Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Navvies, Skag Heads and the Ocean

I'm neglecting to blog. When I have things to do and I'm away and that, I only write in a notebook. If my notebook could connect to the world wide web... well I'd get rid of it. That's why I carry a pad made of paper not apples.

I have been to Plymouth this week, but more on that later. I've also been to Brighton. I had a lovely morning on the beach today, the sun was blazing through a gentle breeze, the sea was blue like in the postcards and I had 45 minutes to kill. I was planning on finishing my book but as I lay on the pebbles staring out to sea, I was overcome by an urge to get in it. I stripped to my waist, emptied my pockets and did the 28 Days Later zombie walk over the stones in my bare feet. At the water's edge I submerged to my ankles and it felt good. The aforementioned urge dragged at my waist and I waded in for a little swim. I felt so free and unencumbered and smug like a big hippy. Quickly I realised it was fucking freezing and that I had to get out immediately or die. So that was that. 

Southern Rail should be commended for cranking up the air-con during the heatwave, but I thought I was going to get pneumonia on the train home. Reet chilly it was.

As I mentioned earlier I went to Plymouth on Thursday. I did a really lovely gig at the Barbican for Apples And Snakes and the whole evening changed my outlook on the town. I'd only ever been there as a disgusting, lairy, snog-hungry drunk of 18 years old. Tea by the harbour hadn't been on my to-do list. So on that note, here's a little story I wrote many moons ago about one of those old trips to Plymouth. It's true.


    Opposite Plymouth University there is a car-park serving a short run of shops and bars. It is situated directly between the University’s lecture halls and its purpose-built student flats, so at certain times of the day large groups of students flow through the area, walking from lessons to their homes.
    It was at one of these times that I was waiting with Tom. We had spent the night drinking in a Plymouth bar and were expecting a lift home. The day was glorious and we chatted through our hangovers, our throbbing foreheads warmed in the sun. We'd not long been talking when our attention was drawn to a group of students crossing the car-park. Both Tom and I were 18, hungover and constantly horny. As half the students were girls, exotic and mysterious older girls at that, our attention was held. We talked to cover our inward drooling, silently thanking the sun for coaxing chests and shoulders into the open air. [We were young. We probably thought objectification meant carving something out of wood. Older, wiser adam.]
   As more students left campus and crossed the concrete, the stream of people widened and took on an almost festive mood. Tom and I remained on the curb, happily chatting and watching the beautiful and 'cool' people. [When you're 18 students are cool.Older grumpier Adam ] Half an hour went by, our testosterone raging throughout, when I noticed a man stood beside us. I alerted Tom to his presence with a glance which was followed by a series of meaningful looks. Neither of us had seen him approach but he stood quite close to Tom. He stared blankly, his chin resting at the base of his neck, his eyes aimed upward at the same current of people we were observing. Despite the heat he wore a full grey tracksuit that was visibly filthy. Without looking towards us he spoke. “I love this time of day”
    His voice was gravelly and sharp and somehow reptilian. The words dragged in his throat, as if pushing through brambles to make the sounds.
    Me and Tom looked at each other, both of us reluctant to reply.
    He turned to us. His face was leathery and pockmarked, the skin discoloured a yellowy brown.“Don’t you love it boys?” His voice crawled.
  We mumbled non committal but affirmative replies.
  “Look at all them peaches.” His gaze moved back to the students.
  We laughed nervously, slightly disturbed at the transparency of our actions and more disturbed at this mans association with us.
 “Mmmm.” He growled as he leered. “I had one the other day.” He looked to us again, waiting on our reactions.
 “Yeah?” Tom’s face was pinched in disdain.
 “Yeah… I had one of them.” The man rolled his face in a wide arc and pointed with his chin at the students.
  We exchanged glances of disbelief. “Really?”
  He was delighted to have our attention. He stepped off the curb and stood in front of us. We were now his audience.
    He had something large stuffed down his tracksuit top which made his upper body seem grossly misshapen. The neckline of his jumper was stretched and we could see the top of his chest. It was the same sickly pallor as his face but flecked red with short, deep scratches. He supported his unseen cargo’s weight with one hand while he gesticulated with the other.
    “Yeeah. She was just like a peach. Hurh. Do you know the fashion boys?” His gaze bounced between our faces. “Do you know the fashion?”
    We didn’t reply. His yellow eyes were triumphant.
   “They shaaave!” As he said these words he thrust his crotch forward, made a fist with his thumb pointed towards the floor and drew it slowly from between his thighs to his stomach. “Yeah, yeah, shave everything. Eeeeverything. Like a peach.” He was shifting from foot to foot, clearly excited by his own story.“Do you know what it’s like boys? Do you know what it’s like?”
    I’m sure that by now both our faces were contorted in disgust but he was either oblivious or did not care. Or perhaps he delighted in our revulsion. He leant forward now, ready to disclose his greatest secret.
    “It’s like when you open a tin of peaches, yeah? A tin. And you’ve got the one little peach on the top, y’ know? And you take your knife. And you cut a tiny slit in it. In the top peach. A tiiiiny slit.” He brought his pinched fingers to the side of his face and ducked his head down slightly, feigning the concentration needed to perform such an operation. “That’s it boys. That’s the fashion.”   

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