6.40pm – I’m now sat in Newhaven port awaiting the 10.30pm ferry to Dieppe. I could’ve gone on the 6.45pm but I’d have found myself in France at midnight, which is a bit silly. I’ve had one of the most enjoyable hitch hiking days ever! Lots of interesting & cheerful people to give me a lift & there was very little waiting involved between here and Landkey in Devon.
Had a lift off a very rich operatic theatre director who went out of his way to take me into the centre of Brighton & show me how to get to Newhaven. So I spent a couple of hours from 2.30pm waltzing around the famous seaside resort, drinking extortionate cups of tea & revisiting the Richmond, the place of that 4Q gig 3 years ago. Then a bus took me to Newhaven in the dark & I received directions to the port off an extremely attractive Chinese girl, & here I am! Just been talking to Dan who’s on bail & skipping the country; that’s if what he says is true, if I was skipping the country I certainly wouldn’t tell anyone before I had actually done it; anyway, he’s now on the 6.45 ferry.
I was crossing the English Channel, the white cliffs of Dover were sinking into the night mist, well, I presume they were because I was good few miles down the coast departing from Newhaven to Dieppe. I was leaving Britain again for an unknown length of time, yet I felt no excitement, or fear or apprehension and no butterflies. Was it again a form of self-defence or perhaps I was being fastidious. Wasn’t this the experience I had hankered for again? Then I realised; it was because I was drunk.
I had been attempting to make use of the 3 hours before the ferry left & sleep on those uncomfortable plastic seats, designed so to stop people from lying across them, when two French girls strode into the Newhaven waiting room. They wandered around breaking the polite silence with, ‘What time is the boat leaving to France?’
The five others in the room ignored the question in true British fashion, so after a silent pause I told them it wasn’t due for another 3 hours.
They seemed disappointed at the prospect of staring at a white tiled floor so they asked me if I’d like to accompany them to the pub as one of them was celebrating her 22nd birthday. What the hell I thought.
They were both students studying in London and were returning home to Paris for a week. Both were very small in height and build, and neither was particularly attractive. Cecile had short black hair curling out at the ends, a black T-shirts and jeans, and a pair of Walkman headphones around her neck. She looked French and seemed very full of herself in an irritating sort of way. Sylvie was more reticent and sported a hippy-ish long black haircut, parted in the middle, a thick knitted polo-neck sweater that almost drowned her and covered the top half of her blue jeans.
The pub was within staggering distance from the port and was small and cosy. We ordered our desired beverages, this was maybe my last opportunity to sink a cool pint of Guinness, and I’m told it’s not the same abroad, as it doesn’t travel well, especially when it’s in your stomach in huge amounts.
An ageing musician was packing up his equipment for the night, the landlord had told him not to bother performing due to the lack of clientele in the pub. Thank God I didn’t have to sit through a night of Beatles cover versions and the obligatory He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother thrown in for good measure.
The girls had thick accents, which made it difficult to understand at the best of times, but as the night wore on, so did the alcohol, and the pair frequently slipped into their native language during conversation. It was good practise for future deciphering. ‘You like wine?’ Sylvie asked.
‘Mon oui.’ I replied, hoping it was the correct wording; my French teacher (Michael Halliday) at school and myself never saw eye to eye and the majority of my French lessons were spent outside the headmaster’s office.
Sylvie took out her purse to count her money, removing a condom to do so. Ah! The Nineties Woman I thought, and wondered what made her tick as she put her rubber companion back in it’s hiding place, perhaps back in her student flat when packing she thought; oh, better take a johnny with me just in case I get a shag. Or maybe not. The wine was ordered and drank, as was another bottle. Cecile and Sylvie were getting worse for wear.
Inevitably, we had to leave; it was a case of Nurse Jekyll and Mrs.Hyde as the two were now frog (sic) marching in a zigzag sort of way, arm in arm towards the port, which was by now bustling with people waiting for the ferry.
‘Ou est ma billet?’ Cecile screamed and ripped the contents of her rucksack apart in search for her ticket. The onlookers gloated and I settled myself on the cold floor, beginning to wish I had remained on those uncomfortable seats for the last three hours. The two girls concluded that the ticket must be in the pub and that somehow Cecile had dropped it, so she ran back there while Sylvie and myself carried out another search of the rucksack.
People began leaving to board the ferry. Where is the dozy drunken bint? I thought as I nervously glanced at the diminishing queue. I could board and leave the French girls to it; after all I hardly knew them, then Cecile returned panting and clutching her ticket;
‘It was on the car park floor.’ I mentally checked the calendar for April Fool’s Day and instructed the girls to get their arses into gear and onto the boat.
On board the ferry I sat down in a far corner of the restaurant area and hoped that the two girls who had gone to the toilet had forgotten about me. The misogynists of this world will argue that the one thing worse than a woman is a drunk woman, I found myself agreeing. I was too tired to sleep so I took out this diary and tried to piece together an eventful evening onto paper.
‘Oh there you are!’ slurred a feminine French voice. I groaned inwardly and smiled as the gruesome twosome sat with me. Although I had consumed a fair amount of Guinness and wine myself I felt quite sober in comparison. The once shy and retiring Sylvie was sat across the table from me babbling on to herself in French. Her eyes were rolling in the opposite direction to her head, trying to catch up with its unpredictable movements.
Cecile on the other hand was completely out of control; was she on antibiotics? With her personal stereo switched on she danced up and down the aisles singing vociferously; ‘Hey fuck you, hey fuck off, hey fuck me.’
I think the last thing the other passengers who were sitting awkwardly in the restaurant would want to do was to fuck the agent provocateur, I think they all wished that she would kindly fuck off, and I was firmly on their side. I must be getting old, I used to do similar things in my younger days; perhaps not in the same context; I certainly didn’t shout, “fuck me” in large crowds because like Cecile, I doubt if anyone would wish to fulfil my request had I done so, but now I loathed the situation, I felt uncomfortable. I had moved in life from the raucous young class to the class of people who moan about everything.
In my drunken state I decided that after racism, the thing I hated the most at this moment was the French!