I'm feeling like Bond, on a mission with the cops on my tail | Another extract from Phil Kay's book The Wholly Viable

I'm feeling like Bond, on a mission with the cops on my tail

Another extract from Phil Kay's book The Wholly Viable

Late one night early in the first week of the Edinburgh Festival. One thirty-five. I’ll get home and have a nice early night and push off on the Raleigh Cameo lady’s bike – it has three gears: Easiest, Twelfth and Through-Molasses – turning up the hill toward the Festival Theatre at the end of the street, I’m up out of the saddle gathering momentum when there catches my eye one of the best scenes ever: a police car has pulled over a quad bike. There’s nothing more un-arty than the quad bike with its hooning barely sur-legal status, powering around Edinburgh streets. You see them on motorways looking unstable, like a guy riding a coffee table or an ape on a boulder.

It always interests me when the police cars whizz by with sirens, on their way to something. How you would have to do a very-visible really-bad thing to alter their path... Something massive to make them pull over and sirenize you with the blue Christmas-disco lights. So that means there’s quite a lot of space for fucking about – standing by the road with your tongue out hardly matters in this context. So, as I come past, peddling through the molasses in the quiet orange glow of the streetlights, I say out-loudly, ‘Ooh, look, a policeman!’

Slowly and surely everyone just turns towards me, the variety of disbeliefs is widescreen. The policeman with the notebook out gives me a stern look that says ‘watch it now!’ and on my face the look of ‘well, come on...’ Though, what’s he going to do? Leave them and come after me? Leave the suspects who have done something clearly naughty and late-nighty? What would he say in court? ‘Then I was forced to leave the drug-delivery men we have been following for months because the cyclist went “ooh” and slightly-mocked me?’

One of the quaddies, holding a helmet, smiles and says: ‘Look, Christ on a bike!’ Not everyone laughs – just me and the two boys... Never mind. Christ on a bike, that’s funny. Imagine Christ on a quad bike methinks: zooming around all over the place getting a whole lot more conversions done, off-roading to the souls in remote places. Although it was all off-road in them days, as there were no roads – shit, it occurs to me that’s what humans have done: redefined the world as being all off a road. This is not fair... yet hey this is the wrong time for to fully address this concept... later...

So I am pulled by bike-power slowly out of this scene, still with all eyes helping and feeling a little hilariously fabulous at the whole affair when I slide up next to another police car that was parked just a bit further on, watching. Left wheels high up on the high ancient Edinburgh kerb with their hundred-year-old height, eleven inches of granite to keep back the olden days river of filth excrement and offal with what looked like more-senior policemen doing some observation and having a sandwich. The one on the driver’s seat with a thick elbow wanting fries and a shake leans out a bit and says: ‘Where are the lights on your bike?’

Now I’m not that keen on lights, preferring to skulk about in the shadows, ride pavements, sleek aboot and go slow yet much faster than a walk. Getting around swiftly-er than on foot is the major object; first equal with not pounding a hard surface all day which, combined with a couple of hours onstage, can make bones ache – and with the right kind of swiftness you can actually be in three bars at the same time. There are no lights on my bike and often taxi drivers and people shout out, ‘Where are your lights?’ and I shout back ‘How can you even see me to ask?’ whereupon they all go ‘Ah yes, I see your point Phil you have illuminated meus opened my/our eyes to the fact that I/we was/were blind to before and/or now can see that I/we was/were aware of/seeing you all the time and molehill to mountaineering it...’ and that is the end of that...

There was a backwards slash there did you see before the forward ones Brenda?

This time though, I didn’t want to piss about, I wanted to just let it all slide. So I don’t answer him – no witty answers or ‘Of which lights do you speak?’ and make him define the imaginary and stray into you-are-paid-to-protect-and-serve-not-fanny-about-rhetorically territory – Just keep going slowly in the hope he’ll just think ‘What a cheek... Well I never.... In all my days...’ et cetera and just let it go. Be drawn back to his corned beef and beetroot forgiving my ignorant ignoring.

Also, at that exact moment, I caught sight of the Palmyra kebab-joint and suddenly required food myself: Suddenly, although I’m in something here, the primal feeling for meats and crunch sweeps over all.

Ploughing on fifty metres to the meats, the going very tough waist-high in syrup in twentieth and not really getting away very fast and, for a minute, there is a stillness I begin to think that ‘hey! They’re no coming...’

Then the sound of the Volvo estate starting up, the hydraulics kicking in and she starts to rise up off the kerb... pulling off, down and out, starting the big cruel circle of a U-turnaround, coming after me. As the police car does in Psycho, when she pulls over with the stolen money, and the way Samuel Jackson’s car goes around in a crane shot to the wasteland to shoot his mate in the boot or trunk. Or the beginning of that film Nostalgia that Tarkovsky made in Italy where the Beetle drives into shot then through it, disappears soundwise then re-enters with its noise first again the consciousness then the screen this time closer and in the classical mist... not now, no time...

...Salivating now slightly and at least with a positive mission, I draw up on the bike outside the Palmyra and spin the pedal, stepping off the bike in one smoovement and it magically just stands up there supported against the kerb by the pedal. Feeling a bit like Bond now on a mission with the cops on my tail now in my periphery yet getting ignored... They arrive and one of Them draws down a window as they pull up and says: ‘There are no lights on your bike.’ At least and at last: a pure, truthful entity of a phrase. Excited, I simply say: ‘Well then, surely you must act.’

I keep thinking it’s not that big a deal and surely they will just move on.

So on I go, up the stairs and take my money out my pocket and realize there is only twenty-four pence, not twenty pounds twenty-four pence, and this is when my life truly turns into Mission Implausible Too – I’m after a snack, I have no money and the police are on my tail – yet onward and up, because that’s where the kebabs are; it doesn’t matter how much money you have if you’re not in the shop, so up I go and at the top of the stairs is Jim Jefferies, the huge Australian comedian, standing there all tall, just like his poster and wearing the same shirt, with a young exotic lass clinging onto him, her arm and a leg around him with rave-frayed miniscule denim cut-offs with fingermarks still visible from yesterday morning’s fake tan application. There he is kebab in hand and I say, ‘Money, Jim, have you some money?’ It’s very responsive and kind of him, he hands me four quid. This is the moment the first policeman arrives in the very bright shop and says, ‘I’d like a word with you.’

Now Jim thinks this is just an arrest for begging or general vagrancy and tells the cop to ‘Go easy, it’s alright, he knows me’ and I say, ‘Jim, don’t worry, it’s alright he knows me too... There’s a back story...’ as they escort me out to the Volvo... They really do want a word with me, or perhaps several maybe even entire sentences...

My hands are on the top of their car and they ask me if there is anything in my pockets that could injure them and my response is to say, ‘Dunno. You’ll have to read all the notebook.’ Because now here we are: I am facing away from the kebabs yet I am in it now; there is no way to avoid police contact yet all I can think about is how to get this going my way again so a kebab can be got – meat is hot in my mind. Having said that, witty answers are perhaps a way to pass on the info that you are not a mad violent-offender with other things to hide. There are my worldly possessions: four and a bit quid and a pink notebook.

Then they ask my name and tell me I’ll have to show them some ID... A clever ploy in case I am planning to tell them a duff name.

‘I’m afraid I have no ID so there’s no point in telling you my name.’

They consult each other and one says, almost pleading, ‘Well, just tell me your real name then.’

Poor guys, they had issued the clear instructions presuming I would have ID and have now placed themselves in a tricky mode/place/ realm/position/caffuddle/conundrum/catch 22. They are out here on the front line, upholding justice yet justice is a massive big wet pillow-sized bar of soap and hard to hold and giving none of the comforts of a pillow... The lawmakers are at home with brandy in the correct glass their feet up by the real fire and these guys who hold it have to try and make us humans and our actions fit previously-devised form... Not easy.

‘I have no ID so I could just tell you any name . . . I could tell you my name is Mickey Zzezzr.’

‘Right, how do you spell that?’

It just came out without me thinking, the brain obviously said you cannot hesitate spelling your own name, so I said, ‘Zee, zee, e, zee, zee, r’ like auto-babble.

‘No, that’s not my name. I’m just making a point. If there’s no proof then what’s the point in me saying my name? If you guys are not going to take my word for it, how does it benefit me?’

‘Right, that’s it! I’m booking you for Obstruction.’

‘Guys, guys . . . Come on, this is just silly.’

‘Well, where are the lights on your bike?’

The soap-bar is slipping out of their grip.

One of them says, ‘Well, what do you want us to do?’

‘Just... let... it... go,’ I say.

There is a big fat empty few seconds while their eyelids flutter, a fall into a precipice beginning a kind of tantric-pause in the crime fighting . . . just fading into the fall from the hubris an outside loop in a monoplane . . .

‘No, that’s it We’re going to book you for Obstruction.’

There are stages in any apparent conflict when you just have to accept what the other is saying, accept its energy and stop trying to stop it, use its force like karate. So I just got down on my hands and knees and started crawling away from them...

Not fast, not trying to evade them, not a getaway-crawl, just an absolutely normal speed trying somehow to represent an opposite to what problem they say I am, and embody a lack of whatever bad force might be obstructing them... And I did not look back. If the moral can exist then it is for me a top tip.. If you ever have to crawl from the police, don’t look back, whatever you do don’t look back at them, don’t be the fluffy squirrel to the bear who really doesn’t want to eat you.

I crawled past Jim, who was standing watching with the exotic lass, jaws doing less chewing, past them and up the stairs into the kebab shop, rising up, onto my feet and up to the counter and ordered a mixed grill kebab. The vendor announces a simple refrain with now a huge semi-spiritual significance, ‘Do you want that in a pitta or in a wrap?’

‘I just beat the wrap’ is what I could have said.

That’s when being a comedian is great: you can tell a crowd what you might have said and get a laugh and then tell them what you did say and get a little more.

I don’t want your pity/pitta. (Delete as appropriate.)

It tasted great and Jim came back and got another one and the wee lass – is she from the Caribbean or Stirling?

In fact, it tastes more than great and, as we step out of the shop she says, ‘Why don’t you come back to our place?’

I tell her, ‘It’s okay. I’m not a vagrant, honestly, thanks there is a house I can go to.’

‘No, no . . . Come back tae oors.’ Not the Caribbean, then. ‘It’ll be good for you.’

So, it is at that exact moment, as we three steps out onto the top of the steps, that I realize this is an holy kebab, summoned up from on my knees-not-praying; a spiritual holy kebab – believed in, charmed into existence that I always had faith in – and that I’m knocking back a threesome and the Polis has parked my bike safe up on the kerb on a stand I never noticed the bike had....

There’s a stand..? Surely they never fitted it as well.

What were they doing while I was crawling away..? Now, that is some CCTV footage I would like to see. All around is the threat of see see TV cameras seeing our badness before it’s done . . . the cameras showing us a wee movie not committed yet of the illegal so we don’t do it. Well what about great acts of goodness, the cameras must get them too?

Click here for another extract from The Wholly Viable. The book is available from Amazon here. A London launch is being held for the book, with two shows at the Soho Theatre tonight and tomorrow. Use the code 'Kay' to get tickets here at £7.50 - £5 off the full price.

Published: 18 Oct 2013

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