Today we have an exclusive from I Don’t Believe God Wrote The Bible by Gerald Freeman, which goes live on the 14th and you can pre-order it here.
“Let’s go and do a tour of the marina, Jan.”
“To ask the boats for work. If we let them see who we are, they might give us something.”
“If you like,” she said cheerily.
I loved how Jan had the same enthusiasm for life as I did, and we both wanted to do the same things. I felt glad she’d come along as it was nice having someone there, especially in the night.
We spent two hours asking every single boat that had somebody on it for a job, no matter how small, but every answer was negative. I told each one of them that we would be back the next day, and the day after, and even the day after that. We continued like that for four days until finally somebody said they had something for us.
It was a big yacht, and Roz and Jamie the young French couple looking after it said they needed help cleaning the hull. They gave us a dinghy and a hose pipe, spent five minutes showing us how to do it and then left. They promised to pay us seven hundred francs for the day, which was loads of money.
“You see,” I gloated. “I told you positive thinking would do it.”
“It’s brilliant, Gerry. We’re actually working on the boats in the South of France. How cool is that?”
“Very cool I’d say. We have to send postcards as soon as we can. Maybe we can tempt Rob to come out here with us. He’d love it here.”
“Yes, maybe my sisters will come and visit us, too.”
“If people had seen what we’ve seen, they wouldn’t stay another minute back in Exmouth. I reckon everyone is going to want to live out here with us by the time they’ve read all our postcards. It’ll be like the Convoy goes continental. Screw Thatcher!”
The Convoy was a huge family of hippies that toured the festies in England who Thatcher was intent on destroying. She made a whole new set of laws preventing people from parking overnight in anything bigger than a car, and she even restricted the number of transit vans that could drive along the road in a line. It was getting impossible to go anywhere, or do anything, in England as a group.
She expected all the lazy bastards to fall in line and play a part in her idea of life. Quite honestly, most of the people I hung around with were only on the dole because there was nothing else on offer, there were no alternatives. I hated the educational conveyor belt we were all supposed to climb eagerly onto.
Our present global concept feeds a system, which is taking our children and placing them in an educational institution at just three years old or less. The law keeps them there for their entire childhood, under pressure to do academically well and not even allowing them to come up for air after years of being fed selected information, when they finally finish twelfth grade. From there, they are shunted into different universities without having the chance to go out in the world and see what else is there, for fear of falling behind the rest of the human race and eventually becoming a failure.
These people can eventually become trapped in lives they don’t dare to question for fear of having to face the truth. They end up relying on yearly holidays to exotic locations, in which they can enviously peek at the rest of the world, wondering what could have been. We all lose out. This is causing world depression and stunting our growth as a species. Parents should be promoting gap years and encouraging their children to go and find out who they really are, instead of instilling fear and forcing
them to be content with becoming who they’re not.
Society is restricting our potential and making the journey through life arduous, whereas it should be joyful. I didn’t go to university because I hadn’t discovered the thing I passionately wanted to learn, therefore I was deemed a loser and my life would go nowhere. I clenched my fists at the sky as if to say I’ve beaten you. I’d tasted anonymity and freedom and there was no going back.
The work we were doing was somewhat familiar because I’d spent time on boats. The stepfather bought one with the money he gleaned from the sale of my mother’s house, and it’d been my job as a teenager to clean and maintain it for him for three years. Luckily, it gave me the opportunity to escape from the house and see my girlfriend, so I didn’t mind doing it.
Roz and Jamie returned at the end of the afternoon and invited us to share a bottle of wine with them on the deck. They were extremely satisfied with our work and paid us immediately.
“Do you want to work tomorrow?” Roz asked.
“Yes, sure,” I replied. “Thank you, so much.” I actually wanted to get back to Cannes and see Veronique and hoped she would still be there when we returned. If not, I would just keep fond memories of my first French, summer, almost romance.
“The owners are coming next week and we have to get the boat ready. We need to varnish the deck and clean it inside and out. We probably need you for three or four more days.”
Both Jan and I were over the moon because we would end up with a wad of money to go back to Cannes with.
“Meet us here in the morning at 10:00 a.m. and we take it from there.” We downed the last of the wine and bid them farewell for the night.
Feeling famished, we set off in search of a supermarket, found one, paid for a picnic and then sat in the center of town to drink and eat. It was nothing like Cannes and we met nobody interesting in the streets. All the other workers were partying in a nearby bar, so we curled up together in a shop doorway and drank ourselves to sleep.
Working with Roz and Jamie was brilliant and we enjoyed the boat life. But although they traveled the world, I’d spent too many ghastly nights in the family yacht, battling rain and wind on rough oceans in England to be tempted back into full-time boat life. They paid us daily, so although the street scene in Antibes was rather tame, we could at least afford to spend some nights in the bars with the other workers. We kept our stuff with us at all times, but we had nothing worth stealing. We didn’t really need to pay for a locker everyday like we had been doing, and most bars let us leave our things behind the counter. We forgot them once and had to wait till the morning to get it, which didn’t matter because we were already in June and the nights were warm by then with us walking around in shorts and T-shirts at 3:00 a.m.
When the job ended we said our good-byes to Roz and Jamie and headed straight back to Cannes. Summer was upon us and it seemed like absolutely everyone was on holiday. We went straight to Sweaty Betty’s, bought a few liters of her worst wine, and then went to find a spot to party.
It wasn’t long before Veronique turned up with her friend Barbara and a couple of other French guys. They sat with us, and the girls showed Jan how to do a new kind of hair wrap, while the guys tried to teach me to juggle. They had clubs and were really good. I bashed my head countless times and even gave myself a nosebleed, but I really enjoyed it and vowed to get myself some as soon as we could afford it.
A tramp sat near us begging for money. We laughed at his honesty. The sign
he had in front of him read: I’m an alcoholic. Money for wine SVP. He shouted something over to us, but I didn’t understand. He then stood up and tried to grab the bottle of wine we were sharing.