New Brighton – where the sun shines, even when it rains.
As he leaves the shadow of the station, Knott is bathed in a sense of being on holiday, of being abroad, of being. The sun shines on New Brighton. He puts on the green shades. The sky is bigger here; the sea birds, unlike the dump gulls of the city, are majestic. They have space. They loom like floaters, then retreat. Brick flicker; magnificent. They mock, menace heartily. And, of course, at the bottom of Station Road, between the building blocks, above the slated rooftops, the sea. He smells it, sees it – it is salted, mottled blue, silver streaked, cabbage green. It is turquoise, spangled-white. He never thought it possible.
The derelicts are sprawled against the hot glass fronts: backs to black. Their carefree legs across the pavement. Not one asks for anything. Actually, it is the passersby who say, excuse me. Chewing gum. Cigarettes down to the brown. Warm bottled wine, spat and sunglasses. Something. Discard. One, a bearded man in nothing but combat trousers, has the reddest face he’s ever seen. A young woman, summer skirt hitched, crouches beside him. The sunlight bleaches out her crop as she chats to him as if he is a long lost relative. The derelict has his eyes closed and may or may not be listening. He’s smiling anyway. She chatters into his red ear and as the shadows and the ankled shoes pass, she glances up, her eyes and youthful desperation to be seen – to be seen as being, as being conscious, as consciously different, as different from the crowd as she can possibly be – “yeah, I know him!” But, of course, she doesn’t really. Who would? The man has a thin smile glazed across his beacon face. He is the sun god, or so he tells her later as she bends and bows beneath the window of a gutted room with no carpet but a curtain, velvet and once upon a time, probably quite fancy, nailed to the window frame to stop not so much the sunlight, but the curious faces of those her pass by it. She convulses. Her tee shirt reads I’M DEAD!