Lucky swim

Mist is rising from the beach like smoke from a battlefield. It means that despite the desert starkness of this vast strip of white there is moisture in the air, and a cool. The tide will be full in three hours, rushing in. The oyster catchers and the surfers shout in excitement at the swells rolling in from the Atlantic on this calm hot evening. I’m lying on a blanket that I last used to carry a dead pheasant. This time it’s going to be my towel, as no matter what else I do today, I’m going in. But right now I’m plucking up the courage, bathed only in this fog.

The lifeguard has moved as close as he can to the sea because of the fog. Apart from visibility, conditions are good. The swell is not high and the tide is rising. I’m mostly just concerned about the cold. I can swim in this. It’s glorious. No more writing. I’m going in. Just got to hope I put this blanket far enough up the beach that I’ll have a phone to come back to.


Just on instinct, after I wrote that sentence, I picked everything up and stumped a further twenty paces up the beach with it all. “Surely the sea won’t get this far,” I said to myself, making a pile. Shoes, blanket and hat containing car key and mobile phone on top of the blanket.

This perfect evening, and I walked into the breakers and wondered how the hell it took me so long. Huge lines of water slamming into me as I whooped and laughed, immediately warm from the buffeting, wishing I had a board of some sort. Getting out far enough to catch them on the break, rolling in them, jumping with them, trying to stand against them as they winded me. I don’t know how long I was in but I pulled myself back bewildered to see a very different beach and where the hell is my pile? Just on the edge of the tide. Just at the point of the highest wave. The original place was already under a foot of water as I went with the tide to reclaim my phone and the keys to my car and just as I put my hand on the hat containing them a wave rushed past me, scattering my shoes and shifting the blanket. I see the flash of all the parallel universes where my phone and keys are lost in the surf at St Ouen, giving me a very different potential last evening in Jersey. But no, I was just in time. No disaster, just a wet blanket.

Here I sit, barefoot and barechested, sundrying with good adrenaline pumping through my system and a smile on my face as the water pushes right up to the wall. There’s a lot to be said for this “being alive” lark. I’m going to wander, salty and damp, down to El Tico, and have my last evening meal on the island accompanied by the sound of the surf, looking out west to the setting sun over the Atlantic.

Very sleepy hot blog

Ahhh. A hot bath. And likely an early bed to follow. Well, earlier than usual. I’m a night owl. But I’m sleepy.

Last night I woke up overheating. What luxury! I’m always happy to be too hot, even if it fucks with my sleep. The dreams I woke up into were unpleasant though and tangled with the past. I’m lancing boils and all the pus of unfinished business is jetting back out through my unconscious. So, a hot bath to wash it away and an attempt at an early bed, knowing I’ll probably wake up in the small hours beaded in sweat but hopefully this time in a dreamscape of adventure and not regret.

In Texas I went to great lengths to switch off the air conditioning in my hotel room so I could lie like I will lie tonight – roasting in the hard warm air. I’m always happier out of dry fake cold air, so it’s a blessing that air-con hasn’t really been invented in England yet, and certainly not in Jersey. I’ll just have those interesting dreams.

Today was mostly about finding beautiful places and sitting in them. I synchronised badly with the tide again and so there was no swimming. But there was plenty of time taken just enjoying the beauty of his island – soaking it all up before I head back. It really helps me root myself, coming back here to where those roots were established. If only we’d kept the property here. That’s the huge loss for me. That little white cottage up on the hill. Not that it would have gotten much use over the last few decades. I still miss it now I’m here though, despite being safe in the bosom of The Mornington Hotel. Ham and cheese sandwich today, and a strawberry yogurt. I ate them watching the sea, and then for a bit of distraction I went hunting for a few geocaches about the place, and enjoyed my spot of geekery.

Now I’m clapped out, wrapped in a towel, ready to just sleep. I’ve got a pint of water by the bed. I’m ready for a long hot sleep. And what luxury to have the heat. I just wish I had a double bed! It feels like forever since I’ve been able to properly starfish. Still. I’ll make my little sweaty imprint, warm from my bath, and then tomorrow I just have to remember to grab my towel and check the tides, as I’m gonna be jumping into the water in my new shorts.

Maths and cliffs

It seems my maths head is being put to the test while I’m in Jersey. And I’m having to look at lots of things I didn’t want to look at. Everybody died and all the places I grew up in were sold. That happens to most of us but it was all rather sudden and I was young and perhaps I should have been better at accepting and going “oh well, at least I have these shiny things, let’s work out how to use them”.

Instead I tried to pretend like nothing had happened, everything was fine, there were no shiny things, let’s have another drink, la la la la put me on stage and I’ll pretend to be somebody happy. Years can be lost like that. Years were lost like that. Decades. Fun decades. But maybe I could have been more practical.

The fact that I’ve started to see the glaciers moving – AND DIRECTLY AS A RESULT OF MY ACTIONS – this has emboldened me to try to dig to the bottom of things I’ve pushed down down down so far down. I should’ve done this years ago but I’m ready now and just because I’m returning from Jersey with a win in the first round doesn’t mean that I’m not going to have to get up and start fighting again soon. There are a lot of forms to fill in and there’s a lot of holding my ground to do. Most of it can take place in beautiful places. That’s at least something. I actually literally will have to go to St Moritz and to Nassau in the next few years. These coming years are likely to be full of me walking into adulthood and acceptance at last by the simple means of sorting out all the unbelievably complicated shit that I’ve had my whole life and been baffled by.

I always want to see the best in people, but all this untouched money – bits of it might have been seen as unwanted money. It’s all broken up into a million pieces, but there’s also the possibility that some people along the way haven’t played entirely fairly with some of the pieces. Currently this only bothers me in that it makes more work for me with no reward at the end but unpleasantness. I’m still going to do the work and do what must be done.

Every penny I find is one that I didn’t have before. That’s the magic. I live pretty cheaply. I think that I can safely say that this last month in this beautiful place has already been the best paid month of my life, and I’ve mostly been eating sarnies and Pot Noodles out of the cheapest room in Jersey. I’ve lived until now quietly believing all of this was impossible – grifting and grafting on my own terms, cursed by loss but blessed by my flat, my friends, my work, and my outlook. And recently by Lou and a bunch of random animals. I think my outlook has attracted extra bits of positivity.

The joy of Jersey is, when it all gets too much you can just jump in the car if you’ve got one and go to a beautiful place. I went to the cliffs at Plémont when I overloaded today and I walked off the numbers and the dark memories and the agony of knowing I left it all too long. I let them all out in shouting at the sea and there was nobody around to hear and it was great.

Getting ready

Lunch today with an old schoolfriend and I’m getting ready to leave and reconnect with my life outside this beige room. London, eventually. But first there’s Lou in Brighton to see, and there’s an old pussy cat who isn’t mine but who’s been widdling everywhere again. Poor Lou, getting home from a hard day to be surprised by a damp sofa. There are builders on the roof and we think he’s anxious at the noises and smells and is expressing it through the medium of urine. Unless I uncover a secret wee-stash, I think I was pretty lucky for the months he was at my flat. He’s still kittenish, bouncy, affectionate and playful. But occasionally he desecrates a 1920’s throw. Lou doesn’t mess about when it comes to fabrics. She doesn’t have a washing machine and these things wouldn’t go in one if she did. It’s not an ideal combination, precious vintage fabric and pissy kitty.

Only a few days and he’ll get the cuddles from me as well as her and then surely there’ll be no anxiety anymore despite the builders on the roof. He’s a sweet little beast, and I know from Pickle that cats can quite quickly resort to biological weaponry. I’m looking forward to seeing him. Lou has even been taking him out in the garden from time to time so he can get all the sniffs. He’s mostly a house-cat but it’s mind expanding stuff for him in his dotage.

The weather has turned into an advert for Jersey. My friend and I sat in Royal Square and ate tapas. Before the menu came, he asked me if I wanted to start with a sherry, and then despite being told of my new approach to the booze he asked them if red wine came by the bottle. I think he might have been rather hoping and expecting to get fucked up with me at lunch, but instead found himself in the company of yet another evangelical teetotaler. A mission day through the perfect Jersey sun might have been a glorious adventure, and who knows what plans we might have made to be forgotten in the morning. We still made plans. I’ll just remember them tomorrow and I’m still feeling awake. Last time I saw him we polished off a bottle or two over pizza and then I stumbled back to the office for the company he runs and had a pleasant argument with an oil man he works with about the duty of celebrities. Today we had a coffee and politely said goodbye outside the office.

I’ve booked The Mornington for the remainder of my stay, giving up on L’Etacquerel this time for certain. Maybe next time I’m on the island. I really want to come here and make work now. It’s glorious, perhaps at this time of year in particular. But it’s not bad all year round really.

Paddling and Pottering

I was going to book two nights at L’Etacquerel Fort but they asked me to fill in lots of paperwork and I got cold feet. I decided it’s too much to pay just to sleep in a bivouac in an old stone building. Just because I seem to have made good progress over here doesn’t mean I should immediately be an idiot with money, so The Mornington it is until I leave – I think – and I can save the luxury for when I’m better able to share it with others.

I had a bit of a different type of luxury though, today. The luxury of good company. Brian and Mel had a flight back at six and had found their way to St Brelade first in order to stick their feet into the water. After my meetings I went and stood with them on the sand. The still freezing channel water lapped over our toes on the last two hours of a rising tide. It’s lovely just to stand in the sea. I still haven’t jumped in fully. Best get on with it. “No towel,” is how I got away with avoiding it this time.

With damp toes, we went to the park across the road. I remembered once more the extremely geeky pursuit of Geocaching. Brian and Mel are paid up members. It’s a hobby that makes you go to places you wouldn’t otherwise go to. People hide things in the world and then drop a pin on an app. You have to find the thing that’s been hidden and mark a little roll of paper and then return the thing to its hiding place and tell the app you’ve done it. I’ve been on the app since 2015 and I’ve only found seventeen things. They’ve found hundreds. Today’s was in the Winston Churchill Memorial Park – beautifully landscaped, virtually completely empty, and just off the path somewhere with a fence is an ingeniously hidden waterproof container with a tiny list.

Not my photo. I grabbed it from Google.

Then we had pizza on a bench overlooking the tide, and more or less before I had even said goodbye to them they were back at home in Croydon. It’s so quick to fly here so long as there’s no fog. Property though is off the scale. Houses like the one I grew up in would require a lottery win to buy back now. If I were to live here I’d likely end up in a flat smaller than the one in London. The Mornington is one of a few businesses that make it manageable to be here. God love ’em. Long may they keep trading. I just had my fruit salad and kitcat at five to midnight and now I’m gonna brush my teeth and crash for one of the last times in my little beige bed.

Rockpools

7pm and the sun is still hot on my back. I’m sitting on the causeway just down from the Thai Dicq Shack in Havre des Pas. The tide has been going out for an hour or two now, so it’s still at the foot of the causeway but retreating fast. Oyster catchers and herring gulls nip around the wake in quest of morsels left by the retreating waves. Crap Portuguese dance music blasts from the beachside pub and over the crowds of shirtless evening diners waiting at the outside tables. I’m waiting too for my spicy noodles. I’ve been playing in the rockpools while I wait.

Rockpools were one of the principal joys of my childhood. Every day the tide refills and empties them, and every day it deposits new life to be trapped in them alive until the moon brings the water back to rescue them. It hasn’t been stormy, so the likelihood is there’ll be nothing really weird trapped in them today. Sometimes you’d find a fish almost as big as the pool, just sitting there wondering how the heck that suddenly happened. Nothing so dramatic on a calmer day, but still, lift a rock and you’ll see a shower of guppies, or an angry crab. There’ll be winkles and hermit crabs and whelks. Occasional anemone and always the limpets. My dad taught me how to knock off limpets. You have to get things right first time. You’ll never do it if they’re expecting you. I didn’t knock any off today though, as the birds are on the hunt. It’ll never end well for the limpet if I mess with its survival mechanism.

My knees are soaked and I’ve got nothing to show for it, but it’s been fun. My parents never understood the appeal of finding strange living things just to look at them, but I guess that’s the result of growing up with an older brother like Max – the natural historian. It made everywhere that much more interesting, to consider the possibilities of the crickets shouting in the garden, to immediately wonder if the flying creature at dinner is somehow unusual, to wonder about the markings on the wasp your friend wants to hit with a shoe.

Last night at about this time I lost almost an hour watching a spider making a web. I recommend it to anybody. My interest in nature was normalised at such an early age that now it makes little sense to me when people aren’t fascinated by that sort of thing. How the hell does it stay on those strands in the wind? How can it pull that stuff out of its bum like that? I’m perfectly happy to lose an hour contemplating that sort of thing on a warm evening. I was sad to leave and take my table before the web was finished. I had so many questions. “Where is it going to hide itself?” “What if it catches something before it’s fully made?”

The summer is finally here it seems after all the false starts. Long may it last.

Meal with old friends

When we all got banged up last spring I could never have predicted that the next time – apart from Christmas Day – that I would share a meal with Brian we’d be in St Aubin and I’d be sober. But there we were this evening at The Muddy Duck, just down the bay from the church where we had my uncle Peter’s funeral. In the actual garden of the guest house where I stayed the last time I came here to try and do what I’ve just done.

We were served by bemused waiters who are likely only working as a favour to the owner while they fix a staffing issue. They seemed both nervous and unimpressed at these four noisy friends in the corner. The food though – it’s cooked by experts. Definitely the best meal I’ve had so far on this island. Sure, the saucier is a bit heavy on the mustard. But there’s got to be a Frenchman in that kitchen.

I wonder how much of my enjoyment was because of the company we were in though, frankly, even taking into account how much of what I’ve consumed up until now has been portable food. Sandwiches galore, occasional hydrated pots of gunk, lots of fruit, crisps…

We slipped back into old friends this evening around a table with a bit of shared history and a mirrored passion. Brian and Mel and Adam. Familiar faces unfamiliar in a familiar place. It’s good to eat with friends.

I had steak and lobster, and Coquilles St Jac and some sort of mocktail and we talked about all sorts of things including the passion that binds us in some way – making living breathing stories where you can get swept up in the world of them.

“It’s so easy to get to Jersey,” said Mel, and again the idea of moving back here and making art – it plays at the edge of my mind. To do that you have to complete twelve labours and then correctly answer the riddle of the sphinx. But I’ve just discovered that I can do that sort of thing if I set my mind to it. We all can. Our limits are mostly set by ourselves. It might be a thing. You can come back if you’ve gone away. I’ve definitely gone away from here. But to come back… Perhaps.

It’s been a hot day but calm. I stood a while in the waves up to my knees, feet sunk into white sand and eyes looking west and out across the vast Atlantic.

A couple of non alcoholic beers and plenty of coffee, lots of thinking and making a number of lists. Busy but contemplative day in the sunshine. My energy this evening was calm and grounded and I didn’t feel the pull of the booze despite past evenings well remembered with this crowd. In fact It was delightful to roll them all into the crowded back of the Audi with the gargantuan fucked cat box, and to drive them laughing back home.

I haven’t got back to the hotel after dark before. Parking is at a premium and it was all gone so I ended up trying to put the car in front of a garage but was told I was gonna get a big ticket for blocking the ambulance.

It’s ended up in a car park the other side of town and I picked my way back through drunk St Helier on a Saturday night. Alive but totally safe. Nothing worse than shouting kids and seagulls. It’s a nice place to be, this rock. And nicer still with old friends here.

Boom

There’s an unnecessarily expensive hotel and restaurant on the headland above Corbière Lighthouse. I’ve just paid £4.10 for a Beck’s Blue without a glass and I’m sitting outside on the terrace. Below and in front lie the western rocks and the causeway clear to the lighthouse. To my left is the radio tower, ugly beautiful, framed by the azure sea. To my right the sun is setting over the sea. It’s half eight in the evening, but we’re still the right side of the solstice. This is the last half an hour of warmth and light this week and I’ve gravitated again to Western edge of the island, looking out across the ocean. I’m raising my beer in a sort of celebration as it seems I’ve only gone and cracked it at long last. The letter came back and it said what I wanted it to say.

I had an i-ching sent to me and the major tone of it was 24 fu “Returning”. On the ferry my tarot was clear as well that this would be a successful trip. I’ve been chanting, praying, asking the universe. But I’ve been so conditioned to expect obstacles that I’m not fully able to process that they appear to have been cleared by Ganesha, by Our Lady Untier of Knots, by my hard work and persistence. At last.

I keep on accidentally crying and I’m not sure if it’s relief, shock or just another unplugging. On hearing the news I almost immediately went to my mother’s grave, and knelt there in conversation quite some time. It’s been a bright day today throughout in Jersey – the good ship is becalmed. I’ve mostly been wearing a t-shirt, it being pretty much the last clean garment I have now. Last night I had a depressed Spicy Curry Pot Noodle in my cheap hotel room. Tonight I had delighted entrecote steak at El Tico and now I’m sipping this expensive fake beer in the sunset. Because I can. Plus I booked two nights at the fort as a kind of strange celebration. Rather then luxury I’m going rough and wild. I’ve got my sleeping bag in my car. If Jersey Heritage accept my application I’ll have two nights completely cut off from civilisation and surrounded by the waves just before I track back by ferry over the sea to Poole in muted triumph.

There’s still tons to be done, but as a proof of concept – it worked. It didn’t come back with more obstacles. I got all the paperwork I needed to sell one of these share certificates without the registrar objecting. There’s a cheque in process. Phew.

And then I rang up Brian to tell him the good news and he’s only gone and come to Jersey. He’s out of quarantine tomorrow. If this isn’t everything aligning at once I have no idea what else I can call it. I’m here in this beautiful place. I have potentially solved the asset-rich-cash-poor thing that’s been chasing me for my whole adult life, and here in the place I was made I can sit and watch a beautiful sunset and know that one of my dearest friends is here and I’ll see them tomorrow.

Boom.

Cabin fever

I’m beginning to feel the fact I’m living in a hotel now, despite the free lunch and the fact it’s in a lovely island to be in. I’ve mostly run out of clean clothes again and will either have to prevail upon somebody’s kindness or pay cash in order to solve the problem and get them washed. And the days are rushing by again as I mostly just try to remain hopeful and patient. I’m looking forward to getting home to a washing machine as much as I’m looking forward to anything else.

I know about six people on this island these days and it didn’t stop me from running into one of them in St Helier. It’s tiny here, but then that sort of thing happens in London reasonably often as well. Perfect timing to see her though, as I was starting to hanker for human contact. We went shopping together. She had a good long list and while I was grateful for the familiar human company, she was grateful for the extra hands. Four of those checkered laundry bags, two butternut squash, broccoli, eggs, mushrooms and I slipped quickly into the familiarity of a trip to the shops.

“Would you like a copy of the paper,” I was asked at checkout. I was reading the headline of The Jersey Evening Post with curiosity. “I’m fine,” I told her. I don’t know what’s going on in the world out there all though. Not a clue. I’ve noticed many of the flags here are half-mast, but that might be for something like Prince Philip. Royal mourning always takes a good amount of time. At Harrow we all had black ties in mourning for the death of Elizabeth I. That’s due to carry on until 2109 and I expect they’ll overlap it with another 500 years for the second Elizabeth so all the pupils don’t have to go and buy a new tie. That’s assuming that she’s gone by 2109. You never know.

I feel completely out of touch here, but I knew I would and again it’s why I chose now in order to do it. I can click back into gear pretty quickly when I get back to London. The thing I need to remember is that we are all out of touch. We have all been in the equivalent of beige hotel rooms for so long we can barely remember the alternative. The world is carrying on though, and at some point I’m gonna have to jump back on. For now, the waiting, the connecting with the past. Ten days more in Jersey and no doubt I’ll be back before long. I feel like a champagne cork after its been twisted. Come on!

I even forgot to publish this. My routines are all shot. How now brown cow.

Waiting

I’m now just waiting to see if there’s a reply to a letter we’ve written, and what that reply is, and whether it comes with a cheque. The guy I was supposed to meet who could help me has gout now and I won’t see him until Monday. The old guy is slow and distracted as ever. It’s gone grey again. The temperature has dropped. I’m feeling a little stuck.

The best thing I can do right now is wait and hope that things go the way I need them to. It’s unlikely I’m going to be able to extend my stay any longer, as despite The Mornington being relatively cheap, I’m running up to the end of my credit card and I had to borrow some money from a friend. I kind of want to phone up the registrar and shout HURRY UP! But that’s not going to make life any easier. So it’s just patience…

Next Tuesday my time in the beige room runs out. If I’ve had good news I might book myself a posh place for the remaining four nights before the ferry takes me back on the twelfth. I do hope I will be able to return triumphant. But it’s all even slower than I dreaded it would be. And maybe it’s just four more nights in the vintage beige embrace of The Mornington, a hotel I highly recommend as an option to anybody staying in Jersey on a budget. I might joke about it. But they’re brilliant, and unparalleled value.

I’m trying to unlock a company that belongs to my brother and I that has some shares in it. We’ve had it most of our lives and the shares were worth fuck all, but recently they’ve gone up – despite the climate – to a high enough value that it’s worth trying to shift it. Problem is we didn’t touch it for decades as it was worth nothing so it’s been eaten by the system. And the worth is in shares that have been worthless in the past, so I’m constantly plagued by the fear they’ll be worthless again before I fix this. And there are systems in place to prevent those without money accessing money. So far, lawyers bills have come to close to £8000 and my journey here has pushed into almost two grand more, making a nice round ten for fuck all so far. I’m hoping it’ll be the magic number though for the pinãta to start dropping goodies. But it’s all down to a letter in the post, and then it’s down to the intransigent old chap whose name is still on the ledgers to tell me he’s got a letter, do something about it, and not keep avoiding me like he has done for actual decades.

I walked around the park today saying to myself out loud “I’m not going to let this go back to sleep”. And I’m not. Don’t let me distract myself. Come on magic letter! Beam me all the universe power. NMHRK. Aaaaargh