The period that started within three months of Wingman and I becoming single, is one we refer to as “Bendertown”.
Over many a weekend those months, both of us threw caution to the wind – read: pissed money against the wall – in pursuit of the hedonistic (read: destructive) pleasure of enjoying ourselves slightly too much.
It was also a period we both made the trip with fairly regular occurrence on the Eurostar – or as my friend’s baby niece thought it was called, “The Rockstar”, to London Town.
But where would this libertine lifestyle logically end?
Funnily enough, with the Libertines front-man himself.
It was a Monday night at St Pancras. Wingman had been in London for work (on the Monday at least) and me solely for fun, and were taking advantage of the cheaper tickets available for travelling outside of weekends (one of the meagre perks the freelance lifestyle permits).
The extended weekend had involved the usual antics. We’d raged from The Eagle through East London and into the depths of Fulham Broadway, leaving a trail of mischief, mayhem and broken hearts (Wingman) and watermelon stands (me) behind. Margaret Thatcher had also died, but I don’t think we were implicated.
Now Monday night and discombobulated the both of us, we had made it through the Eurostar customs and were walking the ramp up to our respective carriages (Wingman travelled Business, me not).
For whatever reason I looked to my right and saw a lanky figure hauling a guitar case, and wearing a familiar looking black leather hat.
Could this be Pete Doherty, I wondered? Poet extraordinaire, ex of Kate Moss, recovered addict and rumoured housemate of Macaulay Culkin in Paris (tip: you’re rarely Home Alone when you house-share).
For Pete’s Sake, I think it was!
There’s no doubting Pete Doherty, front man of the Libertines/Babyshambles, has had a lot of hits. And he’s even written some decent songs *boom boom*. Here his eyes were spinning counter-clockwise to each other, and he seemed to be sweating profusely, but when our eyes locked, he held my gaze steadily and smiled.
“You ‘right, mate?” I asked with genuine concern. If he was going to cark it on the platform, I probably wasn’t the first person you’d want to assist.
“Yeah, good, cheers,” he said with a grin. We walked side-by-side briefly, me sensing a kind of camaraderie, before I arrived all too early at my carriage.
“Well, see you, then,” he offered, trotting off towards the pointy end of the train.
As we often did, Wingman and I had arranged to meet in the bar carriage after an hour or so. This would give him time to take reasonable advantage of the free service in Business Class before sharing some beers charitably with me.
It was here we hatched out plan. There’s only one time in life you get the chance of partying with Pete Doherty, we figured. I mean, literally, so many people have died at his parties, (three deaths in a decade is nothing to be sniffed at…or snorted at), that the tabloid press talks of ‘The Curse of Pete Doherty’.
The idea was simple: we deduced that he was travelling in First. We, by contrast, were 18 carriages, a couple of hundred metres, behind. When the train rolled into Paris, we would run like the be-Jesus to the front of the train, and, drawing on my chummy banter with our new friend Pete, ask him if he wanted to come for a beer.
Then we could expect to be invited back to his party mansion, and spend the night regaling each other with stories of Kate Moss (him), stories about knowing Kate Moss’ former assistant (Wingman), and stories of, well…watching Home Alone?
As the train rolled into Gare du Nord we readied ourselves by the door. Backpacks on, and rolling luggage at hand.
When the doors opened, it was on. The quai at Gare du Nord is flat, but we were admittedly pushing shit uphill. Had it been an open route we may have fared a chance; but already we had 17 carriages of other people to navigate through, and not all of them seemed similarly intent on catching up with Pete Doherty.
Well, we finally arrived in the station proper, ourselves now also sweating profusely. Alas, by now he was nowhere to be seen. We hung around another 5 minutes in case he was having trouble disembarking, but finally gave up.
All things considered it probably wasn’t a bad ending. I was a few days shy of no longer being 30, and perhaps it was time to slow time*. And, after all, we had made it to Paris with the Rockstar, and unlike some, hadn’t died in the process**.
(For a more even-handed, and illuminating insight into Pete Doherty, with less cheap shots, read this excellent profile by Angelique Chrisafis in the Guardian.)
*I didn’t end up slowing down as much as expected.
** I did see Pete Doherty again, but he was on stage at a public gig in Republique, still recognisable in his silly hat.