Freedom is an illusion, but a three piece suite is forever.
I know that now, now that I’ve been split up from Helen, what, five years or so?
But when we first split up, I was happy to swap furniture for freedom. Well, and the house and the dog and the rest. She could have it all, so far as I was concerned. Back then, I still believed in freedom, and Helen was still sobbing on the sofa. She needed it more than me. After all, I was shagging my secretary, Polly, Tuesday through Friday.
Oh no, hang on. Wasn’t her name Izzy? Whatever.
Now, of course, it is less clear who it was that got the best of the deal, now Helen’s married to that fat spastic Brian. Still. That’s not the point. Good luck to them, I say. The point is, it seemed at the time that I had come out the winner, even though there were nights when I missed the sofa (and the kids, obviously) – like when DJ Phil came round.
As often as not, DJ Phil came up to my flat on a Monday evening. He was usually tired after a series of late nights ‘at the decks’, and if I’d had the kids over the weekend, I was knackered too, so he’d turn up with a couple of bottles of wine, or maybe a little spliff, and we’d just sit on the couple of garden chairs that Helen had let me take from home, and chat. The sofa would have been ideal, but there you are. I’ve got one now, obviously.
No secretary, no wife, but I have got a sofa.
And Phil still comes round. Anyway.
I’d got cable, so we’d watch the Monday night match live, or, at least, we’d have it on while we talked. And we sat on those garden chairs, green striped, from Asda. I’ve still got them somewhere.
And on that wonderful night, I’ll never forget, it was Southampton vs. Wimbledon – not the Match of the Century, by any means, but worth having on to see the effervescent, if admittedly somewhat intermittent skills of Matthew Le Tissier. Well, and to see if Vinnie Jones and the Crazy Gang would hack Matthew down at the knees, I guess. You know how it goes with cable TV. Lots of adverts. You get adverts, then the opening credits and a couple of minutes of pre-match build up, and then more adverts, then the goals from the Saturday and Sunday games, then more adverts, then some more pre-match analysis, then some more adverts, then the game. So, like most people, Phil and I talked through the programme, and fall into a reverent silence to watch the ads.
As it was getting on towards Christmas, they were running several of those impenetrable perfume adverts, where you’ve got no idea what is being advertised at all, until the very end where they tell you the name of the perfume. One particular advert featured…well, let’s just call her ‘a very well-known supermodel’. Live as a legal executive may have its quiet moments, may, indeed, be described as straightforwardly dull more often than not, but it does at least instil caution when it comes to naming names. Supermodels are notoriously litigious. But you’d know her at once; waif-like, puppy-eyed, Sarf London.
The adverts on cable tend to be repeated more often than those on terrestrial stations; and this particular advert had been on for three successive breaks when DJ Phil said;
‘She was in love with me once.’
‘Oh yes, ‘ I said.
‘No, she was.’
‘But you turned her down.’
‘I did, as it goes.’
‘Oh, come on. You having a piss next to Dale Winton in “Heaven”, I believe. Your fight with Tony Slattery outside Stringfellows I am willing to go along with, albeit reluctantly. But (“a very well-known supermodel”) being in love with you – and you turning her down – just how gullible do you think I am?’
‘Alright. Think what you like.’
The match kicked off, and I sighed.
‘Oh, come on, then. When?’
‘No no no. I wouldn’t want you to think I thought you were gullible.’
‘No, come on. When?’
‘Years ago,’ said DJ Phil.
‘Yeah, but when?’
‘Years ago. Before she got big. And yes, that’s right…’
‘She’s not very big now,’ I said.
‘She was 15,’ said DJ Phil.
‘Straight up. She was 15, and I was running that psychedelic revival night at The White Lion in Battersea. Just before I went to Ibiza.’
‘And when did you go to Ibiza?’
‘Ten years ago.’
‘Thank you. So what happened?’
‘She used to hang around the decks all the time, week after week, making eyes at me, and trying to get me to play Light My Fire.’
‘Light My Fire? By The Doors?’ I said, snorting with contempt.
‘Yeah! How sad?’ said DJ Phil. We shook our heads, and rolled our eyes.
‘Light My Fire is about as psychedelic as liver and bacon,’ I said.
‘Less,’ said Phil.
‘Anyway, how did she get into the pub, for fuck’s sake? She only looks 15 now.’
‘I don’t know. How should I know?’
‘So what happened?’ I asked.
‘Right. She got one of her mates to deliver me a note, saying she wanted to go out with me, ‘cos she loved me.’
‘So what did you do?’
‘Well, she looked like a rake. Sticky out teeth, and a body like a broom handle. So I called her over, and told her that I would only go out with her if she could get me Take Me Out Of The Land Of LSD by the Fee Fi Four Plus Two, to prove that she loved me. And she said she would.’
‘That’s a very rare single.’
‘What, Take Me Out Of The Land Of LSD? It cannot be had, at any price.’
‘So you were safe?’
‘I was. She never came back.’
It was 0-0 at half-time; in the break, the perfume advert came on again.
‘I regret it now, obviously,’ said DJ Phil.
‘At least you taught her what real psychedelic records sounded like.’
‘I like to think so.’
‘Do you think she’s still in love with you? Do you think that when she’s out in Hollywood, she goes round all the collectors’ record shops trying to find it? Do you think she might have found it already, and now she’s trying to find you again? So that you’ll go out with her?’
‘I doubt it,’ said DJ Phil.
The match kicked off for the second half.
‘Or maybe,’ I said, she’s borne a grudge against you all these years, and now she’s rich she’s hired private eyes to track you down and kill you.’
Phil laughed. ‘I doubt that, too,’ he said.
‘Well, you never know. Women can be a bit unpredictable over things like that.’
‘Like love. Women can be very strange about things like that.’
‘Mn,’ said DJ Phil, not wishing to commit himself as to the strangeness of women.
‘Especially first love.’
‘Did you love her?’ I asked.
‘Well, clearly not, or I wouldn’t have blown her out. Tell you what, I’d love her money. But she’s going out with that (“very well-known young brat-pack Holywood actor”).’
‘What, (“very well-known supermodel”)?’
‘Yes. They live together.’
‘I didn’t know that.’
We watched the game for a few seconds. Then I said,
‘What about now? Are you in love now?’
‘Of course,’ said DJ Phil. ‘That Jenny who serves at your corner shop. The teeny temptress. I’d pull my teeth out with red hot tongs for her.’
‘God, yes. Especially in hot weather.’
‘Too right,’ said DJ Phil. ‘What about you?’
‘What about you? Are you in love with Polly?’ (Or was it Izzy?)
‘What? Of course I am. I cal it love, anyway.’
‘What about Helen?’
‘What about Helen? Were you in love with her?’
‘Oh, probably, once….oh my God…Jesus…Look at Matthew!’
Le Tissier had picked up the ball at the half way line, and had gone past the Wimbledon midfield and two hulking defenders already. Now he was down by the left-hand corner flag, and looked to be trapped, with Vinnie Jones bearing down on him like a sociopathic rat. And to this day, DJ Phil and me both swear blind that Matthew Le Tissier dematerialised that night, because there was no other way he could have got round Vinnie. He disappeared somehow, leaving Jones gawping at the space where he had been. And then he rematerialised on the edge of the penalty area, and stroked a masterful curving shot over the battered remains of the defence, over the head of the Wimbledon keeper, and right into the top right-hand corner of the net – and DJ Phil and I screamed and leapt from the garden chairs, going ‘Matthew! Jesus Christ!’
And I’ve lost count of how many matches DJ Phil and I have watched together since, but we’re both still certain of one thing. We’ll never forget that night, because, for both of us, that was our favourite goal. Ever.
It’s crazy he couldn’t get a game with England. Low work-rate, the usual ridiculous excuse. Italy at Wembley and the fiasco in Dublin hardly count. You need time to settle into the national squad. But it’s probably too late now, though he’s younger than Tony Adams, and Keegan’s still playing him.
But I’d love it if he got another game for England, old Matthew Le Tissier.