On MONDAY 9 APRIL 2018 Drive up the M1 to Scotch Corner in never ending rain but enjoy the journey and take your time. Have a latte at Leicester Forest East. When the woman in the Starbucks asks you for a name tell her ‘John’ and when she asks you a second time (only because she lost her place in her script) laugh with her and tell her ‘Still John’. Notice with disappointment that the coffee cup when it arrives does not have ‘Still John’ written on it since that’s what you would have written. Continue to take your time up the motorway you now know in such detail. Love that distant view of Richmond that you have always used as the marker for Darlo knowing that this is probably the last time. Be more pleased than normal that the Travelodge receptionist is so very friendly and happy and helpful. Get some food from the Marks in the mall next to your room. Decide to stay in but then when your wife tells you by phone to go dancing start to change your mind then change it back and decide to stay the whole evening in that nice little plain room with just a TV and all those awful channels and a big comfy bed but then change your mind again, have a shower, watch the passersby walk over and over again from the car park to the mall and back, do your stretches, change your mind yet again and then get the atlas out of the car to discover the location of Bolden Colliery.
Set off as it approaches sunset. See that it is misty but no longer raining. As you get near to The Enormous Metal Angel, instead of going left to Newcastle stay right on the previously unexplored A 194, which excitingly would take you to the still unseen Tyne Tunnel although tonight you must find Bolden close to Sunderland. New roads give you joy and, using that joy, quickly enter the large area of Nandos and small businesses and almost immediately find your desired venue which is not only called ‘The Shack’ but also has a large sign on its roof saying ‘The Shack’.
See that this Shack building is a futurised Working Men’s Club which is now frequented by working and non-working multi-gender people. Pay to enter the ballroom area and be greeted by friendly women and men glowing with anticipation. Be advised (by the teacher, as it turns out) that water and other drinks need to be obtained from the downstairs bar. Enter that large downstairs bar to discover an atmosphere that while related to the past also feels changed in many positive ways. Sense rows of decent men with a changed history seated in long, straight smoke-free lines most of them with a smoke-free pint taking part in a modern smoke-free quiz with a friendly and smoke-free mutual-respect.
Back in the ballroom be asked to dance by a friendly woman of probably your own age who reminds you of someone somewhere from the London magazine industry and who has noted your unfamiliarity and newness. Thank her for the kind request and off you go. Notice that being asked, as ever, leaves you capable to ask people yourself and from here don’t look back. Observe to your self that this is one of the most friendly venues ever. Towards the end of the evening ask the teacher herself to dance and soon thrill to find again one more of those angels whose musicality rules their dancing, fluid as an octopus and lost in music just like you.
Sing in the car at the top of your voice down the dark A1 through pounding rain and also through the after-midnight long-winded roadworks diversion which oddly takes you through the well known streets of Darlo and past the cemetery gates of only 3 weeks before.
On TUESDAY 10 APRIL 2018 eat breakfast watching the cars drive through the flooded road outside your window. Decide that when YOU set off you will sensibly avoid the massive pool by going inside the petrol station forecourt. Drive to the house with your cardboard boxes and tape. Gratefully note that Angela has done a great deal of boxing already but that there are many electrical items to be reunited with their remotes and their user-manuals and all of your brother’s 1970s and 80s books and records to be sent far away in cardboard. Note with alarm though, that you have deceived yourself with regard to the job of boxing the stuff in your Dad’s faithful old asbestos garage. Realise that this must be the place in which he kept his indecisiveness. Be overwhelmed by tools and tools and tools and bits of carpet and nails and nails and rusty screws and chairs and rotting sofas and tins of paint and varnish and plant food all of which might have gone long ago to recycling heaven but instead faded from his memory. Wonder ‘Did he still remember even his house in the last months?’. Decide that the fact he always asked ‘When’s the bus coming?’ means he had somewhere he wished to return. Replan to concentrate on boxing only the rest of the house in anticipation of British Heart Foundation tomorrow and to soon hire a different contractor to attack the garage at a future date. Leave some helpful notes in the house for the new owner sellotaped to the small number of useful items that the new owner asked to be left. Insist to the universe that while of course keeping the slides and photos, everything else must finally go into the past.
Go to your next Travelodge, the one you like that overlooks the EE building with it’s sturdy, futuristic, mundane transmitters sitting in what were your teenage fields. Go down the town and spend over an hour in the brilliant new Mangobean coffee bar to continue reading Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Take a while but then realise that this is where the bus station used to be and you may be sitting exactly where you and your daft mates took all those freakin’ photobooth photos. Go dancing in Middlesbrough which is equally as friendly as Bolden and where the desk staff remember you from 2 years ago and where there is yet another.
On WEDNESDAY 11 APRIL 2018, after having worried about today for weeks, feel enormous relief that the 3 blokes from The British Heart Foundation are beyond lovely. Laugh and chat with them as they efficiently take every last stick in only 2 short sessions. Apologise unecessarily when more than one of the boxes you failed to tape at all well pours Tintin books and Gilbert O’ Sullivan records on to Salters Lane South. Notice that your bedroom quickly stops being your bedroom when all that is left is that awful green carpet that you chose in 1974. Stand for the last time in the suddenly empty room of a 1001 ejaculations and do a stupid chanting dance to celebrate all your precious now fading years. Listen to ‘Come Down To Us’ by Burial in the car and get your hair cut in town. Be pleased that the woman who cuts it is so chatty and give her some positivity when you sense she is having a difficult time over her teenage Aycliffe son. When you leave, run down the blue-cobbled alley and notice you are shaking with relief.
On THURSDAY 12 APRIL 2018 drive to Manchester to visit your Mother for once. Observe 6 police cars forming a tidal barrier to slow all us cars until the moment when a blazing-fast Beemer appears screaming down the hard shoulder and they all blast off to presumably catch it. Have an espresso at Wetherby where a young female probably 12, will point out your amusing tiny cup to her Dad who will then explain to her that it is extra strong. Only in your mind, put together a concise explanation which states that espresso means less liquid and therefore fewer pit stops for an older gentlemens special reasons, but be certain to actually say nothing out loud. Drift through medium thick M62 fog which as ever makes them all go faster. With Mam and Doreen go exploring slowly in the woods of Heaton Park which is enormous and strangely feels like Central Park relocated to north Manchester. Later during Pointless when Doreen asks “Peter Gabriel? Wasn’t he in Slade?” respectfullly explain the truth. When your Mam says she wishes to be rid of Charlie, your Grandad’s ventriloquist dummy, and would you like to take him say yes. Comb Charlie’s hair and remove the undignified kids clothes he has worn for years to reveal his tiny grey suit that you will now learn was made by your Mam for her Dad when she was a teenager. When she tells you that Percy was a very popular comic act around the Methodist churches of County Durham but a poor ventriloquist, tell her you are glad.
On FRIDAY 13 APRIL 2018 strap Charlie in the back seat of the car and drive the sunset exciting overpopulated evening down the M6 to midnight London.
Charlie heads to London
On Sunday 4 March 2018 at 11.30am,
go randomly to Imperial Wharf, Chelsea. As you get off the orange train think maybe you will get back on to the orange train because of rain. Instead put up your umbrella for less than 3 minutes, refurling it because the fine spray rain has soon and suddenly ended. Walk north-west up Chelsea Gdn Mkt past a new building which contains well dressed persons going in to the Design Fair 2018. Have nothing to do with this and instead go to a new and wide footbridge over the creek and photograph a large number of bolllards relaxing in mud.
Bollards, Chelsea Wharf
Carefully remember that today is a determined effort to bring yourself out of the inertia surrounding your father’s recent death. Resolve to say yes and not no to whatever might happen while acknowledging though, that sitting on a couch beneath a blanket for several days through the coldest weather London has (possibly) known, was in fact a very good idea as it has enabled processing of previously unknown states of mind.
Announce to no-one in particular (but your self) that today is a walk for the purpose of avoiding the loss of your precious fitness, since you have avoided going dancing for nearly 2 months now and you have failed to stretch. Say in your mind: ‘I will not fail to stretch’, say it again: ‘I will not fail to stretch’. Also say in your mind, yet again, that you will return to dancing this week but this time mean it.
Find Lotts Road and walk 200 yards along it suddenly realising that it connects to Cheyne Walk and that you have long ago driven from it’s far end in your Beetle at the late end of the 1980s. Notice that that remembrance also brings into your brain Lol Creme and Kevin Godley. Suspect vaguely that you once believed that those 2 had some sort of production office in this place. Stop thinking about them when you turn left into Tadema Road.
At the petrol station wait while an uninterruptable small family suddenly emerges from a hidden gap in the wall and crosses your path. Maybe it’s good luck. Remember that you now no longer believe that luck is not real. And that you have finally become interested in magick.
Begin to head into King’s Rd World’s End where time runs quickly backwards. See a visual of Johnny Rotten as a very young man. Notice that the pub where you were long ago threatened with an oar by an Australian barman has become a different type of eating place called Eight above Eight. Think about Tracy Dann for 9 minutes and that it is she who saved you from that potential battering by being present, female and confident.
Put the letter to Gabrielle Binks which is in your backpack into the traditional red post box. Worry that it is now being sent from a postcode which does not represent the part of Lndon in which you actually live. Think ‘How does it get to Newcastle?’ meaning ‘by what specific route?’
Slow down your walking pace quite deliberately as a sort of therapy since your mind is easily overwhelmed right now. Notice that you can not quite believe that you ARE being overwhelmed and that you in fact prefer to claim that more things are being sent for you to juggle with. Perhaps both things are in fact the case. Accept grudgingly that it’s perfectly possible that inability to handle as much might coincide with the advent of more to handle.
At that bit on Kings Rd where the path narrows next a large hedge stop sharp when a fast moving stylish man of your own age but who has a beard suddenly makes a John Cleese looming step across your path in order to tie his shoelace up against the low brick wall. Inadvertantly gasp, but be sure to show no displeasure. Indeed nod amusedly.
Notice that that wonderful Blow-Up, Stones, Bailey, Faithful old-style but posh caff that once ruled this section has gone gone gone.
See, on the steps of the Registry Office, soggy but positive confetti. Had it been thrown into the snow which has now melted? Visualise them going ahead despite the forecasts of icy doom from every available Medium.
Uncharacteristically DO NOT avoid a salon representative who clearly wants your business. Fail to dip your head. Fail to avert your gaze. Fail to step away. Fail to turn around and go the back way. Simply accept the small packet of moisturiser she puts into your (also uncharacteristically) out-stretched hand. Even when she suggests coming in to her salon, do not falter. Sense that she is a very very professional Japanese woman and she knows her stuff. Without even knowing that it is happening, for the first time ever, accept the injection into your under eye areas of some marvellous wrinkle-removing substance which is not Botox. Think to your self ‘How the f*** did this happen?’ but enjoy it, precisely because it is not at all in any universe your thing. Respectfully listen to the science behind this process and admire the subtle and quite brilliant flattery of a skilled sales woman who herself of course has perfect skin. Know that you’re being in some way manipulated by very kind and modest ‘guesses’ of your actual age but don’t mind. Allow yourself for once to be drawn in and even beam with pride when you tell her that next year you get a free Oyster. Notice that although you can’t really tell the difference you DO look better. Ask her ‘What if I like my lines?’ and when her reply makes you genuinely laugh in front of herhand-held mirror, see something in your own smile that you have never actually been in a position to witness before. Fail to be embarrassed to say ‘no thanks’ to paying the ‘vastly reduced for March’ £399 for the injector and cream but take her card with grace and understand this encounter has helped you deeply.
LEFT: Accidental rejuvenation, RIGHT: Danny Fox, Saatchi
Go into the Saatchi and be remembered by the woman at the desk as that person who was genuinely interested last November about the policy of not being allowed to wear, but allowed to carry, one’s own backpack around the gallery. Laugh when she tells you that that rule has been changed and that you can wear your haversack upon your back with gay abandon. Do just that. Find one room of stuff which you love. Become aware that this week your favourite painter is called Danny Fox and that you have no information as to their gender but so what? Buy 2 postcards of their massive, bright, rough and childlike-but-not, pictures. See some young women in a group who may be film students with what appears to be a ‘lite’ version of a steady-cam. Presume that this item might be available to the general public.
Explore Pimlico by routes which are new to you including Ebury St and Bessborough St. Buy a grey doorstop in a proper hardware-shop-of-yore uncharacteristically doing that thing where you jump the queue by leaving coins on the counter and saying keep the 5p change. Notice with deep joy that both the man waiting for a key to be cut and the assistant doing the cutting were very happy with the way you dealt with this.
Cross Vauxhall Bridge beside the Cyclists Superhighway. Look to the new and enormous skyscraper flats which have magnificently replaced the skyscraper in which you worked in 79/80. Think: ‘Where do destroyed buildings go?’ Assess the possibility of jumping on to the roof of the quick-moving restaurant boat below just for a laugh. See a vivid sequence of you clattering your head on that roof and slipping into the icy Thames like a complete and utter dork.
As your legs slightly stiffen (I will not fail to stretch) wander through the Santander bike racks next to the Vauxhall Tavern and contemplate getting some form of smart device which would permit you to take part in renting one of those red vehicles and using it upon the Cyclist’s Superhighway. Carry on slow along Kennington Lane.
Watch the cops stop some ‘dead giveaway’ lads in a lowered Corsa. Watch a boy of possibly around 9 or 10 simply and unconsciously allow his unwanted box of chips to fall from his grasp no matter where it should land. Do nothing about that.
Go inside the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre like you always used to and get on one of the comfortable trains which have now returned to the melting city. As you walk towards home along Rye Lane see a highly detailed vision of a weekly workshop where you encourage persons to chant along to lo-volume electronic music triggered on your SPD-SX.
I played cassettes to people in a drunken room
I played cassettes to vomiting rebels who clattered about like skeletons back from the underworld
I played cassettes to people with a love for all the poisons, howling, necking and licking and spitting on the floor
I played cassettes to medicine women and medicine men, juggling cigarettes and pills and shaking their broken limbs to the joy of the quivering and lonely snake-eyed boys
I’m a chemical woman and I play cassettes by the muddy and mighty river
I played cassettes to stumbling, luvved-up monks who swaggered and swayed in the gentle, early freshening fog
I played cassettes to craggy old buggers with limps and curses hammering crutches four to the floor
I’m a chemical woman and I play cassettes by the muddy and mighty river.