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The International Writers Magazine: Life in a Northern Town a long time ago

Shiny Summer Super Time Ra-Ra-Ra
Mark Cunliffe

I’ve been teasing my hair now for a solid twenty minutes trying to get some life into the pink and blue highlights in my blonde feathery mop. I know it’s twenty minutes because that’s when The Tube had started on Channel 4, which is idly playing Jools Holland chatting away to Aztec Camera in the corner of my bedroom. I’ll pay more attention when Paula Yates comes on, if I have the time. I’d love to be her, if I have the chance.

I grumble noisily sending the straighteners clattering across my desk into a selection of Care Bears. Sulkily I place the black kohl round my eyes and place a beret on top of my spiky locks. It’ll have to do. I’ve been out of work since half past three-I work as a summer casual at the local dole office, oh the joy! Hehe- having told my manager I had a dentist appointment all because I want to look good for tonight. I’m definitely a ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ kinda girl, you sort of have to be if you’re young and living in Filey.

You see we’re a little seaside town in Yorkshire so Saturday nights get full of holidaymakers and that is just crap if you’re local. So we reclaim the town on Fridays and I love it. I don’t get any hassle from my folks, Mum will be up at bingo in Scarborough with Gran tonight and Dad will be happy with a couple of tinnies and Bergerac on the box before he’s up bright and early tomorrow with his boat. It sounds posh that doesn’t it? Having a boat, but it’s nothing special. It’s hardly Howards’ Way -I wish it were! We live in a little council house but nearly everyone in our street of exactly the same looking little council houses has a boat in the front yard, it’s that kind of town. The sea is in their blood or some such crap. Mum sometimes moans at Dad to sell the sodding thing and move up the road to Scarborough, but he won’t.

I can hear the front door bell, that means Geoff’s here to pick me up, quick roll up of my orange fishnets, smooth down the Ra-Ra skirt and I’m off down the stairs just as Dad is shouting "Shelley!"
Geoff’s a nice lad, quite hunky too apart from the big hawky nose, and he’s not short of cash I’m told. He lives in Scarborough and I know him through Marty from work, I give him a little peck and he squeezes my bum causing me to squeal which he laughs at but then I think what the hell and do a little whoop at the end of my squeal ‘cos it’s Friday, it’s summer, and we are out. Geoff’s car is his pride and joy, it’s a red XR3I or something, I just see a Ford badge and the colour myself but he tells me it’s ‘really something else’ knowingly. He’s a boy racer, he even has the furry dice that make me chuckle. We zoom off to the sounds of his cassette of Level 42.

We’re off to pick up Marty who lives a couple of streets away from me. I like Marty but a lot of people think he’s a bit odd. I suppose he is, but sometimes I think it’s just an act, like I see him properly at times without the silliness and then he’s very kind and generous, he’d do anything for you. Like that night I was pissed in Scarborough after celebrating passing my O Levels. It was the first time I had ever really had a lot to drink and Marty was out with a couple of lads and he came over and helped me get a cab and took me home. He even paid the fare; I was too smashed to even know what was going on and I only vaguely knew him back then as someone who lives near me. He never tried anything on, he just wanted to make sure I was ok and gave his night up for that. He called on me the next day with a little card saying ‘Congratulations’ ‘cos apparently all I was talking about all the way home was getting my results. He never asked for any money, wouldn’t take it.

We’re at Marty’s street and he’s lying on the communal lawn in the middle of the road in a long jacket that swamps his skinny body and a little pork pie hat. See what I mean about odd? He likes The Cure too. He’s older than me, 19 I think but nearly 20, I’m 18. Marty went to school with Geoff and they’ve been mates on and off ever since. You wouldn’t think it too look at them ‘cos they’re so different but they work well together, they have their own little language like a code and are always sniggering into their pints. Sometimes Marty calls Geoff ‘Geoffrey’ in a George kind of voice from Rainbow that always makes me laugh, I hope he does it tonight. He’s got up now and he’s put his rolled up NME to his eye as if he’s Nelson or something, Geoff’s just called him a ‘Benny’ and to get in the car. He isn’t being nasty I think it’s just something we do up here. Marty moans about Level 42; he’s into ‘proper’ music and acts a bit like Jools Holland or even John Peel at times, who I quite like on Top Of The Pops even though I don’t get his gags- but I like the daft clothes him and the Canadian guy, Kid something, wear-however despite his moaning I see him tapping his fingers along to ‘Something About You’ on the dash as Geoff revs off and I have a nose at his NME.

Next stop is Emma’s. Emma is my best mate since infants. She’s wicked. She comes running out the house shouting and singing "Shiny Summer Super Time Ra-Ra-Ra!" which for a couple of years now has been our little rallying cry for the summer. Though this summer has been the best summer ever and worthy of the shout, official. Emma dresses a little less way out than me. I suppose she’s the more level headed of us two, already she’s going all ‘ooh’ at what I’m wearing in a way that says she’s a bit startled by it. I’m kinda hoping she might pair off with Marty. Fingers crossed, though they hardly look at each other as we drive off. I’m not sure about Marty, I’ve never seen him with a girl, but Geoff assures me he isn’t poofy. There’s a suggestion he has been ‘hurt’ in the past. He tells me I didn’t miss anything in work for the last hour or so and that his contract has just been extended for after the summer and he hopes mine will be too as it’ll be a drag without me – his words. I hope so too as I’m not sure about college at the mo and I don’t really want to think about it either. I just want the fun to carry on.

We drive about for an hour or so, into Scarborough and up and down the front, talking and laughing and playing silly games like ‘I have never’ as we go along and we all feel really brilliant, well I do anyway! The sun is still out and its nice and warm but not boiling hot, which I hate. The air is electric tonight and as sweet as honey, I say this but get a funny look off Geoff. Emma defends me by explaining I’ve always been a nature girl and says things that others cant really see. But I do, I really think tonight is so special, the whole summer is and I feel alive. I’m working I’ve got my own money in my purse and I’m happy damn it!

We park up for a bit. Geoff wants to go the pictures. There’s a film on called Highlander that he’s raving about but none of us seem sure. Marty has created some bizarre concoction in the car with a few cans of Top Deck Pop and a bottle of Cider he had in his huge jacket pocket. It tastes amazing and makes me feel a bit giddy. We sit off in the car and on the pavement feeling the breeze coming in over the sea wall and having tuned the radio into Radio 1 we have a big sing along really loud and noisy to Lloyd Cole’s Rattlesnakes, which we all love. I love the opening bit; it really does sound the most summery thing ever and again makes me feel on fire. Some local knob heads around our age with really pimply skin and white vests start sniffing round trying to spoil our fun. One of them starts leering at Emma and making comments about her chest, which makes her very nervous. Geoff tells them in a firm way to clear off but Marty starts calling them ‘gypsy swine’ which makes me laugh but makes them a bit eager to start something. Suddenly Geoff shouts for us to run and he pushes the bigger one clean over. Marty jumps into the front driving seat and me and Emma run quickly into the back. Marty revs the car up just as Geoff jumps into the back with us and pulls his chinos down to reveal his bare arse out of the window at the gang of lads! We find this hilarious, I’ve certainly never seen Geoff’s bum before! Then Geoff starts panicking ‘cos Marty hasn’t passed his driving test or even had a proper lesson! So we pull into a side street and they swap around, Geoff back at his beloved wheel.

After that kick we decide we should go to the pub so it’s back into Filey town and the local pub that a few kids our age and older usually hang in. We go and sit in the little beer garden as it’s so nice and there are only us and a little old man with his dog there. Its really good here cos you’re outside and enjoying the weather but you still feel like you’re in the pub ‘cos the landlord pipes the music out into here and you only have to walk through a tiny dark porch to get to the bar and order your drinks or play on the fruit machine as Geoff keeps sloping off to do pretending he’s helping Marty with the drinks.

Its around 9 now, the night has gone brilliantly, I’ve had a few Cider and Blacks but not enough to send me mental, just enough to make me relaxed and happy, though Emma feels a little worse for wear. Marty is looking after her though, which is really sweet and he’s been dead funny all night, ribbing Geoff with the Rainbow voice, which made Emma laugh so much her Pepsi and Vodka came down her nose! Then the most beautiful song comes on, Life In A Northern Town by Dream Academy with its echoey bits mingling with the sound of our very own tide coming in just down the hill. I feel I can stand outside myself for a moment as we all sit there swaying a little and singing along and I savour the moment feeling the song is for us and about us as the balmy cool crisp sea air settles and the reddish sun is streaking the clear blue sky we have enjoyed as day turns to night. It’s completely beautiful to be young alive and so happy this summer. I do not want it to ever end. I want to be here this age forever and then Geoff touches my arm and I look at him and I feel I can swim in his big eyes, we move closer and kiss to the sound of ‘Ooohs!’ and ‘Go on!’ and drumming on the wooden bench from Marty and Emma and the braying of that little old man’s dog in the corner. I start giggling into Geoff’s mouth and our teeth knock and we have to stop necking. We both smile a little shyly and I say "Cheers Guys" sarkily but really, I mean it, because I am so thankful for being here loving life and having friends like these.
This is the best summer ever, with the best Life in the best Northern Town. It’s my Shiny Summer Super time so…
Ra –Ra- Ra!!!
© Mark Cunliffe March 2008

markbc@hotmail.ac.uk

Simon Says by Mark Cunliffe

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