Being something of a voyage of discovery into the savage beating heart of Sussex coastal and country life.
I took my usual bicycle ride along the coast this afternoon, having enjoyed a bit of a part-time week this week. My daughter who helps me run the shop was extremely poorly for the previous few weeks with her digestive disorder and mystery spinal pains which defy all attempts at diagnosis, so as she’s a bit better right now she’s doing five days this week and I did two. So my weekend began on Tuesday night. Wednesday was spent with two of the grandchildren, Jacob and Harry, at the zoo. No animals were harmed. But the boys are both under two, so there’s plenty of time for devastation of captive wildlife and some gratuitous maiming yet, don’t you worry.
So yes, the bicycle ride. I only did an eight mile one today, as tomorrow I have plans for going well into double figures up by the river and then back along the coastal bit again. On the return leg, just after four o’clock, the sun was sinking over to port, and I paused to watch the golden red disc melt into the trees on the crest of the hill on the far side of the river valley, but three miles away. How narrow are our everyday horizons? Pretty bloody narrow most days, I can tell you. A slight chill caressed my naked limbs, for today was warm enough to go out in polo shirt, chino shorts and canvas sandals, and so I headed along the gravelled track for home, almost but not quite shivering in the fading light. And bugger me, but if when I’d come up the hill to the street where I live, the sun had passed behind the hill and was visible above the shadowed landscape again, slowly setting somewhere over Brighton, or possibly Bognor, a handful of leagues away to the South West. I may have discovered the first step on the pathway to a sustainable and non-destructive method of time travel. More research needed, possibly.
The other afternoon, Tuesday it was, Mathew the Fretful one was perspiring and breathing heavily. He’d limped painfully into my shop, white of brow, wan and rather worried looking. So nobody thought anything was out of the ordinary. I certainly didn’t, until he spoke.
“I hope I’ve got away with that Graham”, he gasped as I placed his tea in front of him, unbidden, and unappreciated too, I suppose.
“Got away with what, Mathew?” I asked, unconcerned. This is the man who spends an evening and the following day in a state of desperate, blind panic if he notices a rusty bolt or a paperclip on the pavement and doesn’t pick it it up immediately a, to hopefully find the rightful owner to whose unresponsive yet probably attractively hairy bosom he wishes to return said piece of litter and more importantly b, to avert the inevitable disastrous and traumatic episode which would doubtless ensue if some innocent passer-by were to stumble over the offending article, no doubt causing multiple fractures, copious bleeding and Mathew having to ask some other innocent passer-by if they would really mind calling an ambulance because Mathew just doesn’t cope well when stuff happens. Any stuff.
“I touched a child out in the street, but I don’t think the mother noticed”. Fuck me, but he looked worried. “One of the masters at my school who went on to become a Bishop was sent to prison for touching children. I don’t understand. He never behaved out of the ordinary towards me. But it was just before my first breakdown. I’m still somewhat confused about some of the things that happened in my life at that time.” You’re telling me, Mathew me old mate. Clarification was needed.
“Mathew,” I said, “clarification is needed. When you say you touched a child, would I be right in assuming that you brushed past a child out there? Or the hem of your coat passed within touching distance of an infant as you walked unsteadily past? Something like that?”
He looked down at his tea. He explained, partly voluntarily and partly under gentle interrogation by my good self, that a young mum was pushing a toddler in a baby buggy along the high street and as he walked past them, Mathew thought he’d felt his carrier bag containing his freshly collected collection of pharmacy-only medications sweep along the side of the buggy. There was no damage to his carrier bag. There were no signs or sounds of impact. The child had made not even a whimper. The young mum had not taken her eyes off of the screen of her mobile device. I assured him that physical contact had most likely been avoided and he was most unlikely to find himself up before the beak any time soon. As nothing had happened, Mathew, really it hadn’t. And I’m sure Mathew’s suffered this particular near-life changing trauma before. Cycles within cycles, repetitions and repeats light our way through the gloom.
“And anyway, Mathew, it’s Tuesday. Why are you here? I thought Gina came and wafted ethereally around your house with a vacuum cleaner and a tin of Pledge on Tuesday afternoons, ghostly blonde, bespectacled and palely interesting? She’s not blown you out already has she?” Mathew’s recently acquired the services of a lady to help him keep the house cleanish. It’s probably an impossible task.
“Yes she’s there now, but I thought I’d better avoid her today. I had rather an unusual request to ask of her, but I thought better of it. Perhaps I will next week.”
“You dirty fucker, I’d have a few unusual requests to put to Gina if she came round my house too. One of us would probably stagger out of the house screaming and broken if she agreed to it, and it most likely wouldn’t be her,” I didn’t say. What I said was “Reeeally Mathew? Tell me more, do!”
“Well, I think a seagull or a squirrel has possibly dropped a seed or a nut into the guttering above my kitchen window, and the downpipe by the door isn’t emptying very well any more so I think there could be a tree or a shrub growing inside it. I was going to ask Gina if she could stand by the ladder while I climbed up to attempt to clear it. Then if I should fall there would be somebody to call for an ambulance. Nobody would see me thereotherwise, as the kitchen is at the back of the house. I could lay there injured for days.” He sighed. I sighed louder. “But I thought it would be an imposition. It’s not what she would normally expect to be asked to do. So I just thought I’d be better coming out today and leaving her to it.”
“Yes Mathew you’re probably right.” What else could I have said? What the fuck else could anyone have said?
I put a very healthy DVD order into Amazon today, of films I haven’t watched for years. Decades in most cases. But films I have a hankering to watch again on the chilly winter nights which loom ahead. I’ve ordered ‘Jean de Floret’ and ‘Manon des Sources’ twin pack, ‘La Gloire de ma Pére’ and ‘Le Chateau de Ma Mére’ twin pack also,’Diva’, ‘Suburra’, ‘Malena’ and ‘Let the Right One In’. The Yves Roberts ones are my favourites, they’re films to deeply submerge into and feel how a different life could be if we were someone else born at another time. Marvellous stuff. I could have so easily ordered another dozen or so, but they can wait. I’m dead fucking cultured, I am. You can tell, can’t you?