A Reunion

I’ve just got back from a university reunion, with people I haven’t seen since the 1980s. I ‘m coming to realise that whole real people have been born, grown-up, married, had children, bought houses and died in that time. It’s an odd feeling.

There were people there I’d known and lost touch with, others I’d only met once or only on Facebook. I walked around the places I used to walk, looking for someone I knew very well, but I never quite caught up with me, disappearing down those stone streets.

A lot of stuff had changed. Brilliant independent shops had become the kind of shops you could find anywhere else, another triumph for Chris Patten and the Tory government’s universal business rate that made it easy for the chains to ‘compete’ and offer ‘choice’ so long as it’s their choice and the competition is run according to their rules. And no patchouli oil. There was a time it was as if they’d sprayed the stuff out of crop-dusting aircraft over Milsom Street. Now there wasn’t a single shop in Walcot Nation that sold it. Not even ‘Appy Daze, the herbal high head-shop, where I had a chat in my Barbour with the white dreadlocked owner and we both bemoaned the fact that The Man had won, man. Heavy trip. Bummer. Maybe next month he’s going to have some essential oils, but the only essential oil we knew about back then was that funny green stuff you spread up the side of a Marlboro back in the days of Not Your Heart Away. Times, as they say, change. The past is another country. And besides, the wench is dead.

Bath was still beautiful. Those funny trees up on the hill, the ones you can see from the main street, Milsom Street, still look as if they’ve been painted on scenery flats in an amateur dramatic production. I got my first pint of decent beer, Wadworth’s 6X, in years after being exiled to the likes of Adnams and Tolly, away from the place I said out loud as I drove past Swindon was still ‘nearly home.’ But the first pub, the Saracen’s Head I went to was empty at noon on a Saturday. It used to be standing room only in the Sary and a sea of voices and cigarette smoke. The Hat And Feathers was shut until the evening and had become a steakhouse.

I still don’t know how I feel about that weekend. It’s left me thoughtful and calm, like the wonderful peaceful walk I had on Sunday morning with someone I’ve talked to on Facebook a lot but only ever met once before. It taught me something too. I’d foolishly said I’d bring some instruments to help out someone’s band. I said I’d play. Back when I’d just left Bath I wanted above pretty much everything to play sax in a band and gig in pubs. This last Sunday, I did for the first time. I was worried about it, but then we played for over two hours and while I missed some notes and messed-up others, so did everyone else and it was ok. It was more than ok.

Then a trip out to the airport and a picnic of bread and humous and water and blueberries in a damp layby discussing the fall of the Moorish civilisation as the rain gusted over rusty farm machinery dumped outside someone’s stone barn. It was as close to a perfect Sunday as I’ve got for years. It was being with people who are part of me. And new ones who feel like that too. Thank-you all. I needed that. Everyone does.

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Awe, surely

Aw, this was a nice post it began. More spam, obviously, but it made me think of the really funny John Wayne thing that may or may not have happened.

Apparently John Wayne was on the set of some Biblical epic film. He had to shamble up to the Cross and say: ‘Surely this was the son of God.’ So he did, in his normal John Wayne way.

The director wasn’t happy. Not very moving, much too John Wayne. ‘Could you put a bit more awe into it, John? It’s supposed to be the Son of God up here, nailed to the Cross for all our sins. Let’s do it again.’

So they did. John Wayne shambles up to the Cross again, takes his Roman soldier’s helmet off, wipes his brow and says: ‘Awe, surely this was the son of Gahd.’

I know. Sorry.

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Bring Out Your Goods & Your Chattels

In an hour, the first people are coming to look at buying my house. And if I’m selling the house, downsizing, I might as well sell the furniture as well. Some of it or all of it. There isn’t anything really valuable. The most we ever paid for anything was probably the sofa, which was about £800 and that was a mistake. Next most was my red Bauhaus wardrobe, which was about half that, along with the church pew. The wardrobe lives near Ampthill and seems at home there. The pew, well like some other bits of furniture here, that’s a long and different story.

 

My partner, significant other, my girlfriend, my ex, my whichever and all of these, lives in flat in a converted church in a Glasgow suburb. We bought the pew together, along with a dainty little chest of drawers and a nice little table. Both of them were pine, nineteenth century, not very valuable but rather nicely, finely done.

 

I still have the big pine cupboard, the pot cupboard and the mahogany table I bought for my first flat in 1986, twenty-seven years ago. The mortgage would have been all paid off now.  It seems like almost a lifetime ago and for some people I supposed it is. It’s enough time to be a grandparent, without any unseemly haste. I bought all three of these things in a tiny shop on the north side of Upper Street in Islington, a bit east of the Slug & Lettuce, where I always meant to have breakfast on a Sunday but couldn’t afford it. It was the kind of shop you’d never see there now, but all of Islington was a different place in those days. I think they had a single light bulb to light the whole shop, the single left-over tiny room crammed full of solid old furniture, all of it exactly what I needed. A pine cupboard that looked as if it came from a French farmhouse and maybe it did. A solid Victorian table, a little on the small side that was my kitchen table once and my computer table now. A pot cupboard that never really worked out, just a little bit not deep enough to work as a set of shelves with doors to hide them.

 

The thing is, these things are mine. It’s not just I’ve had them for years. I found these things. I went to the shop, the little lock-up that was squatting in Upper Street before the rents went sky-high, when impossibly enough the landlord couldn’t get anyone to take the retail space near the King’s Head. I’ve moved them around from my flat to north of the park, to Abbots Langley, to Yoxford and now to here in Tunstall. I think I’ll sell the pot cupboard, not before time. Truthfully, the pine cupboard has always been too big for anywhere I’ve ever lived. I’ve never had a French farmhouse. I don’t think I ever will and I certainly don’t have a big van to get it there. It would look better painted, a deep flat red, off-white for the top, rubbed back with steel wool and furniture wax. But that might be for someone else’s life, someone else’s kitchen. I hope they love it too.

 

That kind of Islington is long gone, the same way I’m long gone from there. I don’t know what happened to those two guys selling really nice furniture, cash only, under their single lightbulb, without a till or even a heater in that tiny windowless shop on Upper Street. Except actually, I do.

 

Any more for any more?

 

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