Sunday, August 8, 1982
I walked to Grant’s though the woods, the rain making a waterfall rush of noise on the leafy canopy. Stillness.
I hated the long dull anesthetizing coach journey down. Once in London, Grant and I wandered about feeling lost: we ate a meal in an empty café on ordinary shitty Pimlico street and decided to go to Golders Green immediately as there was no point in hanging about in central London. £1 fare on the Underground.
We got out Camden Town for a scout around and encountered an Irishman, no doubt broken by drink and years of dark places with litter and old bottles, who shouted pro-IRA slogans over our heads on the tube platform:
--“Soldiers and horses, women and children! Blow ‘em all to fucking bits the bastards! Up the IRA! Up the IRA!”
The thought flicked through my mind that it was unlikely this drink-sodden man with his shit and slogans had probably never even seen someone in the IRA, yet here he was yelling bomb-and-blood rhetoric before staggering off to collect his dole money from the State he Hates, but then again this is unforgiving because I don't know what he's been through in life or what things have happened to break him. . . .
We hustled off to Golders Green which was depressing. Lots of Jewish shops (Kosher Freezer Centre, Rosenberg & Sons newsagents, etc.) as we sat glum and hot on a bench we were passed by strict Orthodox Jews in classic dark suits, trilbies and goatee beards. I was hating the afternoon sweat and slime and I felt smelly and damp. Grant too plunged into one of his tremendous silences, scowling darkly and barely uttering a word. Communication strictly monosyllabic.
At this point I was thinking 'Shit! What a waste. Why did we bother coming?' and I started to feel quite desperate but this mood soon passed and we walked to the Youth Hostel where we endured long hassles over signing in because Grant had forgotten some vital part of his membership card. Enroute we found Oliver Crombie’s second hand jazz record shop and I could scarcely believe my luck. I bought Coltrane's A Love Supreme and a record by Sun Ra.
By now it was close to evening so we set off up the long hill towards Hampstead and Camden, soon leaving Golders Green far behind. As we climbed we were greeted by grateful visions of trees, a horse pond, and a promise of wideness and countryside. The road dipped again, falling away gradually amid quaint and snaky Georgian buildings. Hampstead! Everything was fine now with me; I was happy. Hampstead looked good and a whole evening lay ahead with perhaps a great adventure worth writing in store.
Grant seemed more talkative too, so we headed down into Camden, people seething around us in bright lights excitement. Grant suggested we stop and have a drink at the George, which complimented my mood with its brown bar and wood and soft Peter Clayton jazz. We had two huge glasses of cider which was strong and soon I felt eyewarm and loose and my head felt fuzzy and secure in the delusion of Not Caring. We soaked in the atmosphere, laughing and talking wild absurdities, making plans for tomorrow and Compendium Books and the night after; we’ll have a bit too much to drink perhaps?
More in the same vein as we walked back to the Hostel and we were rewarded. We first caught sight of him as we stomped down the path into Golders Green, a figure in pale tweed jacket and old shirt, his trouser legs rolled up, one higher than the other, shoes of strange patterns, bending low and pointing at a beetle on pavement, muttering about jazz on Hampstead Heath. He was plump, ageing, and looked odd in NHS specs and launched into a monologue, a sermon of the past, about early ‘sixties days of Chris Barber and Tubby Hayes. “People back then were hostile towards newly arrived blacks because they had no women with them.”
We turned bed-wards still reeling from the night.