…I remembered what it was like to feel young and happy, wearing a sweater and clean cotton pants, and walking through the cool halls of the house where I was raised and where, in the summer, the leaves hung beyond all the open doors and windows in a thick curtain of green and gold. — John Cheever, “The Chimera”
It was late summer, and I was bicycling through Margate on a rusted Pashley that I’d found leaning against the lee side of the train station. I had to nick a pump to air up the tires, but the pedals and chain worked and that was all that mattered. A Laurel and Hardy movie was showing at the Dreamland, but I can’t recall which one.
In the cottage up ahead, someone opened an upstairs window and released a song about that day, a song by Red Sleeping Beauty about a “Sunny September.”
I glanced up as I passed the cottage and saw in the opened window a young lady, Juliet sans balcony. Her hair was what the Americans would call dishwater blonde. But her eyes were an extraordinary shade of green. I swerved across the lane and almost collided with the milk truck. I recovered, pedaled on, and eventually reached the other side of the village.
Just beyond the last house on the left, a red telephone box stood casually beside a Royal Mail pillar box, two old friends, one tall and fat, the other short and thin. The phone was ringing. I dismounted and lifted the receiver: “Ahoy hoy!” But all I heard was a solid snare, followed by the sad guitars of Aberdeen’s “I Think I’m Falling.”
The song ended and I detected breathing on the other end of the line. “It’s me,” a tender voice said. “The girl who just watched you almost get plastered across the side of Mr. Fletcher’s milk truck. Look, kid, I won’t mince words. I’m shipping out in the morning and I’ve got one last night before I have to go back and help Britannia rule the waves. Or something like that. Anyway, if you want to help me make the night pass faster, meet me at the dance in the church basement in fifteen minutes. I’ll be the one serving doughnuts and trying to keep the vicar at arms length.” Then she hung up.
I sawed the bike around started pedaling hard back up the lane towards the church spire that was pricking the sky on the far end of town. But just as I hit a racing clip, my Shoestrings caught in the chain and my “Body” vaulted across the handlebars and into a large and muddy puddle.
My coat was ruined – you just can’t get mud out of fine tweed. There was nothing for it but to do my best Eric Liddell impression and sprint for church. I reached the grey granite structure and, sweating mightily, followed the string of hopefuls down the stone stairs that were etched into the side of the church and entered a dank and dungeonesque basement.
And I saw her. She was standing behind the doughnut table. Her green eyes caught the passing flash from the spinning disco ball. The dishwater blonde hair covered her shoulders. An anchor was tattooed on her left forearm; her muscular right bicep bore the name MJ Elston. An old flame, perhaps? And I thought, “She’s Like a Dream.”
The lights dimmed, Nah… stepped onto the tiny stage, and couples began to move together as “Tumbledown Weekend” filled the warm and beautifully glowing basement. Roll the credits…
The songs of our soundtrack were extracted from “Somewhere In England,” a Sunday Records 30-anniversary tribute to They Go Boom!! The album comprises 12 tracks including new recordings by PO!, the Cudgels, the Proctors, the Sunbathers, Shoestrings, Red Sleeping Beauty, Nah…, MJ Elston, The Royal Landscaping Society, and Strawberry Generation, plus previously-released tracks by the Pristines and Aberdeen. The collection creates a wonderful blend of jangly guitars and purring keyboards. “Somewhere In England” is the perfect soundtrack for whatever movie you are starring in tonight.
“Somewhere In England” is available on Bandcamp from Sunday Records. Visit the Sunday Records website to browse their other fine releases. And be sure to follow Sunday Records on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.