Sitting here at the desk and none of these editors have replied. Of course I know if you post in August your reply is most likely to arrive in November. I must reassure myself of the fact. Also my boy rang, a midnight telephone call that shook the duvet:
‘You’re right Dad, seventeen to twenty-four are the hardest years,’ he said.
Thinking as much and in my drowsy state all I could do to cheer the child was post him some funny books down the Amazon pipe. I sent him ‘Just William’ for a cuddle, and why do I like that book? Treacle I suppose and nostalgia. The Guardian’s list of the greatest comedy books was disappointing in its guidance by the lap light. Most of their entries being books you are familiar with if you lived the tip of the twentieth century. The great ‘Pooter’ is included and ‘Augustus Carp Esq.’ ‘Confederation of Dunces’ I shall give a second go. From the olden days there was ‘Tristan Shandy.’
I also sent son old ‘Lucky Jim’ because he likes the posh guy stuff, a Beryl Bainbridge to try and a famous mountaineering farce of which I have forgotten the title.
Meanwhile – and returning to my own backside and fluffy – my pal J says pursue publication with the ‘life writing’
stuff but I always struggle to see how. These writes have energy straight off the top of the head but when I draft them up I fear they lose something – always imagining that a sub seeks his hook; sometimes I think to insert a quest for a missing sock or some mystery, confusion with the salt and pepper.
What my boy needs is softies. Stuck in the Midlands playing rugby and living on a depressing estate he rings me when he has to walk past a crowd and their dogs, and shaves his head to look mean. It’s all too masculine and can make you ill. He needs a room full of Simon and Gfunkle, ponytails and braces. Like I said I advised him to seek out softies – drama, music, book types…umm girls. He is a guitarist for goodness sake.
Here’s one of the old life writes, dr2, a couple of polishes to remove repetition (upon, I, dead verbs) to come, rhythm:
MAY BANK HOLIDAY
For the first time this year the sun shines at the weekend. My wife and I stare at each other in total confusion and hide below our quilt until masterfully I stand, close the bedroom curtains and we relax with our cigarettes on our lips. By ten o’clock she is sprawled across the bed’s end whilst I sit alone at my desk zone. I press f5 on the computer inbox thirty-five times, ha ha ha – this is an old joke of mine which gives my wife such immense pleasure,
‘Look, look at me, my chopstick,’ I say.
‘Not now,’ she replies.
You see my wife turns her face away from me. Instead she focuses all by herself upon a mature, Swedish, crime, chiselled dickhead from Stockholm who chases killers – from the comfort of her duvet throne.
By the third day of killing – Monday, all of my masculine anxiety has spilled over and stepping out the front door I inhale fresh air and embark upon my solo – a voyage far beyond the off license at the corner. I pedal the bicycle past all the stiff couples nattering outside their cafes and the B52 speccies who browse the junk shops windows and notice too that there is a sound system hereabouts what with the festival being in progression. I see the street performing beggars and monkeys with beards and the atmosphere is very irritating. Dull, not quite the stand up dull of comedian dull, more a jugular grey; anyways there is no time for digression and I hit the beach.
(I) Call it a beach, the south coast has no bumps on her crest. Still I love her enough and once free of the lanes Brighton promenade is as pretty as any poem. The colours are vivid here and the crowds relaxed under a blue sky with the wind splashed on the cheeks.
I lock up the bicycle along the promenade and for a moment share the heat amongst the families and the gangs of Slovak peasants grouped atop the pebbles. The men hold beer bottles, the ladies hold the babies at head height – the pebble risk is tremendous for baby choking. The barbecues curl a smoke and sausages sizzle on the frames. I sit below the sea wall, my trousers at half mast, the breeze tickling my thigh. Naked eventually I cross the busy pebbles entirely uninhibited in my display and immerse with the ice to my waist until I hop and plunge a racing dive, crawling long, slow strokes to sea. I breathe to the right side, stretch my hand, grab handfuls of liquid and pull the rolling water the length of my body. I swim past the yellow buoy and beyond.
At first there is a flutter upon the surface then the pressure drives me deep towards the depths. A most unwelcome interruption; I cannot swim and struggle with a shiny boot in my face.
‘You fuck off,’ I scream.
‘Come on Charlie, in the chopper,’ he shouts.
I stroke but still manage to raise a fist and thump it into his groin pad and his military features twitch into the radio at his collar. Again he bounces on his string and when he grabs me by the hair I bite the forearm of his suit. He calls me a blasted whore and is reeled high away.
The helicopter is the new coastal variety, patched the white and red, you will see them soon enough and the rotors drive all sound to the edge of your mind, frankly – dreadful for a fisherman, and here at sea there is a stand-off between me: a man – and a machine with its claws ten metres above my head. A package is hoofed from the turret/open doorway and the helicopter ascends under a darkening cloud. This package pops open on the surface and I climb inside to find a survival suit, food and a clutch of flares.
The feds, as outlaws say, they give me about ten minutes by myself for personal recital. Yet at this point I hear the diesel engine and see the inshore lifeboat skipping toward me over the water. It is an inflatable, of course. I lie flat on my raft’s deck whilst their boat circles and finally see a hand’s imprint on the canopy. I pull my cracker: the flare gripped in my teeth and stand, clambering on to their rib, glorious and nude with a firework smoking from the lips. The three fellas squawk like cop squaws and one by one they reel over the side.
Triumphant against the odds I spit out the rocket, take their wheel and throttle away. The sun sets to the west, I steer east toward France and my freedom.