Notes From a Fragile Island. 17

March 5th 2013 (Llandudno)

Jonathan X, the organiser of the Save Our Funicular festival, has assured us that we can crash at his house. He has appalling body odour and a tiny, plastic dragon perches on the top of his bald head. His pate is painted green. He wafts around the venue with one hand holding the dragon in place as if it is windy. Great lakes of sweat patch his armpits. “It’s for charity,” he says. I assume he means the dragon.

After our set we sit at a table near the stage and watch the next band set up. Jonathan X comes over and brings tea. “This is on the house,” he says. He spends an eternity stirring the teabags around the pot, still holding the dragon to his green head. He says, “I’ll be mum.” When he pours the tea it is the colour and consistency of gravy and quite unpalatable. “Thanks, mum.” We talk about the gig and the charity – Save Our Funicular – and he points out people he knows in the crowd. “Gary,” he says, nodding to a tall, bearded man in vampire makeup and a snorkel parka, sat at the bar. “Thomas. David. Susan from Pink Tide. She’s gorgeous, isn’t she. Peace Frog – they’re good…” etc.

Jonathan X makes a big deal of showing us many photographs of himself, sans dragon, with many different, attractive, young women. Each one pulled in close to his side. Although it is never confirmed, he alludes to the notion that he is, or has been, romantically involved with each of them. I find this difficult to believe unless Welsh women are drawn to body odour…

By midnight everyone is very drunk and an argument has brewed between Aimee Cassette and Jonathan X. The gist of which, as far as I can recall, being about the town’s troubled funicular. A sudden and brief struggle ensues. Jonathan X’s face is sheened green. Aimee Cassette straddles and pins the Welshman to the floor. She is pushing the plastic toy into his bloodied mouth. She has a green palm print on one of her breasts. “Eat the dragon! Eat it, you sweaty Taffy creep!”

We sleep in the van in the car park next to the funicular.


March 5th 2018 (Portsmouth)

Wake late on Jim R’s sofa in yesterday’s clothes, pounding head and exhausted. His hideaway shack is frozen. I leave the building via a hole in the door that is used by his Ridgeback, Jess. Take a train west. No seats. Meet Jodie J at the Premier Inn in Portsmouth. We have tickets for Flight of The Conchords. Cracker snacks, cheese, olives, a clutch of vodka and tonics from Sainsbury’s. Get changed. She is as cool and lovely as ever; her smile cures hangovers; brown needled corduroy and layers of green. Her coat has huge pockets and Dickensian lapels. She is wrapped in an orange linen shawl. Her ever present dealer boots are even more scuffed than when we last met and this makes me happy. I suspect they will outlive us all. I hope so.

Portsmouth is full of sailors and students. Walking through the twinkling city centre, a woman in navy blue serge and flat black shoes calls to several naval officers across the square, “Submariner wankers!” It is both comedic and confusing. The sailors laugh, “Oi, oi!” The woman laughs, too. We find the Guildhall. We’re early, so we duck into the Isambard Kingdom Brunel pub next door. The pub, all victorian tiling with a vast, varnished bar, spangles with laughter and glass and sparkling eyes. The parquet and the mahogany melts.

The Guildhall is packed and the energy is electric. We leave with the laughing tide, weaving and wobbling through Portsmouth city centre like, I suppose, submariner wankers.


March 5th 2021 (Penn Beacon)

I wonder why and how I couldn’t sleep except for a couple of scrappy hours? Endless cups of green tea, cigarettes, snacks. Watch the Behaviour Panel. All night the rain on the window. I haven’t had a drink for over sixty days. Read the final 100 pages of Blood Meridian. My copy is soft now and thoroughly inked. Even after the fourth reading it still amazes (more so?). There is always something new to find. Perhaps the Judge isn’t even human? I don’t believe he represents some djinn or devil anymore. Something more ethereal. The final pages it occurs that he becomes (possibly) invisible as he dances and plays fiddle among the crowds in the whorehouse: he becomes merely a sense, a figment. It is probably the best novel of the late twentieth century – certainly a desert island fiction. The epilogue still mystifies. My notes (from 2004, 09, 15) suggest that this final paragraph is a description of modern day archeologists or railroad workers or fence builders, but with this dawn reading I am not so sure. It is (perhaps) a description of the author himself, typing the pages? Whatever it is, it is intriguing. I turn to the frontispiece and add March 2021 to the list of dates and get up. 7am, porridge and coffee.

I decide to walk to the lighthouse. It is the first time this year. The tide is low and fog blankets the beach. The town disappears. It is perfect. I walk over the green rocks. A dog appears out of nowhere, a wet red setter. We almost bump into each other and then it is gone. Moments later a man appears out of the swirl. He says, “are you looking for an orange ball?” These are the first words that I’ve heard in two days and I laugh and say no. Then he is gone, too. And sure enough within seconds I find an orange tennis ball on the wet sand! I give it a hefty kick.

On the rocks at the far end of (I guess) the promenade I discover an area where there are dozens of washed up old house bricks. Some are so sea tumbled that they have become lozenged. Many of them bear the names of brickyards – Fosters of Felling and Cramlington. Suddenly the lighthouse looms out of the nothing. The tide must be extra low as I almost trip over the exposed causeway. Molluscs. A cormorant, wings spread, watches me. On the far side of the lighthouse I lean against the seawall and roll a cigarette and stare out at the rocks. It is peaceful. My cheeks are burning. The sun begins to burn away the fog and one by one by one the rocks out there become seals. I count nine seals.

Back home I return to bed and sleep deeply until lunchtime. Get up again and walk into town. I buy milk thistle and milk and a new charger for my Macbook. The town looks sad. Masks. To Let signs. There are drunks talking loudly about what they carry in their plastic bags (“cider”). There are people queuing to get into Greggs. There are people queuing outside the bank – disco music plays in the bank. The security guard in the mall tells me to walk on the left.

Sainsbury’s is almost empty. Holland & Barrett also. It is as convoluted as ever to purchase anything in Holland & Barrett. “Do you have a loyalty card?” The answer sometimes is yes, (“but it’s safely at home”) and sometimes the answer is no. It seems to make no difference what the answer is and the usual postcode rigmarole ensues for no apparent reason. Why are the staff so friendly, so unhealthy looking? The electronics shop is open. The metal shutter is rolled to hip height and I crouch there in my mask and the man crouches on the other side in his mask and after a minute or two he passes me a new charger. “Cash only.”

When I get home a parcel has been left for me. William Faulkner’s The Sound & The Fury. Perfect timing. All afternoon and evening on the sofa, cheeks burning, hands hot, feet cold, ears ringing, eyes aching. I charge up the macbook, write this and drink water and green tea. I eat scrambled eggs and try to figure out if I am tired or just exhausted.


16 thoughts on “Notes From a Fragile Island. 17

  1. Great stuff Nick. The episode about the ‘Save Our Funicular’ festival was highly amusing. Barcelona has 3 funiculars (funiculi?) 60 days! – congrats – hope you are feeling fine 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 3 funiculi, you say?! 🙂
      This prompted some memory that ‘the funicular argument’* possibly started over the green man’s assertion that the Welsh funicular was the only one in the UK. Aimée C claiming knowledge of another in Saltburn-on-Sea (which I can confirm). Coupled with his wandering hands…well, wars have started over less I suppose!
      Why aye. Canny, like.
      And you, too, Ingrid x

      *great band name or album title?
      ps: WP are paying a pound for every time the word ‘funicular’ is used today…you and I are quids in already 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the above, Bill. I didn’t realise that there were so many funiculi in the UK. If only there had been a Save Our Funicular event in Hastings we could have saved ourselves a lot of travel and bother! However, travel broadens the mind, so…

      Don’t feel too bad for JX, he wasn’t as green as he was cabbage looking & Aimée C was not one to take things lying down either!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Perfect plan! My “Empty Page” seems to have slipped through the cracks, but I love the idea of emptying some thoughts onto an empty page later today. Perhaps a page of scribbles will turn into a shareable poem worthy of the title, “Empty Page.” 😆

        Liked by 1 person

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