I WONDER if Tracey made it back safely to Banff?
She was an unlikely mariner by my reckoning. Although I did admire her lines. She told me she’d bought a motor cruiser and had taken a few lessons. And then she heard about Wick HarbourFest and thought “my maiden voyage”... That took some pluck.
It was a seven-hour trip, apparently. Tracey says she passed north “on the wrong side” of the Beatrice oil field – whatever that means.
She assured me she had all the technology and from where I was sitting in Harper’s Bar I had little reason to doubt her. If she could handle the helm on El fido as well as she could handle a pool cue I think any crew she’d have on board would be in safe hands.
So we got drinking, as you do. She told me a bit of her story and I told her how many rivers I’d cried.
Drink does that to a guy. She was a bit like the drams she was downing – a southern comfort of sorts.
She said I must come see her boat but I declined her invite. I much prefer terra firma.
I kissed her on the cheek and went home to my bed although the room spun and it felt like I was riding out a North Atlantic storm...
It was in Harper’s where I met Kevin the other week. A muscly ex-Army type, he seemed well impressed when I told him about my days in Vietnam... as you do. Drink does that to a guy. It’s hard to suppress all those traumas (I try to convince anyone who will listen) or maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to captivate an unsuspecting audience with a ripping yarn.
So before we knew it I was back in 1975...
It was then I was working at a secret communications base within the compound of the US Embassy in Saigon (as my story goes...) Having earlier that summer undertaken a fast-track decoding and encryption course at Bletchley Park, I had been seconded by an obscure foreign ministry department, somewhere in deepest cob-webbed Whitehall, to serve with the Yanks in the final days of that ignoble conflict...
Kevin listened attentively as I elaborated my modest role unravelling enemy transmissions as the inexorably advancing guerrillas of the northern communist-backed People’s Army of Vietnam moved ever closer on the capital (which we know today as Ho Chi Minh City).
Through an underground network – the Cu Chi tunnels — they brought the Tet Offensive closer and closer — and with alarming success.
Only occasionally were we allowed social forays away from the restrictions of compound life, I told Kevin.
These took us deep into the chaotic jam-packed streets of Saigon. In a shady downtown speakeasy we danced the Charleston with heroin-crazed flappers in what were truly surreal times...
Next thing I knew it was Sunday morning.
I woke up, my head in a fog remembering the tales I’d spun to Kevin. I was convinced he’d kill me next time we met...
So in the Crown Bar I re-ran the whole Vietnam story past Wendy and Marie.
But barmaids are much more perceptive, I discovered, so I had to deviate from the original text a bit... I wonder if they fell for it?
Talking of falling for it... I was in the Camps bar with some motorbiker cronies after a Spoons curry night last week.
My little bruv, all the way home from the Granite City, joined us. A bit like Fiona, the Mine Hostess, he couldn’t believe just how much water I scooshed into my favourite Black Bottle tipple.
Not something a “real man” does apparently...
That said it wasn’t me who woke several hours later, a tad disorientated, in a ward of the local hospital.
There, “on the wrong side” of the duty nurse, he was warned about the dangers of alcohol.
Strange, the things drink does that to a guy.
KIM and Suzie, just like Tracey, somehow also heard about Wick... of all places. I was out, again, with BY and Tritonthrasher scooshing the guest ales in Wetherspoons on Saturday night.
We were heading to Harper’s bar to hear Diesel ’n’ Dust, a country rock combo, when we met up with these fair ladies from Oz.
They fell in tow with us (as you do); it must have been our charismatic charm and magnetic repartee... Drink does that to a guy.
I must say it’s good to see The Backer back in business after a long lay-off when the Town and County Club — its former guise —hit the buffers.
Wick’s not quite Freemantle, Western Australia, the nearest city from where our intrepid travellers had ventured from.
They’d taken time out to visit Europe. Northern Ireland, they told us (along, naturally, with Scotland), was among the most beautiful places they had visited.
So we got talking and dancing. I started to tell them about my days in Vietnam and thought better of it. Well, you never know if Kevin’s hovering about.
The band were brilliant. We did envy them. Especially as no-one will book our band.
I told Tritonthrasher The Halkirk Spanking Party was a dodgy name for a band, but he wouldn’t listen to me.
Not that we can quite play guitar – yet. But one day.
Kim, who has a way with words, said we needed to pick a band name that was an oxymoron.
Something like The Grateful Dead or Living Sacrifice... Not a bad idea given we can only play two songs and only take bookings for funerals.
But as Suzie reminded us who wants to hear “Lying Eyes” and “Whisky in the Jar” at a wake?
I wonder if they made it back safely...