On the short ferry trip back to Mull I spotted him. Gangly, travelling on his own, red dreadlocks curled up around on his head like a woollen hat. At first I couldn’t place him, but I edged nearer and saw he was wearing a jacket with his band’s name on “The Levellers.”
I kind of liked The Levellers a bit. So I made conversation. He was a decent guy. Fobbed me off nicely, laughed at something I said and eventually we stood there in silence, side by side, leaning on the white rails and looking into the blue water. We left the ferry apart but when I got into my car I saw him sitting there with his rucksack waiting for the bus. Fuck knows how frequent the busses were out there, but it could have been days. I braked the car in a cloud of dust near where he was, put down the window and asked if he wanted a lift across Mull to the mainland ferry. He thought about it, looked at my stupid boy racer car, then through lack of will said ‘Yeah, ta.’
There it was: me driving, my wife in the back, and a trapped rock musician in the passenger seat. I was appalling. For the entire hour I was a joke. We talked about heroin, his reason for being on Iona (he was on a yearly spiritual retreat. I guessed it was some form of 12 step hangover from a rehab he’d completed some years since), and about the awesome tattoo on his needle scarred forearm. I talked at him for almost the whole hour. He winced from time to time at the shit coming out of my mouth. I couldn’t blame him. I searched for a Levellers cd for him to sign (he told me he did all their artwork), but it wasn’t in the car. I tried so hard to get him to like me but it had the opposite effect, he was repulsed. I just couldn’t control who I was.
I drove too fast on beautiful single track roads that would have been enjoyed better by him if he’d taken that bus. Horrible. Dust rose up behind us like we were on a rally.
I pulled up at the ferry port and he got out. ‘Thanks a lot,’ he said.
‘When you play near me, can I come and say hello?’
He paused. ‘Yeah, that’s fine. Just find me and I’ll tell them to let you backstage. Bye.’ He left and went over to a bench. He was too early for the ferry by an hour and a half. The bus was timetabled to match up with the ferry. Now he had some time to kill. But I didn’t, I screeched off up the road with the stereo on full and my wife staring out the back window.
I’ve never seen The Levellers play live. I couldn’t face him remembering me. I have a chance to go soon. Perhaps time will have been kind.