My name is John Doran and I write about music. The young bucks who run VICE’s website thought it would be amusing to employ a 41-year-old who can feel time’s terrible chariot flapping its withered bingo wings ever closer.
In case you were wondering or simply too lazy to use urban dictionary, ‘menk’ is Scouse/ Woollyback slang for a mentally ill or educationally subnormal person, and is a shortened version of mental. As in, “Your Sergio Tacchini trackie is sick la, look at that menk Doran, he can’t even afford a Walker trackie. Let’s hit him with a brick and push him in the canal."
MENK 36: TRUDGING SLOWLY OVER WET SAND
Here is a list of ideas. You can use them, ignore them, mock them, adapt them or disseminate them in any way you see fit. I don’t care.
A. Start a tribute act to Electric Wizard and call it Electronica Wizard. Get a four-piece together to play cover versions of their songs but on vintage synths while dressed like Kraftwerk. Hipsters love synths and (so I’m told) hipsters love Electric Wizard*, but are maybe sometimes too afraid to go and watch them live (as I’ve never seen any at any gigs). This is the perfect solution. I explained this idea to Will from Rise Above Records once. He looked at me like I’d taken a shit in his mouth. Not all metal people like Kraftwerk, although I have it on good authorty from one of his friends that Euronymous from Mayhem was a big fan.
B. If Electronica Wizard take off enough to go on a UK tour, become your own support band. Get the four piece to dress in classic biker gear of jeans, boots, sleeveless denim jackets with patches over leather biker jackets and mirror shades. The line-up consisting of two guitars, bass and drums will play doom metal covers of Gary Numan and Tubeway Army songs. The cover of "Down In The Park" will bring the house down. The band will be called Gary Oldman. (Ever since 2005 I have been phoned at least twice a year by people asking, “Is Gary Oldman there?” And it’s mainly by old women. The first time it happened was pretty terrifying. I’d been drinking cocktails the night before and woke up face down in the front room with my tongue stuck to the rug. I got quite upset to be honest. But now that it has happened a lot, I don’t worry so much about it.)
C. Enter the Turner Prize. Spend two weeks travelling all the different boroughs of Greater London collecting prostitutes’ cards from phone boxes, making sure you keep them in separate envelopes according to where they were found. Look for trends in sexual proclivities catered for by area and colour code a large map of the capital, with, say, blue for blow jobs in Bow, lilac for spanking in Mayfair, yellow for anal in Knightsbridge and so on. When the map is fully blocked out in colour, add black crucifix shapes to the location of the 33 largest cemeteries and call it The Cartography Of Fucking. Is your piece of art better than a light switch going on and off? Only if you can explain what it means. But you’ve got lots of room here for talking about class, race, sex, death, capitalism and psychogeography, so I don’t see why not. Read up on Alter Modernism in Tate Etc Magazine (issue number 15, Spring 2009). But if you can’t get your head around it don’t worry too much. Have you ever read an interview with Damien Hirst? That fucking cunt doesn’t have a clue about what he’s going on about and he’s the richest man in the world. Seriously, his paintings are like the work of a 17-year-old goth called Clive who attends Harrogate Technical College, so why shouldn’t your fucking map win the Turner Prize?
D. Write a novel that is clearly an update of Catcher In The Rye for the precocious and emotionally disturbed teens of 2012. Set it in the UK and update Holden Caulfield’s name to something a bit more modern, like Gucci Paxman. Include a new list of phonies in it to cover people like Jeremy Clarkson, Simon Cowell, Nigella Lawson, Chris Moyles and anyone else who would drive a hair trigger teen to the edge of reason. It’s a bit of a long shot, but it’s so easy for kids to buy firearms these days, that really it’s only a matter of time before some enterprising emo assassinates someone off the list. You can buy a Gatling Gun in my local Wetherspoons for a tenner, just ask for Roy – the guy with the cleft palate who’s always on the Minder fruit machine. After some feckless celeb has been killed just watch this book sell by the skip full. You won’t be universally liked but people will be all like, “JK who?” Just don’t be a dick and add someone like Pippa Middleton to the list and you’ll be laughing.
E. Start a secular pilgrimage. When I first tried to give up drinking I started losing the plot. I became convinced I could stop people from flying in planes, thus helping save the environment. This happened each and every time I tried properly to quit drinking actually, I became obsessed with environmental issues and the death of all life on Earth. (Last time, nearly four years ago, the focus of my mania was colony collapse and the death of honey-producing bees. I was determined to become an apiarist. I bought lots of books, joined a society and talked to other apiarists. I took comfort in the idea of looking after bees and keeping them healthy and safe from harm and death, in the same way that I wanted a higher agency to look after me.) The idea about the pilgrimage came to me one dark, stormy night in Dungeness.
I was staying in a friend’s camper van which felt like it was going to get blown out to sea by a fierce gale that was raging so I went outside for a piss. It always feels easier to arrive at significant life-changing choices when the weather’s up. I was standing outside of the violently creaking German VW on a 10ft-tall high sea wall over the pebble beach not too far away from the nuclear power station. It felt like the right time to do something with my life, looking out to where the jet-black night and the onyx black sea met in a mid-distance void. I unzipped my trousers and tried to think of running water.
What would happen if I just turned left now and started walking? How far could I cover in two or three weeks before I ran out of money? Would people come and find me and ask me what I was doing? Would they meet me a few days up the coast and bring me packed lunches and a change of clothes when I refused to come home? What would happen by the time I got up to Yorkshire, when I crossed the Humber Bridge? Would a local newspaper man come and meet me and ask me what I was doing? If they did, I would explain that I was inventing a new concept in holidays. That people should stop booking foreign city breaks and instead try walking up the coast for as far as they could go.
Would old mates and people I didn’t know read about me in the Hull Daily Mail and come and join me? As we approached Scotland, would we be met at the border by a team of pipers and a kindly lady with shortbread biscuits? As the crow flies, it is about 2,500 miles round the coast of Britain. But I am not a crow and I do not fly. Even if I covered 50 miles a day, it would take a very long time to get all the way round Scotland’s coast and back into England. By the time we got down to Merseyside and a Granada TV crew came to meet us, there we would be more of a story. Why was this group of people walking round the coast of Britain, picking up new people on a daily basis? Opinion writers for national newspapers would be penning columns about it now. Some in favour. Some against.
By the banks of the Mersey my mum and dad would come and meet us. My mum would give me a £20 note folded up as small as possible: “For food, not drink.” And my dad would say that I should have turned right at Dungeness, not left, “It would have been easier that way. The wind would have been at your back. And have you got any spare batteries for your torch? Take these spare batteries for your torch. Always pitch your tent at the top of a field because the water runs downhill. And never shelter from a thunderstorm under a tree.”
Photo by Vicki Burton
People would start to see us as we approached Dungeness from the other direction, maybe about three months later. They would start to understand my big idea as they saw thousands of us approaching in a long string formation spread out over several miles. And then as I walked towards the nuclear power station people would cheer and clap. And then they would stop and stare open-mouthed as I kept on walking. Yes! That’s right! I would keep on going for another lap! And this time I would start writing the first of many guide books on where to stay, what sites to look out for, where to bivvy down for the night. The path would become world famous. Students would spend part of their gap years walking it. Enterprising hoteliers would open up bunk houses along the routes. The long-suffering UK seaside tourist trade would experience a rejuvenation in fortunes not seen since the 1950s.
I remember feeling with every fibre of my being: “I could just leave now. Just turn left and start walking. This time next year everything will be alright.” But a massive gust of wind like a freewheeling Range Rover hoofed me over the railings and upside down onto the pebbles below. The shock opened my bladder with a vengeance. It was a good ten seconds before I managed to stop pissing all over myself. I ran round shouting and screaming, punching the wall and booting pebbles up into the air, piss in my hair and all up my duffle coat. When I got back to the camper van, Johnny said: “Have you just…” But I told him to stop talking and to pass me a mug of Blue Nun.
I’ve been slowly cutting down on my medication all year. I’m now taking about a third of what I was at Christmas, but I might stick where I am for a bit. My thoughts are bouncing round in my head like tennis balls in a launderette tumble dryer. I’d love to come off it altogether but I think I’m good where I am for the time being. Being on this stuff isn’t killing me and I don’t want to go getting any more funny ideas.
*I should clarify that I don’t really believe hipsters exist in any significant sense any more than chavs do. They’re certainly another modern folk bogeyman for people to blame everything on.