Time travel alert! First experienced in mid June, posted in mid September. Shocking, I know.
Waiting for the weather, we remained in Guernsey for long enough to get accustomed to the availability of cheddar, bacon and tiny, bland overpriced vegetables. We also decided to seek out a proper English-style party, and located an ad for a festival ‘all-dayer’ on the other side of the island. We tried to walk, got lost, argued over the route and eventually discovered we were further from the site than when we’d started. Luckily we were able to hail an extremely expensive cab. When it finally pulled up in the fading light, we were charged a fiver to enter a sparsely populated corner of a playing field. A white plastic table and gazebo combo staffed by two loud blonde women was selling orange hotdogs, grey burgers and yellow cake and miscellaneous cans from an ice bucket. Dub remixes of popular chart hits leaked from a tiny sound system under a low white tent decorated with a 3ft statue of an alien playing a flute. It dawned on us that what we’d meant by a ‘proper English party’ was ‘a proper Bristol party full of all our friends and our favourite music’. Alternating waves of absurdity and homesickness washed over us as we huddled on plastic chairs drinking terrible cider. At one point one of the blonde women from the stall walked to an unoccupied picnic table just in front of us, deposited three tiny Tupperware boxes, each containing a chocolate brownie, and walked away. We speculated that they were spiked. People passing for the next two hours eyed them suspiciously and sidled away, apparently thinking the same thing.
After dark several good local bands played, but the feeling of dislocation got even stronger as people who’d clearly known each other since birth danced in a line, arms slung round shoulders, voices raised to lyrics they all knew. I eyed them balefully, thinking ‘I have bands like that, you bastards, that I dance to with my friends and we know all the words. And they’re better than yours you bastards, and they’re far far away. You bastards.’ I worried my misanthropy was getting out of control. To say nothing of my perspective on relative distance.
We periodically retired to the indoor toilets to refill our cider cans with wine from the bottle in our bag. I got cold and morose. Someone dumped a British tabloid on our table. It was the Daily Star. We read the TV schedules and soaps roundup- stuff we haven’t watched since our teens, not possessing a television. I squinted drunkenly at the information, looking for something comforting and homely and English. It was just as nauseating, hysterical and superficial as ever. Result.
I whined about my lack of purpose and direction and wished I had something to focus on the way Sam had his job and the boat. Sam pointed out I was supposed to be making an amazing film project and writing an intriguing blog. I whined some more. I wasn’t sure what it was about anymore and we weren’t learning any survival skills or meeting anybody who could teach us anything, or meeting anybody at all for that matter. I was lonely, I needed other people in my life, what the hell was this all about? I got teary-eyed and dripped all over the Daily Star. Sam was patient.
I concluded my wine-induced whine and wiped my eyes. As we made ready to leave, I was seized with a renewed sense of purpose. I marched to the bar where the blonde woman was whooping it up with her bosom buddies.
“Those brownies you put out. They’re still sat there. Who are they for? What’s in them?”
“Oh, I had them left over, they’re for anyone. They’re just brownies. “
On our way out we scooped the still-neglected cakes from their Tupperware and crammed them in our mouths as we stumbled down the dark streets towards the port. Delicious and gooey and full of chocolate chips. Sadly not spiked.
A couple of days later the weather was right to head for our final Channel Island- Jersey. I announced this on Facebook and got a message from Grant, who’d been a page fan for several months. He said he lived in Jersey and had a boat there, and would be happy to meet up and help us sort out a mooring.
Heading into Jersey we felt buoyed by the prospect of meeting someone who knew us even a little. I’d hoped to meet lots of blog readers on our travels, and excitingly almost met up with someone near Aldermaston as we passed through, but in the end it was not to be. It’s hard enough arranging to meet with relevant organisations and projects, when we don’t know ourselves when the wind will be right to travel or on which day the engine will decide to work.
The coast of Jersey was stunning- sandy, craggy and golden in the evening light. The engine choked a couple of times, but always came back to life- and we didn’t need it too often. Our phone was flat when we went to call Grant, so we just headed for the visitors’ marina and moored up. I looked up where Grant’s boat was moored and headed over. It was a sunken, bare marina packed with lonely boats locked up behind keycard gates. I waited for a good ten minutes before a middle aged couple headed for the gates, bickering. I slipped inside in their wake, and found Grant’s pontoon.
A compact, muscly bloke in his 40’s with a cheeky grin and shaved head, Grant sat in the open cockpit of a small fishing boat, sharing a beer and a steady stream of animated Scottish chatter with a friend. He introduced me to his mate, then got up to follow me to Joker.
“It’s weird meeting someone you’ve only seen pictures of on the internet, eh? I’ve really enjoyed your blog. The best thing about it is all the problems you’ve had. Everything going wrong with the engine and that. Really funny. That’s what I really like about it. How it’s all gone wrong.”
“Yeah, that’s the best bit. Do you want to stay for dinner?”
Grant seemed even more excited to meet Joker than me or Sam, and we ate pasta and drank booze until late. It turned out he was a mechanic, with 20 years’ experience servicing the luxury cars of Jersey’s wealthy residents.
“I’d be happy to have a look at your engine. And if you want, I’ll take you on a tour around Jersey tomorrow.”
After drifting like strangers for so long, making a friend was like coming home.