Tuesday, August 3, 1982
Walking in the city
A nightmarish and depressing trip to Whincliffe to look for trousers.
I met Lee outside Victoria Hall and we were in Whincliffe by eleven. The noise, the crowds of people and cars and the unbearable sun were awful. Lee left early, saying he felt ill, and I walked miles along anonymous bustling streets passing shop after shop, looking for but not finding anything to buy. At times it all got too much; the sharp jutting angles of buildings and harshly shadowed deserts of concrete, glass, brick and plastic, the stifling heat and people people everywhere with their loud voices and so soon forgotten talk. As I walked beneath an arcade frontage, loud waltzy music roared out above the street rumble. I soon had a headache.
I hid inside a dark record shop where I lost myself in books and records and T-shirts and, as I turned to leave, I was gripped by a feeling I’m sure came from the future, a feeling of fear and despair at having to go out alone, miles away from anyone I know. It really depressed me, so I retreated to a nearby bookshop and looked for Kerouac novels, which I found. Seeing them there somehow cheered me up.
When I got home I lay on my bed in the heat and felt ill.
At nine I got the bus to Grant’s. We were going to the Hot Club again but found it closed and silent and we were puzzled, as were others who drifted around the entrance. The moon was red and bloated when it rose and looked incongruous like a sullen eye hanging above Schofield Street. Grant said it inspires him.
So we walked round Easterby instead, calling at the Potting Shed Café (“Paul’s Pie and Peas – open till 3”), which was deserted. We ordered two steaming plates of pie and mushy peas with heaps of mint sauce and we shared a can of beer, glorying in the food at the odd late hour and the noisy revelry down below in the wide dark city. We read problem page letters in Tidbits out loud: worried tales of incest, famous sons making sexual advances towards sheep. Loud laughter across empty table tops. I felt suddenly sad as I watched the café owner perched in the tiny bright den of his hidden eating house alone and hopeful while the world sleeps ("four in tonight!").
We walked home past cramped taxi offices, the muffled lights and laughter of Roy’s Café and Speedwell Club reggae pounding from behind purple-lit curtains upstairs. A Pakistani lady sat glumly on the steps of the Nawaab, chin-on-hand, watching the weary funsters trudging by too busy just to stop or call in and buy food and reward her plans and ambitions.
Grant and I said goodbye until Saturday and the eve of our London trip and I walked home over dark and creepy Castlebrigg playing fields. It was so warm I stripped to the waist but still felt slimy.
And I still haven’t said all I wanted to.