Wednesday, 18 January 2012

NPS has a day out in Lakeside.

It happened in Harry Ramsden’s. It was like a low-budget estuary English version of The Matrix, where what seems like the real world breaks down for a few moments and the full horror of your situation becomes clear. Instead of the world fuzzing at the edges with pixel breakdown or a glitch in speech, the artificial world of Lakeside revealed its deception not in a Keanuesque manner but moreover a Larkinesque manner: Bogey smeared menus, wall paper peeling off to reveal past attempts to stick it back down with blue-tack, poorly serviced storage heaters being backed up by three bar heaters like the one made famous in the photo of the old woman who had spontaneously combusted and had left only one lower leg (shoe attached) and a Zimmer frame in a dramatic pose[1], and the giant cardboard fetch of an actor pretending to be the ghost of Harry Ramsden (whose dynasty beget Harry Corbett – he of Sooty fame), falling over every time the front door opened. I suddenly felt this black pit open up below my deep fried ‘langoustine’ with cosmic slop trading under the name tartare sauce, which in turn was excited by refried ex-vegetable matter shaped like chips. It was like being freed from an oubliette, only to find your self still inside a prison, being led to another oubliette. This sense of panic enveloped me, this non-space, sitting under the shadow of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge where a million people cross everyday, made me reach for the crossword and click the ball point pen frantically like popping candy, what was this feeling? Would the crossword hold the answer:  1 across: The act of transferring property; estrangement  (10)…?

Wallets lighter, stomachs heavier, we were drawn deeper into the world of Lakeside and found ourselves at a UCI mega-plex. We had time to kill. I first visited this place in the early nineties, a birthday treat off my eldest sister: Steve Martin’s piss-poor LA Story where a freeway sign talks to him and offers him advice, a digi-board with pretensions towards being a psychoanalyst. The second time, I was much older and I watched Reservoir Dogs, ear cutting and criminal incriminations hurtling around an empty warehouse much like any within a 25 square mile radius of Lakeside. Now I was in my thirties and confronted by a bored lesbian who also looked as hung-over as me and E. Behind her, the once flash fuzzy felt board with metallic letters that had seemed so futuristic in 1991, now appeared world-weary and dyslexic: Maddergasker 2 (pg)…
No thanks.
            Not on your Nelly.

[1] However, an interesting thing occurred that made me question my memory of the three bar heater:

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