From the novel “Here Am I Sitting in my Tin Can” – adapted from the Ottermobile adventures.
The morning after sleeping with the girl with no name I wake up feeling frustrated. I’ve enjoyed Staithes but have outgrown it, and need again to seek the friendship of strangers. So I go about my ablutions and contemplate my options. Saltburn seems favourite, I enjoyed it there too. It’s a Saturday and there’ll be football in the Marine. I might get to know the locals more. I might even bump into Steve if he’s escaped “fucking Tracy” with her anger-management issues and eczema. The Tin Can is on its last legs now and I’m wondering how much more of this I can take. Loneliness and depression is taking hold and perhaps I’m going a little mad.
So yes, the Marine is the place I return to, because I know if I don’t get to make any friends at least I’ll get me fish and chips with slices of lemon and normal life’s weird and inspiring contradictions…
… At the bar, Tom is in the frail end of his eighties yet he’s legged it from Redcar like he does every Saturday. Why? Because he still can at his ripe old age and because he’s banned from his local for getting drunk. “What do they expect one to do in a pub?!” he asks with urbane incredulity, not unreasonably and not to anyone in particular.
Further down the bar a fat man holds court while his friends’ feet point away because he’s a know-all who knows nothing of import. He’s the one who dodges his round and privately his friends say he can peel an orange in his pocket.
A couple in their forties have just got together online and are disparaging respective exes in an attempt to convince each other and themselves that this time it’s the real thing – their past loves and lives are dead but this love is for life. A gang of boys in Boro shirts drink lager amid passionate debate about Tony Pulis and which of them has broken wind.
A thirty-something man with Tourette’s asks every fucking minute what’s the fucking score and who scored the fucking goal as he ticks down towards the final fucking whistle.
A forty-year-old barmaid who’s pretty and pregnant looks pretty pissed-off that she’s pregnant.
A lonely man in his sixties is feeding a slot machine and wearing an ill-matched toupee at a rakish angle.
A 40-something with a mullet ferries in his karaoke gear, bursting with smug anticipation that later, when the football is over, he’ll hog the microphone and do My Way his way.
An elderly couple discuss Brexit, he reading the Mail and she the Mirror-opposite, and I wonder how they’ve suffered each other’s leanings all this time.
A bloke preens and checks his guns before checking his phone, which he loves more than his guns and his gorgeous blonde girlfriend, who isn’t oblivious to the fact that other blokes including me are thinking “If she were mine I’d be spending less time at the gym or checking in to Facebook.”
A four-strong boredom of men sups lager, oozing photographic knowledge of league tables and anything else statistics including those of the blonde.
A woman in her nineties is having fish and chips with her grand-daughters who’re proud of the fact that she’s still sprightly and picking up the tab. She bought her house in the forties for fifty quid and now it’s worth a million and even though they love her to death they’re circling like hungry seagulls for when at last she stops breathing.
And finally, an unshaven 53-year-old sits in a corner, monitoring his pint drying rings around the glass and pinching his temples over the Guardian crossword. A man of diction and contradiction, watching and listening, writing stories, articulating, “catharticulating”. He longs to be where he doesn’t belong. He is a nomad still moving and still not moving far, pondering his life and wondering if he’ll ever fail in love again. He’s happy to be alone yet cries out for company, he speaks to no-one and no-one responds. And contradictorily in spite of all the madness that’s his country, he thinks to himself “What a wonderful world.”