Sex and Drugs and Rock-and-Roll by Chris Green
The best things in life are three. At least Charlie Tooting thinks so. They are sex and drugs and rock-and-roll. Many others of his generation agree. After all, we are talking about the nineteen-seventies. Nineteen-seventy-three to be exact, and Charlie is twenty-two years old. It would be fair to say though that Charlie’s appreciation of the best three things goes further than many of his contemporaries. To the exclusion of almost anything else, perhaps.
The Pavilion, a new music venue, has opened in Charlie’s town. The Pavilion features live bands three or more times a week. If Charlie could sing or play an instrument, he would be in a rock band, but as he cannot, he is in awe of those that can. Not that he is without ambition, but Charlie’s ambition is more of a notches on the bedpost affair. He can resist everything except temptation. He might be described as vain. He is the type who probably thinks this song is about him.
He has a regular girlfriend, Annika. At least Annika believes she is his regular girlfriend. But Charlie is more than happy to stray when the opportunity presents itself. As Annika is more of a folkie than a hard rock fan, Charlie sees the new venue as somewhere that will provide him with opportunities for playing away. He has recently given up his job at Jean Machine, and makes a living by selling a little of this or that, here and there, mostly hash. The demand is high in the town where Charlie lives. Charlie doesn’t actually know anyone that doesn’t smoke. Over the years, he has built up good supply lines and never allows himself to run out. It beats working for a living and affords him a certain status, which helps him to ramp up the notches.
Rose works behind the bar of The Pavilion. She is just twenty. She has long blond hair, a magazine figure, and an outgoing personality. She notices Charlie in his new leather bomber jacket and starry Cockell and Johnson shirt. Charlie notices her in her revealing barmaid’s top. When no-one is looking, she slips him a double Glenmorangie. On the house, she says, smiling. To reciprocate, at a quiet moment when everyone is watching the band, Charlie passes her a joint. Because Snafu Celebration are especially loud, it is impossible to have a proper conversation. So, they conduct their overtures through eye contact and gestures. Towards the end of the evening, Rose hands him a scrap of paper with her phone number written in red lipstick. Call me, it says. Charlie pre-empts the outcome and instead, waits for her outside.
Rose is a newbie toker, so at his flat, while they listen to Goats Head Soup on his new stereo, Charlie gives her a world tour of the principal growing areas. She pretends to be interested, but in reality, the origin is of little importance to her. It’s not a girl thing. She doesn’t care if the stuff comes from Nepal or Afghanistan, Morocco or Lebanon, so long as it does the job. What they are smoking is something called Kashmir Twist, and it definitely seems to work. In no time at all, they find themselves between the sheets, getting it on. This is exactly what she had in mind, anyway.
Linzi, Suze, and Janice follow in quick succession to add to the notches on the bedpost. But they are little more than wham, bam, thank you, mam encounters. And then there is Verity. Charlie meets Verity at The Shed, another new rock venue that has opened in the town. She is blonde and shapely, a sophisticated version of Rose. FUBAR, an up-and-coming local band are playing. They too are very loud, this especially noticeable in a cramped, low-ceilinged space like The Shed. The volume makes it difficult to have a conversation, and Verity seems to want to chat. This gives Charlie the excuse to lure her back to his for a nightcap.
Verity has just passed her test and has her own car, a blue Fiat 500. The Fiat is her pride and joy. She tells Charlie she loves driving it. It’s a nippy little town car. She seems quite happy to ferry Charlie around. She is surprised by the number of drops he needs to make. Charlie is surprised at how good business is, but it seems that everyone smokes hash these days. Like Rose, Verity is relatively new to recreational cannabis, but she seems to take to it like a duck to water. It gives you a whole new way of looking at the day, she says.
Annika is still on the scene, and Charlie sees her from time to time. But now, not so often. Her job requires her to travel, so she is not always on hand to fulfil his needs. While Annika frequently remarked on his chauvinism, Verity does not appear to care. Perhaps she mistakes his arrogance for self-confidence. Charlie likes to be seen out with her. She is well-dressed, urbane and sexy. She is now the nearest thing Charlie has to a regular girlfriend. They make a perfect pair, he tells her.
Rose, however, has not disappeared. When Charlie returns to the flat with Verity one night after a curry at Namaste Garden, Rose is waiting outside with an overnight bag. A tricky situation. But not one that Charlie is unfamiliar with. The successful roué must be prepared for such circumstances. Charlie recalls the time that he was in bed with Coral when Annika called around unexpectedly. He had Coral throw a few clothes on, and explained her away as a neighbour who was looking for her lost dog, hence the delay in answering the door. Remarkably, he got away with it. On this occasion, he is not so successful. After some harsh words, Rose leaves. Charlie’s explanation that she was just returning some books, while not completely convincing passes for now. But Charlie is not out of the woods. Back in the flat, while Charlie is making coffee, Verity starts poking around.
‘Whose pants are these?’ she calls out, waving a pair of skimpy black panties.
‘Don’t know,’ Charlie says. ‘Perhaps they belonged to the girl who lived here before.’
‘It looks like she left a whole drawer full of lingerie’ she says holding up a lacy bra.
‘Could be,’ Charlie says. ‘I’ve been meaning to have a clear out, but I never seem to get around to it.’
‘And I suppose the girl who lived before left these photos too,’ Verity says. ‘That was nice of her. Do you know, she looks a little like the one who just left.’
Verity, once she too has issued some more harsh words, leaves.
Within a matter of days, though, Charlie somehow manages to patch it up with first one and then the other, and tentatively resumes his duplicity.
Depending on one’s viewpoint, it might be considered unfortunate if, at twenty-two, you get your girlfriend pregnant. To get your two girlfriends pregnant in the same month might, to echo Oscar Wilde, be seen as careless. Especially so considering his poor recent record on cautious planning. But this is the position that Charlie finds himself in. Unfortunate too that he discovers that both Verity and Rose are pregnant just days before he gets busted by the police at a rock-and-roll revival night The Pavilion with a large amount of hash and a couple of wraps of speed.
How many roads must her man walk down, Sian wonders? The answer may or may not be blowing in the wind, but she thinks it is eleven. She has looked at the map and counted the number of roads on the route. She is following her husband, Marvin, and the zig-zag path he is taking suggests he is going round to see Rose in Wessex Avenue. As she always does when she is out walking, she is wearing her Sony Discman. She loves her music, and this top of the range model is her pride and joy. She is listening to Oasis, a new band she feels will make it big by the end of the year. After all the techno music of the last few years, she feels it is time for a change. Time to get back to some serious rock. Eighties synth-pop was bad enough, but the repetitive beats of house music left her cold.
Why hasn’t Marvin taken the car, she wonders? Whatever, he must be heading for Rose’s. But she needs to be sure of her facts before she thinks about taking any action. Her suspicions are confirmed. Marvin arrives at Rose’s, and she opens the door and greets him shamelessly with a big hug, and not a casual friend type hug. This is a raunchy let’s go upstairs embrace.
It all begins to add up. Rose’s Eric has been stepping out with someone called Gina, and clearly, Marvin has stepped into the breach. He has been disappearing a lot lately with lame excuses, and on two or three occasions, not made it home. Typical of him to take advantage of the situation. He has always had the hots for Rose. With her long blond hair, shapely figure, and fuck-me pumps, she can understand the attraction. She is not bad for a woman of forty. But even so, the dirty rat might have had the decency to be upfront about it.
She should have seen it coming. There were telltale signs. Apart from the unexplained absences, there were secret phone calls. Are all relationships based on secrets and lies, she wonders? Perhaps she should look elsewhere for a distraction, too. What’s good for the goose and all that. She has recently found out that Charlie and Jo have split up, and she has always had a soft spot for Charlie. He seems sweet and caring and seems to have overcome the problems he had in the past. People say he is too laid back. Yet he found the time to get a Masters’ degree in Music Media. He shares her love of rock music and seems to like the same bands. They could go to gigs. It’s a long time since Marvin took her anywhere. He has a great sense of humour and he is pretty yummy too. And, while he has never come right out with it, she is reasonably sure that Charlie fancies her.
But there are the children to consider. She and Marvin have two daughters, Chloe and Zoe, six and four respectively. Eric and Rose have a daughter at primary school, and Charlie and Jo have a little one in the same year. Surely, too much swapping around would not be good for any of them. But they are not the only ones chopping and changing. She recalls her recent conversation with Ms Blyton, Chloe’s form teacher.
‘You don’t know who is with who outside the school gates these days,’ Ms Blyton says.
‘No-one seems to stay with the same partner for long these days,’ Sian says. ‘I’m afraid it’s a sign of the times,’
‘I know. And there’s so much infidelity on TV, too,’ Ms Blyton says. ‘Especially in the soaps, EastEnders and Emmerdale. They’re like a partner swap shop. And those terrible Australian ones, where no-one takes their relationship seriously. It has to be a bad influence on young parents.’
‘I hardly know anyone who hasn’t had a break-up recently,’ Sian says. ‘You never know what to say to your friends any more in case you accidentally put your foot in it.’
‘Some children don’t even know who to look for when they come out of class,’ Ms Blyton continues. ‘And when you ask about their mum, they say, which mum? Families are becoming so dysfunctional. Some days, when you look at the parents lined up outside, it seems like half of them are in another world. Out of their heads on crack cocaine, I shouldn’t wonder. It’s a big worry, I can tell you. Chloe seems fairly settled though, and that’s good.’
In addition to the little ones, Sian thinks Charlie has one or two older children from earlier relationships. There is a possibility Rose does too. She is faced with a dilemma. Should she file for divorce or not?
After sleeping on it, she bites the bullet and phones Jutner, Pringle and Bloke, Solicitors for advice and speaks to Miranda Dyke. Miranda feels she should get on to it right away and go for the house, possession of everything, sole custody of the children and gargantuan maintenance payments.
‘It’s always best to aim high to get the outcome you want,’ she says. ‘You want the miserable little worm to genuinely regret his infidelity.’
‘But Marvin wasn’t all bad,’ Sian says ’We did have some nice times,’
‘Stop right there!’ Miranda says. ‘You need to forget all of that. Trust me! Sentimentality will get you nowhere. You need to be absolutely ruthless in divorce cases like yours or else you will end up with nothing.’
Sian discovers that by coincidence or fate, Miranda is also representing Charlie in his divorce from Jo. She is cheered by this. Jo had better look out, as Miranda is taking the same uncompromising stance re their divorce settlement. If it goes according to plan, Charlie is set to come away with everything. This bodes well for their future together.
‘It’s probably not the time to say it, but despite all the bad feeling, I was sorry to hear about Marvin,’ Charlie says.
‘He always drank too much,’ Sian says. ‘I suppose I knew it from day one, but I didn’t want to believe it.’
‘And his death coming so soon after Eric,’ Charlie says.
Sian is afraid the conversation is going to lead back to Verity, who died from a heroin overdose not so long ago. Now is not the time to go down that road. They’ve been over this too often. Better they stick with Eric.
‘Eric was another one who was never out of the pub,’ Sian says. ‘I guess when Gina upped and left, that did it for him.’
‘Still sad though,’ Charlie says. ‘I’m lucky I managed to get my act together. Well, of course, with your help. If it wasn’t for you, you know, I might be joining them. Wherever it is, they have ended up.’
‘Down below, I should think,’ Sian says, looking out the window of the plane as it taxis into position for take-off. ‘Anyway, let’s not get too maudlin. We’re on our way to New York. And September is the best time to go according to the Guide. The summer heat will have subsided. Just think, Manhattan! I’ve always wanted to see Manhattan.’
‘Well, it is my fiftieth birthday. I’m not going to get another one,’ Charlie says. ‘After that successful promotion campaign for Muse, I felt we could push the boat out. I’m looking forward to seeing all those iconic buildings. Where we are staying is a stone’s throw from the World Trade Centre. The Twin Towers.’
‘I saw that in the Guide,’ Sian says. ‘Perhaps we could have breakfast at that restaurant on the 107th floor.’
‘Good idea,’ Charlie says. ‘It’s called Windows on the World and it says here it’s a bit formal. But there’s a more intimate one on the floor below called Wild Blue. That would be a better bet and you can book it for breakfast on the 11th. It’s still a little pricey, but why not? You only live once.’
Copyright © Chris Green, 2021: All Rights Reserved