The Gritters Golf Society
Gritters Home page
This page was developed by popular request. Short Stuff is very clearly a firm favourite with our fans all over the world and there has been a massive avalanche (well okay five) of emails asking for a Short Stuff dedicated page.
So, here it is. This page will tell you everything that there is to know about Short Stuff as well as providing you with the opportunity to obtain various items of merchandising such as Short Stuff Posters, Clothing and Books and the chance to read the first chapter of Short Stuff's life story at the bottom of this page.
Extract from "My Life Story", by Short Stuff.
Chapter One: The early years of magic
In the beginning, I did not want to leave school. For me school was like the inside of a womb, comforting, warm, wet and tax free. I had been temporarily blessed from the onset of puberty with the gift of precognition and I dreaded the final day fantasising that some great tragedy would occur. I had read David Copperfield as a child and the opening lines of that great tome has made a big impression upon my thinking. For me the issue of who would be the hero of my life was not a matter for dispute, I thought that it was to be me, as it turned out, I was wrong. That honour, at least for the first part of my life, fell to a lady who I shall tell you about in this first chapter.
When I finally left school it was the end of an era in my life. I found that my perspective had changed. Once you broaden your horizons, you can't put them back in the box. There would be no more hanging around eating chips, watching old Star Trek episodes and listening to those damned Harry Chapin albums. There would be no more of those pointless parties at people’s houses where we drank cheap red wine and brown ale and talked about how crap the world was. So, when I stood back and looked at it all I realised that, to be honest, those days never were any good. None of it was good and it was all best forgotten. So, when the day came I welcomed it like an old Aunt I hadn’t seen for years who gives you a crisp ten pound note at Christmas. I strode purposefully down the old concrete steps, past the tired old coaches with their world weary drivers and out of the gates. I left thinking good riddance to all that but with just one regret. Would I ever get to fall in love again?
Did I but know it, I had established a pattern that was to stay with me all my life, not finding the moment, not finding the right time. If I was not careful I could find myself living on regrets. Clearly it was time to shape up and ship out.
The decision to leave England was not strictly all mine; it had been hammered into me long ago by the short sighted schools curriculum and the out dated methods of teaching. I had learned to speak some passable French but, of course, there was some pressure placed upon me by the job centre to learn the plumbing trade, and for some weeks I attended a college course and paid this some lip service. In my heart though, I knew that there was surely more to life than pipes.
As a child I had once been given a David Nixen magic set. I enjoyed the thrill of making useless objects disappear. Secretly I had studied in my bedroom hampered only by lack of funds and a noisy sister. Now I could put that invaluable knowledge I had acquired to some use. There was, of course, only one place in the world to be if I wanted to fulfil this dream. I yearned to be in the place depicted in the battered time worn posters that adorned my bedroom walls at home, a place of magic and lights, of romance and passion for the good life. Pausing only briefly to say a fond farewell to some selected friends and my parents; I set off the next day for Paris. There I hoped to become an illusionist.
I had arranged to stay with the daughter of a pen friend of my Mother’s cousin, a discredited diplomat now vastly reduced in circumstances following a recent distasteful episode in a launderette in Walthamstowe. He hoped to clear his name and had enlisted the help of a pen friend who knew my mother’s cousin. Following an exchange of letters and a bizarre twist of fate he ended up working in a cottage industry just outside Oswestry manufacturing canary purgative to a secret recipe. The upshot of which was that I was able to arrange some accommodation in Paris.
My landlady turned out to be an Italian girl who looked like a boy. She was extremely accommodating and her hospitality allowed me to perfect my newfound art in the spare bedroom of her apartment. After only a few weeks I found myself turning tricks on street corners in the Montmarte district. After some initial disappointment I changed my act to include some original twists on familiar themes. From that moment my success was rapid and my act became even more advanced. It was at this point that Fabio, my landlady, said she had to return to her hometown and asked me if I would like to stay on and look after the apartment. I agreed. From then on my time was divided between practices and performing.
Five years went by in a flash. I was the toast of Paris, I was fairly wealthy, I had somewhere to live, I was admired by my audiences and life was good. A far cry indeed from catching a number 161 bus from Arden Hall to Water Orton to go to the disco. Yes, life was nearly complete, nearly, but not quite. There was something missing but I didn’t know what it was. One rainy Wednesday afternoon a few weeks later, I found out what, or rather who, it was.
It was the middle of the week and I had now ceased doing matinees, preferring instead to spend time alone in contemplation and thinking up new tricks for my act. Despite the weather I decided to go for a walk. I ended up doing an impromptu magic act on the streets. This was great fun because it was for free and it allowed me to experiment. I sat down to rest thinking that I must have a caricature portrait done of myself as a gift for my Auntie Molly’s 60th birthday by one of the local artists, when I was approached by a tramp.
We smoked a Citane, drank some appalling coffee and spoke in fluent French of the relationship between great art and grand illusions but I could detect a subtle accent in there somewhere and I was sure that he was English. Not wanting to talk of my past, I never bothered to ask. I got the feeling though that, he too, had thought that there was something about me. He suddenly asked me how much credence I paid to the thought that Birmingham City might be promoted this season. I wanted to reply “absolutely none at all” but I felt a feeling of panic wash over me so I hurriedly paid him and turned away. I had intended to get a portrait done and still have time to get over to La Poste on Rue Pigalle and mail the work but I was too hasty to get away from this man who threatened to bring me back to reality. As I turned the corner I saw a poster on the wall. It read, "la baleine libre, si nous ne sommes pas assez intelligents pour sauver les baleines, nous ne le serons pas non plus pour nous sauver nous-mêmes!" The profound sentiment of this distracted me and, not looking where I was going, I stumbled into a waste paper bin, fell over and spilt my coffee all over a girl. She was startled and dropped the books she had been carrying. I apologized profusely and I bent down to pick them up. The authors were worthy of note, Heisenburg, Shrodinger and Kaku, interesting I thought.
I looked up and saw her face for the first time. Her olive complexion and jet black long thick hair gave the impression of an American Indian yet her accent resembled that of a Liverpool docker. She was stunning. “I’m..er..sorry” I said looking deep into her eyes. She returned my gaze. There was a silence; it seemed to last for ages. The silence kept on building, her eyes grew much too wide, I thought that I could hear both of our heartbeats and there was no place left to hide. Trying to bring some levity to the situation I asked, “Did we just have a moment”? She smiled. "Life is made up of moments", she said, " let's not miss this one".
Her name was Lychee Moon. I wanted to get to know her so we arranged to meet later. That evening after a fabulous meal in a cheap cafe, we walked along the Seine and looked up at the stars. We were discussing the Heisenburg uncertainty principle and the nature of space and time and I remember that she said, “Time is just nature’s way of stopping everything happening all at once”. This struck me as very true. We would normally have ended up back at my apartment but she said that she did not want to “screw up this time”. I listened in awe as we sat by the dying embers of the bonfire underneath pont neuf. Sitting on the riverbank, our hands out to the fire, we moved through her memories of love and desire, telling me the stories of the glories of the past but she saved the story of Paris for the last. She told me of a relationship that had taken her from a cleaning establishment just north of London where she had been rehearsing in an amateur production of the Sound of Music to a caravan park in Florence. Then she told me about the poor caricature artist that she was about to dump. She was emotionally empty, a little girl who’s dreams of Mallory Towers had turned to nightmares on the streets of Montmarte. As the weeks passed our relationship blossomed though there was never a chance that either of us would let it get as far as sex until we were really sure.
The attraction was very powerful for us both, we were drawn together like magnets and, though it took some time, we eventually became lovers. She talked to me about life, about relationships, about travelling and about how to live your life in the moment. I felt as though we were spinning wildly out of control, like two bits of fluff caught in the whirlpool you get around the plug when you empty the bath. As she was so fond of saying to me "Life is made up of moments, let's not miss this one". It was immediately obvious from the start that she was a complete fruitcake but I had nothing to lose.
We set off at once, abandoning all hopes of a normal life. Me doing my magic act and her just being my perfect companion. We found ourselves busking Ralph McTell songs on the slopes of Mount Fuji, camping under the stars on the shores of the Caspian Sea and chanting slogans at a "Save the Whale" protest rally in a field near Oswestry. We travelled the world together, laughing and loving. Through a bizarre series of complex misunderstandings and coincidences involving an Australian Kangaroo dealer, a faked British Airways first class air ticket to Jakarta and a crippled circus fire eater, we narrowly escaped a jail sentence in the Philippines. We bought a boat and spent two gloriously idyllic years ferrying tourists between the Greek islands. Life was wonderful, every day a new revelation, every minute a breathtaking thrilling exhilarating experience. It was so good but, like a perfect day in paradise, it wasn't to last. The dark clouds of foreboding were scudding over the horizon in my direction. I was like a man dancing to imagined waltz music, fiddling while Rome burned. The lessons that a man must learn sometimes come hard in life and none came harder than mine.
Eventually, after several years, we came back to Paris and I agreed to perform at the Moulin Rouge.
Lychee had always been fascinated by some of the illusions in my act and she always asked if she could watch me practice. I agreed. Her grasp of the principles of the art was astounding. She would often ask if she couldn’t help me on stage. I had always declined. Now, foolishly I agreed and this is where I made my big mistake. For a few weeks it was okay but then things started to go wrong. I had always known exactly what I was doing on stage, I was a master, fully in control. My misdirection was perfect, my technique was flawless but Lychee thought that the act had become a little bit too perfect. It lacked danger she said. She was soon to put that omission right.
The highpoint of the show was sawing a member of the audience in half, not the hardest trick in the world but made unique when making the two halves levitate independently on separate sides of the stage (an illusion invented by me but later stolen by a young man in the audience by the name of Copperfield). She was particularly nervous that evening, she never told me why but I believe she thought she was being followed. In the middle of the trick she lost it completely. She propelled her half of the trick into the wings of the stage. There it collided with a young assistant stage manager who, against all the rules, was smoking a cigarette. He fell over and his cigarette landed on a pile of curtain material starting a small fire. Lychee ran to the ramp lights, her eyes were blazing and her hair swept behind her like a demented banshee. She screamed at the crowd "This is just an illusion, you are alive simultaneously in all of the moments of your existence, you just happen to remember the past not the future and the thing we call now is but a mere passing fragment". (Lychee does talk bollocks sometimes). There was uproar and the place was in panic.
I was uninsured and the massive claim for damages as good as wiped me out. After a short time in the custody of the unsympathetic police, my agent resigned. The gist of his parting remarks were that I would never work in France, let alone Paris, again. I took him at his word. Though still quite pissed at Lychee I couldn’t leave her behind, we had gone too far together. There was only one place to go, I asked her if she wanted to come with me, back to England. She accepted.
It was not an easy move in more ways than one. Firstly I had left in a defiant mood. I had put two fingers up to the community at home determined to find my fortune elsewhere and, although I had succeeded and the final failure was not my fault, still I was returning under a cloud. Secondly, and more pragmatically, my reputation had preceded me to London via the vitriolic gossiping of my former agent. After only a few calls it soon became clear that there was no work in the capital for a failed magician with a fruitcake for an assistant. I couldn’t go home just yet, there was more to do. We made our way north in a battered old blue Volkswagen. On the evening of the second day of searching we stayed at a pub called “The Beavers Nest” in Kidderminster.
In an after hours conversation with the landlord I managed to secure three nights work in the lounge room of this very establishment. No fee but half the door money. Hardly what I used to but it was gainful employment. Lychee and I were having an uneasy time, she blamed herself for the incident in Paris and I think lost some of her respect for me because I didn’t. All along I had known how dangerous it would be to include her, but then again, I also knew that she was exactly what the act had needed. I had provided the artistry but she had made it seem precarious. She gave the audience that hint of wonder, the ability to suspend their disbelief together with an amounting sense of horror that it all might not work. The tumultuous applause that normally followed each trick was as much in praise of the spectacle as in relief that it had all passed by without incident.
The first night in “The Beavers Nest” arrived and I remember the order of events vividly. Pete, the comedian, had gone on first. It was a cold winter's night and the crowd was thin. He got a few laughs but, as Lychee said, he wasn’t setting the place on fire. From our dressing room we could then hear the muffled sounds of Terry, a rather good girl singer. She sang, "All my life's a circle" a song made famous by the New Seekers but originally written by Harry Chapin. That was our cue. We approached the wings of the stage and I entered. Something felt different.
There are many forces in life that we do not yet understand. What are coincidences except for the strange workings of quantum mechanics on a larger scale? It was once said by Albert Einstein "God does not play dice". I have to disagree; I think that on a cold winter's night in Kidderminster He did.
After the show Lychee said she thought she had seen someone she knew and wanted to go front of house to see them. I returned to the dressing room exhausted after what can only be described as (though I say it myself) a brilliant performance. I slumped into the sofa and fell asleep almost immediately. I awoke to find that she had left me a six-word letter. It said, "It's time that I moved on"
I enjoyed my time with Lychee and she left me an interesting and thought provoking legacy. I don’t do the magic act any more though I might do an occasional evening of illusions for an invited audience. I have kept the over sized phallus in the act for sentimental reasons.
And so Lychee moved out of my life in the same way that she had moved in with no fuss, no pretence and no promises. She had given me something and had taken nothing away except perhaps for just one thing. When I met her I strode purposefully through life, now I stop occasionally to admire the scenery.
Two weeks later, in a down market public house in Felixstowe, I met a deranged buffalo trapper who had made his way to England from Panama stowed away on an oil tanker. I had temporarily lost my ambition and it was a shot in the arm to meet someone who still had his despite reduced circumstances. His dream was to gain some meagre funding for a kayaking expedition down the Nile. Well, I thought, life is made up of moments, as Lychee would have put it, and I wasn't going to miss this one.
We set off immediately and what happened next is the subject of chapter two.