Notes from a Fragile Island.

December 15 2004 (Crystal Palace)

PS and I cross the park toward the train station. The steps are wet and I see now that her huge German army boots make her walk like a toddler – stiff legged – A nazi toddler! This notion keeps us amused all the way to Croydon. I go to work.

The Ship Christmas quiz. It is a busy night. Sam F, Joe F, N. Mainwood, PS and myself are Mariah Carey’s Hairy Area. Nick B and his drunken crew have caused something of a commotion as they have commandeered Table of Doom‘s reserved table. They refuse to move and the Table of Doom team leader, the dreadful and boorish Jif Nylons, becomes snotty and then sulky. Nick B and team announce that their team are now called Table of Doom Are Shit.

Mariah Carey’s Hairy Area come 5th. No prize.

Table of Doom Are Shit come second. Four bottles of Pinot Grigio.

Table of Doom (as is traditional) come 1st. £100

Later, Jif Nylons is hunched over The Table of Doom‘s table snorting tequila through a straw from the varnished top. He makes a big deal of this. He is a prize idiot.

December 15th 2018 (Whitley Bay)

Wake up in a spaghetti of cables as I was up late with Casey A on Hangouts. She is in Arizona.

Two pieces of mail arrive for me: Christmas cards from Sean G and Alaster G. Sean’s handwriting is spidery. He lost his mum in October. Although we never see each other – and rarely communicate – I consider him my oldest friend as we used to go to school together in the 1970s. Alaster says that he has just got out of hospital (‘ozzie’) as he (“accidentally of course”) ‘poisoned himself.’ He has, he says, plenty of writing to send me.

I take the rubbish out. Mike W is kicking a tennis ball in the back alley for Fergus. The ball ricochets from the garage doors and dustbins and the young Springer spaniel launches itself after it. Mike has one ear plugged and when I ask him what he’s listening to he says, “nothing.” He is off to meet a friend in Newcastle later so I offer to take Fergus for an afternoon walk.

Sit in Kith & Kin on Park Avenue for an hour drinking tea and writing Christmas cards. The queue at the post office snakes out into the road.

Along the seafront with Fergus. The waves rear up over the promenade. Fergus seems spooked and keeps looking behind himself.

Malcolm, Spanish Ian, myself, Fergus and two guitars squeeze into Mike W’s car. We drive to The Exchange in North Shields. It is the busiest night of the year. I get to play Jackdaws, Receipts and Postcard From Kreuzberg. Brad Mc leaps up onstage and taps away on a cajon.

Later, I walk to the late session at The Low Lights with Brad. He is heartbroken and very drunk. We run through the same set again, this time with Lily and Kate and Eve and John E singing with gusto from their busy table! A wildly drunken man dances and reels around to Receipts and finally staggers into the fireplace! He sits on the burning logs for what seems an eternity, oblivious and thinking (I suppose) that he has found a seat! He is pulled from the flames by a crowd of red faced boys.

Stephen T ferries a few of us back to John E’s house and a friendly jam ensues. I drink tea while the others pass a bottle of whisky round the circle. Lily debuts a new song. Eve is super skinny and quite the heart stealer I should imagine. Home at 3am to a great stream of messages from Arizona.

December 15th 2020 (Newcastle)

The pedestrianised area is marked with painted arrows and crosses indicating where and where not to walk. Queues for shops snake around barriers and security personnel with click counters allow a stream into Fenwick’s, into TK Maxx, into The Eldon Centre. Everyone looks miserable in masks. On the way home on the metro I see that I have lifted the skin from a knuckle somehow. My hand is bloody. I wrap my finger in my mask to stem the flow and pull my scarf up over my face.

Write Christmas cards. The last post is Friday. Spend the evening painting and listening to Wedding Present‘s Sea Monsters and BC Camplight’s Shortly After Take Off. Omelette and bottled beer and roll-ups. Hope JC is OK. Eventually take to bed at 4am when I realise that this year it is me that is heartbroken and drunk. It has been awhile (for the former) and I welcome the sensation like an old friend who has just walked in after so many years – we pick up where we left off!

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