Thursday, 3 December 2009

Street Life: A Little Death & A Little Parade

Dim all the lights sweet darling
Cause tonight it's all the way
Turn up the old Victrola
Gonna dance the night away.
Donna Summer (Dim all the Lights)

I FOUND THAT PHOTO ONLINE. I wanted to illustrate this entry and really had no intention of returning home for my camera after spotting a used condom on the pavement of our second street here in Amble. How the hell does one casually take a picture of such a thing, close-up, I suppose, without coming over as a real pervert? Somebody did take a picture of a used condom, convenient for my needs, and I just Googled it. Perhaps the photographer set it all up, provided the thing and placed it carefully on a flagstone on his back patio. Excuse me while I cringe.

I was walking Cailean yesterday and we went first down Queen Street, Amble's main (and only) shopping district. I might add that about a fifth of the shops are closed and boarded up, or are hardly open … on shortened hours or showing no signs of life (like having the lights on). Rough year or so here, and it's the off-season. Once we reached the Town Square, with its bare flagpoles and its concrete benches growing moss for the winter, we turned back and crossed over to Church Street, and headed west, eager to get home as it was, as the little children say, fuckin' cold.

There it was, on the pavement outside St Cuthbert's Parish Church: A used condom. It was a pale green colour, and I've since wondered if it was luminescent. One should probably not think about that sort of thing too much. It might send a message. There is a wall outside St Cuthbert's, with no indentations, no roofed area, no trees, and that continues for some way in both directions, though the church gives way to terraced houses flush with the pavement. The street is a No Parking zone on both sides as well. It's all wide open.

One must assume the condom was removed from the gentleman's appendage pretty much where it was dropped on the pavement. Chances are the act that came shortly before this took place there too, en plein air, on our second street, where the 518 and 420 buses collect us to take us to Alnwick or Newcastle, or to Ashington. I'd like to think this all happened on Tuesday night, or in the wee hours of Wednesday. It was a bitterly cold night, with the icy wind howling down Church Street. Truly a knee-trembler! Let's hear it for the randy British male, eh?

I'm not really complaining. In fact, it is rather uplifting to discover that our lads are using birth (and/or) disease control. Taking it to the streets. However, Cailean is a curious dog, and he very nearly picked the glowing latex tube up. Achtung! I jerked the leash back just in time.

At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.

William Shakespeare (Love's Labour's Lost. Act I, Scene I)

I DID NOT TAKE THAT PHOTOGRAPH either. I was going to take a picture of Amble's Queen Street Christmas illuminations tonight, but I'd have to walk about a hundred yards in the frosty night, and this year's display is on a smaller scale than other years. With many shops closed down, the lights on the buildings that have the power switched off are not plugged in, or switched on. Just unlit bulbs. The brightest spot on Queen Street is probably the Europizza take-away; we seem to eat that Eurotrash no matter how the recession bites.

So, that's last year's bright lights in the picture, courtesy of Google.

We had the town's Santa Claus Parade on the Sunday before last. It was well dark at five o'clock when a surprisingly large crowd gathered at the top of Queen Street, waiting for a knot of entertainers to emerge from the parking lot of the (closed down) Wellwood Arms. I decided to take Cailean with me, thinking he might be afraid of the noise from a parade if he were home alone.

We'd had rain that Sunday afternoon, but the sky cleared shortly before 5.00pm. That meant the temperature dipped, we were all bundled up. There were no shops with open doors radiating heat out onto the pavement, only Europizza seemed to be open, and they had their door pulled to. Eastern Europeans must find Britain cold.

Suddenly, the last thing I expected or wanted: A sky-rocket. It must have been set off in the space in front of Olive's Tea Room (which was closed). A whoosh and a loud bang, then red sparks. Cailean jumped and wound the lead around my ankles. And the overhead lights crossing Queen Street, and some of the lights on the buildings, suddenly lit up. And that was rather nice in a very modest way.

About a dozen Hell's Angels … or the Amble equivalent … leather clad blokes on heavy motorcycles, with their birds riding pillion, shot down the High Street from the Wellwood Arms, and onto Queen Street, at considerable speed, with no obvious concern for the many small children who could have stepped out onto the single-lane, partly-cobbled street. Where was Health & Safety?

Then two ladies carried a banner reading, I think, AMBLE SANTA CLAUS PARADE 2009. It was not illuminated. Behind that, a few dozen children carrying paper lanterns, most of which were not illuminated, a few of the children had (battery-powered) torches.

Then the music: Quite a few people with snare drums, and some African or Caribbean drums that might be right at home in the Copacabana. A rat-a-tat-tat sound, a lot like the beat that the Gombeys in Bermuda jiggle about to. Not exactly Away in a Manger; not Jingle Bells; The Little Drummer Boy? Not even.

At this point it got what I'd call peculiar … considering this was a Santa Claus Parade. I know we cannot have anything remotely religious nowadays, I was not expecting a virgin on a donkey (as if) … About seven or eight people dressed in costumes made of, I think, wire and tissue paper, some lit from underneath by torches. There was a Cheshire Cat, a Mad Hatter, and a White Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland, a Playing Card, and a Chess Figure. Perfect for a Lewis Carroll Appreciation Society do, but odd (don't you think?) for Christmas.

The last entry in the Parade was a flat-bed truck loaded with small children and somebody thin in a Santa suit, and a stereo playing, possibly, holiday music. I couldn't make it out clearly with the snare drums going not twenty feet in front of it. Excluding the Hell's Angels, it was a very compact Parade. Our two Community Police Officers in fluorescent yellow vests, the brightest things in the Parade, brought up the rear.

The spectators at the head of Queen Street walked into the street itself and followed the Parade down to the Square. Cailean had had enough by then, all five minutes of it, and it was clouding over. It rained not long after we got back to the flat, but the Divinity that shines on Wonderland Parades had been kind. I would think the tissue costumes would not take a dose of rain or sleet very well. Saved for another year. Or the next parade, whatever it might celebrate.

It's not a bad thing, the small-, really-small-, town parade. I saw quite a few people, and dogs, one Scottie in costume, that I recognised. A fair bit of waving and smiling. The lights are put up by a dwindling team of now aged people, the costs of new bulbs covered, in part, by a fair at the Co-op Mortuary. The Amble Parade is not beholden to advertisers, and there are no competing preachers, and there was nothing vulgar. Old men, eighty years from now, may remember, fondly, the glowing tissue-paper Wonderland sort of Santa Claus Parade of 2009.

I read in today's Northumberland Gazette that persons unknown have since stolen all the spare bulbs.

Are they really unknown? I'm thinking they are those who would prefer the bitter darkness of December to a little magic. I'm guessing they are not really happy people, and that Christmas, the real Christmas, is just another day off. Turned off. Sad bastards.


Ruth L.~ said...

Hmmm... I hate to think of the spam you're going to get from Googling that photo. I never imagined the act took place right at the sight of the used receptacle... I always figured someone tossed it from a car where... "it" took place.

Anonymous said...

Reminded me that I just today rejected a piece with a 'wienie beanie' in it.

I wonder if the FL would fit over one of those? On 2nd thought, she might not like that at all.

Damn bleak either way.


suz said...

i'm giggling at the sweet eccentricity of your parade. and of course, with my alice obsession, i would have absolutely adored it!