LETTERS FROM SARI
Copyright 1982, Sarah Hartwell

These were written way back in the 80s when I was in High School. I wrote outrageous spoof letters to friends describing fictional events in the summer holidays. The people mentioned are real and the events are based on crazy parties and wild concerts.

THE PARTY

Dear Mum & Dad

I hope you are both well and have arrived in Spain safely. I bet the experience of being hijacked by Basque Separatist Guerillas was fun and that the crash landing in Tehran wasnít too uncomfortable; it was a pity you landed on the main Mosque rather than the airport runway but at least the bump didnít detonate the IRA bomb until after you had left the plane. Pity about the other passengers though.

I spent the food allowance you left me on food for the party which we had the other night. Beís gang turned up and were in fine spirits (mainly Gin and Vodka) after having beaten up the majority of Chelmsfordís Skinheads as well as most of the rest of Chelmsford. Youíll be glad to know that Alastairís out of Broadmoor at last (although weíre not sure whether itís legal) so we invited him too and he certainly livened up the party. Naturally Simon got some of his mates to come round Ďtho weíre still waiting for Roy to come round after Keith hit him on the head with a Whisky bottle (he was wise enough to empty the bottle first which could explain why he hit him - are you meant to drink whisky neat in pints?).

Bill brought a few crates of his "Acme Home-Brew Plonk" which looks like Ribena but could anaesthetise an elephant from a distance of 50 yards. Pete "The Cabaret Voltaire Fan" somehow got his entire record collection here which reminds me, the suspension in dadís car has gone, and the sheer weight of them caused part of the hallway to collapse, although that might have been caused by the cooker exploding. Peter, Lynnís late boyfriend (pity about the light fitting but itís odd what effects Barry Manilow has on some people) brought some rather suspicious cigarettes with him, funny herbal taste but not unpleasant. Timo of course decided to play squash with Sueís boyfriend Colin. Timo won the toss and got to drive the steamroller. (I must remind Alastair to give it back to the road repair crew).

By this time Billís wine had really broken the ice (among other things) and things really began to swing; Peter was swinging from the light fitting and we canít be sure whether it was Manilow-induced suicide or death by misadventure. Sarah and her latest didnít think theyíd be able to make it - or the party (as the current innuendo goes) but we found them a few duvets and they seemed to enjoy themselves until everyone else decided to join in.

We managed to finish up all the wine (when we ran out of spirits, meths included) even the stuff we found hidden under the stairs. Apart from the Munich Aircrash Ď58 was obviously a good year. Keith nicked, I mean borrowed, the fags (500 Rothmans I believe) that were hidden in the piano - one reason it was out of tune (Iíll tell you the other reason later) and he did his smokescreen act, filling the air with blue, foul-smelling smoke which caused the purifier to blow, although most of it was later found to be the telly burning.

Anyway, Keith and (randy) Roj got into a bit of a scrap after Keith made a pass at Be. Keith ended up in the intensive care unit of the Chelmsford & Essex hospital after landing on one of the amplifiers (did you know that Essex Radio had lent Alastair some of their equipment, at least I think they lent it to him). He put up quite a fight in the waiting room until he sat on the hypodermic syringe. He still maintains they were trying to turn him into a junkie. The amp was a write off but Keith returned after about an hour, bringing the hypo with him.

Simon found mumís Tomato Ketchup and was demonstrating the "Rolf Harris style Action-Art" method of painting when the Ladderax wall units fell on top of him. What Roj and Lynn were doing on top of it we can only guess - they wonít actually admit to anything but it registered 9 on the Richter scale. Needless to say the carpet, or rather whatís left of it after the fire, needs a bit of a clean. We tried using solvent on it (when I got it away from Keith who was sniffing it) but it only seemed to make the fire worse.

I have to visit the doc and Andrew has offered to pay for the mishap even though it was really Alastairís fault. Hopefully the test will come out okay and it wonít need to be amputated but I wonít be able to play the piano for quite a while (if there was any left to play). Alastair shouldnít have stabbed Andrew in the kneecap while he was sitting on the keyboard cover (which Iíve still got as a memento - don't worry, the red stains on it arenít blood, just tomato ketchup, I hope). Huw offered to pay for the rest of the piano but as it went off the A130 at the junction near the river it doesnít seem worth it.

Alastair and Carole-Anne were passing the apple, well actually we couldnít find an apple so they had to imagine one and it must have been a very small one. That was before the cooker blew up when the phone didnít stop ringing (neighbours will insist on complaining when youíre enjoying yourself). Huw didnít put it back together right after Bill smashed it over Keithís head for insulting Led Zeppelin and we put it in the oven at 350 Fahrenheit. I suppose we should have disconnected it first especially after it nearly strangled Yvo who was trying to escape from Roj after she had emptied the contents of his pipe down his back.

Pete tried to put out the fire (when he found it didnít cook very good chips) and as a result my (late) friends Sue and Carol were burnt rather badly, almost beyond recognition. We eventually put the fire out with the carpet, but the solvent which weíd used on the carpet had the opposite effect. By the time weíd eventually put the fire out (after it had made a short cut to upstairs) the damages bill was rather high, Bill himself was even higher on those funny-fags. We did have £32 in the swear box after Rojís Ladderaxident.

Kaz has to have some glass removed from her eye after Simon threw the ketchup bottle at Carol, and missed (before the cooker blew up) and she left the party early on a Huw propelled piano. Luckily Kaz is/was a good swimmer (we wonít know till weíve found her) but the river police still havenít found her or the piano (which is also wanted for speeding). Andrew did his usual trick with the daffodil and made himself thoroughly sick in the punch. If Be hadnít brought the subject up Andrew wouldnít have brought the daffodil up.

Paul had one of Peterís ĎHerbal Cigarettesí and then walked through the French Windows without noticing it. It saved us opening the windows as we were rather in need of some fresh air what with the various fires still smouldering (those adverts are quite right you know - it is nice to come home to a real fire). The hole in the lounge wall (ask Timo or Cohn about that; they had the steamroller) made a nice through current. Beís popping down to the hospital to be tested for Botulism after she got drunk on Billís wine and ate the goldfish. The tank looked rather empty so we put CaroleóAnne in it. It was rather a tight fit and we were surprised that the glass stood up to it although Carole-Anne made some very strange noises before persuading Alastair that she really couldnít breathe under water.

Unfortunately Be missed the rather spectacular seance which Andrew held to ask Sue and Carol if theyíd enjoyed the party . Somehow I think heíd got a crossed line and got onto the wrong ghosts so we now have a poltergeist.

The firemen arrived to put out the fire before it spread to any other houses. This fire started when Keith got tired of teaching the cat to smoke and set light to the curtains (incidentally, we havenít seen the cat lately - Iíll have to ask Huw if that was really squirrel curry we had). Yvo was treated for burns and now looks like a skinhead so Beís gang beat her up. After Keithís fag hit a curtain and finished the party (for a while until we decided to turn it into a barbecue) and the fire was almost under control, I chucked him (with a bit of help) right into the Holly tree. The party continued by firelight until Alastair found a chainsaw and chopped down the tree in which Keith was hiding in order to use it (and possibly Keith) to keep the fire going. By this time the police were onto us for excessive noise, disturbing the peace, inciting a riot and being a public menace (he must be referring to Alastair).

Hope you had a good time too.

Luv, Sari

PS: Please can I have some more money so I can bail Alastair out?

THE HOLIDAY

Dear Su

Am having a great time in Bogpool-on-Sea, the sky is a delicate shade of black from the power station and there is an invigorating tang of pollution in the air. Hotel Grottia (which incidentally burnt down on our second day here) is, as its name suggests, grottier than any other hotel here. Not that there are any other hotels here after the Spring bout of Bubonic Plague. The Bogpool Black Rats are actually quite friendly once you get used to them and they do eat the rubbish (which the dustmen refuse to collect until they get paid danger money - its something to do with the anthrax scare they had last year). No trouble with bedbugs here - they avoid this place like the plague. Come to think of it, even the plague tries to avoid this place.

On the first day here, mother had an unfortunate accident on the beach in the quicksand and is now in a stable condition in Bogpool General Mortuary, which is also Bogpoolís only restaurant "The Offal Licence". Against all advice Father went for a swim yesterday and although he was in no danger from jellyfish, sharks etc (none of which can survive the rigorous conditions here - better described as rigor mortis rather than rigorous) he did catch a rather nasty strain of tetanus from a passing tin can which Keith had put out to sea with a message in it.

Keith bought me a litre of perfume, which Iím allegic to. Itís the traditional Bogpool fragrance which evokes vivid memories of the murky grey water (when the taps are working) and the piles of rotting kippers dumped in the Bogpoolís only street. itís called "Eau de Foulfish" and it came in quite useful as fly-spray to kill the flies which were attempting to escape from the soup in which they had fallen (even though they were doomed like everything else which touched the soup).

The cat, yes she came too, caught Botulism from the Bogpool delicacy; a stew of local toxins called "Notfitfa Human Consumption". The other local dish (apart from the waitress at the Offal Licence, a dish discovered by Keith after only 2 hours in Bogpool) is "Gangreen Salad" which contains something more potent than Curare so Keith and I used it to poison the landladyís dog. After that the meat stews seemed to improve - whether it was dog or dog food I donít know.

Keith and I acquired the pioneering spirit (Bogpool Homebrew Gin, a flavoured version of paint stripper) and hired a caravan. We stayed on a nice uncrowded site (no-one else was foolish enough to stay there, in other words) just before the estuary of the River Slime. Unfortunately it got cut short when a tanker carrying bactericide to Bogpool caused the bridge downriver to collapse and the River Slime burst its banks, flooding the site. The caravan floated down the estuary until it was stopped for speeding by the River Police (after we had won the Bogpool versus Slimecreep Boat Race).

The weather here is fantastic - it hasnít stopped raining since we got here. Tell a lie it did once and Keith got hit by a hailstone. Dr DeAth, who is the local doctor and undertaker, says he should be all right in a few years time - no lasting brain damage but a little serum hepatitis from the syringe which the hospital, who had accidentally got Keith down for a brain transplant, used to administer a sedative. Keith got in some practice for Brighton mods vs rockers next Easter when he fought off the over-enthusiastic doctors who wanted to be pioneers in the field of Brain Transplantation (the donor was to be the landladyís deceased dog). No damage was done but Keithís IQ is considerably higher - it must be at least 12 by now. He took the opportunity of having all his innoculations at the same time so that he

could go swimming yesterday. He was very careful not to swallow any water as there is no known cure for it. I got bitten by a gnat which must have been immune to the soup and perfume) and had to have my anti-Rabies injection. Luckily it only turned out to have the Bogpool speciality flu-virus.

When the hotel burned down (I had tried to stop Keith from smoking in bed but it seems to be the only way to keep the gnats at bay) we were housed in the crematorium where there was "Real Fire Central Heating" (also used by the Offal Licence next door as their oven is infested with cockroaches). Keith fell into the fire place and father, mercifully unable to talk because of the tetanus, tried to stop him getting out. I tried to put the fire out with sea water but due to an oil-slick, it only made things much worse; okay - I know, Keith couldnít be much worse. Still, the resulting inferno saved on Motherís funeral bills, besides sheíd always wanted her ashes scattered over the sea.

I met a local fisherman, John, who catches all the food we try not to eat, so Keith saved future holiday-makers from Salmonella by drowning him which explains why weíre both alive and unwell. On our last day we went to admire (mire being the right word) the view from the clifftop, which collapsed when a seagull set off one of the World War II landmines on the beach below. We watched the sun setting behind the clouds of smoke and soot rising from the remains of the Crematorium and the oily waves lapping the mud of (the remains of) Bogpool beach, washing up the sewage.

On the last day the tide came in for he first time since 1709, flooding Bogpool and neighbouring Slimecreep-on-the-Dunghill (from which the ĎDunghill cigarettes come, not to be confused with ĎDunhillí). Keith and I sailed out of Bogpool on Johnís boat which sprang a leak two miles out from land. We managed to swim part way up the Chelmer and are now hopefully recovering here in the intensive care unit of Chelmsford & Essex Hospital. The doctors are as yet unable to comment on Fatherís condition.

See you some day in the distant future.

Luv, Sari

PS: This letter has been disinfected

 

THE CONCERT

Dear Su

Hi there! How are you baby? Itís Tuesday I think but I canít be sure cos I lost track of time at the gig Keith and I went to; I also lost track of Keith but that doesn't really bother me, I saw his feet sticking out of a speaker and heís doubtless still there.

Anyway this gig was the biggest thing since Woodstock and it was even better - cos I wasnít at Woodstock! You could hear the band from a mile off and the seismograph showed a reading of 6. The best sound mix was from the tree outside the foyer of the hall so Keith said after the bouncer threw him into it. Unfortunately the tree isnít there anymore cos the vibrations made it fall over into the lake, but Keith says you can hear the music pretty well underwater but he was stoned so I didnít take much notice of him.

As you mustíve guessed, I went with Keith, who spent half his time at the bar trying to chat up the barmaid while he was coherent enough. He spent most of the rest of the time studying the lead guitarist in case he got any inspired thoughts. Last thing I heard was that the lead guitarist tried to chat Keith up. That must have been before Keith passed out for the third time. Iíve written down the main points about rock concerts so that you can tell whether or not youíve been to a good one.

Be prepared for the absolutely amazing volume and take some cotton wool in case the volume gets beyond the pain barrier. You can usually tell when itís got beyond the pain barrier when your head aches (unless youíre stoned) and if you canít feel your head look for blood coming from other peopleís ears. The cotton wool also comes in very useful for mopping up blood when beloved tips beer over bouncer and gets thrown against wall.

If beloved tries to throw bouncer against wall he will usually end up listening to the concert from in a tree - or under lake, or both if the bouncer is feeling really mean. Trouble with cotton wool is that you have to communicate by lip reading (if bouncer hasnít wedged boot in belovedís mouth) or sign language (if beloved isnít twitching cos of too much speed). Even when beloved hadnít got cotton wool protruding from all facial orifices the volume prevented all conversation. If your one is anything like Keith this is heaven.

Clothes: unless the gig is being held in a nudist camp or is the accompaniment to an orgy it is preferable (thoí not essential) to wear clothes, even if it only is to stop people burning you with cigarettes. The best effect is achieved from wearing as much denim and leather as possible and putting studs in your jacket if you can (so you donít get crushed in the rush for the bar). A T-shirt with the name of a heavy rock band on it, preferably on a colour that hides blood (like black), is best unless youíre only going for the traditional brawl in which case Duran Duran ones seem too work best. Men who wear Frankie goes to Hollywood T-shirts are gay and are only there to find other men who are wearing Frankie T-shirts.

Make sure you havenít washed your clothes for a few weeks and soak them in Patchouli oil to confuse the sniffer dogs. Hair should be long and greasy; the more the better though men with shaggy beards are probably converted folk music lovers who havenít quite made the changeover. Tying a leather headband around your head prevents too much hair falling out and looks the part, wearing a twisted piece of rag which has been down belovedís oil sump looks even better thoí pieces of rag are best employed around neck to catch beer spillages (they can be wrung out over the glass later).

The front of the hall is for the really devoted headbangers whose tossing hair makes it look like a sea of brown, black, blond and occasionally blue (from those who haven't quite made the transition from punk). The noise of crunching neck vertebrae coincides with the beat and means that most headbangers have a severely diminished IQ and an awful lot of hair and if you get a crowd of them who have dandruff or nits the effect can be quite startling especially if thereís an ultraviolet light or strobe.

The back of the hall is frequented by those looking for members of the opposite sex or even members of the same sex. If the bar is at the back of the hall there is usually a large unoccupied area between the back of the bar queue (which is not so much a queue as a scrimmage) and the band. Suppliers of illegal or dubious substances tend to set up an instant black market and you get high just walking past them.

The floor is used as an ashtray and general repository for ash, fag ends, roach ends, plastic cups, fag packets, crisp-bags, blood, vomit, sweat and worse. When beloved passed out, the floor seemed as good a place as any to put him although he would have preferred to wake up at the bar and carry on from where he was so rudely interrupted. Trainers usually end up stuck to the floor and itís best not to try to identify the substances sticking them down. Leaving the hall is a case of wading through all manner of gunge and in a really good gig some bodies as well.

Ventilation in the best gigs is at an absolute minimum so that everyone benefits from the aromatic substances smoked by the few rich enough to afford it. The air is composed of smoke, leather-wax, sweat and alcohol fumes in roughly even quantities and oxygen tanks are useful until beloved puts a lighted fag in the reserve tank. The optimum temperature is several degrees above body heat but not so high that the alcohol evaporates from your plastic cup (headbangers are not to be trusted with real glass although most of them supply their own weapons anyway).

The subject matter of songs is generally limited to: women, sex, fast cars, faster motorbikes, the apocalypse and violence, all liberally mixed with any other nocturnal, illegal or immoral activity. Sometimes the band has a good idea for a tune but they havenít got round to the words - this is normally called an instrumental and is usually played by the drummer. All intros sound like Status Quo songs which all sound the same anyway and any lyrics which do get written are inaudible because of the drummer (more about him later). Your heart tends to resonate with the drums and you end falling in love with the drummer even though heís not half as good as Cozy Powell.

Once Iíd lost Keith in the mob at the back of the hall, I got round to the serious business of enjoying the gig and ended up with a stiff neck and a headache. As usual I fell in love with the drummer, who wasnít half as good as Cozy Powell, but I fell in love with him anyway. It must have been the manly way he twirled his sticks. I told him this and he announced over the PA that if I didnít push off heíd ram his drumsticks down my throat. I saw him after the gig - without his blond wig, dressed in a suit and pushing a pram - so I fell out of love with him and in love with the bass guitarist who said "Yes if you help me carry my gear" (Iíd needed a lift home but I guess I forgot to say whose home cos it wasnít mine that I ended up at).

I carried all his stuff out to his Scammell lorry although I reckon he needed Geoff Capes cos it took me 6 trips (no, not on LSD); it wouldíve taken three if heíd helped. I packed it all in the lorry and 12 miles later I unpacked and stacked it in the spare room. This time it took 7 trips cos I had to carry him in as well. By that time it was 11 oíclock the following morning and after Iíd cooked him breakfast I fell asleep on the kitchen floor. I was woken up at 6 pm, although Iím not sure of which day, by the bass guitaristís mother who is a roadie for AC/DC and was visiting for tea. I finally hitchhiked home in time to get drunk.

Anyway I must sign off now cos my head aches from banging it (I never get hangovers) although I should be used to that as talking to Keith is, at the best of times, like banging your head on a brick wall.

Cosmic wishes and happy headbanging from your spaced out friend

Luv, Sari

PS: If you have the misfortune to see Keith - tell him I crave his body (I need something to prop the door open). Heís been missing for 3 days now but I hardly like to bother the police.

 

DRAGONQUEEN'S LAIR

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