Friday, 23 December 2016

Growing the Page

Something (or rather, a lot of someones) is lifting this blog into a range of viewing figures I have not seen before. I can't pretend it's breaking any records in the blogging world, having read about some blogs with pageview figures in the millions range, but it is on the up. It may not yet be in the fast lane, but it's edging nearer the slip road onto the motorway.

     Whoever you are, thank you for reading, or at least glancing at, what I have to offer. If you'd like to offer a comment as well, complimentary or carping, dogmatic or derisory, I'd be delighted. 

     I was going to wait till New Year before posting anew, but received wisdom says one needs to post regularly, at least once a week, to keep and grow readership.

     So here's a little piece of whimsy to launch this blog into 2017.

McGill's Last Laugh

'Leave it, Vince! You ain't gunna look at every bloody postcard, are yer?' 
     'Nah, just these. I'll meet you at the chip shop. Nothin's startin' before two o'clock. I'll be there on the beach, to give the Mods a good kicking.' 
     Just the usual seaside postcards - fat old ladies, skinny blokes and cheeky kids – except one was different. There was this bloke done up like a pirate and a snooty old woman looking shocked. I forget the joke; what made me look again was that the pirate was advertising “Treasure Trips Round the Bay”. 
     Every other card in the rack card said clearly “Pleasure Trips”; I checked 'em. Only one said “Treasure”. Under that were two squiggly lines like tiny writing. I bought that card and a magnifying glass.  
     I sat on the bench outside and peered at the lines. They said: “I n the bay that's owned by no living man, on an island that rowers will understand.” On the back of the card was printed “Blackstone 14YN22NE.X,” like a catalogue number or something. No other card had that.
     What was all that about? I remembered reading Treasure Island when I was a kid. I tried to tell myself to be sensible. Nobody finds treasure maps, these days. Or do they?  
     I forgot all about meeting up with the gang, forgot about the Mods and their dopey anoraks and their putt-putt lawnmower Lambrettas. I kicked the Matchless into a roar and headed back to the Smoke, breaking the speed limit most of the way. 
     I hardly slept that night. In the library Monday morning, I chased up the librarian for atlases and lists of places – gazetteers, she called them. Didn't stop for a coffee, had nothing to eat. It was well after three before I got lucky. 
     I'd been looking for the name of an island that might have something to do with rowing - Oar Island, Crew, Stroke, Bow, even Oxford or Cambridge Island. That librarian was giving me the old "You again?" treatment when I kept asking for more maps. Then one name jumped out of the page: Skull Island, same sound as scull in rowing. It was in the Caribbean, a little dot south of Puerto Rico, so small there were no maps of it.  
# 
I had to sell the bike to pay for the trip. A one way ticket. I finally got to a place from where I could see this Skull island. The locals told me nobody lived on it but there was a place called Dead Man's Bay.  
     I'd found it! My treasure.  
     Old Diego took me across in his little boat. I left him on the beach gutting a fish he'd caught. I headed inland and started to search. I'd worked out the code long ago. It didn't take long to find a black rock in a clearing. From there I paced out 14 yards north and 22 northeast and started to dig. I heard Diego shouting, 'Da fish, she cooked, man!' just as my spade struck something hard. I cleared the earth away and dragged out a wooden box. The hinges were almost rusted away and I broke them easily. 
     There was no treasure.  
     There was only a giant postcard, sealed in wax paper, showing that same leering pirate and the snooty woman, and he's saying, 'Oi never said “treasure”, lady. Oi said Oi'm after me pleasure!' 
#
     I never did go home. 'Course I was disappointed at first, but, you know what, these people took me in as if I was one of their own.  
     I can sit on the beach now with my Josefina. I love to smell the perfume in her hair while she tells me how it'll be when we get married. I helped to build the church, you know. We're going to live in the house that the villagers are getting ready for us. 
     You know what I'm doing to earn some dosh? Don't laugh. I'm teaching English. Me, from South London! The kids'll all grow up speaking like Bob Hoskins. 'Oskins, more like. 
     The Mods can rule over all the beaches in England if they want, and you know what, I don't give a hairy parka. 
     I've found the only treasure I need. 

Donald McGill was a cartoonist whose saucy seaside postcards have become collectable.
The Mods (Moderns) wore anoraks (or parkas) and rode mopeds or scooters; the Rockers were black-leather bikers who despised the Mods. In English seaside resorts during the summer of 1964 there were pitched battles between the gangs.