Hornsea, Askance

MikeachimThe Everyday1 Comment

NotVeryAmusingAmusements

Hi. I’m a 38 year old man, living at home with his mum.

(Until she’s recovered from her recent surgery. Probably returning to York this time next week).

Walking through town last night, I squinted until everything was blurry – until it was 1998 again, the last time I lived here. I listened to someone explaining the finer points of making up a rollie. I watched as the side of the church cracked open, spilling buttery light and rosy-cheeked young urchins onto the street (and since my eyes were half-shut I couldn’t see their cigarettes or cans of lager). I squinted at the rebranded kebab shop until its name changed back.

The streets looked too wide – explained by the fact that they’ve recently been widened – and the same shops are constantly in flux while others endure as fixed points in time and space. The latter are a marvel. For every safe, sensible attempt at yet another bakery or grocery store there’s something so wildly nichey that it couldn’t even survive in York (a city that has a shop selling Christmas decorations all year round). At an inaccessible end of the roundabout near St Nicholas’s Church there’s a Fung Shui shop. It’s a shop that sells Fung Shui. In East Yorkshire. To Yorkshire people. And yet somehow it’s survived for at least the last half-decade. I’m fascinated by this Shackleton-like feat of endurance, flying in the face of every commercial law I know. I want to know more. There’s obviously a story there.

Even if I squinted, the boarded-up Amusements along the sea-front stubbornly remained shut. I dimly remember going in Dave’s (above) – distinctly remember walking through the doors, but nothing else, as if I’ve had that memory surgically removed by someone desperately covering their tracks and/or hiding just how bad it was in there. All the amusement arcades are derelict buildings waiting to have their roles reimagined – even the mighty Pastimes. There’s a hint of Pripiat about the place, except it’s not radioactivity, it’s apathy.

Squinting goes some way to hiding all that. But squinting is dishonest, and so very 1998; it reminds me to who I used to be when I’d rather concentrate on who I am now. Also, squinting gives you frown-lines. Being English, I already have enough of them.

So while I’m back here, I’ll open my eyes and see what happens.

Image: the repairman

383 Reasons I Haven’t Been Around

MikeachimThe Everyday2 Comments

Heatwave

In my line of work I get asked a lot of questions, such as “Why are you never around on your personal blog?”, “Did you actually read back what you’ve just written?”, “Where’s the money you owe me?” and “Why can’t you be funnier?”.

I can answer the first question fairly easily. (The other three are more tricky).

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Could You Spare A Couple Of Squid, Mate?

MikeachimThe Everyday18 Comments

kalamari rings

Sometimes, I think my life is nothing but one long pursuit of squid.

A memory from growing up in Cyprus:

All around me, and much higher than me, the hubbub of Greek chatter. It’s late in the evening and I’m tired, but they’re Greek and haven’t even had their evening meal yet, so they’re full of energy and it’s making me even more tired. I drink my Coke, enjoying the sturdy feel of the glass bottle lip against my mouth. (I make it bubble with my straw, and get told off). The restaurant lights are muffled in cigarette smoke, but the chatter is brighter by the second. Mugs clink, squeak in sweaty hands. My stomach gurgles so loud it scares me and I wonder if I’m dying.

(Mummmmmm!).

Then, a plate of kalamari rings. And I live again.

It’s the first bite. I’ve had a lot of squid in Britain, and it’s always been a mixture of evocation and frustration – because that first bite, that first faintly rubbery, lemon-tangy squishy sinking-in of the teeth, is the only one that transports me back in time and away in space to an alternate world where fried squid rings are precisely as good as I now remember them to be.

That first bite flings me up the Royal Oak restaurant, perched in the branches of a colossal tree and accessed via a bole-wending staircase. That first bite puts a snorkel mouthpiece in my mouth and flipflop thongs between my toes. It puts me on our veranda, on our reclaimed aircraft seating turned into a bench, my feet drawn up under me, reading Lord Of The Rings for the first time and thinking how cool it would be to be a Black Rider.

Then…bite 2. That shimmeringly perfect world winks out. I’ve now got a mouthful of tasteless, pappy, insubstantial gunk – like raw tofu but without the charm. I want it to be chewier, I want it to fight me, dammit – but it breaks apart, turning to sea-tasting gruel. This isn’t what I ordered! Take it away – no, take me away. Take me somewhere that does real kalamari!

(Incidentally, when in Greece or Cyprus, don’t do this).

We all have trigger-dishes: specific foods that whisk us inward to a specific time and place so powerfully that it unfolds and swallows us whole. We sit there, motionless except for chewing, fork held in front of us like we’re hammering home a point in conversation, pupils dilated, until the spell is broken and we’re spat out into the present-day once more.

Mine’s fried squid. What’s yours?

Image: cmgramse

Soft and Prickly: Our Fickle Love Of The Countryside

MikeachimThe Everyday8 Comments

100_6539

When it comes to the British countryside, we don’t know which way to turn.

In the 17th Century it was something we feared – a chaotic, violent place where Nature, red in tooth & claw, vied for a taste of your blood with bandits, highwaymen, smugglers, murderers and the clinically befuddled. Mention the countryside to Thomas Hardy and he would flinch, mutter something about accursed heaths and reach for a quill. One did not tarry long abroad after dark.

Two centuries later, we can’t get enough of it. Red has turned to green. We yearn for slightly (only slightly) overgrown hedgerows and the susurration of sunlit leaves overhead. We salivate over delightfully quaint villages embedded in the side of hills like raisins in a plum duff. We long to hear someone say “ooh arrr”. Warm beer, nuns on bikes, little stone bridges only negotiable if you turn sideways-on. Grassy meadows – as if, left to her own devices, Mother Earth would render the whole world suitable for cricket with the minimum of tending. In short, a primal yet civilized refuge from the dull churning of modern life.

Neither view is correct or even fair, but that’s not the point.

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Go Home Again: 4 Ways To Love Where You Are

MikeachimThe Everyday26 Comments

cat and owner

One of the best points of any journey?

The second day back home.

It’s like this. Being wise, you’ve taken an extra three or four days off work for a post-holiday holiday, just enough time to battle jet-lag and sort through the mail. The first day is all about sleeping – and on the second day, in the same exhausted, nervous fog you get after drinking too much coffee, you lurch into town…

…and rediscover it. By going away, you’ve unfamiliarized yourself with your own home. You can truly see it again. Because familiarity makes the world – disappear. When you know exactly where you are and where you’re going, your thoughts will turn to fresher topics and your eyes shift to cruise-control. Starved of stimulus, your awareness withers and you start to pine for novelty with a leaden, blunted heart.

So here are four ways you can fall in love with your surroundings all over again.

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