At the top of Selsdon Road, hidden in the tree line, Aimee G is dismantling a car with a series of large screwdrivers that she keeps on a complicated looking utility belt. The work is easier than one would imagine and already there is a pile of metal parts next to her. I stand and watch her work. “I’m remaking it into a sledge,” she says. I find this both fascinating and confusing and, seeing my confusion, she nods to the sky beyond the tree tops. It has started to snow. The snow tumbles through the canopy.
Evening in Lyme Regis. Silver Street. It is raining and the street is empty. All the shops are closed except one. The glass front is orange with light and inside I can see that many people have gathered to get out of the rain. I go in. Jodie J is stood just inside the doorway. She is wearing a long, fitted, mustard-yellow jumper and her legs are bare and tanned. She wears her dealer boots. A multitude of thin scarves are wrapped around her neck and her hair is gathered at one side of her head with a scrunchie.
She is rolling (film?) posters, securing them with elastic bands (that she keeps on her wrist) and sliding the rolls into cardboard tubes that bear addresses. It is busy work. She looks up and says, “I’m glad you came. It’ll save a fortune in stamps.” I look down at the card tubes and see that they are all addressed to me (but at Cliff House).
The Regent cinema (Lyme Regis) is closed, but the doors are unlocked. They swing and bang on their hinges in the wind that turns circles on the forecourt. The foyer smells of smoke and puddles of water have collected on the tiled floor. Popcorn everywhere. There is a slit of light at the top of the stairs. The bannister metal is cold.
Beyond the door a film is playing to an empty auditorium and, instead of taking one of the many seats, I walk to the front of screen and stand before the scene. A sorry-looking crew of wet tars are struggling with ropes on the rolling deck of a galleon. The sails snap and flap and huge sheets of waves rise up over the gunnels and come crashing down on to the boards. A sparse soundtrack of low horns and strings.
One of the crew turns and, breaking the fourth wall, looks me straight in the eye at the foot of the stage. He speaks, but his words are lost in the storm. I recognise him as Jamie W, a quiet boy who was a friend of my brother, Steven, in the 1970s. His face is drawn and his cheeks are red and wet. He seems quite forlorn. He staggers from left to right at the end of a rope that he is gathering at his feet.
The other sailors also pull on similar ropes that reach up into the sails above. The sky is thick with cloud. I climb up onto the stage and somehow I am now on the deck with Jamie W and the others. The air is sodden and cold and the ship rolls so much in the stormy sea that I fall to my knees and begin to crawl further along the filmic deck toward the mast.
His shoes are shiny and buckled and his legs are clad in white tights.
Beyond the shrill storm and the creaking timbers and the sorry soundtrack, no words are heard, though all around me mouths are moving. I reach the huge mast and, wrapping my arms around it, I stand. There is a tiny hole in the wood and I can see that a musket ball is lodged within it…
…and, removing the cool bullet from the mast-head, and pocketing it, I begin to climb.