Thoughts from a sofa
By Parson Thru
Today I went to meet the man who has just bought my old boat – he’s called Richard. The man I sold it to (let’s call him O) has just learned how he will die and has sold it on. It’s an incestuous little community down there – I bought the rowing-boat that I used to reach my mooring from Richard. Now I’ve just sold Richard the radio that O would never buy from me. We drank tea in the café by the boatyard and spoke of moorings, running out of fuel at sea and the death of another friend, Nick, while chuckling about our own mortality.
Later, I took a ride to Portishead under the unreliable mid-September sky and met a man in the car park there along the beach. Not that there’s much of a beach at Portishead – more a strand. I was enjoying the peace and quiet when he got out of his car to ask me about the bike. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t gone on the bike. I never asked his name, but we sat beside the Severn Sea as the sun came and went and talked of motorcycles, the Air Force and music. Soon we realised we were brothers. Every topic raised kindled the flames. He told me he was seventy-one, twenty years older than me. There seemed no need to introduce ourselves – we just shook hands in the end and went our separate ways.
Time is an elastic and mysterious thing – its perception completely dependent on memory. To bring some immediate light to this, I just turned off the TV for the first time in three months. I’d turned it on to watch Electra Glide in Blue for the first time in maybe five years. But it doesn’t seem like five years. Like it doesn’t seem like twenty, thirty, forty years since I did this shit or that.
Do you know how long I’ve been riding motorbikes? I first felt the relationship between mortality and a twisted-open throttle when I was fourteen years old. It’s been the single most consistent thing in my life. I love the sound and the feel of that engine beneath me. When you have the bike – the engine – that fits your person you really have something. You become a single entity with a purpose.
I remember as a courier – motorcycle despatch rider – rolling up in Ealing one summer evening with a delivery. It was a long ride from York and the sun was giving way to dusk. A long way from home and a long way back. I enjoyed that feeling. Seven years later, I followed a girlfriend down from Leeds to London. Her home was less than a mile away from that courier drop. That was some time ago, too. And now the years surprise me, pushing everything further back as I work out that I really haven’t watched this movie for five years.
I pour another frozen vodka and think about this for a while.
I spent nine years in London. Now and again I get this flashback of Kings Cross underground station. Why should that be? It’s just a place – a tube stop along the journey that is life. Why these things come back, I don’t know. I just know that I was there. Like maybe you were. Like all those who follow us and all who went before.
I see myself as a kid, lying in my bed, imagining teddy bears in the pattern of the curtains and listening to my heart beat, and it doesn’t seem like any time ago at all. Now I’ve kids of my own – I’ve got grand-children. Sheeit. They’re all out there trying to make it in a world that was always set against them. Well, I’ve kind of got to say that that’s the world, baby. What we are born into, we are born into. Dammit. It’s harsh, but it’s true just the same.
The gravity, the reality of all of this – a third generation left to cope already – isn’t lost on me. But there are no answers, and never have been. Utopia must be a great place. But this is where we are. Everyone gets out of this life what they can. No promises. Don’t go blaming any of this on God. God is just a convenient excuse.
My daughter, bless her and all the angels around her, rang me tonight for a chat before her flight to Eastern Europe in the morning. My words seemed stilted. How do you tell your kids you love them without it seeming trite? Instead, I watch their time passing.
How do I make sense of this ramble? It may take the rest of my life to work out. It’s taken all this time to get to this point after all.