When Paul knew of ‘The Lola Boys’ Summer Season Andrew had carefully thrown together, he was so severely shocked he went blonde overnight!
Work! Surely not!
He realised he must have habituated to the vagabond lifestyle they had both adopted intermittently for the past few years. He and his partner split their time between continents and condiments. Straining their palates and patience adventuring in Southern Europe and South East Asia. Now, the very thought of staying put for even a relatively short period, appalled Paul. He still dreamt of visa runs and dodgy bus trips.
He knew this to be a highly capricious trait!
He’d first recognised this fervent wanderlust, which trekked doggedly ‘cross the rocky terrain of his juvenile brain when he was in that very state.
Doggedly juvenile !
He could vividly remember his thirteen year old self laying in bed. Unmade. T’ween teenage sheets. Fantasising of volcanic eruptions and highway robbery, (both preferably involving Adam Ant !)
Paul could remember standing and delivering on many an occasion during his fruity salad days, his inner highwayman robbing him of many an hour on the hairy road to manhood!
But adult he now was, and ‘grown ups’ were meant to work for a living.
They should ‘man up’. Slip into the leatherette hot-pants and head for the heels – rather than the hills.
Even if the latter might sometimes seem more appealing!
Since ‘The Boys’ return from the Far East Paul had yet to plant his feet anywhere near a surface which could be firmly described as firm-ish.
His step was a touch tentative.
He was conscious of not wanting to settle too comfortably on any one spot.
Not quite yet.
He wasn’t really a one for roots. Follically or geographically. He found solace in a change of scenery. He knew there was something terribly fairground about his attitude. He wondered if, amongst the gnarled branches of his twisted family tree, there lay a lost relative who’d once worked the ‘Waltzer’.
He wouldn’t be surprised.
His late father had always had a whiff of toffee apple about him and had never been shy when it came to throwing for coconuts! Raymond had also been somewhat itinerant, having dragged his young family from an Australian apartment in Sydney to a tiny caravan in an aunt’s Cornish back garden. Then on to a small council house in south London followed by a spate full of spats running a hotel in Bournemouth and then onwards, or rather, upwards, to a rather unfashionable part of The Lake District to become landlord of ‘The Greyhound Inn’. A local pub, for local people!
Very local people!
All this mileage, and before Paul’s teenage years had ended. When he looked back, it had been quite an itinerary! Along with his father’s penchant for wandering, he had, admittedly, undertaken a couple of outings under his own dubious steam.
A brief sojourn in southern Greece as joint proprietor, along with his sixteen year old sister, of a mafia owned guest house. Their tenure had ended in horribly dramatic fashion as Paul and Tina were pursued across europe by the employees of a small time greek Godfather. They had to avoid detection by taking an antique, snail-paced night train to Belgrade in what was then communist Yugoslavia. Their entire bundle of well-earned cash, which they had accrued over a long, hot honest summer, was stashed in Paul’s sweaty plimsole. It had been scary, smelly and thrilling. A darkly comic adventure.
There was also a short, tawdry love affair that saw Paul flee to Paris to briefly cohabit in an attic with a french drama student he’d met in Bournemouth. The bed sit was claggy with the pungent gallic smoke of a million ‘Gaulloise’ and Piaf screamed mercilessly of regret from the wifi. Not a cliche in sight!
Paris had been fun – even if the drama student had eventually disappointed. Paul had already learnt that in the theatre not everybody got the big part. His Frenchman had turned out to be nothing more than a bit player! A veritable flop! It had definitely been time to make his exit, but Paul, like Edith, had no regrets. Onwards and downwards he had thought back then. No wonder, years later, he still had itchy feet.
He’d had far too much rehearsal.
Along the rugged Andalusian’ Costa Del Sol the Summer burnt mercilessly on. Sometimes a welcome sea mist would envelop the very lip of the coastline as the gracious Atlantic blew her cool breath towards home. But on most nights, lacking an air conditioning unit that actually functioned, The Boys would lay together as far apart as possible. Mid-way between swelter and cremate!
It made for a most uncomfortable night.
T’was on such a sultry occasion, when Paul was awakened by excited shouts from his partner at three in the morning.
‘Paul. PAUL! Get up. Look at this!’
Paul shot up immediately. A talent he had doubtless inherited from his late father, who had been a London fireman. Like his dad, Paul was always more than ready to slide down a pole when asked. He could be up and out within minutes – and with a well stocked overnight bag!
Paul went out onto the balcony where Andrew was standing. Before he even turned his head he knew immediately why Andrew had shouted to him. For behind the silhouette of his partner the entire eastern sky was a warm hazy hue of blood orange. It was alight!
‘Jesus!’ Paul exclaimed.
‘I know’ Andrew replied, ‘I think it’s bad. We should go and see.’
Paul made no hesitation,
‘I’ll get some clothes on.’
Minutes later the boys were marching across the parkland near their home towards the almost biblical scene which was unfolding in the near distance. There was fire everywhere. Towards the top of the valley a whole ridge was aflame, whilst further down pockets of fire fluttered from bush to bush as if alive. A group of spectators and some of those evacuated from the adjacent homes stood together transfixed by that most elemental of shows. The fire, though destructive, possessed a majesty which provoked terrifying awe. The wind was blowing hard now. A hot dry wind which did nothing to help the firefighters who fought bravely on to contain the blaze. Every now and then a gust would bring a new cloud of choking ash towards the onlookers and they would feel the heat surge.
A woman screamed for her child,
A large shrub caught ablaze just feet away.
It was time to leave.
There were panicked shouts. Urgent screams as a policeman was yelling at an idiot who had got too near and was standing on the burning scrubland attempting to take photos with a mobile.
‘Loco! Loco! Cono!’ Paul heard the copper screaming.
The man by the burning bush pulled back through the smoke and made his way towards the main crowd. Paul saw at once that it was Andrew.
‘What the fuck were you doing?’ he screamed.
”Trying to get a good picture’ Andrew screamed back.
‘Let’s go’ Paul barked.
Andrew didn’t argue.
They turned and hot-footed it away from the near inferno which was still raging behind them. It did so for many hours afterwards.
Andrew, who had been fired up by the whole adventure, stayed awake throughout the night, should an evacuation be deemed necessary.
Paul went straight back to bed. Another trick he’d probably inherited from his old man.
There was after all, no need for alarm.
And if one did happen to go off – Andrew would surely hear it and wake him.
Would he not?