On a jolly to the picturesque coastal town of Bude in north Cornwall we felt massively out of place; not for the first or last time! The festival was mostly Trad Jazz and our unique blend of jump jive, new breed swing and insane antics hit the town with mixed reviews. I guess we were unprepared for the array of banjo wielding, waistcoat wearing, umbrella twirling Trad Jazzers and we decided to cause a ruckus.
After our show we continued to drink heavily back at the hotel. The Duke wanted to join in the jam session but was reprimanded by the banjo player for playing too many modern jazz voicings - like 9ths! It was fun to see him cause such bemusement amongst the serious 'Won't you come home Bill Bailey' crowd.
The Bude nightlife was pitiful and any chance of a fun time was quickly diminishing as the old folk pushing their limits of staying up beyond 11pm started to shuffle off to bed or just pass out in their chairs.
Huddled in a booth and being supplied round after round by the hotel staff who we had befriended earlier, we pretended we were rock stars. In hindsight we were probably rude and obnoxious but we were determined to have a good time despite what others thought. In a moment of drunken boredom we decided to have a game of 'who can pour the most candle wax on our hand without wincing'. Far from Madonna's famous scene with William Defoe in Body of Evidence, this homoerotic drinking game was about as sexy as the becardiganed banjo player from the jam session earlier. I seemed drunk enough to be quite adept at the game but Good Times was in another league; scarily so, as he poured hot wax on his hand and up his forearm looking us all in the eye with a slightly sadistic smile. That look still haunts me today. It jolted us into action as we all leapt up from the table and announced him the winner. We left the building immediately.
Staggering out into the town we headed for the beach which was cold, dark and added an extra level of difficulty to our walk as we zigzagged through the sand.
The sea was quite far out and in the August night it had an appeal which I discovered was not just limited to myself. As I looked at the Duke we simultaneously said:
“Let’s take a dip.” My reserved Englishman reluctance due to no swimming apparel was soon quashed when he presented his manhood and shouted: "Sod it, let's go balls first.” Seeing his cold, shrivelled member gave me a huge confidence boost, so I pushed my boxers to the floor and jumped in after him.
Now...I've already stated that this whole evening was rife with homoerotic behaviour but nothing beyond the drinking games and initiations of a Rugby club. Let us be serious for a minute. In my mind as I write this, I have a memory which is so pure and full of joy that it cannot be tarnished. A platonic friendship with the Duke that in that moment had a connection so strong it left a huge imprint in my memory. As I watch the replay in my mind like a flashback montage from a bad 80's film, I see us laughing, swimming, splashing each other and completely immersed in both the refreshing salt water of the surf and the hilarity and joy of the moment. The cold of the water sobered me up just enough to take snapshots of that night and I remember the fullness of the moon, the white of the breakers, the smile of the Duke which was, for once, completely genuine. I also remember a large dark shape on the surface of the water. It was heading straight for us. It looked like a duck but had no features that I could make out. The Duke had spotted it too and had stopped arsing about to get a closer look. We looked at each other and clocked our mutual concern. As it swam to within 10 feet of us it lifted to reveal a face underneath and a Welshman’s chest. It was the quiff of Clancy, he had swam out to us in the buff to warn us of the rip tide. He had noticed that we had drifted out considerably and needed to get back to shore before we were pulled out to sea. The force of the current suddenly became apparent as we tried to head back to the beach. It was a struggle and the Duke and I lost our humour for the remainder of the swim. Exhausted and relieved we made our way back on to the beach. The rest of the band stood protecting their eyes from our exposed genitals and they really missed a trick when they showed us exactly where we had left our clothes. I guess they were too drunk, too concerned that we would drown or preoccupied with minor candle wax burns to hide our clothes and make us walk back through the streets of Bude naked.
I thank the Duke for that wonderful time in the summer surf of the early hours of Saturday morning. It was a magical moment and one I will never forget.
I also thank Clancy for saving our lives.