Band: Soft Heap


  • Elton Dean…the sanest one
  • Mark Hewins…the almost sane one
  • Pip Pyle…the sexy one
  • John Greaves…the absent one
  • Rufus…the pleasant driver
  • Great lady…Rufus mum
  • Stewardesses…concerned ladies

Tax free drink is a very good way to end a tour and, combined with the English Channel, usually makes for an entertaining interlude before returning to the rigours of London. It always is a real hoot at customs posts watching Pip trying to explain to the officers what drums are (of course they know). He’s even had to resort to bribery on occasion when baggage handlers take a dislike to him and his cases.

We were coming back from Calais on one such occasion, on the hovercraft for a change, although I prefer the boat myself. Our good friend Rufus was going to pick us up in Dover, so we had said goodbye to Bridget and the orange VW bus full of empty food packets, drink cans and other tour rubbish, in Calais. The gear had gone onto the hovercraft piled on one trailer, all together, neatly ready for us to wheel off. We were all in a very gregarious mood as we boarded and Elton and I sat together, immediately getting told off by a rather lovely stewardess for opening a bottle of wine, before we even took off, but it was all very good natured. I know now from my trips to the U.S. that these girls warn each other about “difficult” passengers so we were already marked before leaving France.

All was going swimmingly, oops, wrong metaphor, when Pip came stumbling back to us about two thirds of the way through the 45 minute trip. He told us John had bought two bottles of Remy Martin brandy and was drinking one so he didn’t have to pay the extra tax on it, did we want some. Of course we did so the three of us wobbled forwards to where they had been sitting. As we reached the seats I saw we were in trouble, John was hanging out of his seat, the last few dregs in the bottom of the bottle clutched in his hand. It was totally hilarious. Pip told us he must have drunk the lot in about half an hour and was paralytically drunk. All we could get out of him were grunts. The hovercraft was due to dock in 10 minutes and worried stewardesses suddenly buzzed around us realising there was a situation, and no time to deal with it.

Elton and I went back to our seats, the most useful thing I could do was take John’s bass, still clutched in his other nerveless hand, off him for safety’s sake.

Finally coming to rest on the tarmac in Dover we had to wait until everyone else was let off the hovercraft before carrying John, who was groaning with his eyes rolling in opposite directions, off on the wheelchair they keep for disabled passengers. The amused stewards took it off us at the bottom of the stairs and another was wheeled out from the terminal building. With our gear going in one direction with Pip, Elton pushing John, and me carrying our guitars in another we re-entered the UK.

Obviously warned by the stewards the customs officials were waiting for us, presumably to rip our gear apart to look for drugs (we had none). They took one look at John in the wheelchair though and holding their noses waved us past to much hilarity on all sides. Once in the terminal Rufus, who had been waiting came over and we adjourned to the bar, leaving John, still in the wheelchair, in the middle of the departure lounge burbling quietly to himself.

On the way over to the bar Rufus calmly told us his mother had come to meet us too, and was waiting to make our acquaintance. She was a beautiful person, and slightly tipsy though we were, we had the beginnings of a nice conversation. We had all been sitting at a table behind a sort of hedge of tropical plants (in pots) that divided the bar area from the rest of the terminal. These plants were about 2 meters high and you had to stand on tiptoe to see over into the main part of the building. Suddenly there was a crashing sound and John’s face poked through the foliage above our table. Rufus introduced him nonchalantly, as if he was actually sitting at the table.

His Mum was very sweet and said hello before his distorted face disappeared again. She kept saying how much she was enjoying herself (with naughty muso’s) when John’s face reappeared, this time with a large leaf sticking out of his mouth, he was chomping away on it and before we could stop him he stuck another in and began chewing harder. He was totally out of control and, bizarre as it seems, Rufus’ mum seemed quite impressed with his antics. We realised that by now the tour was finally over, rescued John and all went on our merry way home, I expect to the huge relief of the staff in the terminal.

MORAL – Always be nice to air stewardesses, they will always be nice back.


PS!¬†This is a repost of a story that was originally published on the old website on These old web pages are gone, but are still accessible through’s Wayback Machine. Read the story on by clicking¬†here.

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