Them’s the Breaks


Posted by in July's Magazine

‘When it rains, look for rainbows. When it’s dark, look for stars’.  Not my words (thank God); the words of a novelty cushion in the home section of The Range. Yes, that’s The Range as in…The Range. Go on, admit it, you’ve been to that warehouse of random shite down Porty way haven’t you? Well I have. Indeed, quite often I go there to escape the crushing reality of reality at times. You may find me sobbing quietly while I nostalgically finger a scumbling brush or two in the art section.

Yes, I’m sure you could market that as some kind of alt Priory Retreat Experience. A holiday from hell, in hell. To be fair, hell isn’t really bumming about in retail emporia. No I discovered the true Hades only the other week in the sunny climes of Kent during my second holiday of this summer (yes, I am a signed up member of the metropolitan elite, I did remain and I will consume a latte in your presence, not because I like latte, because I want to sneer at your populist ignorance).

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Sorry where was I? Ah Kent. The Garden of England; a bastardization of its original moniker The Guardian of England. No wonder they changed it, it’s less Guardian and more Daily Mail. However, it is also rather beautiful when the sun shines. As it did that day in Ramsgate – good old Ramsgate, a fine place, one of the Cinque Ports, with much faded Victorian grandeur and derring-do Second World War history going for it. It’s also home to the biggest Wetherspoons anywhere, ever.

From here on in, I’ll call aforesaid mega-boozer by its unofficial title: ‘Superspoons’. To be fair, it is rather super architecturally speaking; a faithfully restored seafront pavilion with views over The Channel and a fine line in carpeting and balustrades and aw that. Yet, even all those aesthetic charms would be rendered charmless, when England played Sweden in the Quarter Final of the World Cup (by now, they may have gone on and won the damn thing and I for one, will wish them well if they have…not just because I know of the Editor’s own footballing proclivities either).

The thing is, when you’re a Scotsman on the loose in Daily Mail Land, you try and keep your head down, lest you be sucked into idiot conversations about Brexit (see Leither passim), why we have free prescriptions up north or simply the colour of our money.

United Kingdom? Makes me laugh. So united is this land that I was asked – and this is almost verbatim – whether I was to receive my change from a Clydesdale Bank £20 note in “English money as I don’t know what the exchange rate is.” Astonishing really. I mean don’t they have an idiot’s guide on a clipboard under the counter for these people? Anyway, back to the Superspoons by the beach. There I was drying off with my daughter after a play in the waves when the first chants started. A kind of low turbo-charged belching that accidentally formed into a football song.

Football was coming home. And I was far from home. Listening to the mob in the Superspoons rubbing my nose in it. The rumbling chorus was pierced by a variety of female screeches, ranging from full-on Babs Windsor Queen Vic rumpus through to Whitechapel strangulation, circa 1889. Occasionally, you’d get a whiff of Eau D’Agincourt mixed with fried onions. But overall, it was the sound of the drunken swell mimicking the waves washing on the shore that stayed with me most. I was alone in the Lions’ Den…hear them roar.

AA Gill’s legacy is well and truly safe though, for I am not a waspish snob in reality. Far from it. Indeed, imagine the tables had been turned and it was some poor unsuspecting Home Counties type listening to drunken braying from a Scottish pub as the Jocks hammered out a winning run in the 2022 Mundial; hard to picture that level of tartan-tinged footballing achievement I know, but you get the gist. Boorish flag-waving is not especially edifying in any form. And to draw distinctions based on borders would be succumbing to the very ailment I was damning. We’re all equipped with enough limbic system to go Neanderthal now and again – I was just unlucky with my geography and my timing in this instance. Unlike a few weeks earlier…

Back then, I was sitting on a remote stretch of shore in Majorca, with deafening cicadas, scrawny stray cats and a Great White Shark for company…oh and the occasional naturist too, but they tend to keep themselves to themselves in a manner of speaking. No flags, no lying opportunist politicians, no burbling BBC footie commentary, no inflatable flamingos. I make no apologies for saying I could spend a long, long, time getting used to that. However, until those big money balls do their job, I shall look forward to seeing you down The Range. I’ll keep a few scumbling brushes aside for you.

 

 

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