I’ve got myself a job, working in a shipyard for a company that makes insanely priced luxury motor yachts for foreign gentlemen with more money than sense.
They’re beautiful things, these boats; white and gleaming: they nose through the blue waters like mythical sea beasts. They are things of dream and fantasy; the kind of item you probably imagined yourself buying before you resigned yourself to the fact that you were never going to win the lottery. You can get one for between £750,000 (if you have a modest budget) and twenty million quid (if you’re more of an exhibitionist), and it'll be made almost entirely from stuff that you can get at B&Q.
There are several hundred people employed at the shipyard, but providence saw fit to put me on a team of scooter enthusiasts. These guys are far more interested in talking about the latest modifications to their Lambrettas than they are about anything that’s happening on the boat, which is fine by me. They were very pleased, I think, that the newest member of their team was not a freakishly huge eastern European body builder foaming at the mouth from too many steroids (which they were expecting), but a thin white sleepy looking bird with a Paul Weller haircut, rectangular sunglasses and a “Watch the Cloth, Moth” T-shirt.
At the moment the lads are in excited anticipation of the Isle of Wight scooter rally.
“We go every year,” Frenchy told me, “why don’t you come with us? I reckon it’s going to be Roger Daltrey headlining. Last year it was Ronnie Lane. The year before it was Madness.”
“I’d love to,” I said, “but I don’t have a scooter.”
“That’s ok. Half the people there don’t have a scooter. It don’t matter. It’s just three days of camping in a field and getting extremely pissed. I drink a bottle of Bacardi every night. You drink Bacardi?”
“No, I don’t drink at all these days.”
“Because I’m allergic to alcohol.”
“Why, what happens? Does it make you break out in a rash?”
“No, it makes me break into your house.”
And so began the discussion about alcoholism. I described the physical craving and mental obsession, and they all decided they had at least one person amongst their acquaintance who was probably alcoholic. The carpet fitter was kneeling in the corner listening intently. I knew he was listening because he is an alcoholic, but it hasn't dawned on him yet. When he does he’ll know who to talk to.
“Anyway,” I said to Frenchy, “I can’t really afford to go to the Isle of Wight, because I’m saving up to go to India for two months at the end of the year.”
“Really? I’ve never been to India. What are you going there for?”
“Well, I’m going to study.”
“It’s the science of self-inquiry. The study of consciousness.”
“No shit. Wow. How cool is that. You know you can pick up a scooter for a couple of hundred quid out there. Hey Arnie! Paul Weller’s going to India!”
“That’s great, Paul Weller!” the voice of Arnie drifted in from the cockpit. “Now we can import some Lambrettas!”