Flights of Fantasy by Phil 'Boz' Evans
Robert Godber was the last Punk left in the South Wales Valleys.
It was nearly 43 years since the Sex Pistols had shocked the Rock N Roll Community with their slogans of Never Mind the Bollocks and God save the Queen.
How times had changed.
So had the slogans too.
Never Mind the Botox and God shave the Queen was more relevant to 2020.
However, strangely enough he was still Public Enemy No 1 in the little valley Town of Merthyr Tydfil, as despite the health warnings of Covid-19, the dirty bastard still insisted on spitting on the pavement everywhere he went.
All the colours of the rainbow- but mainly shades of yellow and green paint you could only find on a B & Q paint chart.
In fact, the streets around where Rob squatted on Brecon Road were so full of spittle, most visitors thought that Merthyr had seen an influx of Premiership Footballers.
At 56 years, Rob the Gob, as he was known locally, had become quite an accomplished shot with his mouth.
He put it down to a misspent youth and his upbringing in the 1970’s as a latchkey kid, developing his oral skills, by using his pea shooter and box of hard- boiled Leo peas to take out the bulbs on the top of the wooden lampposts.
His Norwegian music teacher in school, Mr Per Cushion, had noticed that Rob had both strong lungs and a powerful trachea and therefore had him marked his strong voice out in his class as a potential trumpeter, nicknaming him the ‘new Sachmo’.
Rob thought to himself ‘What a wonderful World he lived in’ back in his halcyon schooldays, when all he had to worry about was avoiding his drunken Father’s fists and how much ‘bingo’ money he could steal from his Mother’s coat pockets before she noticed.
Now being a rebel all his life, hadn’t helped him one iota.
He had no job, he lived in a squat house that was overdue demolition, with no means of heating or lighting or mains sanitation and worse still, his advanced hair-loss had meant his green and blue Mohican/Stegosaurus had gone the way of the dinosaurs too.
His foray into the World of Punk Rock, busking outside train and bus stations under the band name of ‘Dogs die in Hot Cars’ had ended prematurely, after his backing vocalist, Flob the Dog, had been bitten by karma and died in his former mate’s hot car.
Rob the Gob didn’t care for anyone anymore- human or animal, especially after another traumatic event in his sad existence.
He was nearly 30, when his 16 year old running mate, Rusty Pinn, had died at the Reading Festival in 1992 at the Carling ‘Monsters of Rock’ Festival, whilst watching Nirvana- drowning in the Mosh Pit in a sea of what smelled like Teen Spirit and he had a held a ‘grunge’ against the World ever since.
He was the only person to cheer at the TV, when he heard that Kurt Cobain had blown his own head off with a shotgun.
There wasn’t much Love lost.
Rob the Gob didn’t have many material possessions but he was quite a follower of fashion with his proudest possession being a pair of Vivienne Westwood trousers from the Punk era with 40 different zip fasteners sown into them.
Which was great when you are 17 years of age but not so good when have a dodgy prostate at 56 with a failing memory too.
To add to Rob’s woes, he had also had an unfortunate accident whilst off his head glue-sniffing in Aberfan Cemetery.
Whilst listening to the Punk Band ‘The Skids’, he had pogoed himself into an uncharted mine entry inadvertently going ‘into the Valley’ in a totally different way.
His dyslexic sniffing mate, Alf Abett, would have saved him but unfortunately, he was arrested for importuning after he was caught ‘sniffing aerosols’.
When the rescuers found him three days later, he had to have an emergency operation to remove three days build-up of mucus, which equated and weighed three Pounds in weight from his throat.
He was given an emergency tracheostomy and had a tube inserted into his windpipe.
He was only capable of communicating with hand gestures or by placing a kazoo next to his larynx, making him sound like an effeminate Darth Vader.
Strangely enough, it didn’t stop him spitting.
Perhaps it was because of his past addiction to Camel cigarettes, but he could still produce more Phlegmish works of kerbside art than Belgian painter Peter Paul Rubens.
But when life gives you lemons, I suppose you have to do something with them.
And in this life, when one door closes a new airway opens.
Rob’s tracheostomy was to hand him an unexpected lifeline.
After the local pub, the Catholic Arms had reopened its’ doors to a limited number of visitors due to the new social distancing provisions, by accident Rob had discovered a strange new talent.
Whilst sitting in the snug, a fellow drinker, Ystradgynlais’ own Rory Railtrack had complained to the barman about the smell of Rob’s breath and the barman decided to take matters into his own hands by placing a Glade Plugin Air Freshener in Rob’s throat-hole.
It worked for a short time, but Rob suddenly realised this was an infringement of his human rights.
In anger, he thrust down his diaphragm internally with mind control and pumped his lungs with all his might.
Aiming for the sweet-spot between the ‘Neath’anderthal’s complainant’s eyes- just below his unibrow- Rob let fly.
The Glade Plug-in shot out and smacked the caveman right between the eyes and just like the Biblical confrontation between David & Goliath, the giant man of orange apparel dropped like a stone to the floor.
This brought out a loud cheer from the rest of the room, as the dazed railway worker was led from the bar in the direction of the casualty department of the Queen Camilla Hospital.
Rob had never been so popular.
He had rid them of the pub version of Simpsons’ bully Nelson Muntz.
Pints were passed to the Down and Out in Brecon Road Hills and whilst he may have had the dishevelled look about him of Nick Nolte- he no longer felt like a Poor Man but a Rich Man too.
He was even more surprised to be offered a game of darts by one of the regular more sporting patrons, Len ‘The Bull’ Taurus.
Rob felt honoured but his attempts at hitting the board failed miserably despite being given a 200 point head-start by his fellow ‘dartiste’.
He bounced more times off the tyre than Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna.
And then Rob had an Epiphany.
By placing the flight in the hole in his throat, he then followed the same diaphragm and throat manoeuvre that he had with the Railway Bully and all of a sudden, he was hitting treble twenty with each ‘throw’.
Len the Bull was astonished.
“Hit double top!” came the request.
Rob concentrated and the repeated the procedure.
The dart struck it’s intended target.
Again and again repeated requests from the bar to hit a certain spot were met by Rob.
He was now more accurate than a US Drone strike over Iran.
The Pub Landlord, Alan Murray, was shocked to see that Rob could hit more doubles than even he could and he was suffering from ‘Publican’s disease’.
However, the entrepreneur realised this was the chance he had been waiting for.
Kismet had ‘thrown’ this golden opportunity his way and he was determined to seize his chance.
He had read in the Industry Newspaper that local businesses were being given a kickstart by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and despite the scientist promised second wave of Coronavirus not occurring, people had changed their habits and were no longer using pubs, inns and taverns with the frequency that they once were.
His Commercial Landlord based in the Tax Exile Cayman Islands, had come up with a series of promotions to encourage more punters to return in numbers by arranging for celebrities to visit their establishments.
But at the same time expected full rent for the three -month period the pub was unable to open.
Who could possibly resist missing a Karaoke Night with Jedward or a Mixed Martial Arts wrestle with Conor McGregor (before the real action happened at closing time) or visiting a newly refurbished Punch Tavern hosting Tyson Fury.
But the one that stood out to him was an evening of ‘Red Arrows’ with Phil ‘the Power’ Taylor, the Stoke-on Trent born, 16- time World Champion.
He was aware that the Olympic athlete was currently touring the UK and was prepared to take on all and sundry with a prize of £250,000.00 to any amateur pubgoer that could beat him over 3 legs.
Alan Murray pulled up the full rules on his mobile phone and began to read them.
If only he had taken this much time and scrutinized his pub tenancy agreement in the same way he wouldn’t be in this predicament.
His Tenancy Agreement with no Coronavirus provision meant he was still liable for full rent during the pandemic, and worse still he was obliged to buy his beer from the tied brewery at inflated prices, despite not having anyone to sell it to for over four months.
He now had more barrels than the Great White Shark in Jaws.
He scanned the rules in depth:
No Professional Players.
No discrimination- Male or Female players or combinations of both were eligible to enter the Contest.
B.A.M.E players to be given a discount off the entry fee.
DISABLED PLAYERS TO BE ENCOURAGED TO TAKE PART.
No re-throws allowed.
Only one entry per person allowed.
Referee’s decision to be final in all circumstances.
Free Goldfish to be given to all participants.
One phrase that jumped out at him was that of encouraging the disabled to take part.
Surely, Rob the Gob would fall into that category?
So what that he would have to spend thousands widening the doors, put in ramps and an mechanical lift near the dart board in the main bar- but IF an agreement could be reached with Rob and THEY won that prize then it would be the solution to their problems and they could BOTH breathe easier.
Not only that there would be a book in it and the spin-off film rights too.
Go ahead Punk and make my day!
Alan Murray the Pub Landlord was on his own self-induced Flight of Fantasy.
He decided the best course of action was to run an internal darts contest to test Rob’s new found ability.
The Evening of the Warm-up started well and despite a mere sixteen entrants turning up Rob had won the contest hands down.
So much hands down in fact, it was almost like the first ever live darts and ventriloquist act ever performed.
Come the final against Len the Bull, he was so confident of hitting his intended target that he had shouted the phrase ‘a gottle of gear’, as the dart made its way towards double top.
As Rob was crowned Catholic Arms Pub Champion much drunken celebration took place, with celebratory Covid-19 hugs all round.
Alan was now happy to submit the application form for entry online and provide a £500.00 bond.
The Bond was too ensure that the former World Champion would not turn up to an empty pub with few punters present to the embarrassment of Phil Taylor.
They didn’t want a Power Shortage or a Blackout like had previously happened at a Jim Davidson gig.
Due to the size of the bar, only 100 people were allowed as this was the maximum capacity for Health & Safety purposes.
In recent years, this had never been a problem but Alan had to take precautions and had charged £10.00 per punter entry fee to come in.
Rob was allowed one free ticket and had chosen to invite his fellow homeless friend, Pierce Head to the gathering.
He wanted Pierce to bear witness to his big payday by beating the Power in his own back yard.
Rob also had a grudge against the local electricity company, who had discovered his abstraction of electricity and shut the Power off at his squat.
His mate, Pierce Head, had already hit the jackpot by being temporarily rehoused in the 3star Castle Hotel for the period of the pandemic.
Very soon, he was being turfed out onto the street by Central Government immediately once the subsidy stopped.
In the meantime, Pierce was making merry lying on the floor in a pool of his own alcoholic vomit and piss.
Rob was getting nervous as the Competition was due to start at 7pm and it was nearly 6.15pm, as he stood outside the hotel trying to waken his friend who was busy doing an impression of the late Keith Moon of WHO fame.
Rob called up from Glebeland Street below for Pierce to hurry up.
He eventually came to the first- floor window, grey faced looking like all the blood in his body had been replaced by alcohol- which in truth it had.
“I am locked in – my religious parents are trying an intervention!” shouted back the living flagon.
“I have an idea!” shouted back Rob.
“Do you remember the Children’s story Rapunzel?”
The other grim brother from above replied “Yes!”
“Step away from the window now!” ordered Rob.
As Pierce did so, he sucked in his diaphragm and hocked a twelve- foot green ‘loogie’ skyward towards the hotel room window just like Marvel character Spiderman firing a web.
“Rapunzel, let down your hair!” shouted the drunken Pierce, as he slid down the impromptu builder’s chute funnel to safety below.
The pair raced their way to the Catholic Arms.
They made it with two minutes to spare.
Pierce was let in first but Rob was held back as Phil Taylor made his entrance from the lounge with dry ice to the song ‘I have the Power’ by Snap.
He looked the business in his flashy satin shirt with ‘The Power’ emblazoned on his back.
Rob hadn’t even chosen a song.
All he could think of was a Marc Bolan and T-Rex hit.
He asked the Landlord if he had ‘’I hock a loogie…jitterbug bogies- on the jukebox- which fortunately he did.
His Sports Direct tee-shirt had Rob ‘the Cuckoo’ Godber written in permanent black marker pen on the back.
As the pub crowd cheered their local hero, the pair went to warm up at the oche.
Rob was under orders from Landlord Alan not to show too much in the warm up, and threw the darts conventionally at the board with his right hand, scoring a composite total of 26 with his first three darts.
Phil ‘the Power’ Taylor rocked up with Shanghai just for openers- single twenty, triple twenty and double top.
The watching crowd went wild.
Rob started to get nervous.
He had never played darts in front of so many expectant people before, nor in a pressure tournament.
The sweat began to roll down from his forehead onto the rusty safety pins that he had inserted many years ago into his face.
He looked like the Mothercare version of Hellraiser.
The decision would go first would be decided by one dart closest to the centre of the dartboard bull.
Phil ‘the Power’ Taylor rocked up and hit the bull with ease.
Rob placed the dart in his neck aperture and fired.
It split the flight of the 14- time World Champion knocking it out of the board before striking the exact centre of the dartboard.
Phil ‘the Power’ Taylor looked at veteran Darts referee Tony Green who was equally stunned.
Neither of the pair had witnessed anything like it in their 40-year professional careers.
After a quick check of the PDA rulebook, Green allowed Rob to ‘throw up’ first.
As he inserted the flights into his neck, the gathered crowd could clearly see the name of the sponsors on display.
Rob fired off his first three darts scoring a treble sixty with each one.
Tony Green announced over his microphone the now familiar ‘180’ to raise the excitement in the packed bar area.
People leaned on their friends, peered under armpits with some stood on tables and standing on the bar area.
All the while, Alan continued pouring pint after pint.
Irrespective of the outcome, he would at least achieve some great beer sales if nothing else.
Phil went up and replied with his first three arrows which brought the house down as another ‘180’ boomed around the room.
Rob then repeated the action.
360 points from 3 darts.
Anything Rob did- so did the Power.
A perfect twelve dart match so far.
Both players were three darts away from a nine- dart finish- the ‘heavyweight’ equivalent of a 147- maximum break at snooker.
Rob wasn’t very good at mathematics but fortunately Barman Alan was good at both doubles and trebles.
He also had to do a bit of ‘creative accountancy’ by using his awful handwriting to blur the figures over the years just to stay afloat, so he wrote the sequence required on the chalk board next to the bar for Rob.
Treble 20, Treble 19 and double 12.
Rob was never very good at following orders being an ‘anarchist and a trainee Anti-Christ’, but follow them he did, as he promptly completed an amazing 141 out sequence.
He turned around to the acclaim of the audience, arms raised aloft so proud at his achievement.
Holding a pint of Strongbow- supplied by his sponsors, he poured the golden liquid into a plastic funnel and let that slide down his tracheostomy.
Phil ‘the Power’ Taylor applauded the actions and skill of his opponent sportingly.
He knew he was in for a real challenge this time and would have to raise his game.
He did so by producing his own 9 darter to level the match at 1-1.
He did the 501 in a different sequence.
Treble 20 x 7, Treble 15 and Double 18 outshot.
The crowd gathered knew they were witnessing something special really special, especially as both players had started the final game with two rounds of treble twenties each.
Both players were on 141 out-shots, but crucially Rob the Gob had first chance.
As long as he held his nerve, he would beat the 14 times World Darts Champion at his own game.
But pressure does strange things to a man and more so to 56 -year old punks with a history of glue-sniffing.
And to Sports Direct Tee-Shirts too in a jungle environment.
The Cuckoo became the Suckoo.
Rob looked up at Pub Landlord Alan Murray, who was willing him on with ever sinew of his body.
The crowd too wanted to see the underdog turn the tables and finally win one for the underclass.
Rob was now sweating more than Liberal MP Cyril Smith in a Rochdale children’s play park.
He had developed a continuous cough and a really high temperature (103) and his throat felt like it was closing in on him.
Was it the pressure of the big occasion or the onset of Covid-19?
His body was all of a ‘quiver’ which normally was handy for someone dealing with arrows.
He looked across at the chalk board by the bar and saw the sequence written down for him.
Treble 20, Treble 19 and Double 12.
The Landlord gave him a cheery second wave.
Three darts in the correct places on the board and he would never have to work again- not that he had ever started in the first place.
He could hear the Mark Knopfler theme tune to the 1983 film ‘Local Hero’ playing in his head.
He knew his opponent was in Dire Straits.
First Dart from the Puff Daddy hit its target.
Treble 19 next.
Rob the Gob set his ‘sights’ on the tiny patch of green separated by two thin metal wires.
Flob- and the missile sailed towards its destination.
He got it.
Only the double left.
He glanced at the chalkboard.
He sent the dart on it’s way and it hit the double.
Rob jumped in the air -the finest pogo he had performed since that Siouxsie & the Banshees concert in 1981.
“Bust!” shouted Tony Green, as he brought the Punk back down to Earth quicker than the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger.
“But I hit the double 13!” protested Rob.
He glanced up at the Landlord who had his head in his hands.
His shaky chalkboard writing looked from a distance just like double 12.
“Unlucky thirteen!” laughed Taylor, as he replaced the gutted Rob at the oche.
“Yet another ‘Choker’....141 eh…I can do that blindfolded!” boasted the Professional.
Pulling up his Coronavirus mask over his eyes, he proceeded to do just that.
Treble 20, Treble 15 and Double 18 out.
“Well normally Rob I would shake your hand but….!” Said the Power.
“Time for a ‘Merthyr Blackout’!” said the Punk.
Rob could take no more -his flights of fantasy was over in true Valleys way, he just lifted his fisted hand to land an uppercut on the fifth chin of his opponent.
Anarchy in the UK soon followed.