Catering The Pissed Apocalypse
Posted on July 2, 2013
‘The sun’s aat, there’s LOADS of fanny, it’s only the first race and I’m fahking pissed.’
‘I’m fahking pissed an’ all mate.’
Two men in cheap suits stagger and congratulate each other, gripping awful beer in plastic cups. I slip past the pair and head back to the Silver Ring, the less classy area at Royal Ascot. In the Grandstand area The Bowler is flinging his balls and Penelope is one of the crew. I’ve just been to visit, to escape the boredom of the gazebo kitchen I’m working in with Mike & Ollie (aka Mike & Craig & Edd). On the Kerb lawn of the Silver Ring business is bad and there’s little sign of improvement. To rub shit in the wound, almost everyone we serve is a complete arsehole. Women scooped into tight dresses risking their ankles in stilts unsuited to the terrain. Frothing men with glazed eyes and ill-informed mouths. All pissed. All picnicking.
Away from the wrapping and rolling, life has been green and good. We’re staying at a campsite nearby and making a holiday of the time we have away from serving up MEAT. Last night we went in search of a river; Mike pointed to a blue line on a map and we piled into the van and careered out into the countryside. Ed checked the map as I held tight to my Tiny Wife and a bag of Newcastle Brown bottles. Approaching the line on the map, we passed a sign saying FORD, shrugged it off and surged towards our destination. We hit the water at some pace, encouraging a wave over the van yet somehow avoiding an engine flood. As we crept through the rest of the river I fully expected the van to stop, leaving us stranded like the clueless caterers we are. When we hit the road again, Mike breathed again and asked Edd which way next to get to the river.
‘You’ve just driven through it.’
Mike turned around and we parked and found a bank. Being an organic, free range kind of guy, Mike is all about getting in to rivers and so we all joined him walking up the middle of an unknown river in the middle of some unknown countryside, beer in hand.
It’s not been all country capers, as we’ve been getting the full experience of migrant workers, traveling in the darkness of the back of a Transit van. Our crew is just too big for the van, and a true caterer just has to improvise. When we arrive each morning we stumble out of the Transit, just born into the world, awake from a second phase of bumpy feverish sleep. In the field next to us, true migrant workers are forced to change into their work gear with only the cover of a chain-link fence. As they stuff their belongings into a clear plastic bag and warm into a day of litter picking, sad Nepalese faces teach me that all isn’t too bad. Something awful must be going on for there to be old ladies from far-off lands picking up the plastic cups of feckless arseholes, all the time wearing a waistcoat.
Back in the Silver Ring the action has barely changed a bit. Zan and Justin (of Bleecker Burger and Spit and Roast respectively) shuttle run between the bar van and their kitchen vans, Edd is keeping house in our tent and the savages shamble about the wood-chip lawn. ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk plays AGAIN. The most overplayed piece of pop music in recent years has really been haunting me. Both the van next door and the rave area not too far off blare it out a few times a day, not to mention the rendition we get on steel fucking drums.
‘GO ON! GO ON! MAKE ME ‘APPY! YEAH! YEAH! UGHHHHH!’ Men shouting at a screen, gambling their emotions. Some stand ignorant of the action, shoving food in their faces with the grace of apes. All basic and poisoned and lied to. Hands are emptied of plastic cups. Shrugs. These people are feeling important today and the world is their bin, the staff whose eyes they’ll never meet will pick up their litter. I watch two girls down their Pimm’s and open their hands without a second thought. By 7pm each day the apocalypse fully hits; horizontal chunder victims, staggering directionless idiots, streaked orange legs spotted with piss splashes.
Our getaway is quick. This is a long event and it’s really wore us down. Tuesday and Wednesday were a lesson in standing around, the only real high point was watching Edd being interviewed by Channel 4 about our food. This turned out to be the first of three TV spots that were all covered by Edd, under the pretence that he was Mike. Mike & Ollie is, after all, a state of mind. So the days have passed with little incident and little dent in our bread supplies. It’s Friday and aside from the river walk and a decent Chinese, the week has been a chore so it’s time to treat the thing like the expensive holiday it’s turning out to be. It’s time to break into the countryside.
Our run is delayed when severe traffic hits. Everyone’s trying to escape work and the roads stand still. It’s the turn of Edd and I to ride the rear and the near darkness is welcoming only briefly. We talk about the state of things, of people and ideas. I air the question of ‘AM I THE DICKHEAD?’ and all is fine until our bladders swell and we realise that progress is minimal. Shouts come from the cab.
‘We’ve pretty much just left Ascot.’ This after an hour.
‘You guys could probably walk along next to the van.’ More minutes pass and no progress is made so the decision is made that we’re getting out for a piss. As we escape the back of the van looking like kidnap victims to those sat in traffic, something changes and the jam is released. As Edd and I trundle into the woods, the van tears off.
‘Fuck ‘em, I’d rather walk.’
We piss on trees and get angry phone calls. Sparse, tall trees form an enticing landscape and it feels like an adventure could well break out. As it happens we sort of just have to catch up with the other guys in van and spend some more time in the dark.
‘So yeah…do you reckon we’re the dickheads for not just being blindly fine about the world?’ And so the existential chatter continues and hope for a finer evening just about sees us through.
In the wild, pissed and stoned, we’ve got to forage in our pockets for dinner. Dates and shortbread are the only things to see us through. This is our eats, far from our organic lamb and the convenience of chicken van neighbours. We’d bring a tear to Ray Mear’s eye, surely, as we take all we’ve learned from his chubby face and feed ourselves in the wilderness. As I sip on trusty Newcastle Brown once more, Mike emerges from the lake we endevoured to find with a biblical air. He’s not quite Jesus but I’d rather eat his take on loaves and fishes than a meal provided by some grubby carpenter.
Again searching out patches of blue on an iPhone map, we’ve had to follow dark paths and risk barbed wire injuries to find a lake for a dip and a relax. Breaking in to the countryside is a strange experience; ‘members only’ nature makes very little sense. It’s getting late but the solstice is here and the sun doesn’t want to quit. It seems this is bat country as the winged rodents swirl and dip above us. Totally sonar creatures, they look lost but probably have more of idea of what’s going on as we do. Mike tells the tale of what Edd and I missed when we were in the back of the van earlier.
‘This kid got out of a car with his mum and had a piss at the side of the road for about 5 minutes. It just wouldn’t stop. It was like Beadle’s About or something. I didn’t look away; I didn’t feel bad.’
We fall in to a deeply relaxed fuddle and find the track back darker than we thought. It’s got horror film all over it. We’ve broken rules and are open to death. We absolutely must pay attention to all that we’ve learned, we’ve seen enough movies to know how bad things happen. In England, the only wildlife we fear is people.
‘Hey! Don’t you guys go forming some kind of comedy duo. Me and Pel will have had it if you do. And Pel, don’t get panicky, the annoying one’s always get it first. No splitting up or getting too far ahead.’
‘Which way is it?’ Panics Pel.
‘Are you guys joking about being lost? The way back is pretty blatantly obvious.’ Reasons Edd.
Scooby taught us that sticking together is the way to survive and soon we’re out of the darkness and back to the camp where we can only think to continue to put space between us and the next time we have to cater the pissed apocalypse. We head to the chalet occupied by those seafood addicts Mussel Men. We find a mixed group reeling from a session of Palinka. There’s Slovaks here and they’ve fed everyone moonshine and they’re all fairly insensible and just about our kind of people. The booze is gone but we’ve got some Guinness and there’s some flat perry knocking about so it doesn’t take long before Edd brings together some deeply trashy Black Velvets.
We take our cocktails to the porch and take in the night air by the lake. The peaceful scene is broken by the grinding, howling rasp of a swan in trouble. We turn to see the most debilitated Slovak of the group bearing down on the troubled bird. This beast wants to protect it’s young and we’re pretty certain this drunk is about to have his face taken off. All is resolved when a wise young Indian dude steps in, calms the crowd and pulls the messy Slovak to safety. The evening swirls and the drunkest heads find rest. The next day, I’ll meet him for a second time and receive the blankest of return looks.
In the midst of everything a drunken girl tells me via translator about the evils of marijuana, how it’s a gateway drug and I’ll be on heroin before soon. She also says that I should try Slovakian cigarettes because they’re “good and strong.” I’m not sure she has her priorities in order but this talk does lead me to think we need to escape the shambles and blast a zoot somewhere with fewer bird-dueling madmen. We head out to ol’ Dog Lake Couch, a spot Edd and I discovered on our first evening on the site.
Way out next to the ruins of the old chalet by the lake sits a pair of old sofas that have a lovely view but honk richly of wet dog. No better place to twist in the evening than this. Pel soon drops out to the first class comfort of our inflatable mattress, whilst Edd and I make all of those plans and tell all of those stories that suit the scene.
‘What about that woman today?’
‘The filthy air hostess?’
‘Fucking hell.’ We reminisce about a very strange incident involving a lady who came to the stall only to charge her phone, with an offer of saying things that ‘will get us going’ in return. The lady was 50, a mother of 3 and with a pretty dirty mouth. A former air hostess who lost it all by having kids young, she told us how we need to seize the day and not sit around smoking “dope” and playing computer games. She also talked of rubbing herself off on a flatbread. It was mixed bag. A mixed bag of the kind of filth I’ve paid two quid a minute to hear down a phone. So yeah, we met a pretty serious MILF and it was a real treat.
And thus the longest day of the year becomes the leanest. We’ll not be defeated by the pissed zombies and the royal lizards. This is probably the closest thing to a holiday us filthy caterers will get this summer, but it’s also probably the worst bunch of cunts we’ll have to feed.
Saturday is served out with a slump, and we’re happy we took the Friday to enjoy ourselves. Not enough people take joy in simple things. Spliffs by lakes will do more for the soul that fucking about in a shit suit, feeding money to bookies and the Queen. As we pack the van and leave a tall, tall stack of flatbreads behind we think the worst is behind us, but Ascot has one last indignity. There’s no room in the van and Pel and I are taking a taxi back to the camp. It seems straight forward till we get to the taxi rank to find that the pissed apocalypse is in full swing; everyone’s staggering and grabbing and shouting and accusing and forgetting how to exist.
No worries, we’ll get a taxi because we’re not the shit munchers. And when we get back, we’ve got that bottle of rose champagne that Edd happened upon during the pack down, and Mike’s getting us a take away. Life’s a fantasy land.
‘That’ll be 65 pounds.’ The first driver we talk to is clearly in the spirit of taking money from idiots.
‘That’ll be 40 pounds.’ The most reasonable thieving twat we can get to drive us home was a specialist in adding insult to injury. As we drive back to the camp, he interrupts our conversation to tell us all about his reasonable prices. The long talk about how we’re really lucky that it’s him who’s ripping us off cuts deep. I resist strangling him with his seatbelt and exit quickly when we get where we’re going. As the car pulls away, Penelope bounces with frustration and rage as she finds that she’s left her phone on the back seat of the taxi. It’s gone forever. And so we sit on the floor of Mike’s chalet and eat Chinese and fight the ultimate tiredness of it all. Despite drinking some awful 4% Stella, we raise smiles to the good times between the laboured catering.
We’re all gripped by tiredness but we can’t help but laugh when we find that Edd’s liberated champagne is no more than an empty, resealed display bottle. ‘Let’s all just agree that this didn’t happen.’ Summer will get better from here. Fuck Royal Ascot. Next up, Secret Garden Party, where the drugs will at least be better than cheap lager.