Tuesday, 17 March 2009

[Turtlewind] Turtle Club

It takes an average of five prank calls full of girlish giggling before a person will block your number.

I know this because Turtle knows this

The first time I saw Turtle was on Studland Beach. He thought he was on the naturist part and was racing up and down the dunes shouting about his HUGE WANG and telling women they should ‘bust out the floppies’.

After an hour of this, he abruptly dropped on to the sand and kneeled there, purring slightly. After a minute I realised he had scampered around in the outline of a huge hand with its middle finger extended, and that for some reason he was kneeling directly on the fingertip.

We went to a bar afterward and Turtle told me all about his string of quirky jobs which he subverted in radical ways.

Mondays, Turtle works as a cinema usher in Dorking. After all the films have started he sneaks in to the screens and coughs quietly during the exciting bits.

Tuesdays, Turtle washes dishes at a pizzeria in Croydon. He rinses the plates with his urine and then blames it on foxes.

Wednesdays, Turtle makes soap out of movie stars’ liposuction fat. When all the bars are ready, he carves exquisite naked sculptures of Bella Emberg from them and tries to sell them on Ebay.

So we sit in this sleazy bar in rural Dorset and talk about our crappy lives. Or rather he does. I’m the Earl of Rochester, or at least I play him on TV.

After a while, Turtle turned to me and said, ‘I want you to do something for me. I want you to hit me as hard as you can.’ He was completely serious. So we went out into the parking lot, ignoring the boys on bikes that yelled ‘wankers’ at us, and I swing my fist loosely at Turtle’s face.

He goes down with a squeal, clutching his nose. ‘I meant hit me with a burp, idiot!’

I am Jamie Oliver’s faint sense of bemusement.

It’s a month later and Turtle stands at the centre of a circle of men in the function room of Richmond’s Pitcher and Piano.

‘The first rule of Turtle Club is... you do not talk about Turtle Club.’ A few people glance around the walls at this point, bedecked as they are with apparently hand-drawn felt-tip Turtle Club posters, as indeed is half of Surrey.

‘The second rule of Turtle Club is... you do not talk about Turtle Club.’

‘The third rule is you burp without shirts or shoes. Especially if you’re a chick.’

‘The fourth rule is no more than two to a contest.’

‘The fifth rule is that contests go on as long as they have to.’

‘The sixth rule is if you start to hiccup or taste vomit, the contest is over.’

‘The seventh rule is if this is your first time at Turtle Club, you have to burp.’

It changed all our lives. The night after Turtle Club nothing can piss you off, you’re in a different state of being. The traffic, the shitty jobs, the bills, it’s all background noise against the experience of belching a McDonalds meal into the face of a software engineer.

It’s actually possible to drink four litres of coke in an afternoon without dying. I know this because Turtle knows this.

It was about six months before things turned sour, apart from the ‘Averilla followthrough’ incident. We were settling into the meeting room, putting on our cat ears and swigging furtively from Panda Pops (the anabolic steroids of competitive belching) when some skinhead thugs in Rainbow Brite pyjamas burst in and started playing chess to the strains of Megadeth.

Turtle scampered manfully up to Chess Club’s leader, the Anti-Matt. ‘We’ve paid seven pounds to book this room,’ he said firmly, ‘so jolly well go away.’

Anti-Matt tried to look cunning. ‘Well, we don’t pay anything because there’s, er, a slight smell of beer in here so we usually meet on the roof. But it looks like it might rain some time this week.’

Luckily Turtle had been hitting the Panda Pops pretty hard, full of a crazy desire to belch into David Beckham’s face until he suffocated. Anti-Matt took the Mysterious Mr Turtlewind’s death blow full in the face at a range of about six inches.

The sick bastard actually smiled and licked his lips. Too late I saw the bag of Mini Cheddars poking from the Anti-Matt’s pocket and suddenly it was Turtle Club writ large. It was the Arms Race, the Korean War, it was Kennedy facing off against Kruschev and each hoping the other’s wang isn’t as huge as they make out.

Luckily a drunk Australian wanders in, takes one look at the assorted chess sets and kicks Anti-Matt in the nuts, yelling:

‘Which one of you fackin’ bastards facked my sheila’s wallaby?’

The arrival of Bruce Fearless transforms Turtle Club. Project Facker is born. Homework tasks are set. Two of us might be sent to fetch Bruce his first crate of Fosters at eight on a Monday morning. Another time I have to scrawl ‘Stop fackin’ deaf koalas in the ear, you fackin’ race traitor,’ over Rolf Harris’s gazebo.

At the same time, I’m getting a little worried. Several of the young men from Turtle Club have turned up at Turtle Grange wearing black polo necks and cat ear headbands. They knock on the door and Turtle makes me wait three minutes before answering, which we spend giggling and pretending we’re not at home.

Eventually, I confront Turtle in the kitchen. I say to him, 'Is there a mysterious masterplan you're not telling me about?'

He tries a haughty sniff, but inhales one of his own practise belches. When he's finished gaggin, he replies, 'I wouldn't be a very good International Turtle of Mystery if there wasn't, now would I?'

Bruce wanders in and starts washing his hands in a can of Fosters. 'Hey, Turtle bastard, when are we going to travel back through time to help the one true prophet Warney get a few more wickets in the Lords test and win back the rightful Ashes for God's own Earth?'

Turtle stamps his foot. 'Really! People ALWAYS talk about my mysterious masterplans. You have NO idea about protocols and... things.'

'Nah, I just hate you, you fackin pommie poof bastard. If you were stranded in the Bush I wouldn't piss on you to give you a drink.'

Turtle looked as though he was going to cry at this point so I interjected. 'So, Bruce, when you told us that Turtle and I were the same person, that wasn't a kind act?'

'I just said that to see if that bastard really would piss in his own hair to fack you up. And he did, the croc-humpin facker.'

'I THOUGHT my hat smelled funny,' Turtle squealed, and scampered out of the kitchen wailing and clutching a stuffed scorpion to his chest.

I left at that point as well, as Bruce's mate Wayno had set fire to the shower and a Russian lady tried to mug me for a packet of crisps or something.

It was a crazy time and a wild ride. And the worst of it is, years later, I sometimes see guys trying to catch my eye in the street. 'Good to see you're well, Mr Turtlewind,' they say sometimes. I don't bother to correct them. And I pretend not to notice when they let slip a dry croak of a belch like a secret handshake.

Because even after all these years... you DO NOT TALK about Turtle Club.

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