There is a film called ‘American Graffiti’, made by George Lucas in 1973. It is about some guys and the night before they leave their towns to go to College. In Swedish the film is more aptly named, “Last night with the gang”. This weekend was the last night with my gang.
It was a spontaneous thing, decided on a Thursday and executed on the Friday. We – Mark, the crew, the gang, the girls and the gay guy and the poet and the other gay guy – we who have been together through drama and angst and learning through two whole years should go away to some rustic place, and try to make a farewell of sorts to the ones that we will ditch in the wayside as we go on with life.
A phone call, an organised chaos later, at we’re sitting with rooms in a house in flipping Butlin’s of Minehead. Let me tell you about Butlin’s, it’s the nirvana of the Dursleys from the Harry Potter books. It is what Vernon Dursley dreams about when he’s planning a vacation. Perfectly normal, nothing out of the ordinary, and absolutely free from anything exciting. It is the apogee of the summer vacation dream of the dreary and unimaginative middle classes, and is more like a Gulag than a summer camp. Except, it is so far from normal that it is like a freak show where normally well-adjusted adults ‘let their hair down’ in the most embarrassing, and sometimes most offensive, way.
That is where we ended up, with just enough room for four girls and four boys spread out over two separate rooms. Except when we arrive it looks more like a Benny Hill episode with very overweight loud people queueing to be let in. If the Daily Mail had a photographer there, it would end up on the front page as ‘the vile product of British Welfare’.
Oh it’s practical, with walls and fences, and I half-expect German shepherds to bark at me while held on a leash by grey uniformed men who shout at me. Except the uniforms are incredibly pastel. I am exaggerating a bit. Well, quite a lot. But it is a very sequestered place with the feeling that the fences aren’t so much to keep the riff-raff that would disturb the peace out, but to keep the guests in. Or as Urban Dictionary describes it: “A piss stained, garish holiday camp for manic depressives”.
So far, it sounds as if the trip was horrible, but that was just when the reflective Colin surfaces when he’s on his own, and has the chance to observe where the hell he’s ended up. The social Colin that’s surrounded by the gaggle and the guys doesn’t really notice the surroundings because he does not interact with it. The gaggle and the guys stick to their rooms, except for a joint meal on the Saturday evening, at a restaurant away from the camp.
That other Colin, which the school knows about and which is quite indistinguishable from the other guys at the school, probably had a fine time. And sitting up to four in the morning discussing exams, hopes, dreams, and fear for results day and university, and lamenting that life is changing, again, is good. It lets out the pressure. It lifts the veil, the mist. Maybe the future is not so opaque after all.
And then it’s Sunday and we all go home, and we know that of the people there… there are few that I will keep in touch with. In five years time they will barely be names. Maybe I’ll look at the photographs, and worry my brain to remember what that girl was called. In the end, it was me, Mark, Ben and Abbie sitting on a beach in the morning staring out to the sea. We go on.
The others? The others seemed to be as far away as the moon, and didn’t occupy my thoughts any. Like in the film “American Grafitti”, the weekend was to say good-bye. Now that I’ve done so, and realised that I don’t really mind and at the same time disliking myself for being so casual about it, I can move on, but should it be so easy?