Down by the Jetty

December 29, 2014

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Just been in a boozer called the Dog & Scroat, as big as my shed, watching a three piece do Zeppelin covers for ageing bikers. Bulging bellies, bandana wrapped round a chrome dome. Sweating under the heavy old leather. Whole bunch is knackered. One of them’s had an acid trip too many, shot away. He IS Robert Plant. Pale sunshine, seagulls, chilly day, sat on Southend seafront eating fish & chips, smallest bloody fish I’ve ever seen in my life. Must have caught it in a sock, a kids sock I reckon. About eight quid for plankton & chips. Robdog bastard. Shoebox came with me, curry sauce & chips for him. Always a safe bet.

Odd stuff that curry sauce. tastes the same every where you go, whatever it adorns. A dubious colour. It’s the ubiquitous Chinese curry paste.

I used to frequent the local Chinese supermarket. Curious place. Massive tubs, buckets of paste. Greasy chip shop owners forming an orderly queue. I’d wander round ‘cos I’d just watched Ken Hom or bloody smug bastard Rick Stein on some Asian freebie jaunt, cooking dogs bollocks in a gutter on the back of a spoon. A smattering of fresh pak choi and tons of gear stashed in freezers, seriously weird stuff, covered in frost. Unidentifiable, maybe once had fur but looked like it was run over, flattened, mummified or all three of them and at the same time probably lived at the bottom of the sea.

In the very bottom of some oceanic trench and a million miles away from a freezer and curry paste.

Anyway the pier is staggering. A steel gem, or probably cast and wrought iron. I’m of engineering persuasion. Brunel was a great man. Engineer, Architect, Designer, Big Top Hat. They all wore top hats in those days. I bet Slash has never designed a pier. Southend’s was built by James Brunlees a Scottish Civil Engineer, he built loads of stuff. When I say “he built” I mean he scribbled a few sketches on the back of an apprentice’s head and had his minions toil and sweat for years, bringing about his creation. I bet they lost loads of fingers in those days, there would be guitar bargains popping up all over the place. “Giz a tanner Mister, me dad don’t need it any more, not since the accident, riveted his bleedin hand to the pier…”

I had no idea this pier was so long. 1.3 miles out to sea – well it would be I suppose, they generally don’t go anywhere else, certainly not in such lengths or with a train on them. A proper one. Not one of those red seaside trains next to the donkeys. Thomas the Tank Engine, Ringo Starr. They won’t accept Shoebox’s railcard so we have to walk to the end. Definitely 1.3 miles. Longest pier in the world I’m told. Don’t suppose anybody builds piers these days. Not enough top hats.

No demand you see. Too healthy, bit of fresh air and a brisk walk. Thing of the past, walking. Alien concept – health.

We’ve got millions wearing elasticated sportswear & trainers. People who couldn’t even run their own length. Pasty in one hand, fag in the other. Maybe juggling with a double buggy. Fat people, what would they want with a pier ? Maybe build a Greggs right at the very end, entice them down. Maybe it would tip right over. Fit a great big trap door, bit like the elephant trap in those Tarzan films. Pit full of pointy sticks covered in leaves. This would be a marine version, far more malicious and lever operated. The lure of Greggs. Clever business that one.

Political correctness, shouldn’t use the F word. Like I give a fuck about that at my age. “Gland problems” “It’s in my genes” Dead right pet. Lard ass. Simple – you only get out what you put in. A bit like guitar practice I suppose.

Fat bloke shuffles by with a lawnmower tattooed on the back of his head. Unbelievable. Why ? Does his missus wake up and think “Ah I must cut the bleedin’ grass…”

There really was a lawnmower. She ambles by, looks like an armchair wearing a vest.

Have you ever been to Italy ? There’s a pervading sense of style & design everywhere you go. Inherently important to the population, perhaps acknowledged leaders in car design, furniture,fashion and all those crazy old buildings like the Parthenon. In fact it’s like that in many European countries.

We, I generalise, are not interested in design as a populace. Express an interest at school and you’d probably get filled in. In my day your dad would probably tab you as well, just for good measure, keep you on the right track. We used to get a thick ear “for nothing, wait till you do something” You can try and work that one out or just go and punch someone – that’s what we did.

Design’s not seen as important, not taught or appreciated in school curriculum’s just a touch of it wrapped up in an art class. That’s why we have DFS. Look at those bloody sofas. Could you seriously have one in your living room ? Designed by a partially sighted East European taxidermist. There’s some scary stuff to sit on in that part of the world. I went to Chernobyl once. Biggest mushrooms I’ve ever seen in my life. The local town, Pripyat, was abandoned within 24 hours of the first explosion. There’s a monument to all the firefighters who perished. Nobody bothered to warn them about radiation. Just wear your Donkey Jacket and put the fire out. They were dead within a day. Come to think of it they didn’t warn anybody else either, until it was sniffed out on some Swiss mountain top, or similar.

It’s an amazing place to walk round, trees growing through the roads and pavements. Rapid dereliction and reclamation by nature, except She’s struggling to clean this one up. Class rooms with books and toys. School gym. Like something out of a post apocalyptic movie, except this is the real deal. There’s a 30 mile exclusion zone around the reactor but I walked right up to it. People still live there, subsistence farming. They used to drag them away kicking and screaming but they always went back. I reckon the Powers That Be just regard it as a big genetic experiment now. The ground water is still hugely polluted and the protective concrete sarcophagus is crumbling. Governments argue the toss over who should pay, while it decays from within. Millions, probably billions, already spent I’m told. Chernobyl has witnessed corruption on a huge scale, forgotten now but still malignant and leaking.

Design has a huge affect on our lives, often subliminal when it’s good. You don’t realise or know why you really like something, you just know it feels right. I reckon Leo did that with the Telecaster. Maybe Greggs with the pasty. You’d need a lobotomy to feel that about DFS. As a compromise we have Ikea. Clever, cheap and cheerful, appealing in part to all. Bloody Swedes and their pickled herrings. You shouldn’t eat the fish in Ukraine. Discount meat balls and chips. The design starved queueing for the lard and bypassing the main event. A day out for the tracksuit.

Sun’s going down. Dockyard cranes on the opposite shore, motionless, like prehistoric giraffes. Canvey Island, all lit up like something out of Mad Max. Wilko’s stomping ground. A great, eloquent, educated man with a style all his own. Hopefully well on the way to recovery by now . Play some of that old Doctor Feelgood for a change in the New Year. Practice a riff or two. Wilko plays a Tele’ and a Cornell amp……. oh and the Zeppelin band were good. Top marks.

And the moral, as if I need one to justify myself, – take some exercise, don’t hit people, take a long hard look at your sofa, don’t eat suspiciously large fungus and buy a Tele’ for the New Year. That’s enough to think about, Merry Christmas.

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