Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dare devil Daryl

Eddie Kid, he's a handsome fella, said Daryl, the only fishmonger I've ever truly loved... known, even.
He eats in my cafe on a Friday, comes in with his girl and carer. They live in Seaford.
One reads off the menu while Eddie sits in his wheelchair.

People stop to ask, Are you Eddie Kidd, all the time. People recognise him. He's a bit fucked. But he's still a great looking bloke. I'm not gay, but he sure is still a looker. His eyes dazzle.

We're moving along to the bigger unit at the end of the Enterprise Centre, Daryl, whose eyes really do dazzle, updated me.
It's got space for sofas where we can give people olives and tables big enough for paella dishes.
What's the point of paella without the dishes landing on your table?
We'll have a platter counter too, where folks can pick and mix oysters and prawns and all that stuff.
It'll be grand, but we're quite scared. We've gone from that little counter, and two dishes a day, to that.

It's daring. Eddie would approve, I should have said.

Monday, October 27, 2008

CYCLING: The upside down sun season

Friston was a carpet of yellow leaves, the colour of over ripe Bartlett pears.
Where a few weeks ago they'd kept the light out now they lay bright on the forest floor, transforming the dreary autumn afternoon.
It was as if, to spite the clouds, the sun had decided to come from the other direction.

This fallen flora both dazzled and destabilized us as we free wheeled along what was possibly a cycle track - reliable mud path completely covered with greasy day-glow camouflage.
It was treacherous and we Wuuwd often as we wobbled.
Worse, some hungry reptilian ridge-back tree roots were hiding amongst it all, joined by stumps, rocks and other gang members, all anticipating a rare winter biker supper.

Further on the heavens opened in annoyance with the upside down sun and we sought shelter from the fire roads in parts of the forest yet to lose their canopy.

I think I'll have a little sit down, said Neil, who was on his bike for the first time since the birth of two children (his).
That last climb has taken it out of me. I might puke.

We repeated the loop, skipping the worst of the leafy luge form first time round.
Instead a great piece of downhill footpath I'd yet ridden. We picked up so much speed the milky tea-coloured water fairly drenched our undercarriages, some grimy cha flicking into our eyes too.

I was not prepared for this and got stung once or twice.
Neil lacked not just glasses and lungs, but shoes, trousers, lid, gloves and, if there is anything else, that as well.
He slowed to see why I'd halted and as I found a tiny piece of unmuddy cloth to wipe the corner of my eye, he put a foot down, slid on his inappropriate footwear, and heaped on the floor, laughing his happy arse off.

We wanted more, more, more but our wrinkled skin said it was time to return to adulthood.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Destination mare

Maybe I shouldn't have laughed at Laura's misfortune. But today was a day of direction underachievement all around.

Drunken public transport 'freestyling', as Anna called it, saw her hopelessly lost in late night London. She was eventually, via a distressed Bristol-locked boyfriend and the Met Police, recovered. But the tale of her boozy misadventure (a wrong train and an impressive THREE progressively more wrong busses) was good enough for Anna to wake me into a ferocious hangover at an upsetting eight am.

My sister was animated and we laughed hard and long.

In Tonbridge High Street at five thirty one, my hands clamped together in heartfelt prayer and my eyes pleading with the unwavering and unimpressed (but well fed) manageress of Carphone Warehouse, the tables had turned.

I’d run between two open phone shops which didn’t sell what I needed – and now I’m at the one that does and it’s JUST shut? NO.

I’m cashing up, we’re closed, she gestured.

I showed her my lifeless phone, mouthed ‘CHAR-GER’ and continued to beg... For nothing.

I turned around and in dejection put my hands on my hips. I waited for a few seconds, hoping she’d thaw and let me in, before walking off to find a phonebox, my last hope, without a clue how I would use it to solve the problem.

Earlier I left Anna snoozing on her sofa in good time to reach Chris - a dear friend, over from his home in Hong Kong for a rare visit.

I caught the train to Clapham and back past Balham to Hayward’s Heath to collect the car. I punched the postcode into the sat nav and picked the top of the two displayed options.

Off we go. Lots of time. Good planning Adam.

I’m going to be early so I text Chris – he says it’s fine and they’re looking forward to seeing me. Then the phone beeps to warn me it’s going to run out of battery soon. Shit, no charger. No problem, I’m on my way – I know where I’m going and I don’t really need it.

I get to the place as directed...

This isn’t right, I think. Plainly not right.

I check the sat nav and realise it’s actually at the nearest place it could find to the postcode. I turn to the phone. Phew, it’s alive. Chris has text me the road name and number too. In it goes, and up pops a new destination which appears to be a match – 15 minutes away. Phone off to save battery – error. I’ll be a bit late, but not by a lot.

I arrive in Tonbridge nearly half an hour later thanks to some Friday rush hour traffic and begin to engage seriously with the doubts that have been in my head for the last bit of the journey.

This isn’t right. It’s a council estate. Tom, Chris’ brother, is well off.
(Later I’ll realise Hopgarden Road isn’t in the same place as Hopgarden Lane...)
I’ll check the phone. On... On?... Cummon. ON!

Late, lost and phone alone.

Back in Tonbridge the first phone box was occupied by a foreign woman early into a broken discussion over a bill.

The second box was empty. Bitter about its unpopularity it swallowed a pound in paltry exchange for letting me know Dad’s was empty but the answer phone was on.
I drove home... to plug my mobile in and call Chris and explain why I wasn’t there.

After the fruitless Tonbridge High St plus phonebox foray I’m spent. Tired, seriously hung over, miles and miles from home, unpopular and unable to apologise to anyone for at least another hour... I give up and re-enter the rush hour traffic, homeward bound.
A fucking mare.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fire and water

The sun dipped so low tonight it set clouds alight over the downs. There was fire in the sky and it blinded those heading west.

Earlier, driving through Battle, after a largely pointless trip to Hastings, it had cast a sepia shroud over the landscape - turned the whole thing into a photograph which must have been developed in the late 70s.

Car sun visors were pushed down and postures straightened to narrow the field of view to only a few feet of road. Shadows stretched back the full distances between vehicles while the autumn rays exposed grubby windows.
As we passed Powder Mill Hotel the car at the distant front of our partially sighted procession could take no more shame and sprayed herself. Unruly sparks of fine sunlit water flew silently up and onto the next car which was forced to do the same.
Further along it reached me and we joined in, pleased not to be overlooked. The car behind did too but after that I do not know. Maybe it goes on still.

James Yuill accompanied it all loudly on my stereo only though, and just I saw everything happen in perfect time.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

CYCLING: Sun chasing

In Old Town any autumn sun is obscured mid afternoon, much earlier than the rest of our region. The Downs imposes this regime with a shadow, like a curfew.
But dictators must be stood up to.
Challenge his vastness and you'll peddle out onto the golf course into a sunset over the Seven Sisters with which it's best not to tax yourself for comparison.

I kept my coat on all the way for the first time since spring - and peddled quite hard.
Despite longer than a week off the saddle and two poor run outs with the stick the legs didn't let me down.

A pretty girl with a tiny dog, a cyclist obeying hill passing etiquette (exactly) where the OAP's of a week back had not, a quick breather - a moment for wide-eyed admiration - before rocketing down into Willingdon and pounding the Drive back to the start, just as car headlights began to blink on.

A sunny ride thieved from dusk's grip. Grand.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Adam & Raisa

Picture: Raisa Bergman, By Adam Monaghan.

Adam and Raisa are emigrating, heartlessly.
We're going to Finland to live in a forest, said Adam with a glint.
I don't know the language, I haven't got a job - here, have some of my photos which I'm not taking and while you're all over let us take you out for dinner.
You can see they felt guilty for leaving us.

While we ate, and before the 14-strong crowd knew we were not paying, we talked about ourselves and our lives, in our sections of the long table. It was nice to be out.
Then, in the pub, all wealthier than we'd expected, the talk was of our soon-to-be-far-away friends, prompted by gesture and generosity.

I think we all thought: Wow, that was nice. What a thing to do. Adam giving his art away, the pair of them taking us to a restaurant. They must like us. I like them. Oh, my!, they're going - these people I like.

Later I talked to Adam.
Adam doesn't drink often, but he should, he's a wonderful, beaming, drunk. We sipped ale and talked about his plans for the first book of his photos and how he feels detached from parenthood and commitment.
Raisa knows, he said. She gets irritable if she's near kids for long, so it suits us. Who knows what will happen? And that's fine by me.

Later still I talked to Raisa.
I don't know if she drinks often, but she's an glorious and emotional drunk.
You're lazy Adam, we haven't seen you a lot and now we're going. But I forgive you. I wish my friends in Finland didn't all have bloody kids, she said. They don't go out now, they're all boring. I wish I was staying here.

She didn't mean it. But we surely did.

Head East and towards dawn, friends.
Where the sun rises you will welcome be.
And we will cherish your thoughts for us with memories and vivid images.
Until you again we do see.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fix me

Dan was mortified.
It wasn't his fault either. But all night he asked me how my leg was.
I wanted to say, Fine fella... I managed, Sore and bruised. I could have said, Fucked, my friend.
Here I sit, a glass of wonderful whisky to my side (the last from what turned out to be an annoyingly small bottle), ice pack trapped against my swelling shin muscles by smelly socks, thinking, frankly, that Saturday's game would be in recoverable reach if I was not fucking 33.
Oh ice, work your magic. Substitute on and score a goal against youth.
I mean. I know our relationship has been sparse. You've waited, of course, I know, for me to accept many an silent offer of gentle revival from sores which I saw fitter to lazily decline. I know I only come knocking in desperation. But, cummon. I think this may finally be the start of a something meaningful.. I'm a man. I take time to see the grass isn't greener although it always appears so. I've grown. I can see your worth, despite your frosty exterior. Mend me.

Mend me quickly.