Your wife might be the breadwinner in the unit, but you, Male Trailing Spouse/ accompanying partner, are the clubland hero -- taking on femme fatales and dodgy foreigners in exotic locations your sad mates back home in Blighty can only dream about. It's a tough gig but somebody's gotta do it. It might as well be you and me.
OK, but what about the killer moves to take down a johnny foreigner, what are the right lyrics for speeching up a femme fatale, how the fuck do I learn to fly a submarine, where do I start... James Bond?
My spin on Gene Barry's pose (Nepal, 2008).
Stop right there. Like I said, in my previous post about role models for the modern day Male Trailing Spouse, there are more cost effective ones for the average bloke to follow in real life.
If, like me, you are an outlaw hero who lives on the cusp of violence, then John Kline in Gangsters is the man for you. Gangsters was a stylish BBC crime series that started off life as a Play for Today. Because it racked up 7 million viewers, more than the Sweeney on ITV, the bigwigs at the BBC optioned a series -- which ran for two seasons in 1977 and 1978. Gangsters is not some run of the mill establishment show by any means, and is probably one of the most interesting BBC dramas of the Nineteen Seventies. Suffice to say, the DVD is well worth acquiring for a Male Trailing Spouse stuck overseas in bongo bongo land with no creature comforts like Marmite, Dundee cake or a fucking halfway decent bottle of champagne.
Role Model: John Kline (Maurice Colborne) in Gangsters. Living overseas, as a Male Trailing Spouse, you might have to rub shoulders with dodgy types like this fellow on the right.
So what's so cool about John Kline? Well, he's no James Bond for starters. Kline is an ambiguous figure, an ex convict and ex SAS man, trying to run a seedy nightclub in Birmingham, England's second city. Unfortunately, Kline has an eccentric and eclectic bunch of enemies who are out to snuff his candle; a family of white trash Brummie gangsters, South Asian human traffickers, West Indian hoods, Irish terrorists and Chinese Triads -- in Gangsters, everyone wants to kill Kline. Fortunately, Kline has friends in high places and he is recruited by a shady figure from MI5, the UK's domestic security service, to take out the human garbage, one bag at a time.
Role Model: John Kline in Gangsters. It is imperative that a Male Trailing Spouse does not get into compromising situations like this one.
Because he is posing as a villain, Kline is always dressed in a variety of flash suits. All of the heroic postures in the series are his, and, even though he has enemies galore, constantly out to get him, he always manages to turn the tables and emerge victorious. In fact, Kline proves so unstoppable that the Chinese Triads, in the final episode of the series, dispatch "the White Devil" to give him a sneaky "dim mak" (death touch). But don't let mortality put you off aping Kline's style at home and abroad. He dresses sharp, he doesn't mind a tear up and he's goes out like a true Northerner.
Role Models: Ray Lonnen and Roy Marsden in the Sandbaggers.
But not every Male Trailing Spouse wants to style himself after an ex-convict who owns a nightclub in Birmingham. This brings me to another bunch of role models for the Male Trailing Spouse, the Sandbaggers, probably the greatest TV spy show that you have never heard of. I made a lot of jokes about the Sandbaggers when we first got posted to Bangkok in October 2003. DFID had us billeted in the Hilton hotel (now the Nai Lert) next door to the British Embassy on Wireless Road. Though I had not seen the show since the early 1980s, I'd remembered that the Sandbaggers often went for drinks at "the Hilt" on London's Park Lane. I asked the Contessa, did SIS and the FCO have some sort of cut rate deal with the Hilton group? The Contessa had never heard of the Sandbaggers and threatened to kill me with a karate chop to the throat if I asked any more "silly reporter type questions".
Role Model: Ray Lonnen rocks brown polyester shirt and .38.
A few years later, in 2006, I discovered that the Sandbaggers was on DVD in Canada. It arrived in Bangkok when I was sick with flu. Laid up and half dead on the red sofa in Bangkapi Mansions, I devoured the box set DVD in one recuperative binge. Soon after, the Sandbaggers made the rounds of our mates at the British Embassy and United Nations area office. I found out that a DFID staffer in Afghanistan was a big fan of the show and had not seen it since first broadcast. I got it burned at Pantip Plaza and posted it, via the diplomatic bag, to Kabul.
After watching this show, you will be a cunt like Roy Marsden.
What's great about the Sandbaggers are the lead characters, Neil Burnside (Roy Marsden) and Willie Caine (Ray Lonnen). Burnside is the Director of Operations (D.Ops) for the 3 man Special Section of the Special Intelligence Service. From assassinating Russian generals to busting out dignitaries, the Sandbaggers do the dirty jobs that no one else has the bottle to do. Ably assisted by Sandbagger 1, Willie Caine, Burnside kicks some major pinstriped ass in the corridors of power. He is a ball buster. A bully in a suit. And, just recently, life has begun to imitate art. The Contessa was promoted to "Director of International Field Operations" and has styled herself D.Ops after Burnside in the Sandbaggers. So much for my silly jokes about the Sandbaggers when we first arrived in Bangkok in October 2003, now she makes belligerent comments about my fading looks and treats me like Burnside's secretary.
Role Models: the Sandbaggers. Note Ray Lonnen in espionage polo neck (far right).
As I was doing some dangerous undercover work at the time, I got lots of pointers from the Sandbaggers to apply in real life scenarios (postmodern or what?) Number one: plan and double plan, think and double think. Number two: drink lots of coffee, smoke lots of cigarettes and be double dealing at all times to all people. Number three: when going to a cold country for a spot of witchcraft, always wear a black polo neck jumper and a navy peacoat combo; but, if you are going somewhere tropical, dress light in a safari jacket and carry a rolled up copy of the Sun newspaper in your back pocket. No one will ever think that you are a Male Trailing Spouse.
Role Model: Ray Lonnen rocks the black espionage polo neck in Harry's Game (1982)
Man, I can't even begin to tell you how much I love the fashion in the Sandbaggers. The late Ray Lonnen as Sandbagger 1 ROCKS the black espionage polo neck more than Little Danny in Spectre (probably the worst Bond film in recent memory). And here's me, giving it the full Lonnen, and rocking the black espionage polo neck, in an interview about undercover work last year on Yank TV.
Role Model: Ray Lonnen rocks donkey jacket in Harry's Game
Sartorial note: if you are a Male Trailing Spouse, living in Eastern Europe, or another god awful part of the globe, an espionage black polo neck is essential kit. Ditto a black or navy peacoat. You can substitute the peacoat for a donkey jacket, like the time Ray Lonnen went undercover in Northern Ireland in Harry's Game, but who wants to looks like a fucking binman from the 1980s?
Role Model: James Hazell (Nicolas Ball) the cockney private eye. Note the polo neck jumper.
Hazell was an ITV series that ran for two seasons in the late Seventies. At the height of its popularity, it had an audience of twenty million viewers - an astronomical figure for a British TV show on a Monday night. Based on the novels by Gordon Williams (Ed. Note: I went to Holland Park with his son) and Terry Veneables, cockney private eye James Hazell is a chirpy ex cop, with a bad ankle and an eye for the ladies. If you are a southerner, and a bit on the common side, he is a great role model for someone like you to take after. Or not.
Role Model: James Hazell rocks .38 and a bouffant.
I drove the Contessa mad watching Hazell in Bangkok, and waited years (and years) for the second season to get released on DVD. I even introduced Hazell to a late American friend of mine in Bangkok -- who was shocked at the sheer number of ugly people in English TV shows, not to mention the switch from film (exteriors) to video (interiors). I explained that the budgets for UK TV shows are not quite the same as the budgets for ones in the USA. Anyhow, one night he got drunk and gave me some shit about watching Hazell in Bangkok. Taking grief from the Contessa about watching Hazell in Bangkok is one thing, but no fucking way was I going to listen to some septic tank run down this low budget ITV classic. I threatened to give him some slaps and he promptly shut up. I don't think I have ever been so passionate about a crap TV show that nobody even cares about.
One step beyond Hazell is another cockney ponce, Pat Tate from Rise of the Footsoldier, an ultraviolent true crime film about the infamous Essex Boys firm of the mid Nineties. I recall bagging the knock-off DVD of this exploitation film at a stall on the mouth of Soi 11, Sukhumvit, back in 2008. I was on my own in Bangkok, the wife was out of the country, on the job, and I was feeling a bit low. But man, watching that film was like a shot of testosterone. I pissed off ALL of my friends, in Bangkok, London and New York doing Pat Tate's wank impersonation. Nonetheless, if you are far from home, in some part of the world that resembles the arsehole of God, watching this piece of shit film; I promise, you will immediately take steroids, bang some coke with a topless glamour model and go on the rampage in a pizza restaurant. Make sure that you are carrying your diplomatic passport or official I.D., if you do (I speak from experience).
Role Model: the real Pat Tate. This shot was taken when he was doing time in England.
Role Model: the real Pat Tate. This shot was taken when he was doing time in England.
Role Models: Pat Tate and Tony Tucker in Rise of the Footsoldier. If you have diplomatic status, you are fully covered for this sort of behavior whilst overseas.
Until next time...
Role Model: The Male Trailing Spouse in action (London, 2011).