The alarm went off again, I was dimly aware of it having deployed earlier, maybe, but this time it went off I tried to focus on the cloudy red digital display that gradually converged into a recognisable time… it was 9.48, the train for Scarborough set off at 10.45 from King’s Cross, I did some mental maths whilst my stomach churned slowly over, ‘yes,’ I thought, ‘unless we leave NOW…’ My friend (with tits) was soundly asleep next to me, I tried to wake her but the most dreadful frown creased her forehead, ‘we gotta go’, I said breathlessly, a panic developing in my neck, ‘NOW, WE GOTTA FUCKING GO’. Unsurprisingly the ‘I’m not fucking going anywhere,’ whispered in response did little to assist my fear, after a full minute of quite pathetic pleading and, I’m ashamed to say, emotional blackmail. My friend (w.t.) arose, the frown was of such intensity she resembled The Borg as she shoved passed me to the bathroom, 9.54, it was going to be close but we could do it. We hastily dressed, grabbed the pre-packed bags and shoved them into her car. The idea was to move the car to a space in south London where they don’t have resident parking restrictions, the road parallel but one was such a place, it was near the tube and…we arrived, the brand new residents permits signs and ticket machine signalled disaster, it was 10.08, we were fucked.
The previous evening I’d met up with my brother in the boozer in Clapham we usually enjoy on Sunday, Swineshead popped by for a couple but my bro and I managed a healthy 4, plus a quick squirt of scotch to see us on our way. At some point in the pub my friend wt had called to say she was in my flat. I suggested that she took a bath and by the time she’d got ready I’d be back with wine and pizza. I got back at 9-ish, she’d prepared for tomorrow sorted herself with a few G&T’s so I made some food and we opened the wine. All was going swimmingly until I suggested we watch a bit of YouTube. For nearly 6 hours we indulged in a rigorous session of selection/clicking, drinking and, at times, intensely heavy conversation that was both devastating and optimistic. By the time we went to bed I noticed that there was one glass with maybe 2 fingers of wine left, the rest had been drunk. Not the smartest move in the world…
‘I’ll drive’, she said. I looked at her face, her large dark glasses concealed the worst of the noticeable damage, we agreed to go a Starbucks to get some coffee and food before we set off. Under the illusion that both of us we were ‘feeling better’ we pointed the car in the direction of up t’North and set off. The traffic was dreadful and our moods matched but after a shouting match and a fit of the giggles we both settled into the journey ahead. After 2 hours we cleared North London and launched on to the M1, up until this point things had been okay.
After 10 minutes on the M1 my friendwt became very quiet. Unless pissed off about something this wasn’t like her at all, and she wasn’t. ‘You alright Myfwt?’ I asked, ‘I feel sick P, in fact I’ve got to stop at the next services in order to ventilate my stomach.’ This worried me, I didn’t want her to feel sick and being a fairly new driver I was already aware of the pressure she was under to undertake such a whacking journey. I too wasn’t feeling great, despite already having smoking 3 cigarettes the thought of even looking at one now was enough to open the back of my throat.
We stopped off at a service station, Myfwt nipped off to the loo and half an hour later she returned looking pale and wane, ‘feeling better?’ I enquired gently, ‘a bit, enough to press on’. We got some more food for the road ahead and set off again. A short while later I had the most awful panic attack, it was of such intensity that I was unable to apply my usual process of enforced logic into the equation, it wholly refused to lose it’s grip, Myfwt was getting nervous but not as nervous as I, I don’t recall having a panic with such strength and certainly not for such a protracted period of time. I was simply unable to grab enough oxygen so I sat on the front seat gasping like Albert Steptoe following a 100 Yard dash and quite suddenly, and very unusually, I let out a burp that would’ve upset the Undead and threw up.
I managed to grab a Starbucks coffee cup in the nick of time so I didn’t make too much of a mess but I was dimly aware of the occupants of passing vehicles pointing at a white-faced yob ejecting poison from his jutting lower jaw. Myfwt rubbed my back as she heroically drove on and shortly I’d settled down, the panic swilling around in the coffee cup and dribbling down my fingers.
We slowly settled down into the journey, it was a beautiful warm day, perhaps a little too warm for the drive and the condition of the passengers but, at least, not raining or foggy. At the same time we both became dangerously soporific, I was actually starting to dream with my eyes fluttering on the edge of unconsciousness, for the sake of my driver I remained awake but at a service station near Nottingham we parked up and slept for 30 minutes. By now it was getting late, we’d already missed high tea at the hotel but were on target for dinner, maybe a drink beforehand…
We pressed on, by now we were both beginning to enjoy the journey, the beautiful scenery as we hit Yorkshire, the glare of oil see rape, fat crows, rooks, gorse and endless communities of tress was enough for both of us to independently remark on how wonderful it was to be outside of London, or any city for that matter. At about 6.15pm we arrived at the hotel in Scarborough located on the cliff of the North Bay overlooking the sea. Hastily we unpacked, showered, changed and met the family in the large lounge by the bar.
There were about 40 of us in total, my parents, auntie’s, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and extended family, some of which I’d never met, and in the middle of it all, granddad, 100 years old and a day, not looking a day over 70. Apart from having a few issues with eyesight he’s a sharp as a nail. I felt a deep sense of pride. Myfwt and I hastily greeted as many family members as we could, everyone knew of our journey problems as I’d been in regular contact with my bro and my mum so conversation was anything but stifled.
The hotel itself was akin to a smaller English version of The Overlook hotel, it was an anachronism, a functioning time warp but pleasant enough, faded opulence mixed with gaudy fixtures and fittings strained the eye, yet it was comfortable and the staff friendly and weird in equal measures. The food was basic but fresh, quite delicious in hindsight and following pudding my granddad gave a reminiscent speech peppered with risqué jokes whilst a passing reveller dressed in a wig and a dress pressed his genitals against the glass outside.
We took our drinks back to the lounge and carried on drinking as guests slowly retired to their rooms. Finally, at about 2am there were 5 of us, my cousin and his wife, another cousin who’d I never met before and Myfwt. We chatted about families, pharmaceuticals, fashion and ordered more wines and whiskies, then a platter of sandwiches to stave off the inevitable hangover. At around 4 am we staggered off to our respective rooms and before my head hit the pillow I was out like the proverbial light.
Myfwt and I skipped breakfast; we were late surfacing from the pit but arrived in time to hear my grandfather provide history on the family, from the stowaway Jewish German boy that was my great, great grandfather to the wife beater that was my great grandfather and finally some tales of the early life of my grandfather from Burma to my grandmother and his illustrious career that led to his short friendship with Winston Churchill. Before leaving for London Myfwt and I walked down the cliff to visit the vast array of amusement arcades that faced the beach. I’d not been there since I was a boy and was surprised to find that many of the 1 and 2p slot machines I played 30 years ago were still in operation, and just as fascinating, but for slightly different reasons. The seafront was packed with families, ice cream, inexpensive tat, rock, candies, hot dogs… everything that a seaside town can offer without a hint of irony or self deprecation…truly wonderful and aside from the odd cluster of tearaways maintains an innocence and charm about it almost too obscure to adequately put into words in such a short period of time.
We went back to the hotel, grabbed our already packed luggage and, before wishing those that remained a fond farewell, left for home at 1pm. The journey back wasn’t dissimilar to the one there, but there was no sign of the desire to puke or panic. The pressure to not arrive anywhere at a specific time was a blessing and as soon as we left the coast the sun yawned through the clouds until the sky was a deep blue.
Due to the weather and the splendid roads Yorkshire was packed full of bikers, it certainly made the journey back a lot more interesting than the one down, though a little frustrating as I wanted to be one of the pack. We bought food from service stations along the way and in one godforsaken place near Northampton Myfwt took a well-deserved nap as I smoked staring at the poor bastards about to board a National Express coach. We passed Silverstone at almost the exact time the crowds that had been attending the British Superbike championships were leaving for home. Utter joy as hundreds of machines screamed past in both directions, I clapped like a wanker, the hairs on the back of neck sat erect as fat groups of heroes wuzzed by.
The final part of the journey was exhausting, both of us were having problems staying awake but after nearly 6 hours we arrived back at the flat following a short visit to get some soup and wine from Tesco. I ran Myfwt a bath whilst I sorted supper, by now it was nearly 9, we ate in front of the TV both of us quite subdued, speaking for myself I was feeling melancholy due the passing of a splendid weekend and a few other matters not for here. I decided not to drink any wine, despite the desire to do so.
Seeing Frank this evening, something pleasant to focus on, which is just as well because I’m feeling less than happy sat here at work. I’ve also noticed that I’ve managed to write quite a few words without swearing much, surely that’s a fucking first…
Happy Birthday Pop.