The man who loved island.., p.1

The Man Who Loved Islands, page 1

 

The Man Who Loved Islands
 


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The Man Who Loved Islands


  PRAISE FOR DAVID F. ROSS

  ‘A madcap romp through the 1980s with Ayrshire’s greatest band. It captures a world of indie rock and fucking wallopers with hilarious élan’ Stuart Cosgrove

  ‘An hilarious and caustic Boy’s Own tale of achieving every wannabe pop star’s dream … a No.1 Hit Single. The closest you’ll ever get to being on Top of the Pops. A solid gold hit of a book!’ Colin McCredie

  ‘Full of comedy, pathos and great tunes’ Hardeep Singh Kohli

  ‘Warm, funny and evocative. If you grew up in the eighties, you’re going to love this’ Chris Brookmyre

  ‘If you lived through the early eighties this book is essential. If you didn’t it’s simply a brilliant debut novel’ John Niven

  ‘Dark, hilarious, funny and heart-breaking all at the same time, a book that sums up the spirit of an era and a country in a way that will make you wince and laugh at the same time’ Muriel Gray

  ‘Like the vinyl that crackles off every page, The Last Days of Disco is as warm and authentic as Roddy Doyle at his very best’ Nick Quantrill

  ‘Took me back to an almost forgotten time when vengeance was still in vogue and young DJs remained wilfully “uncool”. Just brilliant’ Bobby Bluebell

  ‘More than just a nostalgic recreation of the author’s youth, it’s a compassionate, affecting story of a family in crisis at a time of upheaval and transformation, when disco wasn’t the only thing whose days were numbered’ Herald Scotland

  ‘The Last Days of Disco is a scream, an early 80s teenage dream of vinyl and violence, where Phoenix Nights meets Begbie – catfights and kickings at the disco, polis, payoffs, Masons, pals, and a soundtrack “Kid” Jensen would be proud of … David Ross’s debut novel punches the air and your face, hilarious and raging; a falling glitterball. Thatcher’s Kilmarnock is the coalition’s Kilmarnock, where the politics is bitter but the kids are alright; the last days of disco are the days we still dance in. This is a book that might just make you cry like nobody’s watching’ Iain MacLeod, Sunday Mail

  ‘The author himself grew up in Kilmarnock and his book gives a poignant portrayal of the humour and the horror of growing up in a small town in Scotland in the early 1980s. Crucially Ross’s novel succeeds in balancing light and dark, in that it can leap smoothly from brutal social realism to laugh-out-loud humour within a few sentences. It is a triumphant debut novel, which announces a real new talent on the Scottish literary scene’ David Kerr, Press & Journal

  ‘Ross perfectly plays the nostalgia card through the music and TV shows of the day, transporting readers back to the decade that, arguably, set the UK on the destructive political path it follows even now … By turn hilarious and heart-breaking, more than anything Ross creates beautifully rounded characters full of humanity and perhaps most of all, hope. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. It’s rude, keenly observed and candidly down to earth. You should read this, especially if you were eighteen as the Falklands Conflict developed and recall the fear those call up papers might be dispatched at any moment’ Liam Rudden, Scotsman

  ‘There’s a bittersweet poignancy to David F. Ross’s debut novel, The Last Days of Disco’ Edinburgh Evening News

  ‘It’s very sweary, often funny (their early gig supporting a dodgy hypnotist is the stuff of legend) and the strong cast of characters throbs with positivity and humanity. Even small-time gangster Fat Franny Duncan succeeds in evoking a measure of sympathy … if the final book is up to the same standard he will have carved out an enduring place for himself among contemporary Scottish novelists’ Alastair Mabb, Herald Scotland

  ‘Ross has written a great coming-of-age novel that is full of wonderful prose and characters who are instantly likeable. At times the book is reminiscent of Irvine Welsh; Kilmarnock takes the place of Leith, and vinyl, rather than heroin, is the drug of choice’ Literature for Lads

  ‘The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas is a ride down memory lane – back to the pop scene of the early 1980s. It is funny, witty, and extremely well written’ Trip Fiction

  ‘Set against a backdrop of rising unemployment levels and the brewing Falklands War, The Last Days of Disco – with its anger, wit and rebellion – is the novel version of an impassioned punk song. The humour is well pitched and executed, in places even sublime – but David F. Ross has a talent for social angst, and it’s this I’d love to see more of in the future’ Louise Hutcheson, A Novel Book

  ‘An absolute must-read’ By the Letter Book Reviews

  ‘It’s a strong premise and Ross handles the two threads skilfully, stepping backwards and forwards to follow the disco conflict through the local corridors of power … Rather as Jonathan Coe does with the 70s in The Rotters’ Club, Ross celebrates the music of the early 80s through the commitment and passion of Bobby and Joey to their favoured bands’ Blue Book Balloon

  ‘The Last Days of Disco strikes the perfect balance between weighty socio-political commentary and witty observation. I laughed out loud a great many times and shrunk in sadness during the harder moments. A tragic comedy of deep family difficulties and the comedic coping mechanisms, it makes for a strikingly authentic and enjoyable read’ Publish Things

  ‘I defy anyone not to be humming Shaking Stevens when reading this. You will … This is a funny, charming, slightly crazy and intelligent tale … retro comic magic’ Northern Lass

  ‘David Ross captures the mood and spirit of the time impeccably, with a wonderful cast of characters and a fabulous soundtrack … there are definite echoes of the late, great, much-missed Iain Banks here – there are plenty of comparisons to be drawn, with a sprawling Scottish small-town cast, delicately intertwined plotlines, social commentary and a deft turn of often quite black humour’ Espresso Coco

  ‘The Last Days of Disco captures the decade in all its harsh monochromatic glory … Filled with characters that will make you want to laugh and cry, often in the space of a single page, Ross has written a tragi-comedic novel that might topple Trainspotting’s crown and become Scotland’s favourite book of the last fifty years’ Andy Lawrence, Eurodrama

  ‘From about halfway through the novel, the Eastenders-esque drum bash moments, revelations where your mouth will drop, come thick and fast. That said, Ross is the master of bad-taste comedy. Fancy a children’s entertainer who makes phallic balloon animals? Or sex in a shed involving a dry-ice machine? Honestly, they say you couldn’t make it up, but Ross really can … Outstanding’ Amy Pirt, This Little Bag of Dreams

  The Man Who Loved Islands

  DAVID F. ROSS

  This one’s for Karen …

  and the indomitable people of Ayrshire

  Contents

  Title Page

  Dedication

  PART ONE: BONFIRE OF THE PROFUNDITIES

  1. October 2014. Shanghai, China

  2. June 1986. Benidorm, Spain

  3. October 2014. Shanghai, China

  4. April 1987. Ibiza, Spain

  5. October 2014. Shanghai, China

  6. August 1990. San Antonio, Ibiza

  7. October 2014. Huangshan, Anhui Province, China

  8. September 1992. San Antonio, Ibiza

  9. October 2014. Shanghai, China

  10. August 2006. Ibiza, Spain

  11. October 2014. Shanghai, China

  12. October 2014. Ibiza, Spain

  13. October 2014. Shanghai, China

  14. October 2014. Ibiza, Spain

  15. October 2014

  PART TWO: THE MAN WHO LOVED ISLANDS

  16. November 2014. Ibiza, Spain

  17. November 2014. Ibiza, Spain

  18. August 1984. Kilmarnock, Scotland

  19. July 1985. Glasgow, Scotland

  20. May 1987.
London, England

  21. February 1988. London, England

  22. July 1991. HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs. London, England

  23. November 2014. Ibiza, Spain

  PART THREE: LAUREL & HARDY RIDE AGAIN

  24. November 2014. Ibiza, Spain

  25. December 2014. Glasgow, Scotland

  26. January 2015. Troon, Scotland

  27. February 2015. Crosshouse, Scotland

  28. February 2015. London, England

  29. February 2015. Portland, Oregon, USA

  PART FOUR: THE BIG BANG (IN THEORY)

  30. March 2015. Crosshouse, Scotland

  31. March 2015. Manchester, England

  32. June 2015. Crosshouse, Ayrshire

  33. July 2015

  34. August 2015

  35. 29th August 2015. The Big Bang, Ailsa Craig

  36. September 2015

  37. June 2016. The Ailsa Craig

  Acknowledgements

  About the Author

  Copyright

  ‘We’re no longer as thick as thieves, no,

  We’re not as thick as we used to be.’

  – The Jam: ‘Thick as Thieves’

  ‘Ye aw’right, though?’

  ‘Aye. Ach fuck, who kens? You?’

  ‘Ma mum and dad have split up. For good this time. He’s away back up north. No’ really surprised tae be honest. He was a total fish oot ae water away fae the city.’

  ‘Sorry tae hear that, Joe.’

  ‘Ach, fuck it. No’ really that bothered. Him an’ me … nae real connection. Fitba, that wis aboot it. No’ like you an’ auld Harry.’

  It seemed like such a natural thing to say, but as soon as it was out there, Joey Miller regretted it. It still felt too soon. He was sitting on a damp wooden bench on the edge of the Kay Park lake with his closest friend, Bobby Cassidy; a friend whom he hadn’t seen for almost four months.

  ‘Ah didnae mean tae … ach, fuck sake, why am ah so fuckin’ anxious here?’ Joey admitted aloud.

  Bobby smiled. ‘It’s fine. Ah ken whit ye meant, man.’

  ‘So, ye gonnae tell me, or dae ah have tae keep guessin’?’ said Joey, getting to the point of their meeting, from his perspective at least.

  ‘Tell ye whit?’

  ‘Where ye’ve fuckin’ been since July?’

  Joey was becoming exasperated. They had spent the initial ten minutes talking about last night’s television; skirting around the main issues. Bobby had had a very tough time of it over the summer. His older brother Gary’s Falklands War resurrection, and his father’s sudden death all in the same week would have been hard for anyone to cope with, but rather than call on the support of his best friend, Bobby Cassidy had effectively vanished, disappearing into the ether almost as soon as Harry Cassidy’s body was in the ground. Hettie, Bobby’s concerned younger sister, had heard nothing from him. His troubled brother had reluctantly returned to barracks in London, haunted by his own preoccupations. Even Ethel, his poor old mum, was now blissfully anaesthetised against her family’s domestic carnage, countless tranquilisers keeping her in an all-day haze. Bobby’s family – apparently once so close – had fragmented. Perversely, only Joey Miller seemed preoccupied with that.

  ‘Ah had tae get away, man. Couldnae fuckin’ cope wi’ it aw. It wis just too much, mate,’ said Bobby. ‘Ah’m sorry. Ah couldnae really tell ye.’

  ‘So where did ye go, then?’ asked Joey.

  ‘Benidorm,’ replied Bobby.

  ‘Whit, for four bloody months?’

  ‘More or less.’

  ‘Must be fuckin’ great, eh?’ said Joey sarcastically. ‘Ye get a job wi’ Judith Chalmers or somethin’?’ The tone had changed.

  ‘Don’t start, Joe. Ah just dinnae need it, right?’ Bobby eased himself onto the slatted back of the park bench. He zipped his black Harrington jacket up against the early-winter cold and folded his arms before haunching down on his knees.

  ‘Thought we were meant tae be best mates, Bobby? Felt like a right fuckin’ tit wi’ everybody askin’ me where ye were an’ me huvin’ tae say that ah didnae have a bastardin’ scooby.’ Joey looked away, readying himself for his principal objection. ‘An’ then Hammy … fuckin’ Hammy … tells me yer away wi’ Lizzie, an’ he kens this because he got a fuckin’ postcard fae ye in August.’ Joey was angry but trying to keep it in check.

  ‘So ye knew ah wis in Spain, then? So whit’s wi’ the Spanish Inquisition?’ said Bobby.

  ‘Where’s ma fuckin’ postcard, ya prick?’ said Joey.

  Bobby laughed, but Joey was being serious. Bobby reached into a side vent pocket. He brought out a folded card, which had a cartoon of a blonde Diana Dors lookalike with enormous tits smiling seductively and lying on her back on a colourful beach towel, a broken signpost pointing to her cleavage. The words on the sign read Wish you were here … Joey snatched the card from Bobby and turned it over. The only words written on it were his name and ‘Onthank’ underneath it.

  ‘Ah didnae post it. Couldnae remember yer exact address. Ah wis never over at yours that often, you were always at mine.’ Bobby’s tone was conciliatory.

  Joey’s wasn’t: ‘So whit wis ye dain’ aw that time, sunbathin’? Sellin’ cheap sunglasses on the beach?’

  ‘Lizzie got the chance ae a week away an’ ah’d just had a fuckin’ massive barney wi’ Gary. Ah thought fuck it, packed a bag, lifted some money an’ ma passport an’ just went wi’ her. Got a decent price oan a last minute flight. We had nae intention ae stayin’ longer than a week, but one ae her pals wis workin’ on the 18–30 stuff an’ asked her boss if we could stay a bit. We both got a job an’ ah wis dain’ a bit ae the DJ’ing. It wis magic, man. Ye should come wi’ us next year.’

  ‘Whit aboot Hettie?’ said Joey.

  ‘Whit aboot her? She’s got her ain life. We’re no’ weans anymore, mate.’

  ‘She’s only fuckin’ sixteen, Bobby … an’ she’s just lost her dad, and her two brothers.’

  ‘How has she lost us?’ asked Bobby. ‘We’re still here, for fuck’s sake.’

  ‘Aye. Right.’

  Joey’s attitude was beginning to really irritate Bobby. ‘Look Joe, whit’s the Hampden here? Aw this concern aboot Hettie, whit’s it got tae dae wi’ you?’

  Joey formed the words but then drew back from uttering them. The truth would have put him on the back foot and he wasn’t ready for that. Instead he settled for a long and awkward pause. His best friend had undergone a transformation during the last few months. Where previously they had been inseparable, for Joey, it now felt like little connected them.

  ‘Did ye pick up the news that Weller had split the group?’ said Joey at last, reaching for the old days.

  ‘Not initially, but Hammy came oot in September, an’ he…’

  ‘Hammy?’ exclaimed Joey, his annoyance ramping up a notch. He was now at Def Con Two. He felt like he had definitely been conned. Twice.

  ‘So ye wurnae here for ma eighteenth, an’ ye find oot aboot The Jam split fae Hammy fuckin’ May?’ A line had now been crossed.

  ‘Well, nothin’ lasts forever, does it?’ That was harsher than Bobby intended.

  ‘Aye, apparently so,’ shouted Joey.

  ‘Ah’d better go.’ Bobby got up and stood in front of Joey. ‘Ah’ll maybe see ye at the weekend, then?’ But Joey didn’t answer him; wasn’t even looking at him. So Bobby turned and headed in the direction of the town.

  When Bobby was around fifty yards away, Joey stood up, intending to shout after his friend. But again the words didn’t come. He wanted to say that he had missed Bobby badly and that he just wanted things to be back to some semblance of normality between them.

  Instead, he simply whispered, ‘Some things last forever, pal.’

  ‘Ah! yet doth beauty like a dial-hand,

  Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived.’

  (From ‘Sonnet 104’ by William Shakespeare)

  Wide awake.

  Wide awake in unfamili
ar – but all too familiar – circumstances. Wide awake when you know you shouldn’t be; when every other person in a thousand-mile radius is asleep, readying themselves for the next cycle of work, or of play, or of whatever they will do that reminds them that they are alive. Or at least that’s what my confused brain is telling me.

  ‘How can I be happily alone with my thoughts when all they do is torment me? When they haunt my sleeping moments until I wake, and then torture the waking ones until I can’t escape them.’

  The unbearable solitude of 3 am. Looking forlornly out of yet another anonymous hotel window. A now regular stop on the umpteenth circumnavigation of a ridiculously firm mattress. It’s the same view as it was an hour ago; as it will be an hour from now. Blinking lights hint at life but there is none. Not yet anyway. Because every fucker in the world is asleep. Except me. Or so it seems.

  I only checked in twelve hours ago and yet I know every square inch of this room, like I constructed it myself. Its maintenance-free parquet floor. Its lowest-common-denominator beige walls. Prints that are blood relatives of the ones in every other economy-priced hotel I’ve ever stayed in (business isn’t quite as good as it used to be). Smoke detector. Sprinkler head. Siemens dials. Acknowledgments that this is a consistent set-up. An old silver Toshiba TV balancing unconvincingly on a Corian worktop in the corner. No upgrades to a flat monitor. Local channels in a language I don’t understand. My distorted reflection in its slightly curved screen when the bedside lamp goes on again. Shades of veneers imitating real wood in finishes that don’t quite match. Someone else’s concept of traveller comfort.

  Two white china cups. Both deployed into early service. A tiny kettle. It has worked hard; I’ll give it that. Empty sachets of convenience tea or powdered coffee. Nothing in the fridge. Nothing to do. Back to the window. Pleading in vain for the sun to begin to rise. Just to make the loneliness go away. Back to the unrelenting berth. Lights out. Again.

  Pains, both there and not there emerge. Some remnants from the sixteen hours it took to get here. Reminders that I’m too old to be doing this; that work-related travelling is a young man’s conceit. Gentle, but jagged jabs in the blackness, which begin to score points for the illogical part of the brain. The part that subtly suggests I might never see my daughter again then leaves that thought to corrode. That points out how remote she is from me despite the world getting smaller. It skilfully plants seeds that instantly grow out of control like mutating Leylandi. The further away I am, the more disconnected from her daily routines I feel. Different issues. Different time zones. Half a world away. Out of sight, etc. The more reasonable part that allows me to function normally isn’t fighting back. It seems to be the only part of me that is actually dormant. It is content to let irrationality dominate for the next few hours.

 
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