My Left Tit

When the man in the booth stamps your passport as you leave Australia for good, you are knowingly entering into a contractual agreement with the countrymen you’re about to leave behind: I will put you up whenever you land – my sofa is your sofa, even if it is technically my flatmate’s sofa. Until you yourself find a sofa to offer your guests, you are probably going to camp on a fellow Antipodean’s fold-out. Everyone is given about a fortnight’s leeway, a sort of homeless timeshare.

Playing host to an Australian involves doing a few things you wouldn’t normally do in your now routine UK life – I’m not talking about having to fork out a fiver for a tiny jar of Vegemite to see them through the three weeks ahead, or readying a packet of Penguins for the inevitable Tim Tam Taste-Off. These things help, though mostly it is exactly the same as having anyone else to stay because they are regular humans too. You give up one of your pillows for the duration and spend every early morning creeping around the sleeping-bagged mound that is their body on the sofa. Their half of the early-morning dance is to pretend you have not woken them with your goodhearted attempts at being stealthy, which as everyone knows only makes the cereal bag infinitely crinklier and the spoons infinitely more droppable.

In this particular case, it involved visiting Neal’s Yard Dairy to buy amusingly named cheeses seen only in Wallace & Gromit (Stinking Bishop), dancing for hours at the most heinous of big gay discos whilst haemorrhaging money on big gay cocktails, and the almost daily task of ordering the rudest-sounding beers in the pub (Butcombe, Bishop’s Finger). It also required listening to a lot of a certain ‘90s British indie rock band called Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine in preparation for the reunion gig I was expected to attend as host and escort, twice, in both Glasgow and Brixton.

When Carter USM were as big as they were going to get, which Wikipedia tells me is exactly 1992, I was about five. By the time they disbanded in 1998 I had still never heard of them and if I hadn’t been told about them in the You Are Coming To Their Reunion Gig scenario, the band might have remained a footnote to the later career of one of the two original band members. Possibly this is because they could not have been more ‘90s: their band T-shirt is actually a catchall I’m From The Nineties icon.

Living near the Brixton Academy meant that I got to play a regular game on the tube home by guessing which band was on stage that night based entirely on sweeping generalisations and related stereotypes about what people were wearing. When Nine Inch Nails played every night for a solid week the pasty goths in their fishnets and studs were so frightened by the regular crowd of Jamaican drug dealers at the station entrance that they waited for each other behind the ticket barrier, where they were shouted at by security for loitering. When the Jesus & Mary Chain played there were olfactory clues to be deduced from the thick mist of hairspray that hung in the air, and when Carter USM were on almost every second guy was wearing a well-worn and threadbare approximation of a formerly baggy shirt that once looked like this:

Which leads me to the problem of the fans. For the most part, I gathered, by making sweeping generalisations on the people inside the clothes, these were people who last went to a gig probably around the time Carter USM were playing their final show ten years ago. In the intervening time they had acquired jobs, cars, children, beer-bellies and chins but were seemingly unaware of the latter two. The Brixton Academy was full to bursting that night, it being the final of the two planned reunions (the Glasgow gig had passed without complaint from me, and from what I saw when I wasn’t assuring a wee Glaswegian that this hen was alright, it was pretty good too). The floor of the venue is tilted down towards the stage so that wherever you are you’ve theoretically got a perfect view, providing you’re not standing behind Peter Mayhew or whatever. My Australian and I had positioned ourselves midway, where there were some bike-rack style bars on which to rest elbows, plastic pint glasses and the like. As the opening drum-machine beats of Sheriff Fatman began, a rumble could be heard far off yonder hill. I glanced back over my shoulder and several other shoulders and saw in the glare of the white stage lights a gathering doom: a thousand or more unknowingly portly fans barrelling their way towards the stage like a rolling ball in an Indiana Jones film, an incoming, unstoppable lardy force.

I braced myself against the bar, I lost my pint to the crowd. As the combined weight of men crushed against me my hips clanged against the metal. I could feel important bits of me being chipped off, bone-wise. My feet were lifted off the ground and dragged forward – I was a sideways U-shape, like a cow on a fence in a tornado. But the worst was yet to come.

In slow-mo I saw them – he from the right, and him from the left – and together their sweaty shoulders collided in front of me. Between them, agonisingly sandwiched like some topsy-turvy mammogram, was my left tit.

Days later, post-shower, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My left tit was hanging lower than the right, more aubergine-shaped than its usual perky disposition. I consulted the boyfriend, and he concurred, to his detriment. Carter USM had broken my boob.

There are things you hold in reserve to tell celebrities if you ever meet them. I think. I mean I’m assuming everyone else does this too – if I ever meet Chris Ware I intend to tell him his habit of hiding jokes in the microscopic copyright indicia has resulted in my becoming a begrudging patient of the local optometrist. As I gazed, glibly, at my cock-eyed tit in the mirror, jiggling it hopefully to see if it would wake up, I made a mental note that should I ever find myself in the same pub or tube carriage as Jim Bob or Fruitbat, I would let them know that my saggy bap was down to them. That was all. I would just let them know.

That chance came last week, my friends. I’d just seen Gutted: The Musical at the Leicester Square Theatre, a show about murder and revenge with jokes, music, and a bunch of comedians off the telly. Afterwards the cast, Jim Bob included, were milling around the bar talking to fans. I thought about saying something but was decidedly sober, so quite rightly thought better of it. This was not the case three and a half pints later.

“HELLO,” I said, sidling up to a besuited Jim Bob, who blinked at me politely when I went on to add what should have been the far cleverer “I have something to get off my chest” but was, in actuality, “Y’KNOW HOW YOUR FANS ARE ALL FATTER THAN THEY THINK THEY ARE?” I re-enacted the two dude-balloons clanging together like a sprinter’s balls in replay, mimed yowling in agony and probably even said the thing about the cow in the tornado. I certainly remember doing the action.

Jim Bob apologised as if it was his own fault, as if my tale of tit-woe was entirely down to him.  And he looked at me, waiting, as if I had something else to say, as if I hadn’t tapped him on the shoulder just to tell him about my left tit.

“That was all,” I said. “I just thought I’d let you know.”

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