An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Tuesday, January 31, 2006



Keith was supine on the sofa. He was listening to a new album - Tub Jug Washboard Bands. The volume was way up but still he heard the knocker rapping. When and only when it became clear that mum was not going to answer it did he bestir himself.

Straight away eh could see that it was Jimmy. "Come in Jimmy - you're early - anything up?" "No, no probs - quite the reverse old scrote". As they went into the lounge mum popped her head out of the scullery - "Hello little Jimmy - would you like some tea? - how's your mum? - cheese sandwich?". "Yes please Keith's mum - nice cuppa would go down well right now but no to the sarnie - mums fine you know apart from her veins - whatyt can you do?". "OK dear - give her my best - tea coming up".

Keith slumped back onto the sofa and Jimmy skirted dad's chair (nobody but dad sits there) and sat by the window. He lit up a fag and offered the pack to Keith. "I'll smoke my own thanks Jimmy, those Sobranies give me a sore throat - you flush then?" "Oh yes, loaded you might say" He reached into his back pocket and pushed a small roll of scabby pound notes held by an elastic band across the coffee table. "So are you, now". Keith stuffed the roll in his shirt pocket as mum came in with a tray: two mugs and an enamel teapot. I've milked yours already Jimmy and his lordship here has given up milk it seems". She turned to leave but as she did she nudged the tray to one side and put an ashtray on the coffee table. "There's one on the cinderwill for you Jimmy".

Keith was sitting up now and checking the roll of notes. he leaned forward, almost conspiratorially. "How come?". "You remember when we did Johnson's last week? Remember the locked cabinet that Stu wrenched of the wall? Well, that was a really good move. When we opened it up in Dave's shed it was full of ... ampoules!" "Bingo - and we got plenty of blues for us too. Lucky us - who bought them?" "Stu's mate took all of them - fact is Stu's mate was very very pleased".

Their eyes, wrinkling at the corners, locked and they smacked hands over the enamel tea pot. Jimmy poured and they sat back - smug. The record finished and Keith got up and swapped it for a Robert "Pete' Williams album. "Well, what's on for tonight then? It is Friday you know, and like they say on telly - the weekend starts here" "I told you Stu's mate was pleased didn't I? Well - Stu's mate, Winston's his name - was one very happy boy." "Yeah I can see and ...?" ".. and the and is - we're off to a party later - just outside Brixton - Stu's picking us up - a pipe party!" "Your having me on right?" "No, really - the real thing - Winston was very pleased indeed." Robert Williams disappeared beneath hoots of laughter and self congratulation. They were laughing so hard they were crying. Mum's head appeared around the door - "You boys OK? What's the joke?" "Sorry Keith's mum - is he still in bed?" "No Jimmy you're alright - he's out fishing - over the pit" "It's alright mum we were just talking about Stu" "You shouldn't laugh at him - he can't help it" And she was gone. Back to the scullery to carry on doing whatever it was that she did there. No one really knew what that was.

Jimmy looked at Keith - "What can't he help?" "Oh it's OK - mum just thinks he's got some sort of nerve problem" "Oh, because of the shakes?" "Yeah, and she thinks he's got something wrong with his eyes coz he's blinking all the time!" And soon they were both in tears again.


The teapot has been refilled. The ashtray is nearly full. our two heroes are sitting, eyes closed, listening to a Cream album. Jack Bruce singing like a black man. Or so he thinks. "Oh Keith, why do you have to smoke those horrid herbal roll-ups? - they stink - look - have one of mine if you're short - good job your father can't smell". It's dark outside now and the only light is coming from a standard lamp in the corner by the stereogram. "Move yourself Jimmy - let me close those curtains. Looks like your father's called in at the pub". And then she was gone again. And they sat on: the stereogram now silent. Neither could be bothered to move. Until the door knocker went again.


The three of them are in the front of Stu's Hillman Minx - it had a bench seat in the front and a column shift - as it rolled on down the A13 towards the Rotherhithe tunnel and the dreaded south. "Put some lights on Stu - this is crazy - we'll get pulled and with what I'm carrying I can do without it - come on play the white man will you?" "Play the white man? - that's good - given where we're going" "Where are we going Stu?" "Stockwell Park boys - heart of darkness country!" "What country?" "Conrad, you jerk". And then they passed the turn for the Woolwich ferry: where Keith had had his first perfunctory grope of a real, grown-up, girl".

Jimmy was sticking two Rizlas together as they passed the turn off for the Blackwall tunnel and Keith was crumbling some resin in preparation. As they turned into the Rotherhithe the torpedo was alight and smoking the whole car out. "Open a window for gods sake". "Open the one on your side - mine's jammed". "Where did you get this cake Stu?" "Winston, my man" "My man Winston?" "My Winston Man" "Wiin - stuhn"

In darkest Deptford they were lost. Shadwell. Bermondsey. "Goddit!" The A to Z open in his lap - the Ronson flame dying back. Worm mounds of pale grey ash everywhere. Silver paper crumpled fills the ashtray. "Goddit". And they are off again - rolling down the blacktop tarmac - three on a spree. "Bloody south London - it all looks the same to me - I always get lost this side of the river"


"Yare all late boys - where you been? We all started wiyout yaz" "Winston my man! How ya doing? We got lost again - it's all the same over here - north London radar don't work down here - these're my buddies - we OK leaving the car here?" "Yeah boy - kids know you're with me you'll be OK - don't spect you to be driving tonight though" Winston was a big, very dark boy, long boned and reminiscent, to Keith at least of Mme Bovary's son. He seemed though to suck in light. Under yellow street lights he looked quite worrying but when he smiled, as he did frequently, he changed. "Kid .." he called to a young brown-skinned boy under the opposite light " you make sure these boys' car is here and safe for the night OK?" "No sweat Winston" and he flipped him a salute.

"Come on in boys - we got a party here - and we got cake!" His arms around Jummy and Keith he sheperded them in through the green flaking front door of a terraced council house. Not pebble dashed like Keith's mum and dad's but bare red brick - and Crittal windows too. A crazy paving path - more cobbled looking than Billingsgate.

A warm evening in early summer and there is smoke and fug coming out at them as they enter. The air is literally blue as they move on into the kitchen. And in the kitchen on a plate ... "This is Asfet, " says Winston slapping a small guy on the back "- Asfet's cousin just got in this week and he brought us a present from Kabul - look". A slab, or rather, what seems to be an ingot of pale red cake sits on a big meat plate. It draws the eye as though it were magnetic. "So we all having a party and this be the cake and you're all invited. That cake is pure home grown opium - you had opium before boys? Stu? Keith? Nobody? Well you have got a rare treat coming. Winston took a knife from his pocket and shaved a small curl from this ingot. Soft - like butter - thought Keith.

Asfet's brother is next to Jimmy. Jimmy is next to Asfet. Asfet is next to Winston and Winston is next to Keith. Stu and some other guy who nobody has introduced make up the circle. They've been passing the pipe in silence for some time now. How long none can recall. Not that anybody cares. A peace that surpasses their understanding has descended. Keith pries his eyes open by act of will and gazes on the rich elaborate furnishings that only moments earlier were neither rich nor elaborate. Crimplene curtains and Cyril Lloyd carpet in reality. Is that Ravi Shankar? Does it matter? Does anything? And off he drifts again. They nod and smile and dream. The pipe goes out. Smoke drifts around the room and into their heads. Stu slumps silently into the unknown, unnamed guy beside him dribbling. The first to go. Asfet's sister materializes and puts a cushion under every head wherever they fall.


The sun is pouring in through the open windows of the Hillman Minx. Stu is the only one fully awake. They have eaten, vast quantities of fried food: bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes and beans. Keith had chips too - and made an ad hoc sandwich with his fried slice. Jimmy's chin still smeared with grease. He lolls in the back seat - still half comatose, his eyes closed mostly. Only the air pushing in from outside keeps Stu from nodding off again - that and his constant chatter. And then he starts to tell his dream ... He describes the big country house with the gravel drive. And suddenly, Keith describes the door knocker in perfect detail. Jimmy's eyes open and he leans over the front seat, his head resting on Keith's shoulder. Stu is talking now about the wall hangings in the library and the books, leather bound in green and describes his scuffing steps across the thick Chinese carpet. The carpet with the dragon motif that Keith paints for them. And moving over to the shelves by the big marble fireplace where a book is calling to him - calling to all of them it seems. He can feel the leather in his hand. "There is no name on the spine" says Jimmy, "no title nor no author". They look at each other - Stu taking his eyes from the road momentarily. The book is open before them now and Keith reads the inscription beneath the ex libris sticker in the top left corner of the facing page -slightly skewed while the other two move their lips in imitation - "A dream of a book for a dream of a girl - from Algie - 1917". And suddenly they know.

No comments:

Post a Comment