On Tuesday I found myself at the receiving end of another spontaneous message, this time from a close friend living in Cornwall. Two days later I was sitting on a train, watching patchwork countryside slip by on my journey to Newquay. Yes, I had work to get done, but I hadn’t seen my friend in a long while, and it was almost my birthday, and I’m self-employed, and responsibilities be damned. I don’t have to be an adult all the time.
I wasn’t sure why the invitation had come up, but the request seemed rather urgent; I had been told to book tickets to arrive by a certain time, and departing the next day, which would be my birthday. When I failed to reply to the initial message quickly enough, I received another message soon afterwards asking if I had done what had been asked. Thus I stopped my daily writing work, to comply to the demand. I’m usually not so swift to meet unbidden commands without questioning, but this particular friend is great at impromptu gatherings and the majority of our get-togethers are off the calender, so I actually got a little excited.
My train arrived into Newquay station around mid-afternoon, after miles and miles of green vistas and riverside towns. Upon arrival I headed to the toilets. I reasoned I would spend the penny I had been saving for the last fifteen minutes of the trip, and then call Andreas to arrange where to meet. I stumbled into him on my way out.
I’ve been friends with Andreas for five years now, and in that time, our lives have been close together and far apart. He spent a year living in Spain, and recently took to Cornwall with his fiance. Sometimes, we can spend months without much communication. However, we have a friendship which picks up pretty much where it left off. Distance doesn’t stain or separate us. It was great to see him after so long, and even nicer to reacquaint with his partner after an even longer time away. They have a dog now, and are living in a quiet area a short walk from the beach. Their beautiful, character filled flat is situated above a bridge between the front door and garage. Thomas spoke about leaving a gap for dragons to pass through, apparently an old Chinese practice. Living in a city, I found myself taken away from hustle and bustle into a less hectic, laid back environment.
I learned the reason I had been so adamantly requested across the boarder. Andreas had purchased a ticket to see a band we both enjoyed, who he introduced me too, playing at a unique venue nearby. Needless to say, I was glad to have ignored my life tasks and hopped the train down.
We had lunch at one of the few vacant diners in the centre of the town. The area was packed with holiday makers from the north of the country, flocking to the sandy beaches and sunny disposition of the south. The restaurant was hidden, located as it was above a pharmacy, with small signage outside for advertising. The staff were friendly and bubbly, and the seats were made of clear plastic. They also allow friendly dogs, which was lucky, because little Milo was accompanying us. It’s called Kayes, if you happen by the area. Pop in. The food was well prepared and filling, and the milkshakes are to die for.
Anyway, after a brief stop to drop off the dog and take in some fluids, it was time to head out to the concert. The venue was a private beach just a short walk from the flat. From the top of the cliffs, the stage could be seen on the beach below, surrounded by picnic tables, food marques and beach huts. I was told to leave my umbrella at the top.
The sea stretched out against a somewhat cloudy backdrop. I was actually happy the weather wasn’t blaring sunshine. Having only heard about the concert a few hours previous I was donned in jeans. Luckily for me, it remained cool enough for the entire event that I didn’t have to worry too much about it.
We had descended the steps, wrist bands collected, excitement growing, but we were especially early. Local supporting artists took to the stage first. While they performed we sat and laughed and played in the sand. Sand, as you are more than aware if you have ever spent more than five minutes on a beach, or in a sand pits, gets everywhere. It sneaks into the shoes, and up sleeves, and into bags with the stealth of a ninja. It turns up days later. Within minutes I had it in my hair, all over my trousers and jacket. It stuck in anything remotely damp, including drinks. It was more fun that I thought I could have just hanging on a beach listening to undiscovered singer songwriters emote in the background.
We had a mission: to be at the front for the main performance. The beach boasted a 1800 limit; that’s a lot of bodies crowding to watch the band, and I’m ridiculously short. Chances are if I didn’t get to the front, I wouldn’t see very much. As the second and final supporting act began to wind down their set, we relocated to sitting closer to the barriers separating the stage from the spectators. It was a crafty, somewhat self-serving tactic, and it worked.
As soon as the last song ended, we rose and positioned ourselves central to the sage, pressed up against the barricade. Others started to venture over. Soon there were rows upon rows of people gathering up behind us. The light was starting to fade, the sun already passing behind the horizon. Strings of party lights kept the general area illuminated as the daylight ebbed. The world became a mix of enthusiastic chatter, the roaring of the tide, and the twangs of the sounds guys testing guitars.
Our view was spectacular. As the band took to the stage, it was obvious we had prime viewing. Morcheeba took up their instruments. 1800 fans cheered their approval as Skye took to the microphone and the first song blasted out from the speakers. The rumble of the beat throbbed through my chest.
They played a selection from newer and older albums, including of course, their famous number The Sea, perfect for the seaside location. Skye, as the band’s lead singer and spokesperson, was charming, charismatic and gorgeous. Her energy filled the stage and echoed out into the audience. We were invited to sway and sing along, and chime in for certain sounds and lyrics. We sang happy birthday to the proprietor of the event. We swayed and jumped and clapped, and even held out our torches when the mood grew relaxed. At one point, Skye stood on the stage wall, in high heals to show us her outfit, kept steady by the security manning the barrier. When they retired, we of course, cheered for one more, and we were obliged.
Finally, they took their leave and the stage darkened. I was exhilarated and exhausted, my mind filled with various tunes from various Morcheeba songs. The sky was dark, the sea now only audible. Lifeguards were patrolling the waves as drunken spectators stripped and took to swimming. Our group had become separated, so we waited on the beach to be found by our missing companion, not least because he had the key to the house and his phone was out of juice. Unfortunately, as the crowds returned to the cliff tops, our companion appeared to have returned home to await our arrival. By now, it was about 23:00, and I was in my final hour of being 25; if I had any final things to get done prior to turning 26, I didn’t have long to progress.
I was pretty happy about where I was on the eve of gaining another year. I hadn’t expected to be leaving a great concert, walking through the refreshing night air to spend the night on sofa cushions arranged on the floor, yet here I was. I recalled where I had been a year before, sleeping at a stranger’s house in London, feeling scared and a little dejected by someone claiming to care about me. I felt no emotional attachment to the past, only a gratitude to be so much happier and more secure only a year later. Aside from the absence of one person, I couldn’t image a place I’d rather be.
We were back at the flat when the day changed, and my birthday began. They guys provided a cake and sung happy birthday. We dined on a midnight feast of homemade Greek soup and sponge cake, talking into the night about the concert. Once our stomachs were full, we retired to bed. Sleep swept in without a need for invitation; I settled myself on the makeshift bed, listening to the silence, looking forward to the day ahead.
That was the last day I was 25, spent with great company,listening to Morcheeba on the beach.