Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (40)

As he surveyed the magnificent array of monolithic rocks through his top-of-the-range Leicas, Barry Sweet could have been forgiven for thinking that his formative years in London’s Camden Lock had instead taken place in some parallel universe. Sitting aft on the deck of the Morning Glory, a one hundred foot super yacht he had commissioned from Valencia’s boat yards a few years before, he felt refreshed by the early morning breeze. The sky was of an azure blue that only nature could paint, with not a single fleck of disfiguring cloud. Having spent the best part of a week anchored here in Ha Long Bay, Bazza, as he was better known to his public, knew that an early morning canopy such as this would later herald a noonday sun so fierce that neither he nor Plums, his lifelong sidekick, would be able to bear exposure to it. The afternoons over this past few days, then, had generally been spent below decks recording in the Glory’s built-in music studio, or just romping around on the bed in his master cabin.

Now in his early sixties, Bazza was learning to allow his greying temples to reveal themselves – it seemed he had finally grown tired of the endless cycle of dying, bleaching and re-dying his tightly curled afro; a process which, during the London club scene of the eighties, had created such an unusual appearance as to prompt the nickname “Guinness” from among the beautiful people with whom he shared the limelight on the circuit. But despite this moniker – and whilst it was true he had almost always been a fake blonde on top – Bazza’s skin tone had never actually been what might be termed ebony. No, the unknown couple who had accidentally created him during a drunken one night stand had managed through that careless encounter to produce the perfect, coffee-coloured child the Swinging Sixties were later to adore.

If the orphanage had taught him anything, it was that whenever he was punched, kicked or bitten he had to fight back, or forever be destroyed. So by the time he was released on to the streets of north London, now in his late teens, he already possessed the grit that would later see to it that Barry Francis Sweet, as the nuns had christened him, would succeed at whatever vocation he chose. Obligingly, the nineteen sixties represented a carefree, almost magical era where anything seemed possible – especially for a young, independent soul who was himself a by-product of the principle of free love. After briefly trying his hand in the fashion industry, he made an abrupt switch to music, styling himself as the UK’s answer to Jimmy Cliff, developing as he grew into this role the repertoire of original, pop-reggae crossover songs through which he achieved a lasting fame.

But something else was happening to Bazza at around the same time that his music stock was rising. Having always considered himself to be totally straight – in spite of some of the less savoury things that had happened to him at the orphanage – an unfamiliar feeling had begun creeping up on him, something that crystallised with the sudden appearance in his life of one Harold Cheeseman. ‘Plums’, as Bazza would soon affectionately begin calling him, was a driving instructor whose daily mission was simply to guide his Austin A40 through the streets of London’s NW1 postal district with as little incident as possible. And it was there, on the slippery white stripes of a Camden High Street zebra crossing one day, that one of Harold’s students almost rubbed the budding reggae star off the face of the earth. “Fuckin’ ’ell! You’re supposed to brake on the black stripes, you prat!” he had screamed at the unfortunate woman sat beside him. Without another word, Harold had then jumped out of the car and helped the victim off the A40’s long bonnet and back on to his wobbly feet. Recognising it as the face of someone he had seen on Top Of The Pops, Harold’s heart sank – another hike in his insurance premium would be more than his struggling private motor school could bear. But he had in fact no cause for concern. For in the instant their eyes met, Bazza had inexplicably fallen in love.

“I mean, shit on sticks, Plums,” Bazza would oft recount, years later, as they journeyed to Stringfellow’s or another of London’s latest ‘in’ places in Harold’s recently upgraded Mini Metro. “None of this would’ve been possible without your lightning reactions and that dual set of pedals in your old A40!” At this, he would squeeze his ginger lover’s thigh before checking in the vanity mirror that, once again, he looked just perfect. One never knows whom one might bump into, after all.

Apropos of nothing, and still staring absently through his binoculars at the stunning panorama this serene morning, Bazza quietly began chuckling to himself at the sudden recollection of how he would always make Plums drop him off a couple of blocks away from whichever club he was going to, on account of the large and unsightly white plastic pyramid that sat atop the Metro’s roof. As if on cue, his loyal sidekick’s call announced that breakfast was now being served on the poop deck. The wafting of strong Arabica coffee had already alerted Bazza to the imminence of the morning’s first ritual, producing a warm feeling inside. God, I’m lucky, he thought, surveying his surroundings once more – for he knew it to be true. And boy, this is gonna be one hell of a day… mark my words… he mentally added, a mischievous look on his face.

posted by Kirk at 5:16 am  

1 Comment »

  1. Hello. I think the article is really interesting. I am even interested in reading more. How soon will you update your blog?

    Comment by KonstantinMiller — July 6, 2009 @ 4:23 pm

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