Friday, June 3, 1983


Shelley and I walked all the way into Watermouth; it took us just over an hour. We had a sandwich and cider at The Wagon & Horses before going to the Common Good Bookshop, where I ended up buying Colin Wilson’s The Outsider, Literary Theory (a brand new intro’ by T. Eagleton), and Richard Wright’s Native Son, which I was supposed to read for yesterday’s Black Americans seminar but didn’t. I almost bought a biography of Coltrane too but resisted the temptation and was glad I did.

Shelley went to meet Penny outside Boots at three. I wandered about town, buying pumps and a T-shirt and browsing idly through record shops: at six I met up with Shelley again, in The Frigate this time, near the clock tower.

Soon everyone else rolled up—Barry, who’d hitched in on the back of a motorbike, Guy and Susie, Lindsey and Penny. After an hour or so I went up to the off-license near the station and bought a bottle of vodka, agreeing with the others to meet up down on the beach. I bought Arctic rolls and Scotch eggs, but on the way I dropped the vodka—it slipped through a hole in my coat pocket & crumped onto the pavement—so I had to go buy another bottle.

It had been another hot, sweltering day and was still quite warm. A few people sat about amid the pebbles enjoying the evening.

We settled down with our bags of bottles and started drinking. Occasionally a chilly wind crept across the beach so I lent Shelley my coat. Guy supped from his ½ bottle of whisky, berating me from time-to-time for smashing the vodka. He complained the booze wasn’t having an effect on him and every so often he threw pebbles at us (more often than not at me).

Barry was being surly over political issues once more, patronizing me with comments like, “You’re so transparent, I can see right through you: you’re a classic case of misplaced class consciousness . . .” and so on. He started to get very prickly and hard edged, almost a replica of Carl Cotton and co.

All of a sudden, the whisky seemed to hit Guy, and he stumbled off across the pebbles, waving his arms like a mad windmill and stamping his feet, then running into the dusk to the other end of the beach, a tiny figure falling down once but picking himself up, running further and further until he reached a concrete jetty a few hundred yards away.

Then he came running all the way back and collapsed in a breathless and insensible heap at our feet. Susie fell asleep, as did Shelley, who was hidden beneath my coat. Barry wasn’t very drunk and neither was I. Lindsey sat apart. . . .

Only Guy flailed helplessly about, sliding to his knees, lying on his back, then staggering upright once again, swaying uncontrollably across the pebbles. Then he hunched over his knees and threw up. It was dark now, and still Shelley and Susie slept. Along the beach groups of other idlers lounged before the waves, the neon Empire Pier sign reflecting white in the water.

After lying prostrate away down the beach, Guy revived and began to roll, over and over towards the sea. I tried to bar his way but he came racing towards me, rolling, rolling, and I had to leap over him as in the waves he went. He staggered to his feet, laughing blindly, thrashing the sea with arms and legs, keeling backwards into the surf as I waded in to pull him out. Finally he ran screaming and whooping up the subway onto the prom and back before passing out at the foot of a stack of deckchairs.

We sat for a while on top of these; Shelley and Barry atop one, Lindsey and I atop the other, swigging cider I’d gone up to the off-license to buy. It had been such a manic evening.

At midnight we carried the unconscious Guy to a taxi.

Back on campus, Osibisa were in full flight in the large marquee behind Wollstonecraft Hall, the first night’s entertainment of the annual UW Tenant’s Association carnival. We met a lot of people there; Gareth and Pete, plus Tony, down from London.

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