At Neptune's Jetty, I pass the old clock tower each of its four clocks showing a different time, none of them right. On its pedestal, an old iron cannon bleeds rust into the sandstone. I cross over to the town side of the road, then dog leg up Wrack Alley past The Mad Mackeral to Market Street. Not much happening here. One or two cold looking people mooching about, hunched up in hoodies like urbanised monks. I nip into the Happy Shopper by the bus station for my cans, but change it at the last for a quarter of their budget Canadian rye whiskey same effect, warmer feeling. Then it's Nike Long Sleeve Shirt White
The play's still lurking there, like a stalker in my conscience trying to insinuate itself into my thoughts and take over. But the booze kicks things along a bit faster.
On the corner of The Narrows, I glance up at the sinister black globe of a CCTV camera. Whoever's monitoring the cameras this afternoon must feel like they're watching a montage of films by 60s East European directors, or something meaningfully static by Andy Warhol. Lights come on. Lights go off.
Hmm maybe I'm just not in the right frame of mind to think about that one.
At the Bank Street junction, I cut across Mariner Plains and down through The Narrows to the seafront again the quiet end, after the arcades, grease joints and bait stalls. Along a bit further and I'm on the Hummocks Nike Ladies Sweatshirts
I take another mouthful, then sit back and fix my eyes on that ferry. With the distance, it barely seems to be moving. Perhaps, I think, it's just stopped there. Run out of fuel and dropped anchor. There may be someone out on deck right now with a pair of high powered binoculars, inspecting the coastline looking for signs of friendly life. Or intelligent life. Or any life.
On the Nike White Hoodie other side, the path drops down to another hollow, and my favourite shelter. Here, I sit on a bench facing the sea and take the top off the bottle. I usually feel self conscious about drinking in public, but there's hardly anyone around. A couple walking along the beach path. An old guy from one of the homes rooting through the grass for fag ends. I take a large mouthful and the spirit burns its way down, branching off through the tubes like anti freeze. Far out, on the smudgy horizon, a ferry heads for Scandinavia or somewhere. The only sounds are the wash of the tide up the beach, the wind in the grass, a dog barking way over, the ringing of halyards against masts.
Out of the Square I go and east along the seafront into the gusting afternoon my shadow loping off ahead of me like it's anxious to get somewhere. The sea's the colour of cold snot and as rough as a shag in a dock side alley. But the air feels good stinging my sinuses like a snort of chilled vodka.
up and along to the main shopping area of the town. With Christmas looming, many of the shops are open and stuffed with frantic, grim looking people. Shouting into mobiles. Shouting into kids' ears. Shouting at staff. Shouting at each other. Shouting seems to be the latest British pastime. Maybe we're all going deaf. Hardly surprising with all the shouting going on.
Over half my life in this shivering sanatorium for sick somnambulists crusted to the shirt front of the Thames estuary, like something chundered up out of London. 'A coastal leisure resort' the approach sign on the motorway says. It's like calling a wank a handshake.
of seafront, cluttered like kitsch on a landlady's mantel shelf the arcades flashing like a Lottery winner's bungalow at Christmas. The odd shapes and lines and corners of buildings: the clock tower, like a miniature Soyuz rocket; a fag packet block of flats; the water tower at the top of Belching Hill, like a huge grey concrete mushroom; the steeple points of half a dozen churches a gaping jaw full of broken teeth and fillings. Hardly an inviting prospect. Though that, I suppose, depends on your perspective. A drowning man will grasp at anything floating even a turd.
And for the first time today I start to feel I don't know how else to describe it settled. Away from things for a bit.
I put the cap back on the bottle and step out into the day again. Back down the path to the road.
a scrubby stretch of downland, thumb tacked with orange dog shit bins, lumbering off into the hazy distance towards Thanet. I head along the main path, which slopes up over the hollow where the Esplanade Theatre squats in its shambles of Edwardian Gothic, like the bastard child of the Castle of Otranto and the Hackney Empire all arches and crenellations and rust bubbled ironwork ("Tonight: Punk Floyd" says the poster on the rooftop entrance).
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Home, I suppose I should say though I can't really think of it like that. It's just the place where I happen to be. Where I've got my stuff. Where my friends are. The one place on earth I know.
And what, exactly, will they see?
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