The Shoebox of Delights – #3
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Sometime Always
It is nearly Easter 1994 and it is the day of my driving test. I am shitting it – I have no idea why I am doing my test – I can’t parallel park, my three point turn is more like a seventeen point turn and whilst practising bay parking in my Grandad’s Ford Escort I have hit a wall and a shopping trolley. The shopping trolley wasn’t even in the bay that I was reversing into. I am so going to fail. To make this worse it’s raining, in fact it’s absolutely effing it down.
I sit in my Grandads car waiting to go in – he looks at me and says “you’ll be fine, its easy” – he was a man of few words my grandad – he told me once that when he passed his driving test in 1963 that all he had to do was drive between two cones and the reverse back through and stick an arm out of the window. Because of this he was a lousy driver, I mean him no disrespect when I say that there an undiscovered tribes in the Amazon with no comprehension of cars, roads, traffic cones or clutch control that could drive better than him. In the thirty years he’d been driving, I think he’d changed gear correctly about twice, you could hear him coming down the road because of the load crunch of gears when he slowed down from third to second. He also refused to drive on motorways so it took literally for ever to get to some places, but he’d never had an accident, I mean he’d caused several thousand, but that’s not the point – right?
He switched the radio on – I think he wanted to get the result of the 1230 race at Doncaster – but instead he got rock music. I’d changed the channel whilst reverse parking in the car park at Tesco earlier in the day. The song that came on was ‘Happy when it Rains’ by Jesus and Mary Chain. I look out the window as the rain lashes down on the car. For the first and only time, I hear my Grandad say the F word followed by the words ‘load’ ‘of’ ‘noisy’ and ‘rubbish’. Then I hear the familiar sound of static and then the radio station he wanted. His sudden outburst had strangely relaxed me and I burst out laughing. I’d better get inside I said. “I’ll wait here, you’ll only be five minutes” he said utterly convinced that I was doing the same test as him. Although I still think I would fail that. As I get the door I see him rip up a small betting slip that he taken out of his blazer pockets (incidentally what is it with old chaps and blazers…?), I always wanted to hear his explanation to my Nan as to where her housekeeping money had gone.
Remarkably I passed. For the only time in my life – I managed to do a parallel park without driving backwards and forwards twenty times to get the angle right. My three point was exactly that. My emergency stop was so good it sent the instructors clipboard flying into his lap. I even did an additional emergency stop when the tractor appeared out of nowhere – this was a built up area in the middle of the Medway Towns, I have no idea what the tractor was doing there.
As I drove back into the test centre – “just park anywhere” the instructor says. I deliberately park next to Grandad’s car and give him a wave as I do so. He is asleep. Of course he is. I once found a hip flask full of whiskey in his glove box whilst looking for a pen. He always said it was for medicinal purposes.
The instructor looks at me – and he says “ I know you from somewhere”. Shit. I think. He looks at my name on his pad. Shit, I think again, I have just remembered where I know this bloke from. In all the worry about having the test, I realised that I have barely given the guy a look. He lives next door to Our Price Girl. I curse my luck – I mean what are the chances of that? I have met him twice. The first time was at a barbecue at her house for her Dad’s 45th birthday about eighteen months ago. The second time was when he caught me nipping out the backdoor at 6.30am as I was late for my morning job at a newsagents. That was three days ago. I know. I know.
I had no idea he was a driving test examiner. I thought he was a copper.
It took me about a week to phone her after the Green Day incident, I had tickets to see Pavement in London at the Town and Country Club – the girl I was intended to take – let’s call her Levellers Girl – couldn’t come – and I was going to give the ticket to mate, but changed my mind – or rather my loins changed it for me. So I asked Our Price Girl. She said yes straight away.
The gig was on the last day of February and it snowed. We spent most of the train ride up talking and then we danced (me badly, her gracefully, wonderfully) to our/my favourite band and spent the train ride home doing things on trains that were if it rush hour would have got us arrested (leaning out window, smoking that sort of thing). So we were back together. Sort of. It wasn’t official . Hence me sneaking out the back door, pants in hand at 6.30am. For now.
“Are you Dave’s son?” the voice said next to me, shaking me out of my (pleasant) memory. Now, my Dad is called Dave – so I said yes. “ I think I played football with him. Was he a goalkeeper?”. My dad played in goal for Gillingham – briefly – I’ll add – he gave it up because he preferred smoking to training – true story. Yes, I said again. That’s his dad sitting asleep in that car over there. “Frank” he said. Yes, I said, struggling to comprehend what the fuck was happening. Our Price Girl’s next door neighbour knows my entire family – how, what,why?
He embraced my Grandad like a long lost uncle. It was weird. I never asked him if he was Our Price Girl’s neighbour – I mean he definitely was – and as it happens I only went to her house once more and I didn’t leave through the back door.
Our Price Girl bought me this CD – as a late birthday present, it came out on July 1994, just before their new album ‘Stoned and Dethroned’. We’d spent a week on the Norfolk Broads and she bought it from a branch of Our Price in Norwich.
mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – Sometimes Always
mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – The Perfect Crime
mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – Little Stars
mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – Drop Re-Recorded
I played it constantly – she told me that the song reminded her of me and her particularly the ‘You ran away’ bit. I can sort of see what she meant. Exactly two weeks later, we were over. Again.
As close as you’ll get to a photo of Our Price Girl.