They Are Driving
They are driving along the M42. It has gone pretty well so far. The two cans of Heineken have been finished off by the two in the back seats, and the correct exits and lane changes have been anticipated in advance. Chris has been called, and advised that they would be an hour ahead of schedule, so should get an earlier train.
“Chris’s text said he’d be the one at the station chewing his face off!”
Simon reported this from the front seat. They snorted a little, Edd gave a sideways grimace from the driver’s seat. They didn’t expect Chris to actually be on Ecstasy. He doesn’t like it that much.
The small of Simon’s back was tight from too much caffeine. He couldn’t sit straight enough with the bags below his feet. Robbie’s knees were a little nearer to his chest than he was comfortable with. Frankie grinned towards the window, then over at Simon as he looked round. Edd mentioned that they were travelling at 100 miles per hour, and requested a CD of songs that The Fall had covered.
“It’s really good.”
“I know. Boys are boys and girls are choice!”
A sweep into the green lanes, past cider barns and stables, chocolate factories and cables. The sunset sunlight made the sheep’s shadows stretch to fifteen metres. The bass guitar drove them along.
“Leominster, 15 miles!”
“Ahm ah mummy!”
“This is so fucking choice!”
“Yeah, nice one lads! Easter Camp!”
Frankie drummed his fists rapidly on the vinyl back of Edd’s seat, bright teeth smile and electric eyes. Television’s magnum opus, “Marquee Moon” ripped across the fields, the telegraph poles clicked by in time with the guitar licks.
“Sean and Dave almost killed me when I tried to change the track at this point.” says Frankie. He was referring to the part of the song where it all concludes, stops, is silent, waits, before beginning again, anew. Skipping at that point is a cardinal sin, in some circles. They would have had to listen to the whole album again. They did anyway.
Simon was reminded of the quote from The Great Gatsby “He had that familiar feeling that life was starting over, as he always did with the changing of the seasons.” He may have told the others this, it made him feel as if he’d learned something of use.
“We’re going to be early for Chris.”
“Well, its better he waits, than us.”
“We can pick up some supplies at the shop first.”
Over the roundabout, they mount the concrete on-ramp, swing above the fields, curve around and down into the industrial estate. Simon points out the factory signs in Comic Sans. They reach the free car park.
“Free car park! Right here!”
“Nice one lads!”
“Thank you for driving us Edd.”
“I’m absolutely busting for a piss!”
They all were, but the public toilets were closed, as usual. It was still pretty bright, and as Frankie, in front of the locked door, got his cock out, Simon pointed out the CCTV camera in the trees. They went up the alleyway, past a busker, they noticed his can, and his friend’s requests for some change.
“Wee ride” muttered Simon, nudging Robbie and lifting his elbow towards a girl of short skirt at the cashpoint.
“And isn’t it a wee ride / Don’t you think?” murmured Robbie to the tune of Alanis Morisette’s “Ironic.”
After a quick sally into the Wetherspoon’s to urinate “We don’t even have to go past the bar!” said Edd, Frankie guided them through his home town’s narrow streets towards the supermarket for provisions.
Things We Never Camp Without:
1 – Food: burgers, sausages.
2 – Barbecues.
3 – Bevvy, I drink it all year around, I seem to need it, more often. Its a habit.
4 – Sweets.
5 – More bevvies, it is my lifeline, I buy them, I down it.
They made such a fuss about giving it to us, asking for ID. Robbie muttered something about being 27, Simon looked about 40, but perhaps it was the cornucopia of underage favourites – WKD Iron Brew, Smirnoff Mule and own-brand dandelion and burdock that set the cashier’s alarm bells ringing. Edd paid for it with his Coutt’s Platinum card.
Barbecue smouldering, smoking Edd out, Chris begins to speak:
“Yeah, I had some milk with my cereal,”
“Chris normally has water!”
“Yeah, and it brought up my excema, really red raw, and flaking,”
“It looked like he’d been pepper sprayed!”
“After a heavy night on the bevvy!”
“So the doctor gave me these tablets that caused huge boils,”
“Is that meant to be better than excema?”
“Which were full of blood and pus, when I squeezed them,”
“It was one of the listed side-effects, I checked.”
“Did it sort the excema?”
Chris pulls two small clear plastic bags from his wallet, smiles, and holds them up in the glow of the fire.
“So I bought a gramme of MDMA crystals, crushed them up and put it in these.”
“That isn’t the boils shit, is it?”
“No, MDMA. It was sold in all these little crystals. I emptied out the capsules, filled it with the MDMA.”
“Er… ‘Powdered Ecstasy,’ as Gerry calls it!”
There seems to be an ordering of the cosmic balance in what Chris has done here. Something which has caused him so much pain, has been emptied away, and in the very same vessel, replaced with something which could cause him so much pleasure. At least for the night. He has checked the side-effects of this particular pharmaceutical in detail in the past.
The capsules are passed out by Chris, Simon doesn’t have any, as he no longer drinks or takes drugs, having abused the privilege in the past. Chris offers him one with a cocked, inquiring head from behind the flames, and Simon is tempted, for a moment. Its a good name for a drug. Ecstasy. MaDMAn. He declines, and takes a long draught on the dandelion and burdock, looks to see the moon has moved behind the branches.
“Come on, let me put a tune on!”
“After this one.”
“You’ve had that on for ages.”
“No, seriously, after this one tune. Two more tunes. After this one.”
“For fuck’s sake!”
Commandeering The Soundsystem
Commandeering the soundsystem has been a favourite pursuit of Simon and of Chris both, though they may have become a little less strident since the days of going round someone’s house party, ripping off their music, and putting on Fall dirges or minute unlocatable skanking sounds, while conducting with a chip, respectively. For example:
“More MES.” says Simon
“We’ve had nothing but bloody MES all night.” protests Chris. Someone who lives at the house puts on a Doves CD.
“More MES.” says Chris.
Yeah, Franks, It Was Winter
“Yeah, Franks, it was winter, when it was really snowing, and Robs was round mine, then he left at like midnight to get a train to Luton. We say seeya later, sit back down, and Chris slams back into the sofa, looks to me, says “That’ll be cancelled!” nods in affirmation and grins, pleased as Punch!”
They laugh, but Chris explains:
“I guess I just wanted him to stay a while longer.”
“Well, we were at Fabric for a drum and bass night,”
“Ha! Go on.”
“And we were about to bowl, at about four, just getting our coats, when we hear Tim getting into some sort of trouble with the cloakroom attendant. He’d lost his ticket. She said we’d have to wait until the end to get the coat. So, we had to sit outside by the meat market, in the freezing cold,”
“At least you had your coats!”
“Until eight when it was finally over,”
“Why didn’t you go back in the club?”
“Drum and bass, fuck that.”
“And Tim’s was the only coat, hanging alone in the middle of this deserted hangar.”
“Then Tim puts his hand in his jeans pocket and pulls this sweat-ravaged raffle ticket out, saying “I had it all along!”
“He had it all along?!”
“Yeah, Doug saw this, he just went…” Simon stands up, screws his hands into fists, forces them to his sides, shaking, gritting his teeth and growling, moving off slowly, muttering “For fuck’s…”
There Are Pinstripes Of Light
There are pinstripes of light on the outhouse door. Edd slowly opens it, standing bolt upright silhouetted in the swinging light of the single unshaded bulb, then steps falteringly forward into the night, eyes agog, jaw clenched, skin tight.
Meanwhile, back at the camp:
“Aww, where’s Edd?” asks Frankie. “I don’t want him gurning around the house.”
The car alarm goes off and Frankie and Simon look at each other, mouths both forming the word “Oh,” as in “Oh dear.”
“He must have shat his load!” suggested Simon.
Oh Shit! Chris Snaps
“Oh shit!” Chris snaps.
“What is it?”
“Oh, thank fuck, no. I just found a hole in one of the drugs bags, then saw the dog go for something and eat off the floor. I thought it’d had the MDMA capsule.”
“That would’ve put a bit of a dampener on things.” said Frankie.
Yeah OK, Lets Have Some K
“Yeah ok, lets have some K. Finally found it after that Timdrome.”
They make a few little lines and Chris and Robbie and Edd sniff them up. Edd wanders off across the field in the fog, in a fog. Chris begins:
“There’s this game show, The Cube, on ITV, with Schofield, in this format: all of the games take place from inside The Cube. Contestants are set a task to complete which can range from testing their agility to more simple procedures like stopping a stopwatch after 10 seconds. If they successfully complete the task, they will move up the money ladder and closer to the top prize.”
Chris looks into the fire, Simon watches from underneath his hat, flames in his eyes.
“Each contestant is given nine lives. Each time a contestant fails a game, one life is lost, and the contestant must repeat the game. Any contestant who runs out of lives while trying to win a game loses all of the money he or she accumulated. Contestants may stop after any game and take the money they have won, but once a contestant decides to play, he or she cannot back out until after completing that game.”
Robbie stretches out his legs, almost puts his feet in the fire, readjusts and looks over to Chris.
“Before each game, there is a short demonstration by “The Body”, a faceless female character described as an expert in all the games. Her demonstrations allow the contestant to see how the game is played and formulate a strategy to succeed. Her face has not been seen; her outfit is a metal plate over her face (like a fencing mask), revealing just shoulder-length hair, and at one time, she revealed her mouth to demonstrate Drift.”
Eventually, Chris stops speaking. Then says:
“That K sent me sideways. The fire looked like the fires of Hell. I had to just bang on about The Cube to keep myself from going down.”
“Me too,” says Robbie “That was strong, the basement stoker, I was glad of something normal to listen to!”
“That would’ve finished off the next man. Christer Logic saved you!”
I Was In Coventry A While Back
“I was in Coventry a while back, its a horrible place, really ugly. It was bombed to fuck in the war, and all the old buildings were replaced with new bollocks.” Frankie really has a concise way of describing architectural change in post-war Britain. He can describe it in much more appropriate language, using terms like “medieval heart” and “industrial infrastructure” as well as naming architects like Richard McCormack and Sir Basil Spence, mentioning its twinning with Volgograd or explaining the Phoenix Initiative, but chooses not to at this point. Doesn’t want to end up in Pseud’s Corner like his old man.
They Are Walking
They are walking five abreast, with Simon in front. Day Two. 02:00hrs.The convex hill is glowing blue in the nightshade, the hedgerow tracks alongside, like out of a car window. The ground is cratered and rutted, it crumbles underfoot. Frankie mentions that there are hare traps out here.
He doesn’t say any more, and looks at the ground. Surely he is joking, thought Simon, but he hasn’t laughed, or joked further… I wish I wasn’t at the front. He squints at the ground to look out for wires or metal teeth.
I want them to see that I too can have a good time without drugs or drink. I want too look like I’m having a better time, even. I’ll dance a little, up ahead, I’ll swing my hips, and look mystically into the sky, glance back at the moon, smiling. I force myself, then I find I am enjoying it. I wish I wasn’t alone here, though. Why do I have to lead? I just want to belong.
He is glad when Edd steps forward from the line, looking straight ahead and into the sky, face in the moonglow full of wonder, beige jacket flapping around him, striding on, in giant leaps. There is an electronic box attached to his waist, transmitting LFO’s “Frequencies” along with a static buzz. He looks as if he will float off, transferred from this planet on a sine wave.
“You have to understand!”
I wish the music was a little quieter, the distortion is grating.
“Edd, can you turn that down a little, lets listen to the babbling river stream.”
Shifting banks of warm and cool air pass, as the fields undulate below foot. A scent passes, delights, but cannot be sensed again, even when sniffing the air as if it’s poppers. Simon and Edd link arms and can-can dance across the field to the tropicalia grooves. They can feel the memory being laid down, in the permanent store. Many others have been erased. But this one can be watched, smelled, heard and felt again.