And there we sat, on a couple of cheap metal chairs dragged over from a stack of many, leaving a trail in the rough stony beach. The days heat was slowly blowing away and yet it was still seriously hot, but the incoming breeze made it bearable, just. Ali threw a stone into the water, missing the Evian bottle floating there. I had a go and missed , then relit the hash spliff I’d wrapped up earlier in the youth hostel. Nice beach 1989. Year dot. This was our life: Up at seven when the one-armed yank who ran the youth hostel charged into the dorm shouting ‘Hands off cocks on socks!’ and thought he was funny. Every day he shouted the same old same old bullshit line and I was dying to point out this out. Then we’d go out to the supermarket to buy our food for the day: Two baguettes, some salami and a packet of La Vache qui Rit cheese. This was all we could afford.
Me and my best mate Ali had come down to Nice after the 1989 bicentennial celebrations in Paris. We checked out Jean-Paul Goude‘s parade and then jumped on the overnight train to Nice. The previous day, Ali‘s credit card had been swallowed up in a cash machine and so we were well under manners and an even tight budget – until his girlfriend could make it down to Nice and sort us out with some more cash. On the train down from Paris I hooked up with a black French guy going south into the army who sold me a chunk of the massive bit of hash he was holding. We smoked all night in the corridor, and I was completely baked by the time Ali dragged me off at Nice station the next morning. I promptly fell asleep on the beach that day and almost got sunstroke. We then checked into the temporary youth hostel (a fire station) that opened each summer, and lived out a meager, but chilled, existence, trying to make the money I had last. We thought about buying and selling soft drinks on the beach (‘BOISSON FRAIS!’) but the competition from the Moroccans was a bit fierce, we figured they would cut us up as soon as look at us after finding out we were trying to jump their game. After tanning all day listening to a Balearic beat tape (Sunrise FM and Centerforce) on my bright yellow Walkman, we‘d go back to the youth hostel and shower. I‘d wrap up a joint and then we‘d go back to the beach to eat the other half of our daily food ration and watch the night descend, stoned to the bone.
To pass the time, we‘d throw stones at floating Evian bottles, just for the thrill of hearing the crack of stone on plastic, and after a while the sea would merge with the sky and I‘d have to look away. This was when I started to thing about writing. When it all began. This was year dot, back when things were simple. The airport lay across the bay and planes kept dropping in overhead, almost swooping into the sea, coming in so low I could read the safety shit written underneath on the fuselage as they bombed past bringing in the Cote D’Azure faithful. This was how we spent the summer. It didn’t matter that at the end we would go our separate ways – Ali to Manchester and me to St. Martins. All that mattered was that precise moment: the silence was comfortable and the laughter real. This was about friendship, we gave a shit about each other and that was it.
Picture this: Summer has kicked-off with a bang, you are a rich white suburban teen and the year could be 1978 or 1988, it just. Doesn’t. Matter. You and your friends all have convertibles with high-grade stereos in them and an endless supply of weed, and all you have to do is hang out and keep cool: In every sense of the word. You spend you days sleeping till noon and then after a quick dip in the large blue pool behind the house you jump (literally) in your firebird or freebird or thunderbird and cruise through the valley to pick up your best friend, Kenny. The two of you then go to a sweet leafy spot high up in the hills to kick back and smoke some weed, over looking the city suburbs, until you are really stoned and then cruise about the streets listening to KROC or a mixtape that one of you has made. The tunes are all blissed-out west coast shit, and play loudly as your skin blisters and burns in the sun, from white to red to brown. You and Kenny begin to look alike and a couple of times you share a girl. A couple of times you get so wasted that you forget your name, you forget who what when where why, until you spot Kenny sat in a corner sat by the pool sat in the passenger seat sat next to you with his head in his hands and and and it all comes rushing back to you. It could be said that Kenny keeps you grounded; that he keeps you from getting so high and actually floating off and never returning; but this would never happen, as that would be just too deep for you to imagine. After a few hours of cruising you float down from the hills into the valley and hook up with your close circle of friends every night in a car park behind the 7-11, which by 9-o clock looks like a fancy-schmancy car show complete with beautiful women lolling about on the hoods of the cars. By midnight the party has moved on to wherever is available; whoever’s parents are out of town, you move from one spot to another in heavy rotation. You drift thought a steady supply of the most beautiful girls imaginable and available – nothing ever too heavy and nobody ever getting hurt when you trade in one for another. This is all part of it. The girls are into the brief, intense, relationships and after a couple of hazy days of love they want someone, something, new. This is all you do all summer. This is all you want to do all summer. This is summer. You have absolutely nothing to worry about. Nothing.