Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Wild Side

Man, oh man! Was it ever a wild and windy week in the jewel of the north! As we crouched in the path of Thursday's storm I thought of those people who live on the wild side of the USA, the hurricane corridor that runs up the south east coast from Florida to the Carolinas. When a big one is brewing, they board up and retire to their cellars to hold hurricane parties while the winds rip through overhead. I can understand why they do it. I tried to shake off the effects of Storm Doris with a pizza and a couple of bottles of Birra Moretti (brewed in Italy since 1859)! Not quite the same, somehow.

It got me thinking back to the first proper party I ever threw, my first big walk on the wild side. I was still living at the parental home (but not for much longer). My mum and dad  and younger brothers had gone away for a fortnight in the summer of 1971 and I had elected to stay behind. With the house to myself for a couple of weeks, cue a party. On the first Saturday my girlfriend helped me carry all the furniture from three downstairs rooms and stow it carefully in the garage. We even rolled up the carpets (they were not the fitted variety). I warned the neighbours on both sides in advance, bought in beer and wine and probably a few bags of peanuts, replaced all the light bulbs with coloured ones, borrowed a few extra LPs and waited for the witching hour and the thirty or so friends I'd invited to roll up and have a good time ;-)

It was a fine summer evening. By 10pm about twenty people had arrived, the ones who don't care if they're the first to get there. I knew them all. By 11pm there were fifty people. I knew most of them. By 11.30 the road was lined with parked cars, the kitchen had never seen so much booze - both my parents were tee-total - the party was in full swing across all three dimly-lit downstairs rooms and was spilling out into the back garden. They kept on arriving. By midnight there must have been two hundred happy souls grooving all over the house and I'd never laid eyes on half of them before, but hey, it was a great party.

My girlfriend was pretty much the first to leave. She had to obey a parental curfew to be home by 1am. The revellers started to drift away some time around 2am, but there was a hard core who kept dancing, drinking, smoking and saving the world until 4am when I made coffee and ushered them off into the dawn. It was only after I'd locked up and headed upstairs that I discovered the couple fast asleep in my parents' bed. I woke them up with the bad news that it was time to go - they were very understanding! (I think I even made them coffee and toast as well. They seemed like nice people, very touselled.)

Over the next couple of days, with the stoical help of said girlfriend, we cleared up all the empty bottles and cans, over-filled ashtrays and odd spot of vomit, gave the house a good airing, washed the floors and the bed-linen, and then we moved everything back in from the garage to its proper place. The house was as it had been, only cleaner. It was as though the party had never happened, except we had enough wine and beer left over to last the two weeks.

Of course I hadn't asked my parents' permission. They would have said 'no!' Of course they found out... one of the neighbours told them how thoughtful and organised I'd been about it all and the noise really hadn't been too bad - so many young people just enjoying themselves. When confronted with my wickedness I lied about the numbers and spared my parents the details. Hadn't I ever thought that it could all go horribly wrong? There could have been fire, theft, drugs, illicit sex. Oh, a cup did go missing (we never found it) and my copy of Neil Young's 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' suffered from having a cigarette stubbed out on it (side two, track two "Running Dry").  But hey, it was a great party.

In memory of great parties we have known, I've attached a link at the end of the blog to a fabulous song by the very talented Dar Williams. It's called "Party Generation". It's a killer tune and it's got some great lines. Do listen.

Back to Storm Doris and the wildness of Thursday's weather bomb. It was actually quite exciting and not a little spectacular (see below). It didn't inflict any damage on the house on the strand (unlike previous storms which have trashed fences and roof tiles) but it left all west-facing windows coated in a salty residue.

The Wild Side - the jewel of the north takes a battering!
This week's poem is something that began life last month in a workshop that Lancashire Dead Good Poets ran for people with memory issues (including dementia). It is based loosely on a list of onomatopoeic words for sea sounds thrown out by the group, but it chimes so nicely with the arrival of Storm Doris that I just had to favour it with a weather bomb and finish it for inclusion here.

The Big Bad Sea
Who's not in awe of the turning tide?
The churn, the spume, the thrash, the roar
of urgent waves racing up the shore
fleeter than a galloping horse?

Who's unsure of the undertow?
the violence of this ebb and flow,
the foaming explosion then tingling jag
of turbulent water's gritty drag
as it sucks the strand into its maw?

Blame it all on the pull of the moon,
working twin elements to a rage.
Once Westerlies have stropped their foil
and ocean's cauldron commences to roil,
then who's not afraid of the big bad sea?

The pleasure beach is closed for business,
shorefront shops adopt a siege mentality,
assume the brace position,
boarding plate-glass, bagging doorways
in readiness for a weather bomb -
and here it comes, full force.

Balustrades and lamp-posts quiver,
uncommonly, gulls huddle and shiver,
not a squawk to be heard for once,
just this unremitting howl.
Only mad dog walkers
and photographers, it seems,
elect to brave the gale.

The river, caught up in all the madness,
flecks and froths at its mouth,
starts flowing backwards,
while in the harbour boats at anchor
rise and fall in frantic dance,
tossed around by feisty swell
and some will end up smashed to matchwood
before this storm crest's ardour is past.

At the height of the battering
waves smash across the promenade,
with crash and swirl, whip and boom,
they lash the length of the golden mile,
salt water pouring into town.

In the face of such fury as a winter storm,
who's not afraid of the big bad sea
when it tries to tear our funhouse down?

Listen here to Dar Williams - Party Generation

Thanks for reading. Have a peaceful week, S ;-)


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Love the poem, man.