Tuesday, May 31, 1983

After me, the deluge

Pete rang the bookies up again to day and asked if we could give a month’s rent-in-advance instead, but he was told we’d have to wait for Mr. Harrop’s decision when he comes back tomorrow. Everyone agrees that thirteen weeks rent up front is excessive.

So Guy and I set out to look round some housing agencies while Pete went up to the Welfare Office. Barry was busy with his stall. Carl Cotton had come down again and we found the two of them accosting people and trying to sell them copies of The Irish War (“a Top Ten Bestseller in London,” says Barry).

It was a hot day and before Guy and I set off, he tried to persuade people to come with us with seductive promises of drunkenness on the beach, but it ended up with just the two of us hitching a lift into town. This was my first ever experience of hitch hiking and no sooner had we got settled with thumbs out than a red Renault van pulled over and we clambered in. It was driven by a blond bearded man and his dark-haired wife: he said he was a student at Watermouth over ten years ago. Guy did most of the talking and we were dropped near St. Mark’s Church along from Maynard Park.

We visited a couple of agencies; the first offered no hope until September, the next was closed and the third proved the most hopeful. We bought a pint of prawns between us for £1.00 and wandered up through the dry and glaring tourist-filled streets tearing the heads and legs off the prawns as we devoured them. Then we went to Sainsbury’s and bought a half bottle of vodka, four small bottles of pale ale, a pint of orange juice and a large litre bottle of Rutland Bitter, supplementing this later with a bottle of cider from The Bay Mare opposite Wessex Road station. This done, we headed down to the beach and established ourselves among the pebbles.

The beach was filled with families and balls and dogs. We broke open the pale ale and settled down to talk and read a couple of Marvel comics I’d bought, which soon had us laughing at the brilliant and improbable pulp-mag lyricism. We sat on the lip of the beach, at the top of a short but fairly steep slope down to the waves, so we gazed out only a little way above eye level over the gentle swell and calmly lapping surf. The sea was flat calm and dotted with the glint of beer and soft-drink cans, and occasionally a speed boat ploughed by towing a water-skier. A few yards off shore a becalmed windsurfer flapped helplessly about.

We talked about Rowan, agreeing that she was screwed up. We also talked about death. Guy said he quite looked forward to dying because he was curious to see “what the other side” is like. I said I didn’t think there was an “other side,” nothing but an eternal blackness of non-existence, but we couldn’t agree. He said he believed in reincarnation and in God too, which surprised me, but then he elaborated by saying that in his view God is just another word for “Everything.”

Life felt so good at this point; I even said so to Guy, in an alcohol joy of enthusiasm. A billion pebbles swept away to our left, blurring into an untold, innumerable mass, dotted with gaily-coloured figures: a man throwing something white into the sea for his black dog, which swam out to retrieve then swam back, prancing happily at his feet, Empire Pier white and angular in the sun, a striped helter-skelter rising over the waves mid-way along; the tide hissing and foaming as it retreated down the beach, leaving wet and shiny pebbles to dry in the hot sun.

Guy stripped off to the waist and we went paddling, creeping painfully back to our hollow of bottles and bags.

At about half-seven it started to get chilly so we upped and left in search of more drink. All the off-licences were closed and Guy was fairly pissed now, loud and smiling and shuffling along the pavement in his espadrilles, waving his arms and making comments to passersby or about shop window displays.

We fended off a dwarfish Irishman on the scrounge for money to buy a “cup o’ tea.” Guy dismissed him with a “no way, mate” after he’d cut across in front of us. “Can I ask you a civil question? Look . . .” (to me), “you’re a big lad, an’ you could knock me flying. I’ve got a broken arm . . .”

We bought a Chinese and and crouched on a neighbour's wall to eat: the old white haired lady who lived there emerged to angrily point out the mess of cartons and carrier bags and dribbled sweet and sour disfiguring her tiny front yard. “Don’t worry yourself, luv,” said Guy and we cleaned up the mess.

Guy and I got back to the Uni. fairly late to find Barry, Carl Cotton and Russ in Westway Loop. I felt oppressed and left early. An enormous thunderstorm accompanied my return. Everyone gathered on the ‘patio’ area above the common room to watch the giant fingers of lightning jag their way across the orange sky, and “ooh” and “aah” in ironic parody of kids at the fireworks. The rain came down in great sheets and the patio area was soon flooded: water began to creep beneath the door into the corridor parallel to ours and was soon flowing freely into several rooms before the rain abated and the deluge was beaten back with brooms and pans.

Taylor Hall car park was six or seven inches deep, and a large crowd gathered to splash about among the stranded cars. Guy, Graeme and I paddled about barefoot and explored  the many enormous puddles which dotted campus.

After everyone had gone to bed, the lightning returned, flashing majestically across the sky high beyond the hills.

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