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Phil goes up north for a gig and meets hammerers, spinsters and the town madman.

This is the furthest north I have ever been, up to Wick and Dornock, beyond the great wall, way up on the profile forehead if Britain is shaped like a jaunty young man with a tiny waist. I have several petrol crises on the way up as my fuel gauge is greatly overestimating how full my tank is, like it is trying to make me feel good and in the end that never works.

I am writing ideas down on the atlas at the corresponding point of the drive. I have a few atlases covered in ideas. They are large and easy to write in with your left hand while driving. Many of the words I do not see until they are finished, and they have a curious natural arch to them.

There are no hitchers.

I arrive at my castle and immediately get into a chat with a man at the table by the bar planning his wedding next year now with his wife to-be, then. A year away, I say, ’How are you going to maintain it?’ The chap talks to me and leaves his fiancee to plan. There is a slice of their actual-recipe wedding cake, we try it, Chris from Essex and me. We quarter it, but we end up getting two bits each. 'It tastes of brandy,’ I say. ’What amazing karma you are having; your wedding cake is already coming back to you a year before you have even got it yet, already.’

I did a show in Clashmore Hall, the audience surrounded by huge bar heaters high up on the wall, like grills, like they were grilling the crowd. They were like those ones that heat the bathroom down the way because they are so hot. It was finally in the end exactly as it would be in the church of the Tanning Christ. Rows of mahogany pilgrims. People laughed and I ripped a curtain down to wrap myself in five metres of wipe-clean Spar Tartan.

Four teenage girls with scarves called themselves The Spinsters and it seemed an extremely wise and shrewd way of expressing their

position just outside the

_ areas of matrimony i~ and just the similar mode of

s non-choice as a real spinster, it, " and yet with

"h- the humour :4 that it was a ending for 3 them. H That 5 night I met

Ian in the pub

full of Dornock’s single life. A pool table with just reds and yellows. Ian is a champion hammer thrower and I tell him I wish to hammer throw on the beach.

I had been to the beach earlier and stood far enough from others that I could have peed and they would not have known. It is almost exclusively beaches or ex-beaches where it is possible to be this far from someone else and still be able to see their body-length. I remembered I love fires on the beach at night, even in the rain.

Ian keeps not believing me that I am interested in throwing hammers. I am absolutely into it and want to do it primarily on the beach so that our marks will be easier to judge, it being mostly dark now at fast approaching two. I get him together with a neighbour who lives ’35 metres’ from Ian and whom he has never talked to.

Ian has boots with huge flat spikes coming out of the front of them, clumpy prototypes of those Rita Kleg ones in James Bond’s shins. They mean Ian can stick ’em in the ground and never fall over when he hammers or when he is mighty pissed. We nearly hit some children’s playground equipment and l hammer about nine metres with those quickening spins that feel so different to do than to watch.

I say goodnight to Ian and walk home and my key will not unlock the hotel front door. There he is ahead of me well lit in the amber fields.

Even now among the front-room trophies he still doesn’t believe me that I believe him that he is a champion hammerer.

Ian points out his daughter’s room.

’60 in there and I'll kill you.’

’I only want to stand over her bed reeking of booze Ian . . .'

At seven I leave and all the while that little boy had been lost in the woods and was just getting found by the searcher and his dog.

It is an amazing two hour drive to Wick up a road set back evenly from the cliff edge. All I can think is how the sun is such a simple sun. It is bright and unbothered by clouds and not too bright on the eye, and bright as possible on the sea ahead around far mists’ corners.

I park in Wick and immediately meet the town madman, David. He takes me into a fish and chip shop. He talks of fighting for his missus and keeps asking me if I know he is a street fighter and what do I think his hands can do? Eh? ’l've got Kung Fu hands!

Not many people last more than ten seconds with him, so that is all the chat he has. As I am around for a half hour I get it over and over.

All the while that little boy on the news has been lost in the woods. Sixteen hours he lived out there until the searcher found him with his dog.

Famespotting Eric Bana

So who is this Banana man? It’s l'i'it Bana, not Banana, and he's one of Australia's best known (omedians.

His name doesn’t sound Australian and I’ve never seen him on Neighbours or Home And Away

Despite the popular helief, there are hardly any Brutes and Sheilas on the other side of the world; Bana's dad is Croatian, his mother German Also, Australia pi'odu(es more

teleVIsion programmes than Just tea time soaps Bana made his name wrth guest appeaiaiit es on the top-rated show Fu// /‘/'()/ll()/, larger due to his ability to impersonate popular figures He then went on to star and write his own steelnly

show. Is he performing in Britain? No, hut h:s (onti'ovei'sial new film Chopper, ahoiit notorious

digit dismembering (i‘iminal and suhseguentiy popular author Mark 'Choppei" Read is about to be released in the ( inema

I thought you said he was a comedian? Dii'et tor

Andrew Dominik says. 'lt was Choppers idea to (ast Et'|( Bana and l was not going to argue While I was writing the st ript Bana was li(‘l./('l Ill

my mind, but (hopper saw something ll‘i Bana that reminded him of himself As soon as did the st reen test I knew Bana was perleit ' I wouldn’t argue with a killer either

Likely story! That’s what the man said lliough perhaps Dominik pitked up some tips iron. Chopper, who is also notorious for his ability to exaggerate the truth

Any other tales from the set I should know about? Bana told his friends that to at lllt‘fl‘ the effett of haVing no ears - while in pi;son Chopper (ut his own off to avoid a l'l‘.’<ll gang he was haVing them iiieditally removed and cryogenitally fro/en so they (ould he stitr hed back at the end of filming, and that an insurante policy had also been purt hased to cover the damages

Did anyone believe him? I told you, Bana’s a comedian (Kaleem Aftabi

Chopper is I‘e/eased on Fri 24 Now at .se/er ted Cinemas See Fi/m review page it