Monday, 28 March 2011

What is turning out to be an overlong explanation for my overlong absence part 4

Sorry I've been away again. I've been keeping it real back in Hackney these last few months and with a hardcore, twenty-four hour existence like mine finding the time to document all the shit that happens can be quite a chore. I've not even told you about what happened in Belfast yet and events currently are moving at such a pace it may be many months before I ca relate what went down last Monday week. Tristam Shandy eat your heart out.
Ah Belfast. A city much like a fine whiskey; in short sips a complex, heady taste of honeyed smokey strength distilled from the land and improved with age and history. However, like a fine whiskey, prolonged exposure regularly leads to violence and hangovers. I've sometimes heard people describe their home towns as nurturing places of sanctuary and I'd love to say the same but I would have to say that growing up in Belfast is more akin to being beaten out on an anvil. On the Shore Road, where I spent my formative years, we never thought of it as a place where we grew up but rather as a place we were dragged up to premature adulthood whether we wanted to be or not.
It was with trepidation I emerged from Central station on that sultry July afternoon. How long since I'd last been home? Seven years? Eight years? Somewhere in the distance the Orange pipes and drums of war shrilled and thundered as young East Belfast loyalists practiced their war-dance for the twelfth and the papers spoke of a bombscare on the Westlink reminding me that though I left, 'they hadn't gone away you know.'Unpleasant as these shows of strength were and are they still gave me a peculiar warm feeling but something still didn't feel quite like home. I wandered down to the city hall hoping to catch a bus up the Shore Road with my last £1.07, but when I got there the journey numbers had all changed to letters. I politely asked a chap in a cheap tracksuit and an expensive football top which letters went north. 'Do I look like a fucking timetable dickhead?'

And there it was, suddenly I felt at home again.

Once I learned that the old number 8 was now the letters AD I further learned that a single bus fare was now £2.10, so again I had to walk. I spent my last pound in the world on a scratchcard assuming that after all the shit they'd put me through the very least the Gods of fate, chance, and karma could do was give me enough for a bus fare home, a can of lilt, and a pack of tobacco but you can't trust to providence. I should have learned that by now. The last mile and a half of my quest for shelter would would end as it began... on foot.

That part wasn't so bad really, a warm summer's day down old familiar streets, memories thought forgotten waiting to greet me at every corner. Speaking of half forgotten memories I saw an old school chum of mine, Johnny Hazlitt, buying sausage rolls in the bakery outside Seaview Stadium so I stopped to catch up with a fellow Seaview Primary School alumnus, gave me a chance to make sure I'd not forgotten my North Belfast colloquial parlance.
'Fuckin bout ye Johhny big lad?'
'Fuckin bout ye Norman, what's the craic you're back?'
'Fuckin tapped out like Johnny, calling up to me Ma's see if I can crash for for a wee while. Ye fuckin seen her about like?'
'D'you not fuckin hear?'
'Fuckin not hear what like?'
'Well if you don't fuckin know then it's not my fuckin place to tell ye like, but it's bad fuckin news like.'
'Fuck. What about Clive? Seen him.'
'Sure fuckin no one's seen Clive for months now but there's plenty fuckin lookin for him. I know he's your fuckin brother and all but I'd stay away from that mad cunt if I were you.'
'Fuck what's he done this time?'
'What's he not fuckin done more like? He's fuckin mental.'
'Aye, that's Clive alright. How's you then, ye alright?'
'Aye alright. On the Bru, selling fuckin Methadrone you know? Sell you some like.
'Never heard of it, any fuckin good like?'
'Nah, it's fuckin shite. It's basically like ecstasy with the sweating, the tooth grinding and the horrible two day come downs but with none of the good bits being of your fuckin head beforehand like.'
'Fuck that sounds shockin mate. Why the fuck would any cunt do that to themselves?'
'Cos it only costs a fuckin fiver a gram.'
'Fuck, i'll see you later on an take two g of ye.'
'Sure fuckin buy it now sure.'
'Sure I'm fuckin tapped I'll have to borrow a tenner. You still living with your Ma?'
'How is your Ma?'
'Away and fuck I'm not tellin you how ma Ma is.'
'How's your sister?'
'Sure that's fuckin why I'm not tellin you how ma Ma is.'
'Fair enough like, well I'll see ye bout like.'
'Aye see ye bout.'

At that point I felt it best to leave since if any Shore Road conversation continues long enough the chance of it ending in violence will quickly reach one and at the mention of Hazlitt's sister that certainty was getting near. Also communicating in raw North Belfast patois can be very hard on the throat. Still it was good to know I could still cut a swagger in the old stomping ground and finding somewhere to buy cheap drugs was a further bonus. Only back in Belfast two hours and things were looking up.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

A long overdue explanation for my prolonged absence part 3

I had arrived at what proved to be the most difficult and hazardous leg of the journey; Crossing the Irish sea. I presumed it would be simplicity itself, I mean you're out there floating on some wood after all so in theory the boats doing all the leg work and after my many hundreds of miles so far I was ready for a big, long sit down.
Stealing a row boat was easy. Coastal people don't even padlock them to the shore or anything. If you are to steal a boat for a brief marina joyride here's a tip; get some oars. First thing to do is steal some proper oars. Sea faring folks must take them home with them because I couldn't find a set anywhere. For a boat heist you should really go equipped. In the end I nicked a shovel from a building site which was a disaster for navigation but at the least gave me some means of propulsion.
Navigation is another important point, you really have some base knowledge of the heavens to find out where you're going. I knew Ireland was to the left from Wales and it being such a big Island I assumed that I would smash into it after a few hours. The plan was simple, leave at night, row out the harbour, turn left, then straight on until morning. Couldn't fail.
Twelve fucking days I was adrift, alone in that row boat bobbing about on the high seas. I did try to navigate by the stars but the only one I know is Apollo by the three stars on his belt, but what I'm meant to do with that knowledge is still beyond me. I will say however that without the light pollution the constellations are very bright and pretty at night on the sea. Dehydration and hunger were also quite awkward problems, if you are going to cast yourself adrift be sure to bring sandwiches. Many wast the night I dreamed about an egg mayonnaise and a can of Lilt.
Finally I sighted land and made for it with all the speed my withered limbs could propel me with. As it turned out I was back in Wales, about fifteen miles down the coast. Some sort of tidal shit apparently. I must have just gone over the horizon and then spent nearly a fortnight rowing in circles in some sort of slow whirlpool effect. Was I embarrassed? I was sure it was Ireland, from a distance Ireland and Wales seem very similar when you look at then flat side on. Another thing, in this day and age of radar and massive scale international shipping how is it possible for a person to drift about in a busy commercial lane for twelve days without at least one coastguard coming to see what's happening? I must of just got lucky.
Well needless to say I just threw the towel in and decided to beg on the streets of Bangor until I got enough for a bus and ferry ticket to Belfast, which from Wales is about twenty six pounds. It took me less than four hours and I realised that if i had just swallowed my pride and put my hand out for spare change in Truro four and a half months ago I would have been in Belfast the very next night. You live and you learn eh?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A long overdue explanation for my prolonged absence Part 2

The first part of the plan, walking from Truro to north Wales, took about four months. That took me by surprise, I'd seen it on a map and it only looked about an inch and a half apart, there's a tip; always check your scales. I'd like to say it was an adventure but in actual fact it was really fucking shit. Please excuse my bad language but no other words will suffice for how truly God awful it was. Five hundred miles I walked, It's not that far but I kept on getting lost. Ended up in bloody Derby at one point and no one has a reason to be in Derby, ask anyone from Derby and they'll tell you the same. It was winter to boot and all, November, January, December, February, and the crap part of March.
I thought it would be a piece of piss. Suren back in the olden days folks were always banging on about places only being a week or a few days walk away. I should have nicked a donkey or something but then I could barely forage enough food for myself. Apparently but, they eat grass, if I'd known that at the time I could have cut the journey time in half.
Suffice to say there many interesting encounters and fascinating misadventures on my quest to crash on my father's sofa, but I'll not recount those here and save the juicy details for a lucrative publication. It could well be an Odyssey for our modern times so get excited about that. There'll be a bit of violence, some animal cruelty, and plenty of sex; some bad, all inappropriate, and some imaginary. Hot stuff.
by the time I got to the welsh coast I was properly knackered. They keep it quiet but Wales is all hills and mountains. No wonder they don't tell anyone, If people knew it was uphill all the way in that country no bugger would go, well no one told me at any rate. However if you thought the walk was the hard part that's nothing compared to the next bit, traversing the mighty Irish Sea.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A long overdue explanation for my prolonged absence Part 1

I've been away for a year and a half. I didn't think it had been that long, felt longer really, a lifetime almost. Of course for the usual reasons of good taste and legality i can't fill you in on everything that occurred but I'll do my best to give you a brief overview.
Falmouth didn't work out, I'd have thought that if one was to be insolvent anywhere a sun kissed peninsula with plenty of fish in the sea and mussels on the beach would be just peachy but did you know Cornwall has a winter as well? I sure as hell didn't. Times got hard, and damp, and pretty soon after my last post here I found myself with just enough money to cover one more month at my gentleman's lodgings. Unfortunately, as you may remember, at the time i was naively placing my hopes in National Lottery scratchcards as an untapped get rich quick scheme. The reason they're untapped and no instructional guide for their successful use exists is because it's bloody impossible. I took the full ninety-seven quid left for my keep and walked all the way to Truro. (after a series of ridiculous misunderstandings I had become persona non grata in all the Falmouth newsagents.) That took the best part of three hours i can tell you.
Anyway I get there, walk into a Tesco's, dump all the small change at the cigarette kiosk and tell the lady to give me a tin of Irn Bru, twenty Mayfair, a packet of matches and turn the rest into £100,000 prize scratchcards. I spent the best part of half an hour standing in the pissing rain outside, which never bloody stops in Cornwall, seriously it's worse than flipping Ireland, scratching off all these cards and did I win anything? Yes, I won thirty-four bloody quid. Then I only won seven off that, one quid off that, and that was the lot gone.
I was shaken bad, my faith in scratchcards evaporated instantly. there I was, no money, twelve damp Mayfair's, half a tin of Irn Bru and a damp, seasonally inappropriate summer suit the only things I had left in the world. I had some socks and y-fronts on admittedly but the less said about those the better. I suppose I could have walked back to Falmouth but what was the point, there was nothing in the lodgings apart from a half read Kenny Daglish biography and an unusable library card. After all my misadventures I decided the time had finally come to swallow my pride and return to Belfast.
Having no money for a bus ticket I decided that my only option was to walk to Wales, steal a row boat, nip across the Irish Sea and once I was on Eire soil I could just dander up along the coast and crash at my Dad's until the money built up again. What could be more simple? As it turned out pretty much anything else but more of that tomorrow