I sat around all morning drinking coffee and eating marmite sandwiches waiting for ‘something literary or symphonic to happen.’ It didn’t. My brother was in a deep alcoholic slumber in his room. The temptation to turn on the television and zone out watching Colombo was threatening what little motivation I had left to seize life by the bollocks.
In desperation, I cycled over to John’s house to see if he had any work for me. Of course he did. He always did. Especially since Jean died. Jean, had been John’s second chance at life. Jean had introduced us. Jean was smashed to death in a car, less than a year before these events. John needed help stripping the wall-paper from the walls of his decaying four story Victorian in that was tucked away along a Swansea back street. It was better than sitting on my arse watching the swell charts on every BBC weather updates in between episodes of Colombo and I could earn a few quid.
John and I took many tea breaks and talked about dead relatives, girlfriends and why I didn’t have a real job. He asked me if I was interested in stolen car stereos. I wasn’t sure but it might help me fill the petrol tank more often, I thought.
At mid-day we took a sandwich break with instant black coffee. We sat out on the back patio overlooking the future garden. John and Jean had bought this house together but it was still uninhabitable. I’m not sure John really wanted it finished it at this point. As we ate, we watched several men taking the back entrance to the massage parlor. That was always fun. Sometimes, I’d try and catch their eyes as they made their way back to their cars so I could give them a knowing nod or wink. They usually kept their heads down but some walked away with their heads held high, smiling. They were getting more than John and I.
After lunch I started stripping the walls in the stuffy attic room, where I could just about get a glimpse of Mumbles Head from across Swansea Bay. I could see a little white water breaking on the lighthouse island and knew the swell was coming up.
John asked me if I wanted to put in another couple hours of work. I said, John I need the money but I think the swell is up. He said, that was why I didn’t have a real job or a girlfriend. I took my sixteen quid and told him I might see him tomorrow.
About those car stereos? Could be a nice little earner for you, boy.
I’ll think about it, John. See you, after.
Take it easy now, Peter Bach.
Getting out of the city center on a bike was a pain in the arse but I made it to the Mumbles road in one piece. I could see little swell lines pushing into Swansea Bay. A shore sign, swell was making onto the nearby Gower peninsula. Mid to high tide and light NE wind. I knew I was going to make the twenty minute drive to Llangennith. My hands started sweating at the prospect.
I got back to the house. My brother had left for work at the pub but had thankfully left me with the car and the note. His boss, the landlord was on holiday. “Lock in at the pub. Pick me up.”
I made it to the top of Gower with about two hours left of sun light to go. Endless lines of swell were pumping into Rhosilli Bay. I could see the feathering lips from three miles away. It was four to five feet easily. I parked in the dunes, got into my wettie and jogged up towards Three Peaks and claimed my peak. I never grew tired of surfing. I could surf forever but something usually interrupted the pursuit of waves. Nighttime, signing on, crappy job, some shit or another that just got in the way of surfing. What else was there? Where else was there to go but racing along a Gower wall of water as the sun went down? I felt a primeval connection to this coastline. I was so comfortable; I could die at any moment. As long as there were waves. Orange juice, Marmite and peanut butter sandwiches, some sleep, perhaps a good book. And waves. I was just fine.
I surfed well into the dark. I can’t tell you how the session went. It was great, of course. I do remember there were many people on the beach that night, drinking around little bonfires. I briefly envied them as I left the water. I caught glimpses of the flames dancing on their faces as they huddled close to each other passing around cheap bottles of cider. I jogged back to car dripping wet wondering how many of those people on the beach would end up getting off with each other that night. Fuckers.
I drove straight to my brother’s pub and got there as he was kicking everyone out, save a few friends. He handed me a clean empty pint glass
‘Here you go big brother,’
and I helped myself to an endless supply of Caffrey’s cream ale. I swished the foam around at the end of every pint and wondered if the swell would still be around the next day. I didn’t feel much like big brother. A few people tried to converse with me but I was mostly incapable of communication. I only ever really talked to John. Even if they understood surfing or surfed themselves they didn’t know the sea like me. That was largely indisputable, so why get into it? Nevertheless, we all drank ourselves into oblivion and my brother and I stumbled home. I woke up the next day just in time for an episode of Colombo.
The ocean was flat and so I gave John a call to see if he could help me work off that almighty hangover with some mindless drudgery or another.