November 23 2004 [Croydon]
Dreadful A and Alan T are sat at the bar, smoking, drinking. They appear to be deep in a quiet conversation, but look up as the door closes behind me. “Hello, darling,” says Dreadful A. This always pleases me. “Hello, dreadful.” I ponce a cigarette, buy us three beers. Ange says, “shall I put yours in the pipe, Alan?”
“Yes, in the pipe, please, Ange,” he says.
It occurs to me that Dreadful A and I have known each other for quite an extraordinary amount of time. Two decades certainly. I first did his dreadlocks at The End and then, sometime around the mid nineties he would come over to Pine Walk and we’d have a session, over five, six, seven hours, smoking, a few drinks, listening to music, chatting while I backcombed his locks. Dreading is a long and tedious business and I know that by this time I only ever did someone’s dreads if I knew I could manage XX hours in their company.
He no longer has dreadlocks. He cut them off one evening a couple of years back when he and his missus were splitting up and he was playing around with Clare, who worked as an escort and a dominatrix, who’s life seemed both seedy and highly exotic to me when he told details. Part of the thrill, I guess, being that I found her to be so prim, so posh.
It pleases me to be able to call him dreadful as no one here [Bishops] knows him with dreads – they only know him as Scaffolder A, or just A. He is known to be quite tasty with his hands when needed and he has a habit, I noticed years ago, of saying hello to police officers in the street – though he does this with a hearty and heartfelt, “Hello, officer!” – with no malice or sarcasm or irony; a rare individual. And, I suppose, along with his huge hands and his south London vibe, caked in dust, these people here see him quite differently to me and I can only assume that Dreadful suggests something other than dreads!
As to why I am greeted as Darling, I can only imagine what they might think! But it always pleases me.
November 23 2017 [Whyteleafe]
The three of us are stood at the worktop, each preparing our own meal. Mum is to my left buttering biscuits, cutting cheese on a board. Dad, to my right, pokes at two crumpets in the toaster. He turns them, his fingers at the hot slot. Why? But he seems to be enjoying himself. I stir beans, stood between them at the hob. It is an unprecedented and pleasing little scene. We are reflected in the window and I feel both in the present and glimpsing something of a future, but with each one of us alone at another kitchen worktop.
We sit and watch TV, eating our respective meals. I enjoy this. We don’t speak much, but it is comfortable. I remind myself of their part in my life; their kindness and support. We sit separately: mum and dad on a sofa each and me in an armchair, again between them.
Over the coming days dad will mention to me his desire to move back down to Dorset. He speaks of mobile homes and the logic of renting. He was young when we last lived there. Younger by a decade than I am now. I suddenly wonder if they will go their separate ways? I know that mum is happy here. There is a bitterness in the way he says that their return from Cyprus was only supposed to be a temporary thing of “3” months. I don’t recall hearing this before. “Your mum knew this, but now she’s got involved with her dancing and her dog walking friends.” This riles me and I tell him that she sounds happy. “This is what people do.”
I sleep in the doghouse.
November 23 2020 (Whitley Bay)
This lockdown has only a week left to run. This makes me anxious. I feel as if I am only just now settling into it. I cycled out to the lighthouse this morning, the first time since last week. It was 10am, so I am happy to have started to reel the daylight back in to my recent existence. Spent the day scratching at a collage (JC at a window), trying to find the correct light and dark. My watercolour skills are heavy-handed but I find the whole process brings peace and, that the journey of being an amateur – a lover-, feels right. I could stay like this – at home, writing and pottering, preparing meals, reading, sleeping and an hour here or there drinking tea or wine with a friend – for quite some time, were it not for the money!
Missing my telecaster. I lent it to another Alan (such a common name!) last year, when the open mic nights were still a thing. Don’t suppose it will be back any time soon without some effort on my behalf. A yearning to make an incredulous noise has arisen!