As I think I mentioned, I was at a family wedding in England last weekend. In the course of the evening’s shenanigans I got talking to the bouncer, aka doorman. Interesting. He was called...let's say Fred and he had tattoos everywhere, notably on his head ("Bit painful getting the one on the head done, but worth it. I think they look attractive"). Fred does the doorman thing at weekends ("What would I be doin' instead? Flicking channels on the telly? I can't be arsed with that rubbish"); during the day he works with motorbikes. His first wife couldn't stand him doing the doorman stuff; his second wife doesn't seem to mind. He has no children ("Nah - got three big German shepherds though. That's enough!")
He was a Royal Marine ("I was in Northern Ireland - Springfield Road Barracks in 1979. Now that was scary!"). As a doorman he's been stabbed twice ("Both times by women. You're busy getting the guy under control, the girl-riend comes at you from behind with the knife"). He had just one incident with a gun: "I was in another area at the time, got the word in my earpiece ‘Over here quick, there’s been somebody shot in the legs!’ So I sprints round a corner and there he is, ten yards off, shotgun pointed straight at me." What'd he do? "It was one of them moments – you say to yourself ‘This is it’. Guy looked at me, says 'I don't want no aggro – got no dog in the fight with you, mate. I done what I come here to do'. And he puts the gun over his shoulder and walks off into the sunset, like Davy Crockett".
Why does he put himself in mortal danger with this kind of thing - whether in the Marines or as a bouncer? Is it the camaraderie? "Nah, none of that stuff. Tell you the truth, it gives me a buzz, You're right there in the moment, when it happens, ain't you? Doesn't happen that often, but when it does, you feel this, how am I going to say, you feel this concentration. Most of the time you’re just standing around".
I think of Dr Johnson's line about the prospect of being hanged concentrating the mind wonderfully – the prospect of being shot dead or stabbed must do something similar. He tells me he does most of his door work down in Eastbourne. But isn’t that a quiet seaside place, full of retirees? “During the day it is. At night it’s a different matter. They comes out at night. Different world then”. I don't ask him about his experiences on the Springfield Road, I’m not sure why.
Maybe it’s because with the music drifting from indoors and a yellow moon rising behind us, I find myself liking Fred. There's something of the child as well as the hard man about him. He resembles in some ways a big tough dog, one that's been in a few fights and wouldn't mind a few more, if that’s what it takes. Has he a political thought in his head? Not beyond a Sun editorial, is my guess. And I think how the British armed forces, and the US armed forces, and armies throughout the world feed the Freds a few comforting lines about patriotism and bringing democracy, and send them marching off to God knows where, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and risk death.
Besides, it’s better'n sittin' at home flickin' channels on the telly. Innit?