSEs and bought an electric guitar.

The promise of an electric guitar was how Ian’s Dad, Terry, was bribing him to do well at school. Ian had an acoustic guitar but it was a poor substitute for the kind of instrument he saw his idols Gary Holt and Dave Mustaine playing.

In two years I’ll be brilliant at the guitar and have my own computer.

At the moment Ian and his older brother Gav shared a computer.

In five years I’ll be a guitarist in a band and write computer games.

In ten years I’ll be a guitarist in a band and write computer games.

In twenty years I’ll be a guitarist in a band and write computer games.

In case anyone got hold of his exercise book he hadn’t written; in one year I’ll have had sex with a woman. But this was what he’d actually thought of first.

Miss Wallace had noticed that Cleo had stopped writing earlier than she’d expected. Cleo was one of her best students and often wrote neat assignments that were longer than the required bare minimum word limit the vast majority of the class handed in (frequently both late and crumpled, but better than nothing). After twenty minutes most of the class were no longer quiet and Miss Wallace was wandering around the room, offering help with spelling and grammar where needed which kept her very busy. When she got to Cleo she asked if she could see what she’d written, if it wasn’t too personal. Cleo was fond of her and trusted her. She shyly showed her. Miss Wallace asked

Is that what you want?’

Cleo shrugged and said

Dunno, really. It would be totally brilliant to see Alice Cooper’.

The whole exercise suddenly seemed stupid to her and she realised that working in a shop, getting married and having children wasn’t what she wanted at all, but she didn’t know what she did want or even what she could have. She re-read it, trying to be more ambitious. She picked up her pen and added; and been close enough to the stage to be covered in fake blood.

Miss Wallace was often saddened, surprised or pleased by the things her students wrote for this assignment. Over the years her favourite ambitions had been ‘be an astronaut’, ‘start my own wedding planning business’ and ‘find a cure for cancer’. She’d been saddened by ambitions such as ‘be happier now my step-Dad has gone’. She had made time to find this student alone and to try to help that situation. She’d tried to help with ‘find out if I’m gay’ and she had not helped with ‘get off with Danny Barratt’ (he had been a very good looking young man and that year three of her class had written that).

Teenagers, she reflected want to tell someone what frightens them and what they hope for. They might look arrogant and self-assured but it was all a defence mechanism for coping with the environment they found themselves in, a failing school with a culture of toughness.

 

Back in the present, in the Green Man pub, where Cleo was now old enough to buy alcohol legally, this exercise was new to Nick. He gave the Pandas long term plans some thought and wrote ‘record a killer album’ in the blank space left in the notebook for ‘In one year’.

He wrote ‘total world domination including action figures of all of the band, but the one of me sells the best’ underneath ‘In two years’.

I’ve peaked too soon’. He said smiling.

He put his notebook away and they drank up and wandered over to the Edge Bar, just ten minutes from the Green Man where they joined Suzy and Jim, Angie and Paul and Phil. It was a bank holiday weekend. The sun had shone all day, the Edge Bar was packed and everyone was in a party mood. Suzy bought everyone a shot of Jägermeister. Everyone knocked them back. Cleo thought it was better than Special Brew but only just. It was so syrupy it made her teeth hurt. She ran her tongue round them.

Phil greeted both Jenni and Cleo with long, tight hugs. He invited all those assembled to a barbecue the next day at his house in Tilehurst. He said they could all continue Nick’s birthday celebrations. Nick showed off his new lyrics notebook.

Angie could remember doing the assignment about future plans at school. She had been to the same school as Ian, Jenni and Cleo a few years before them. She said she’d written

In one year I’ll have a job at the nursery where I work after school some days. In two years I will have a baby girl. In five years I will have a baby boy. In ten years we’ll go on a family holiday to Butlins. In twenty years I will be a grandmother and will have nights out with my son and daughter’.

You’ll be a yummy Mummy’. Suzy said, ‘People will think you and your daughter are sisters’.

Paul said ‘You didn’t mention a husband’.

It was implied’. Angie said. ‘I hadn’t met you then so couldn’t specify who he would be and I couldn’t have hoped for a husband as good as you’.

Everyone went ‘Aaaaah’ except Phil who said ‘pass me a bucket’.

Carl, Jenni’s photographer friend from work arrived and she introduced him to everyone. Carl generally preferred soft rock but was happy to come along, have a few beers and take some photos. He drank in the Edge Bar and the Green Man on occasion, although the group of friends he went out with generally went somewhere more mainstream. He’d worn his Led Zeppelin T shirt and jeans this evening, instead of his smart trousers and a shirt and he was feeling comfortable and relaxed.

The Edge Bar had an undeserved reputation for being a bit rough but actually it was one of the safest and friendliest places to drink in town. He took a few shots of everyone around the table and one of Phil, with Jenni and Cleo, stood by the bar. He showed them the results on his small view finder screen and they all agreed that his equipment was great and bought him beer as a thank you for coming to take photos. Carl and Jenni had a bit of a giggle about some of the people they worked with. They had one particularly old and odd Professor who tended to fall asleep in his office mid-afternoon and both Jenni and Carl had needed to knock repeatedly and cough and stamp their feet outside his door to wake him up before showing his visitors in.

The Pandas went on at ten-thirty because they were the headline band. Demon Speeding supported them this time and a lot of the audience were the same as at their debut gig. The Pandas were doing the same set as before. However this time Phil and Ian had microphones as they had added a few backing vocals to ‘Alucard’, ‘Hit Where It Hurts’ and ‘Unevil Genius’.

The set was strong and they performed it with vigour and as a tight unit. Most of the audience were moving from the second song onwards, nodding their heads affirmatively, synchronised in time with the music. They even got a bit of a mosh pit going, thanks to Damon from Demon Speeding and his friend Dean. Nick addressed the audience before the last song, their cover of Slayer’s ‘South of Heaven’, and said ‘Cheers for the support, have an awesome bank holiday and if you’ve enjoyed us and want to know when we’re playing next, check out our website and join the mailing list. We’ve been Eviscerated Panda and this is Slayer’. After the last song there was loads of applause, whoops and horns raised aloft. Phil waited until this had died down and then got the whole crowd to sing happy birthday to Nick. Nick felt sure he would remember his twenty-fourth birthday for ever.

Carl had really enjoyed the gig and had worked hard to get some interesting photos. Phil had posed happily for him while playing. The rest of the Pandas still needed all their concentration for the music but this made for some natural looking shots. Carl had moved around the venue throughout the gig, trying to get good shots and to include everyone. He’d taken a great shot of the audience by going to the back of the room at the right of the stage where there were doors to the car park. No-one had noticed him stood on a chair, capturing the audience while their attention was on the Pandas. He said he’d give a disc of the photos to Jenni when they were back at work on Tuesday. Right now Tuesday seemed wonderfully far away.

Just before Carl left, the Pandas were approached by three German language students that had seen the poster at the University of Reading and come along. They introduced themselves as Tobias, Benjamin and Erik and asked to be photographed with the band. Nick and Phil showed off, arms around the young Germans, throwing the horns. Ian, Jim and Paul stood stiffly. They weren’t used to being photographed.

You should at Wacken play’. Tobias said. ‘You would be liked very, very much’.

Ian wrote down the Panda’s web address for them and promised to let them know when they first played in Germany.

When you come to Germany, we take you to the Night Light. It is a bar like this bar, it is much fun’. Said Benjamin.

It is near our famous Reeperbahn. It is a very heavy metal place and it is a naughty place’. Erik said.

Too soon it seemed it was closing time. Ian and Nick walked home with Jenni and Cleo as usual. Nick was a little wobbly after all the birthday drinks people had bought him. He linked arms with Ian and Jenni. Cleo linked arms with Ian and they walked home four abreast. It took ages as they walked diagonally for most of the way. Nick had insisted on walking Jenni and Cleo home although he was drunk and he lived in the opposite direction. When they got to Jenni’s house Ian and Cleo carried on to Cleo’s while Jenni took Nick indoors, thinking she’d call him a taxi if necessary. They had a cup of tea and he seemed to sober up. In truth he hadn’t been as drunk as he’d claimed when they left the Edge Bar and he put his arm round Jenni for support.

They sat at opposite sides of the kitchen table, in the chairs they usually sat in, talking about the things they usually talked about (music, people they knew, things they were doing soon) but it felt more exciting than usual somehow. Nick wanted to do something he didn’t usually do with Jenni. He wanted to kiss her, press against her, smell her hair. He just wasn’t sure how to get started. He liked everything about her. When Jenni started yawning discretely Nick decided reluctantly it was time to leave.

On Jenni’s doorstep, after a hug, Nick said

Birthday good night kiss for your favourite metal singer?’

He inclined his cheek to Jenni. She moved in to kiss him and he moved slightly so she kissed his mouth rather than his proffered cheek. Jenni went to bed smiling. She was looking forward to seeing Nick tomorrow at Phil’s barbecue. She looked up at the Type O Negative poster on her ceiling and thought how Nick looked a little like Peter Steele. He was long haired, tall and handsome. She idly wondered what to wear. She didn’t have a lot of casual clothes. She decided to wear her short black cotton dress with a glittery star print. She decided she’d have her hair mostly down but with a small plait at each side at from the front. She would do the plaits carefully so that the purple streaks in her black hair were evenly visible. She drifted off to sleep imagining outfits.

Cleo said ‘Good night and see you tomorrow, which is actually later today and the gig was brilliant, really, really brilliant and you’re really brilliant’ to Ian who hugged her wordlessly, kissed her on the top of the head in a slightly dribbly way and wandered unsteadily home. He was actually quite drunk. He generally didn’t drink more than four pints in an evening but had had five and a bit pints and a shot of Jägermeister. Cleo fell asleep before she’d finished writing her diary. She finished it the next morning and then went to Jenni’s.

Jenni had got up early that Sunday morning and had made some fairy cakes for Nick’s birthday. She and Cleo sat at the kitchen table decorating them. She told Cleo about the doorstep kiss and they both squealed. This high pitched sound drew Pam’s attention and she poked her head round the kitchen door

What’s all the squawking about in here?’

Nick kissed me on the doorstep’. Jenni replied looking delighted. She’d wanted to talk to her Mum about this but hadn’t been sure how to start. She wanted some instruction on how best to follow this up.

If that’s the noise you make when he kisses you on the doorstep maybe you should get your bedroom soundproofed before he kisses you anywhere else’. Pam replied raising her eyebrow comically.

Mum! This is serious, what do I do now?’

Pam sat down. Cleo and Jenni paused in their cake decorating.

Give him the opportunity to be alone with you again but don’t crowd him or seem too keen. Men like to be the ones to make the moves in these situations, unless they’re lazy and I don’t want my precious daughter dating a lazy man’.

Wisdom dispensed, Pam made a start on cooking Sunday lunch.

Jenni and Cleo offered to help but weren’t required so went upstairs to Jenni’s room. They would amuse themselves in quiet moments by writing their ‘Metal Gods’ list. This was their list of ten men that they thought should be worshipped. They had begun this in the sixth form and Nick had first made an appearance on Jenni’s list a few months ago and been creeping steadily up the rankings since. The lists were their secret and were never referred to in public.

Cleo’s current list was: Glenn Danzig, Elvira, Tom Araya, Christopher Lee, Bolt Thrower guitarist Barry Thompson, Louis Theroux, Robert Trujillo, Zakk Wylde (who was born a Jeffrey, but you’d never know it) and James May.

Jenni’s current list was: Peter Steele, Robert Smith, Hellboy, Nick, Tank Girl, Ice-T, Dave Mustaine, Noel Fielding, Alexi Laiho and Joey DeMaio. The list had developed over the years and for inclusion the men on it did not need to be in a metal band, alive, be real people, or in the case of Elvira and Tank Girl, even men. Both Cleo and Jenni agreed there were a few women they would gaily be gay for. Jenni considered James May Cleo’s guilty pleasure while Cleo considered Joey DeMaio to be Jenni’s. Cleo defended her choice by saying she thought it was great how he was competent at doing man things. She wanted to know how to do man things and also how to knit, sew, cook and crochet. She was a convenience feminist. She expected to get paid the same as a man for the same job but she didn’t want to lose the aspects of being a woman she enjoyed like getting new shoes. Jenni couldn’t adequately defend her choice of Joey DeMaio. She said it bypassed logic and came straight from her pants. The way he ripped off bass strings at the end of a gig gave her a strange thrill.

Jenni and Cleo walked to the Green Man after a big, delicious Sunday roast dinner cooked by Pam and eaten with Pam and Roy round the kitchen table. They met Ian, Nick, Suzy and Jim for a quick drink before they got the train to Phil’s in Tilehurst. They were also waiting for Angie and Paul. Angie had worked out that she was likely to conceive and so she and Paul were late. No-one minded too much. The Green Man was the archetypal cosy rock pub and everything you’d expect to happen did indeed happen around the tables and at the bar. You could overhear or take part in debates such as;

Ozzy versus Dio, who was the best singer of Black Sabbath?

Paul Di’anno versus Bruce Dickinson versus Blaze Bayley, who was the best singer of Iron Maiden?

What was the last decent album Metallica recorded?

Were Manowar an oily embarrassment or the brave upholders of true metal was another popular topic for discussion, as was are Spinal Tap a real band?

Those who claimed Spinal Tap were a genuine band would point out that they have two albums and they play gigs. The same debate but about Bad News often followed. Cleo thought that Ozzy was the best singer of Black Sabbath whereas Ian favoured Dio. Both firmly believed the other to be wrong and had stopped discussing it years ago.

I love bank holiday weekends’. Said Nick, looking pretty good compared to the wobbly chap who’d left the Edge Bar late last night. Ian felt fuzzy headed but not in a bad way, just a bit sleepy and distant. He was slowing drinking a pint and was following rather than taking part in the conversation around the table. Suzy was wide awake as usual and she and Nick were doing most of the talking. Suzy had invited Cleo, Jenni and Angie to an Ann Summers party she was having and Nick was complaining good-naturedly that he wasn’t invited. Nick asked Jim,

Don’t you want to know what women get up to at an Ann Summers party?’

Some things are meant to be a mystery. Women have too many different types of underwear already’ was Jim’s considered reply.

Cleo too was getting a bit sleepy after the massive roast dinner and not having that much sleep the night before. She was squashed up against Ian and was feeling warm and content in the cosy wooden womb of the pub. She and Jenni had both bought sleeping bags with them in preparation for staying at Phil’s. They had decided, after hearing him tell of his various sexploits, that they didn’t trust any duvets he had to be safe to sleep under. They joked that they might crunch or might contain abandoned knickers. Cleo had been teasing Jenni, saying Phil kept looking at her lustfully (in truth he looked at them both lustfully) and to be careful he didn’t creep into her sleeping bag in the middle of the night.

They had also bought the cakes they had made for Nick’s birthday. They were in black paper cake cases and some had been iced with blood red icing in a splatter effect and had skull and bat sweets added. They had made a batch of panda face cakes as well, using chocolate buttons for the ears and liquorice for the eyes, nose and mouth.

Eventually Paul and Angie arrived, looking a bit dishevelled and out of breath. They all wandered to the bus stop, via the off-license. They walked the five minutes from the bus stop to Phil’s. When they got to Phil’s he showed them into the garden. It was well kept and had a high red brick wall and narrow flowerbeds all round. There was a large patio and the lawn sloped downwards to some apple trees which were heavy with fruit.

Phil introduced them to his friend Bill who was tending the barbecue and Bill’s wife Emily who was arranging salad and buns on the table. Jenni and Cleo showed off their cakes, which were admired, especially by Emily who said that the cake on the front of The Rolling Stones ‘Let It Bleed’ album had been made by Delia Smith and that they should take photos of their cakes for future album cover use. Nick was delighted by the birthday cakes. He gave Jenni and Cleo gigantic hugs to say thank you.

Sarah Tipper