A lovely little piece from my online author mate Nico Lee.
It reminded me of my own Isle of Thanet tale when I was contracting down there. My first week was spent in a very strange hotel in Ramsgate where I briefly met a young male receptionist who appeared to emerge out of darkness and then I saw no other human being for the rest of the week, merely hearing shuffling and moving about in various rooms and was highly disturbed by an unfeasibly long pubic hair that was pinned to my pillow.
And then a week in Margate where I remember walking down a street of high-rise hotels with frontal areas full of dark eyed and squat Albanian men screeching at each other excitedly and burning rubbish in metal dustbins with thick black smoke hanging in the air like some convention of medieval blacksmiths.
I later got a flat in gentile Broadstairs but it all ended badly 5 months later and even now I always inwardly curse the fates when I think of Kent.
This is a short piece written from the perspective of one of the characters from ‘A Good Lie Ain’t Easy’- my first novel, which is out on March 31st 2017 and is available on Amazon:
He’s a bit of a grumpy git here, attacking one of my favourite spots in the world, but I’m sure we’ve all had our bad days.
Anyway, hope you enjoy- Nico Lee
Enjoy the View
The Great British sunset has never recovered from post-war rationing. If J.M.W. Turner was to stand on the curved wharf of Margate’s front today he’d be dismayed to find that a shortage of naturally occurring salt, water-vapour and good old-fashioned English dust had resulted in a sky of a singular blue meanness. I am told that more edifying views of the firmament are to be had over nearby Whitstable, but we’re here now, so enjoy it.
Enjoy the view.
Enjoy the front, like every other rundown British seaside front, the sparkling lights of Las Vegas driven down to a miniature parody of themselves, of a desert resort that itself delights in miniature replicas of history…
Enjoy the Georgian buildings, with that sea view, mocked by the arcades and their heartfelt tributes to a far off landlocked land of spinning lights, crashing sounds… the hyperactive squeals of pensioners high on genetically modified warfarin and half-price fish suppers, everything out of scale, the doors inhuman, stunted and yet too big, with more history in a lintel than in the whole of the Smithsonian. Margate tops this with a distortion of time itself, its other, far more ancient buildings erected seemingly around the grotesque phallus of dirty concrete that dominates the skyline and whose high-rise dishevelment speaks of favelas from some far-flung future. Where is Judge Dredd when you need him? Pick up that litter citizen. I presume it’s litter? Dust-bowling, multiplying, gathering together, I am waiting for it to develop a face or bowels.
Enjoy the smells.
Those that compete with the rotting fish, that coruscating reek of rotting sea effluvium that marks this out as a heritage site of outstanding natural stench.
Enjoy the baking stone and its role as frying pan for eggy dog mess.
Enjoy the face that lunched on a thousand chips split open at the maw, enjoy the flip-top head that mirrors the concertina of the buggy that her pregnant belly is pushing, can of Trojan lager in one hand, Marlboro Light in the other. Baby Liam, a fine fellow covered in mucus and startled ennui, is ignored- though if he continues to increase his sugar intake, perhaps sucking on his head will become a welcome distraction from mum’s usual palliatives of choice.
Enjoy catching the train back to London…
Do I sound like a snob? Kent can do that to you. Although I can’t be that elitist- I didn’t enjoy the Turner Contemporary, which is situated here, either. Then again sneering at modern art is sometimes classless, not just a way of letting off underdog steam. I guess nearly all of us have a boss. You hate him? At least you have a J.M.W. Turner print on your wall and not a coffee table book full of crap like that. Whatever that is? A blob and three Albanian legs in frantic disagreement? A collection of ‘found’ bottle tops and Dutch elephant dung? You can hate that without enjoying Nascar, or whatever the British equivalent is. Which brings us neatly to why I’m completely classless, and there is a joke in there somewhere- because we do get irony… you see I’m an American. One of those people. The vicious critique of the young girl with the pram was actually provided by the English sweetheart I’m walking along the ‘prom’ with. I did contribute, I am only human, and being a Yank gives me an inalienable right to comment on all things on your side of the pond. After all I don’t have to stay around long enough to register your affront or indeed enjoy the front… we have moved further inland, holding hands, and I wonder if this marvellous idea I’d had for studying for a year in Europe could only be made more wonderful by knowing the girl I’d met over here was planning to come and see me Stateside in the fall…
I trip. Cobbles. It’s just like Harry Potter but with worse teeth. Is that it? The famous British smile is facilitated by slamming your head down onto uneven paving? Margate opens up now like a broken smile given braces. Gentrification is apace. It is a long way from San Francisco but the vintage shops are charming, in that the clothes are no older than what you might buy at home but the paint on the floor was once dribbled upon by King George VI, who was apparently the last George so far, so that’s something, surely? Also, I’m told you can now buy food here somewhere that isn’t necessarily fried, although to get the full experience I need to shut up and put battered peas the colour of Chernobyl fallout in my face. In between haggling for a pair of boots I can barely lift off the floor- because there is nothing like hobnails to convince you that hiking rules- I start to miss my brother.
No, not that one.
That’d be ridiculous.
I mean the one you can relate to.
The guy behind the counter has chest hair peeking from his shirt that reminds me of his moustache, far from insubstantial, vaguely Mediterranean. I was wondering if my older sibling had finally managed to get out from under the only girlfriend he’d managed to hold down. Last I’d heard? He said when I returned he was going to set her up with me, which was in his words ‘safe’, as she was sure to realise that was a ‘dead-end’. Thanks. As an escape plan I thought it was up there with his ever more elaborate and digressive attempts to get fired from being a tour guide at our local historical treasure, the prison across the bay. Every chance he could, he told me, he would veer from the Alcatraz script and steer hapless tourists into a quagmire of irrelevant ‘facts’ in an attempt to undermine both the death penalty and then all notions of judicial leniency. No-one on the tour could figure out what he wanted you to believe, let alone whether you should believe it. Did it matter? Exodus was paramount, even if one’s very soul was then doomed to blow away on the warm Diablo wind…
At least that’s what he told us he was doing for three years. Six years after my trip to dear old merry England I read an article that mentioned all the tours on the island were conducted by Park Rangers. My brother was no Park Ranger. Where had he been going during the day? San Francisco offers so much in the way of spiritual fulfilment. Apparently Margate does too nowadays. When I was there in the late eighties, not so much. Of course in the eighties the Turner Contemporary hadn’t even been built, gentrification wasn’t even really a word, not one in common parlance, and J.K. Rowling was thinking about moving to Portugal to teach, not counting cash from blockbuster novels, but, like I said, that great phallus of dirty concrete that stares down the Turner from across the bay, and which may be the only such (allegedly inhabited) construction in the world to be surrounded by a roller-coaster, is the epicentre of a vortex that distorts time, and from its windows? Well, I gotta tell you. Unlike what he’d think of the gallery, Turner would be proud. What a marvellous sunset.