Sunday 23 April 2023

An Easter Pilgrimage To Cromer

I think we were on a high security alert. It seems highly likely at JFK on the day a former US president gets arrested on criminal charges. It’s the first time this has happened in the history of this - I was going to say Great but my British sarcasm might be lost on a few so I’ll amend that to Mediocre - country of ours. Not that it’s my country, I’m just a Green Card holder. I really don’t even have a right to an opinion.

Amy drove me to the airport. The temperature was climbing to an unseasonal seventy something degrees and the temperature in the car was edging closer to the unbearable side of bearable. The air conditioning needs looking at. Air conditioning always packs up when it gets hot, same as it only becomes apparent that the wipers aren’t working when it rains, and brake light bulbs burn out just before a cop gets up behind you and pulls you over. The cop who pulled us over for that said he’d served, or worked, or whatever it is they do, in Catskill but he didn’t seem to recognise the name of our neighbour, the recently retired Catskill police chief. I don’t know why Amy mentioned it - it was hardly likely to work as a get out of jail free card with a Westchester cop. I think she just wanted to see if he was full of shit, which it seems he was.

The roads were crowded, probably due to diversions because of the presidential arrest. I cursed America’s stupidity, the haphazard building of roads, the lack of tenable public transport, the stupidity that launches a Crowdfunding campaign to put an armed guard in a school in Nashville following a terrible shooting. I’m thinking that unless they manage to crowd enough funds to hire a government trained agent and keep him in a permanent state of high alert all they’ll get is some lard arse who’ll be vigilant until too many days have merged into too many same old days, and one day when he’s settling down with a cup o’joe and the racing paper a shooter will pop him on the way in. It’s an ugly thought but I had to say it.

The trek through airport security started as a random jostle and mutated, almost imperceptibly, into an organised trudge. The line meandered around the airport shoulder to shoulder and nose to rucksack. I felt quite intrepid in my quest to reach a promised land that had almost slipped out of view. Fellow travelers became old friends as time stood still in random bits of the airport building that sometimes smelled of stagnant water and fetid drains. 

The line somehow turned into a slow motion Virginia Reel as passengers were paired off into couples and ordered to march two abreast down a corridor of cordons. A large security man and a very keen Alsatian dog weaved between the dancers like oversized and unsupervised toddlers at an all-ages Scottish country dancing party.

And then the removal of the coats, shoes, hats, belts and dignity. A few years ago I was patted down and blatantly touched-up by a security man at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. He looked me in the eye as he slipped his hand inside my trousers, felt my bare arse and slowly moved around and fondled my wedding tackle. I didn’t say anything because you don’t want to make a fuss at an airport security checkpoint. Part of me couldn’t believe it was happening. Afterwards I wanted to laugh but I was also deeply disturbed by the realisation that I’d just been sexually assaulted. He had no right to do that but I wasn’t going to say anything because I was poor and there was no way I’d be refunded for the transatlantic flight I’d be sure to miss.

I rented a car from Hertz. In the wake of the pandemic I was surprised to find a touch-screen check in. It was quarter to seven in the morning and the place was empty so I would have thought I could have gone straight to the desk, but this apparently wasn’t an option. An unoccupied employee waited for me to finish the process of prodding my name and reservation number onto the greasy screen. When I was done a ticket was printed out and instructions given to wait for my number to be called and then present the ticket to the next available agent. The unoccupied employee beckoned me forwarded with a disgruntled wave. The first things he asked for were my name and reservation number. He he screwed up the ticket and dropped it in the bin without looking at it.

I was unprepared for Easter, but then how do you prepare for Easter? I hadn’t realised it was going to be Easter when I booked my ticket. I'd put it out of my mind. Easter in the United Kingdom is like four Sundays in a row. By the end of it families hate each other. That’s my experience anyway. And please don’t give me that romantic shit about mods and rockers. I grew up next to Brighton, saw it first hand. It was quite tawdry. Hyped up and orchestrated by the press: “There’s a crisp ten shilling note for each of you yobbos if you’ll just lob a stone or two at those well-dressed boys over there…”

 I had a day to get over the jet lag and then it was Good Friday or Nailing A Man To A Piece Of Wood Day as I prefer to call it. I never did get over my jet lag - I went through most of the elongated holiday weekend in a stupefied fog. It looked warm but it wasn’t - it was bloody freezing. Easter crowds thronged the promenade and narrow streets of Cromer but the mean weather ensured the menfolk kept their shirts on, so it had its upside. I think men over a certain age should keep their shirts on in public. 

I met my friends Lisa and Bernie on Easter Saturday. We spent a delightful afternoon strolling around Cromer. We stopped for tea and cake in the Gangway cafe, That is Bernie and I had a pot of tea and a slice lemon drizzle cake - an effeminate choice for a couple of old men, finished as it was with silvery icing decorated with edible flower petals. Lisa went for the more masculine date and walnut slice washed down with a pint of beer. She has electric blue hair. Stunning. Bernie had a acquired a Watkins Copicat for me, for which I’m already eternally grateful. There’s a lot a man like me can do with a Watkins Copicat.

I’m back home now, gearing up for a special announcement. Nothing momentous like a sex change or something of that nature - all I’ll say for now is it’s ages since I last put out a new album.