I've never met you before

This year it was Blackpool. Another conference, another 3 days of mingling with the enemy, exchanging business cards and platitudes, acknowledging each other’s presence, disguising our envies, quietly gloating at their failures. Delivering well rehearsed conversations about the rough and tumble of recent successes, the tip off, the hunt, the chase, the kill and how it all came right in the end. And the future! The future’s solid gold. No doubt about it. It’s a “dead cert”. Can’t wait. The here and now is good but the future….!

Bursting out of the overheated yellow hotel onto the sea front boulevard the cold sea air rushes at him and drives its way through his thin suit, biting at his hot skin. He doesn’t try to pull his jacket closer or wrap his arms around himself to try and hold his body heat in. Instead, with arms out stretched towards the black sea, he charges across the North South carriageway.

Griping the pale blue, blistered surface of the promenade railings, he looks up to see the sky to see Snow White – long blonde hair, and eyes of blue looking over him. “We’re all going to Just the plaice” – D’ya get it? It’s a fish restaurant! Just the plaice – I like sea food! D’ya wanna come?

Without replying, he stumbles along with this new crowd that he barely recognises, and who barely recognise each other. Does anyone actually know anyone here? He falls into one of the many knotty pine dining chairs, arranged around a long table. The table is made up of lots of smaller tables, all pushed up against one another. You can see the slight unevenness of the surface beneath the busy peach tablecloth.

The floor is uneven too, causing the tables to wobble. Like Teutonic plates, they shift about, pulling slightly about from each other to reveal lines of breadcrumbs from the previous groups of diners that are resting in the crevices. And then they snap together again, pinching the peach tablecloth, sending shockwaves through bottles of beer and goblets of medium dry house white. Conversation is easy here – there’s a lot to talk about – no one knows each other, and the outrageous lies and distortions flare up through the thick sweet scent of fat and vinegar.

Martin Hinchcliffe 2010, Blackpool, 2003.