Little Matt, usually so careful, so calculated, so calm behind his mask, is riding up and down Station Road on a child’s bicycle with his hands over his eyes: has he lost his mind? Big Matt watches from the serving window of the coffee shop; Big Matt watches from the serving window of the coffee shop in horror! He shouts out instructions to Little Matt. Instructions such as “Left!”, “Right! Right!”, “Brake!” But the instructions are blurred beneath his mask, and anyway, Station Road is busy with hordes of kids heading to the beach. They make an exceptional and quite unacceptable blue-alcoholic noise! Eventually, inevitably, Little Matt clips the kerbside with either his pedal or with the front wheel and he is tumbled to tarmac. His Cullercoats Coffee tee shirt, usually so buttercup yellow, so box-fresh, is torn and bloodied. The drunken kids, their hot-air mouths blue with cheap booze, flow around him as he lays unconscious on the slab concrete. The thighs of the girls are like cottage cheese – which is a shame to see in flesh so young!
Do you remember the Nostalgie dive bar in Schoenberg? I have only been there twice, but it leaves a distinct impression on me. It is as if I carry a selection of photographs of its dark interior, its clientele, its staff around in my mind. It is as if I have access to a collection of tiny, tiny specimen jars that, once unscrewed, allow a brief sniff of captured aromas, odours and atmospheres: Berliner Kindl, smoked tobacco and ash; ancient, varnished mahogany; Shirley’s rain-drenched mutt, Elvis; cognac breath, urine, dust; the dough beneath the fingernails of the aproned brunette who appears in the dark doorway, (Crellestrasse bathed in bright October behind her) as she enquires of some directions from the backs of us drinkers sat at the bar – my German is limited, but the enquiry sounds exactly like a question rising to the ceiling, and the replies from several of the gathered on either side of the bar sound like directions…
Do you remember? Well, The Nostalgie dive bar seems to have been transported, transposed, transferred to the little bar that now serves alcohol and coffee and cakes on the platform of Whitley Bay metro station. My German is now so excellent that I cannot be sure which language we are speaking.
A hip, young, professional couple with a nervous dark greyhound sit on one of the sofas. They drink large gin based drinks from large glass tumblers. I am speaking to them from a stool at the bar. It appears that we have met before – although I don’t recall where. As proof, the woman (“…Lillianna.” She nods toward her partner, “Kieran.” And toward the dog, “Lester.”) produces a photograph from her pocket and hands it to me. Unfolded it is a large format glossy view of Crystal Palace park from the perspective of somewhere close to the series of streets that are called The Triangle. “We used to live here,” she says. This is particularly confusing to me as I used to live in the town, too, many years ago.
Someone is screaming out in the darkness of the promenade. It is quite disturbing until it becomes, slowly, hysterical laughter and eventually fades to giggles!