Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Fear and Loathing in Morecambe Bay

Fear and Loathing in Morecambe Bay

It was the kind of strange and twisted scene it was impossible to leave in any kind of normal, human state. The previous night had been a long one: heavy drinking and the kind of depraved and sinister places that, mentally or physically, no human should ever be expected to endure. I’d been vomiting all morning and it wasn’t long before I became a vicious cocktail of claustrophobia, sickness and paranoia. My only recollections of reality were the obtuse, hypnotic monologues - the tedious mantras - that were ringing around my head.

Morecambe Bay: Either I had stepped back several decades or the toy shops and grocery stores hadn’t been painted or re-stocked or visited for 25 years. Boarded up cafes and derelict amusement arcades on every corner. Elderly women who’d been that way for as long as anyone, including themselves, could remember. And the wide open sea, sighing for centuries at the sheer gaudiness of it all. The town was filled with walking contradictions: low-eyed drunks in denim wandering penniless from one indifferent slot machine to the next, exchanging looks with old ladies in beach-front shop-windows, hidden, but for their red, bloated cheeks, behind huge trays of cream cakes.

The day was hot and windless. I stepped off the platform into the interminably stuffy and slow-moving carriage. Every pair of eyes reminded me I was trapped; that the wood for my coffin had already been chopped, and lay drying somewhere in the sun. The only act that could have brought any kind of redemption was stripping away my clothes and threadbare soul and diving into the huge, open ocean - drowning in its coolness forever. But no - the malevolent gods had other plans for me.

The train appeared to be composed entirely of the silhouettes of its own proportions. I felt like the lifeless husk of some terrible animal, with the undertones of a miserable and atavistic rage. And to make matters worse, the smug, young ticket collector, perfectly ironed, was trying to make small talk with me through his pearly grin which was no more than two inches away from my face. (I hadn’t spoken a word to anyone all day, so I had no way of knowing what would come out of my mouth when I tried to speak: Terrible whooping shrieks? Vomit? Inappropriate truths? I remained silent, nodding amiably towards his inane ramblings).

But the thing that bothered me most wasn’t that the train was seemingly infected with the strange smell of death, or that my face had become a grinning mirror of the conductor’s own. What bothered me most was the small tribe of androgynous, French gypsy-children who were spread throughout the carriage. They wore black cloth turbans, empty, indoctrinated stares and what appeared to be old curtains for robes. They reminded me of the kind of half-drugged slave-labourers that Indiana Jones might rescue from the grip of some terrible voodoo underworld. Their faces were painted white and each wore a large silver earring in their right ear. I watched them kissing miniature prayer books and smiling like only the dumb products of generations of incestuous copulation could.

I noticed all the other passengers were either reading fashion magazines or subtely eyeing one another darkly and grinning like cheatahs, like a pack of sex-crazed beasts in the dirty heat.

Hunched over and shivering, I stepped out from the train and onto solid ground, a half-crazed walking monument to devastation and confusion. Every terrified glance that watched me in disgust was a kind of strange filter for reality, a death rattle, some kind of warning. I was posing as a human.

My legs followed me home. I removed my clothes. I opened all the windows. And I dreamt for hours about the sound of the wind.


  1. Great writing but you can't blame Morecambe for all that. I was intrigued by the French gypsy children. How did you know they were French and what were they doing in Morecambe?


  2. Love this writing. I was kept on edge and nervous from the first word to the last. Further up the coast is the spooky town of Ravensglass. There is no-one there. A deserted pub on the main street has dusty cobwebby windows. Someone has written the two words Help Me on the inside of the glass.