Never a dull moment

As I’m sure everyone who knew him would attest to, there was never a dull moment with James. Whether good, bad or ugly, dull was the one thing it never was.

Not going to lie, I saw plenty of the bad and the ugly, but in hindsight, I feel privileged that he trusted me enough to show me his uncensored dark side, the inner demons that he had to fight every day.

But that’s not the memories I want to write about right now. No, I want to write about the funniest memory I shared with him. One story that I will probably tell for the rest of my life.

This story must be over a decade old now, as it was the time before he got his driving licence. Whenever I visited him back then, he always wanted to show me the Bedfordshire countryside, “because she’s stuck in London and never gets to see the greenery”.

One time, after an unsuccessful trip to the theatre (because he’d been reserved two seats by his friend who was in the play, and he showed up with a 6-strong crowd – late), he decided that he wanted us to go for a drive, with our friend Alex, who was designated driver, by default, as the only one who could drive legally.

After a pitstop outside Wootton Upper School, where James stood outside the gates and screamed out exactly what he thought of them (you can imagine… “fuckers, cunt… etc etc etc”), we ended up on top of a hill – a place I now know was somewhere along the Greenside Ridge.

The view, overlooking Houghton Conquest, was beautiful.

The three of us stayed up there, in the dark, pondering about life for a while.

The clock struck past midnight. It was time to go home…

Except, there was a problem.

Evidently, the ground was soft and muddy – I guess it had been raining during the day; I can’t quite remember. Alex did the usual drill – keys in ignition, engage gears, foot on the pedal.

Plenty of wheel spin, no movement.

“Ah, crap.”

Car was bogged down in the mud.

“Shit. Right, you’re the lightest one. You get in the driver’s seat, foot on the pedal when we say, and we’ll push.” James was always quite quick to give the orders.

“Ok, but you realise I’ve never driven before?”

“Start the engine, put it in first gear, foot on the pedal.”

Let’s ignore the fact the car was a manual.

Let’s ignore the fact I’d never even had a driving lesson, or done my theory test….

I do the rest as I’m told.

*Keys in ignition, start engine,  left hand on gear stick for first gear, right foot on the pedal*

The car dies.

“You fucking dropped the clutch, you cunt!”

“No one told me my left foot had to be on the clutch the whole time I put the car in gear you wanker!” (Like I said, never driven before.)

With clearer instructions, we tried again.

*Keys in ignition, start engine, left foot on clutch while getting first gear, right foot on the pedal, and slowly lift left foot off clutch*

“ARRGHHH fucking stop, you’re covering me in mud!!”

It took me a little while to hear his screaming. Evidently, it was the right back wheel of the car that was stuck. Only the right. Which meant that James got a load of mud all over him from the wheel spin while Alex got out clean.

If I recall correctly, he did get covered a fair bit!

In the end, we had to be rescued by James’ mum, who kindly drove up to us with a tow rope, despite having endured a long evening at work. She felt quite sorry for me when I said it was my first driving experience and the car didn’t even bloody move!

A decade on, this remains my only driving experience.

2013: James and the Legendary Elstow Barbecue

James and Megan Ellis were living in  a lovely cottage called Roselea in Elstow in 2013 and this was the site of the Legendary Barbecue featuring next door’s dalmatian.

The gang were all there -Berni and Sean, Steve, Alex and myself and the weather was good. The cottage had a gas-powered barbecue in the garden – none of that frustrating nonsense of  waiting around for the charcoal to get hot enough, the food was cooked beautifully in no time under the expert hand of Jamie.

As always, Jamie was on excellent terms with his neighbours and when the woman who lived next door popped her head over the fence to say hello he invited her to join us. She pointed to her dog but a chorus of “bring the dog too” convinced her to come round.

As you’d expect, the dog was very good-natured and loved Jamie’s cooking. I think the dog was a fella, and he also took a liking to a red and white tea towel I’d got hold of. With just a shake of the tea towel in his direction the dog was tempted, and fastened his teeth round it and wouldn’t let go, much to our amusement. In fact, the dog was so keen on the towel that it got ripped!

Spotting an opportunity for more fun, Jamie tempted the dog with the tea towel himself and once he’d established that the dog really wouldn’t let go, he took things to the next level.

The friendly Dalmatian took that bait and when he had a good grip on the tea towel, Jamie started turning in a circle, stepping faster until I swear the dog’s feet left the ground! Picture if you can our James, not quite a stripling, with the determined Dalmatian and a mouthful of red and white tea towel, moving through the air as if flying! We were all in hysterics, really couldn’t believe the dog’s tenacity, and I don’t think I’ve seen Jamie laugh so much ever. The tea towel didn’t survive I’m afraid and sadly there are no photographs that I’m aware of. I think they’d probably be a bit blurry if there were any, caused by beer and laughter.

Wish You Were Here

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell
Blue sky from pain?

Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

Did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?

Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

How I wish,
How I wish you were here
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year.

Running over the same old ground
What have we found
The same old fears,
Wish you were here.

And death shall have no dominion

…a poem by Dylan Thomas

And death shall have no dominion.

Dead man naked they shall be one

With the man in the wind and the west moon;

When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,

They shall have stars at elbow and foot;

Though they go mad they shall be sane,

Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;

Though lovers be lost love shall not;

And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.

Under the windings of the sea

They lying long shall not die windily;

Twisting on racks when sinews give way,

Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;

Faith in their hands shall snap in two,

And the unicorn evils run them through;

Split all ends up they shan’t crack;

And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.

No more may gulls cry at their ears

Or waves break loud on the seashores;

Where blew a flower may a flower no more

Lift its head to the blows of the rain;

Though they be mad and dead as nails,

Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;

Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,

And death shall have no dominion.