I’m going to be 30 this Saturday. 30? Me? Where did all the time go? I’m still pleasantly surprised each morning that I don’t have to put my school uniform on and listen to Brett and Jarvis and Thom and Damon on my Walkman WITH A TAPE IN IT outside the Old Swan pub waiting for the 68 or the 92 (whichever came first) with yellow, “Free Terry Fields” (who the hell was Terry Fields?) banners high on the nasty, nasty municipal flats that gloomily curved around the corner begging to be utterly destroyed and replaced with a great big, scouse Tesco!
I still think it would be a good idea to head down to the swings in Springfield Park with Dino and a bottle of vodka and put the world to rights (and try to suss out the mystery of girls). I still think it would be cool to link up all our PCs and have a big multiplayer game of Doom. I would be quite content to spend the day playing Kick Off 2 against our Mike (even though he always won) before going to the field across the road with our Alex and seeing what we could set on fire. Thinking about it – I haven’t been crowdsurfing for ages or gone to a comic shop with Ben or to a gig with Danny. Level 4 Quasar, the MGM on Edge Lane, Alien Breed, the Ralla, the 61 bus that went from Matty’s to Ben’s to Yoz’s (kinda) to mine to Dino’s to Michelle’s to Glenn’s (what are the chances?), the Krazy House, the OneFour, Liquidation at Hardys and the house parties. Man, the house parties…
The new Star Wars movies came out I, II and III and they were crap. But before them we had to make them up in our heads and they were much better. I seem to have slept-walked through Uni and found distraction after distraction to keep me occupied until I found myself here on a boat heading to Mexico. 30? Christ, maybe it’s best I pass the 28th February 2009 in a daze on a bus going the wrong direction, seems fitting.
What’s with this damn nostalgia? It rummages through the past, discarding all the rubbish, the boredom, the grind of the everyday. It Tipp-exs out the minutes in between (toilet trips, queuing for cash machines, waiting for the phone to ring) and leaves you with this idealised version of the past, just the good stuff – but does it make us feel better? No, not really…just leaves us with a feeling of loss, for things not done, stuff not said, opportunities missed.
It might be an old song, it might be a scent carried on the breeze or an old VHS tape with “Red Dwarf III – do NOT tape over!” scrawled in red biro, but once the nostalgia bug has bitten, it’s hard to shake off. It stalks me, it really does, and every time I try and blow the cobwebs away and see the past for what it was – a desperate scramble to cut through the humdrum – it morphs into something I know in my heart-of-hearts, it wasn’t; a non-stop cavalcade of fun. It just seems that way.
Okay, let’s look my school years objectively…
No girlfriend. No mobile phones. No Internet!! No ‘Lord of the Rings’ films or ‘Sopranos’. No ‘Lost’, ‘House’ or ‘Deadwood’. Nobody had heard of DVDs, Google, YouTube, eBay, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, iPods or ‘Grand Theft Auto’. I hadn’t touched the Taj Mahal, or the Pyramids, Machu Picchu, the Angkor Wat or Uluru. I hadn’t driven across Australia with the girl of my dreams. I hadn’t been to Glastonbury or to Thailand with Stan. I hadn’t been skydiving, bungee jumping, beer vortexing, couchsurfing or hitch-hiking around the Caribbean. I had never fallen under the spell of the desert stars. I didn’t have a hat to lose.
I hadn’t met a fraction of the people I now know and love. My friends are now spread all over the world, not confined to a Liverpool bus route. I haven’t been idle – I’ve made short films, written feature-length scripts and travelled far and wide. I know more stuff – how it all works, how it fits together and how to make it better – than I was ever taught by those bonehead teachers in school (note to Geography teachers: location of Bolivia = useful, formation of ox-box lakes = not useful).
A lot of great stuff has happened in the last decade, but the distance in time isn’t long enough ago for my memory to conspire to leave me with just the good bits. But that’s just how it works, I’ll probably spend my thirties pining for my twenties just as I spent my twenties pining for my teens.
Ceyx was the son of Lucifer (not the devil, the bringer of light) and he loved Alcyone, but one day he went to sea. Seized by a premonition of doom, she called out for him not to go, but he went anyway. He had her name on his lips as the storm waters closed over his head. Eventually, Morpheus (not out the Matrix, the god of dreams) sent Alcyone a vision of her beloved, Ceyx – soaking wet – informing her that he was dead.
She ran down to the rocks where she had watched his ship depart. There she found Ceyx’s body washed up on the shore, but the gods were kind. They turned her and Ceyx into birds and they flew out together, flying and riding the waves.
Every year there are seven days on-end when the sea lies still and calm; no breath of wind stirs the waters. These are the days when Alcyone broods over her nest floating on the sea. After the young birds are hatched, the charm is broken, but each winter, these days of perfect peace come, and they are called after her, Alcyon, or more commonly, Halcyon days.
Those Halcyon days are never over. They’re not confined to the distant past. They will come and go as long as you live. Long may they continue.
Come on thirty, I can take it. You can make me older, but you’ll never make me grow up. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.
Last night, I spent a few hours up on the bridge with Alexander, one of the officers on board. He’s from the Ukraine and loves to use the word ‘bullshit’ in a thick Ukrainian accent. This I like. It was the night watch, so we went nuts on the coffee. The bridge is six stories above the deck (The Linge Trader is a big ship!) and there’s a walkway around the bridge, which you can step out onto and give yourself vertigo. There was no moon, no clouds and the sky was littered with stars. Once again, I found myself wincing that Mandy, my girlfriend, wasn’t here to see it.
It’s funny that every time I see something cool, I feel an overwhelming urge to grab someone else and say – look at this! Isn’t it cool?! That’s probably why I love Mandy – she usually thinks the stuff I think is cool is cool too.
Today was spent editing videos and pining the loss of so many great moments on Adobe’s virtual cutting room floor. Not much else to report. The sea is calm and blue and stretches as far as the eye can see.
The entire day at sea, we continued on our painfully slow march towards Cuba. I kept watch for US coastguard boats appearing out of nowhere and asking us what we were up to, but nobody came. Let’s RUN this blockade, baby!! The wind was so weak we were truckin’ along at a rather underwhelming three miles per hour, so Captain Johnny got out a ‘spinnaker’ sail, which is like the ones you see on proper racing yachts. It worked a bit like a kite and it looked really cool blowing out at the front of the boat. It managed to get us up to a more respectable eight miles per hour, but by now it was obvious I wouldn’t be getting to Cuba until Sunday at the earliest.
Captain Johnny is the same age as me. He’s on his way to Fiji, so this is just the beginning of a much longer trip for him. Although, if it all works out, I might be seeing him in The Pacific stage of The Odyssey. The yacht itself (wish I could tell you its name) is just brilliant – a proper piratey affair, lashed together with bits and bobs purloined and plundered from less worthy vessels. Inside is more like a student flat than a celebrity lifestyle choice – plenty of beer and biscuits strewn about the place, but Johnny knows where everything is. I’d call it homely, only because I’m such a messy sod myself.
All was going swimmingly until around 2am when Captain Johnny decided to take down the Spinnaker in the dark, which resulted in comedy gold as the sail made its way under the boat and it was up to us two hapless buccaneers to try and rescue the damn thing from the vile clutches of the Gulf Stream while the good ol’ [yacht name removed on legal advice] swayed to and fro like a drunkard on a revolving bouncy castle.
What WOULD Philias Fogg have said? If all had been going to plan I’d be in AFRICA by now, having already stepped foot in every country in The Americas and Europe. And yet, I’m spending an entire day on a boat trying to get reach one little country. I’m caked in sea-salt, my hair is dry and matted and my beard is threatening to take over my face again.
Not only that, but as I was at the helm, Captain Johnny was trying to fix the main sail into a better position when a hook twanged off and SMACKED me in the head – blood gushed, I thought I was done for – fifty miles from shore and here’s my head dripping more blood than a vampire drinks in a week.
It wasn’t too bad in the end – no stitches required – could you imagine getting stitches in your head with no aesthetic off a yacht captain using a fishing hook while the boat you’re in bobs up and down like an escaped maniac on top of your car (with your boyfriend’s head on a stick) in the choppiest waters this side of the Atlantic?
Doesn’t even bear thinking about.
Otherwise today past quite swiftly and without incident. I have to say though, I think Johnny has seen through my ‘I’ve been sailing loads of times’ blag. Sorry Hugh, I should have paid more attention in Anglesey. Now, what’s a Halyard? Isn’t that an evil version of The Doctor?
Working with Captain Johnny is a lot like working Saturday mornings at my Dad’s shop as a kid, in that he will point in a vague direction, scream at you to grab the THINGYMABOBAJIG and when you try to confirm what in fact a thingymabobajig is, he will continue to point and scream THE THINGYMABOBAJIG!! The bloody f-ing THINGY-MA-BOB-A-JIG!! IDIOT!!!!!
Tsk! At this point he’ll down tools, walk over, violently pick up random object (which in hindsight should have obviously been the Thingymabobajig), holds it in front of your face. THINGYMABOBAJIG! Moron!
Ah, happy days…
Later that night, as Captain Johnny slept and it was just me in at the helm, trying to keep a steady course against the wishes of the Gulf of Mexico, I sat there with my ipod blaring in my ears, the bright bright stars twinkling far above and the inky black of the sea all around; and as the boat bowed and pitched its way through the water I felt like a proper adventurer, one of those chaps involved in daring-do and the buckling of swashes.
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.