BATHWATER, EXTRACT FROM BEGINNING SCENE 1
Jos: 1st January 2017
The day my life changed … well, it was night actually. When my life changed, I was sleeping. I used to have this blanket that I always took to bed; it was blue fleece. Real soft. And this night, I had it in bed. And course, I was asleep. Cos I always used to sleep alright with that blanket. And so everything that happened, happened while I was warm and cosy at home. And I didn’t know anything about it. Funny that, innit? How your life can change, and at the time, you don’t even know. And it was like my anchor that blanket. You could use it like a pair of arms, giving you a cuddle. It was like safety. And it smelt like toast. It used to smell like toast.
Vicky: It’s January 1999, in Hull. In an ex-council house, now private house, a two-mile drive from where I grew up. I’ve just dropped out of college, for the second time. I’m 19.
His palms are pressed against mine.
calloused and strong, they pulse with promises;
bass-lines to stories he whispers, trawling the air above us.
They echo through plaster, rafters and brick,
shake the sky, so that light spills down
in lines; illuminates his words.
We are transfixed by the glow
of the future we’re drawing out
in these biting black empty rooms.
We lie on the living room floor.
No mattress. No bulbs.
Walls hold off rain, but not the cold.
We protect ourselves from the January freeze;
these words, low gas, body heat.
Jos: I wish I knew where it began.
The seconds, the heartbeats that change everything.
Vicky: He was my new year’s day.
Smiling face an open question.
Whole lifetimes playing out across his palms.
I was his New Year’s wish.
Barmaid in his local pub. But not to him.
To him I was a princess. And he would drink my bathwater.
There’s something about this place, something about the way it holds you that you don’t forget once you’ve felt it; and it’s not just the wide muddy Humber pulsing past below you, stretching out in front of you and to your sides. It’s not just the wind pushing up against you, forcing you to stand up straight, stretch out your back, steady your face against it and breathe in. It’s not just the millions of footsteps that echo back off the pavers, the million souls that passed through between countries, and sometimes stayed.
The Deep stretches out a proud chest towards the opposite bank and a lone figure, raised on his stone plinth, echoes its reach – eyes steadily gazing outwards towards Iceland or Grimsby, or maybe just into the current of the wind. And you know, if you’re from here, that he represents the links of this city to Scandinavia, to trawlers, to fishing and the cod war and all the heartache of lives lost in these cold waters. The Deep is a fitting construction in this place – the muted colours, its hull-shaped profile, the fact that it’s full of water and fish, mean it fits. It’s accepted. Not out of place on these muddy banks – a modern throwback to the things that built this city.
If you’re from here, you’ll also know that running out behind you are cobbled streets and warehouses that once held fruit and fish for the market – but now house art, history, music, theatre and food. This place is changing, there can be no doubt, but it’s roots are still evident in these modernised buildings, like blue twine has criss-crossed the rooves, and steel rivets have been planted in all four corners and along the seams, holding us firm in our history, making sure we don’t get too carried away with fancy beers and steaks on slates.
When you’re held here, the rush of the wind and the water pushes all thoughts from your head. There’s something elemental about standing in this place. Your hands on cold metal railings, your feet on stone – looking out at the same river where Vikings in longboats navigated the tides and the shifting mudbanks using only their five senses. The speed and strength of the wind in their faces held hidden messages we can’t decipher now; the earthy smell of the banks was a navigation tool; the alkaline smart of a plumbed bob on the tongue could tell how far inland they’d travelled. Though we might not speak their lost languages, they’re still about us, scrawled in air and water like soot markings in a cave, if only we knew how to hook them out and read them.
There’s something about this place. Something about the way it holds you that you can’t forget. And if you’ve felt it, then you’re from here. Because that’s the most important thing about this place – it’s populace has always been transitory, it’s population swelling and falling with the currents and the weather and the changes sifting up from the mouths of men in rooms down south. But once you’ve felt it, you carry it with you, whether you stay or whether you’ve just stopped off on your way to another landing.