The Hangover, Grilled Sea Bream

‘The 13.11 to Manchester Airport is running approximately 29 minutes late. The 13.43 to Norwich will be delayed by approximately 19 minutes.’

A bunch of pale, unhappy people at Platform 13. Three trains worth of passsengers waiting for late trains. Cold and drizzle. When the train gets here, not enough seats. Thank God I have a good book. On the other side of the aisle, a couple of teenage girls with a pram. 20 minutes into the journey, I am only pretending to read my book while I listen to their conversation. They are proudly and loudly telling a third woman about their day.

‘We jus bin on Jeremy Kyle. Jeremy Kyle yeh, to get DNA test. Afterwuds I showed im a picture of is doorta. Ee looked like e wuz gunner cry. 3 purtential dads, ee sed. You look at your dorta’s face, I sed, and you tell me 3 purtential dads.’

The full errgggghhh-inspiring chavvy Nottingham accent. A regional dialect debased. The loud voice that makes you want to pull the emergency cord, break out the hammer from the glass and throw yourself through the train window.

‘Wen shes old enuf she’ll find im, an she’ll be able to make er own mind up. She’ll meet im, and she’ll think… Wot the fook am I doin?’

At this point I had to put my hand in front of my face to try and conceal the fact that I was pissing myself. Chantelle hated Steves guts, and would rather her daughter never meet him, but she had travelled from Nottingham to Manchester with the pushchair and her friend to go on a TV show to prove that Steve was the dad.

`Ee didunt say big-a-boo to me. Jeremy Kyle laid intuh im tho, made im look abarrt this fookin big. Oi shuddup nar weir ere`

I take my bags down from the shelf with the red airline tags and pack up my book and sigh again and feel the malaise in the stomach and transport my jet lag into a taxi and go home. Earlier, in an airport, I feel glad I saved a little battery life of the i-pod because i really need to listen to it now. Play roulette with the songs, shuffling through until I hit the one that fires a dart into the knots malaise in the stomach, a liquid flower bursts in the stomach, stopping me in my tracks, warm wave of tingles, eyes wide, unsteady on feet, keep walking to the bathroom, splash water on face. Only in this moment, was it right to listen to this song, I was meant to hear this now and only now could it have provoked this reaction.

Wasnt it a good year
Wasnt filled with talking
It still moves through my heart
From time to time
City after City
Granite grey as morning
Heroes died in subways left behind
Far behind
Like our love

Now the rhythm section kicks in and Scott starts singing the next verse to me. I step into some kind of weird altered state, some kind of trip or moment of clarity or just a rush of weird emotion. For that minute the song says it all, everything that has been in my life and all that will be. In the altered state joy and despair and knowing are close things together. You feel everything.

You`re on your own again
And you`re your best again
Thats what you tell yourself
I see it all the way
As far as anyone could see
Except when it began
I was so happy
I didn`t feel like me

I want to swap the pale faces on the train platform for caramel faces, in places where the proportion of smiling faces is high, even in the City! Swap the grunting monotones for the rising and falling speech-tones. Stay away from the grounds where the grumpy sun stays hidden behind the thick clouds, be living where the bright sun cannot be repressed behind a cloud, shining through all clouds.

Many long moments when the internal dialogue says `Is this real?`. Different light in the magic hour, thin wind, no extra words. A child trots up to add something to your plate. My girl opens a bottle. She won`t let me pour. The grilled sea bream sits in a dish with a candle underneath, bubbling a honey sauce. Shrimps wait to be eaten in a bowl of tom yum soup. Strong beer with ice. Sun dropping fast throws dappling slabs on the sea. Two people walk slowly past. Dog brushes your elbow. Deck chair and low table. Two deck chairs face the same way, toward the sea and the setting sun.

My notebook keeps stepping out of my pocket, songs and words, lots of them. Record them.

`Are you OK?`

I shake my head, `This is… heaven.`

`You like Thai food?`

`Mmmmm.`

The heavy orange sun stops laying down its silver slabs and comes to rest on a mountain just a couple of hundred miles away.

`Is that where we are going tomorrow?`
`Yes.`

The mountain island is shaped so that the orange sun looks like a fortune-tellers ball in a dark cradle-base on a table.

What else can you do but grin? But smiling isnt enough because the scene and the beauty and the company and the food is so exquisite there is the attendant pathos as you know it is one brief time. It can only be replayed in memory, when it has ceased to be now and has become then, dead.

Many `I cant believe it` moments. Many private moments.

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