Andy has been out on the town. His favourite haunt in Havant. The Parchment Makers. JD Wetherspoons. Cheap beer, nice old property, literally owned by Satan. He’s pissed, our boy. He holds it well. But he’s had a good six pints I reckon and he’s forgotten he’s not with his mates anymore, so we continue the conversation. He’s big. He can hold it. But his eyes can’t.
He’s mostly engaged in today’s big horrible UK story. He’s going home to North End and we are the only two people at the bus stop. I’m going ten stops. I realise I’m going to be on this bus with him for a while. “This is why I think they should bring back public execution,” says Andy, still on the story. “Televise it. You can pay extra for ringside seats…” He says this exact sentence twice in about a minute, and both times he fresh mints it. Young actors could learn from the way he coins the thoughts. The story is depressing enough though without having to get even more covered in it. Poor poor woman. Poor family. Just the worst story to think about. The fucker is in prison now. Likely he won’t last 3 years. The police have got a mountain to climb.
I try to discourage Andy away from the story though. I don’t want to wade in it. All I had on the train was the evening standard and all that was doing was filling me with it and the feelings connected to it.
I ask him if he’s ever been to Jersey. It’s a clear subject change but he’s drunk so he’s not seeking linear conversation. The ferry leaves from his home town so I’m thinking it might be more likely. And sure enough he has.
Andy’s mother in law was from Jersey. They went over on the ferry, just once. His missus is sadly no longer with us. There’s something tragic in Andy’s past and I see a flash of it when he says that, pauses, and then regroups. Then he’s into another story. It’s another of Andy’s well told well rolled stories. This is Andy coping with life. Andy must be the guy who tells the stories in his peer group. Maybe they all do, in rounds, never listening.
He was on the ferry to Jersey – Andy and his wife. He was off to see the mother in law. Everybody was watching Ghost in the cinema on the boat. It was a rough crossing and you know that bit in Ghost, right, where he jumps from one train to another? Well he did that, and 98% of the people watching got up and ran off to be sick. The story involves a little jumping motion. Over just ten stops on the bus, Andy tells the story twice. Once again it’s identical both times and feels like he’s just remembering it for the first time. He’s a big lad so I’m not gonna tell him he’s repeating, and it’s fascinating. I try to remint my reactions in honour. The second time round I regale him with my own ferry story. This is how it works with him. Story for story. He settles back. On that same bilious boat, last time I traveled that way, and of the poor woman who was sick in front of me and forgot she had her mask on. We both agree that that boat, from Portsmouth down around Cherbourg to Guernsey and Jersey – nobody wants to be on that boat.
He’s happy drunk now I’ve got him into memories and away from that news story. “What was your favourite thing in Jersey,” yielded a moment of addled thought and then, randomly, “A diamond factory! But honestly we didn’t do anything or go anywhere. It was just with the family. They drink a lot over there…”
Chat remains constant until my stop where he sees me off with a fist bump and I see how huge his hand is compared to mine. He’s got a few years on me, this slow sad and catastrophically drunk man. But I wouldn’t want to get in a fight with him.
From the bus stop it’s fifteen minutes down rainy suburban streets. A fox crosses ahead of me as I turn into a little housing estate. I’m in the spare bedroom here. Airbnb. Super cheap. Right by my work tomorrow. The sixth different bed I’ve slept in since I was home. Back from Jersey. Back in the mix. And it seems that things are happening again. Andy is going out on the Thursday lash. Al is going to random towns around the UK to do random jobby things. Game on.