Where’s the party?
April 22, 2011 § Leave a comment
The Space Between Things begins in a Birmingham suburb on the day in 1990 when Mrs Thatcher left Downing Street.
We were sitting in a campus pub, The Pot of Beer, when we heard that Thatcher had gone. She was in tears, the bitch. Our first thought was “where’s the party?”
The party was in Moseley, two-and-a-half Embassy filter out of town on the number 50 bus.
It ends four years later, in a field in Bosnia. Between is everything that was bizarre and wonderful and weird and cracked in Britain under Thatcher’s grey Spitting Image successor: weed, bifters, skunk and e; free festivals, ley lines and raves; new age travellers, cheesies, anarchists, fluffies and crusties; the techno beat; squats and vegan cafes; Twyford Down, traffic cone hotlines and the Criminal Justice Bill. Even the characters’ names bring back memories: Smurf, Vee, Stripe, Sorrell, Ig and Mickey the Sleeves. Charlie Hill weaves it all together with a confident irony:
In the off-licence I saw Cheesy and Smurf. Cheesy was trainee Brew Crew, a lunch-out soap dodger. He was buying a four-pack. Smurf was a young traveller. They were coming up on something. It looked as through the head tunes sounded good. Their faces were ticcing in time.
“You alright, geez,” I nodded, “geez.”
“Just off to a party,” they said.
…and sometimes arcs into a tranced poetry:
And then in the van on the way back to Brum two days later, post-ecstasyed, vital toxins trickling down the cracks in my crazy-paving brain, I thought about the party, the people and the dancing in tents with space lights and lasers and the black sky at night with explosions in the sky and how it had been a great party, the best of all parties, but also of what else it had been, how those crazy days – yes, those crazy days – had gone beyond parties and were more, were a coming together that you might have seen if you’d put the graft in, a coming together of dissipation and energy, of getting fucked and exploration, of me and Tom and Stripe and Sorrell, of walking through the fire and the world and its possibilities…
And in amongst all this is a love story.
Vee’s gone now but she’s there in the stillness of the day. She’s there in the chatter too, alive even as it deadens my senses. She is the loudest and softest part of the chatter, like the beat in my head and the poetry I once recited and every time I hear her I feel as though I have discovered the great yes all over again…
Vee is the outsider, the one who puts the partying in perspective. For the narrator Arch, would be poet, would be roads protester, would be velvet revolutionary, she alters everything. Hill pulls off the double trick of allowing his characters to change and allowing them to fall short. Like Doris Lessing’s post-war activists, their solidarity fragments into factions and their idealism comes to seem just a bit daft.
A great read, full of fresh energy and insight.