The drive to New Milton nearly started with a scrap. My car was a bit boxed in by a 4 by 4 that had just parked behind me and I reversed a little hard into his bumper. Not all that hard, but a little harder than I needed to. The driver still being in his car jumped out to inspect the damage and banged hard on my rear window. Though I was by now at an angle to escape I got out of the car to check I hadn't somehow managed to damage his car at this incredibly low speed.
The man was simmering on the edge of fury - "Look what you've done!" he almost shouted.
"What have I done?" I asked. I could by now see his bumper which seemed to still be firmly attached to his car.
"What were you doing, you idiot? You've scuffed my bumper, look!"
"Oh dear," I said, with more than a hint of sarcasm, "I am really sorry about that."
The bumper did have a tiny scuff mark at the top and it's possible I was responsible, but equally possible that I wasn't. If you live in London and have parked anywhere at all your bumpers are bound to have been scuffed at some point. My car has actually had the bodywork damaged by careless drivers who have not stopped to inspect the damage.
"It's just the bumper though isn't it?" I said, "That's kind of what they're there for. The clue is in the name."
"What are you going to do about it?"
"What do you want me to do?" I asked, "I'll give you a fiver if you like." This seemed to be to be adequate compensation for such a minor mishap, where the damage was his word against mine and amounted to the tiniest and most imperceptible scuff mark.
"That's a brand new bumper," he furiously retorted.
"Really, is it?" I replied, "It doesn't look it." Indeed it was pretty dirty and there seemed to be other marks on it that wouldn't have been caused by me. I wasn't for a second going to pay for him to have a bumper replaced when I had at most given it an almost imperceptible scratch. "You had boxed me in pretty well," I told him, "There wasn't too much I could have done."
"What are you going to do about it, you idiot?" he repeated.
"What can I do? I'll see if I can clean it off." I wet my finger and rubbed at the offending mark, but it didn't come off, though some of the dirt did. "Otherwise it's five pounds take it or leave it."
He wasn't satisfied with this, and started swearing at me, but it seemed to me that he wasn't prepared to barter and I don't know exactly what my legal position or responsibility was here, but common sense dictated to me that an apology and a token offer of compensation was all that he could realistically expect. Admittedly my apology had been sarcastic, but he had immediately over reacted and clearly been looking for an argument, so I decided to just get in the car and leave and hope he wouldn't pull out a knife or a shooter or smash my back window. He just called me a twat.
I was a little shaken up by it and though I had been in the wrong to some extent, but I genuinely don't know if I should have done anything differently. Am I right to think that that is what the bumpers are there for or should I have offered to replace the whole thing because of the tiny bit of damage? And if everyone expected that then wouldn't we be replacing our bumpers on a daily basis. There was no dent, no damage, just a tiny scuff mark. I worried about whether I had been unreasonable for the next few hours. But his response to this minor affront had been so indignant and so extreme and he'd clearly jumped out of his car looking for a scrap, regardless of what he actually discovered on the bumper.
Maybe he'll be back to slash my tyres some time. I think he was a visitor to the street, probably parking there so he could go and watch the football.
I have learned to walk (or in this case drive) away from confrontation. I guess if he wants to take it further then he has my registration number. He must live his life in a state of extreme anger though.
The gig in New Milton went fine, though it was a small arts centre and the smallest audience for a while and they seemed the most shocked by stuff- at least to start with (the line re Joseph Fritzl - "I don't think anybody has the right to tell anybody how to bring up their own kids") By the end though they seemed to have come round to my strange world view and it was an OK show.
I last played here with Christ on a Bike back in 2002. I was having a huge argument on the phone in the dressing room with my girlfriend at the time, and was about to head off to Barbados for a holiday with her the next day, though it looked like she might not be coming.
It was an utter nightmare of a holiday, full of arguments, plus the cherry on the cake was the fact that whilst paddling in the sea I got knocked over, banged my head and somehow ended up with one of my testicles swelling up to three times its size (I don't know how, as I don't think I hit it). It turned out to be an excellent gauge of atmospheric pressure, as I discovered on the painful flight home. We broke up in the taxi on the way back from the airport. It turned out that her ex had proposed to her the night of our argument in New Milton, though she'd kept all that secret from me and one suspects that something must have been going on between them for such a proposal to come about.
So a slightly middling response to the show was by comparison a wonderful triumph! Strange how places can hold these memories, ready to release them again upon your return. I am mainly astonished that that all happened seven years ago. Luckily (or unluckily depending on your proclivity) my testicles are now both back to their normal size. Though if things had gone differently with the bloke with the scuffed bumper then they might have been swelling back to those monstrous proportions once again.