‘The thing is,’ Rolfe declared whilst setting down 3 pints of Old Thumper, ‘I like people from Portsmouth, even went out with one once, but wouldn’t want them all coming to live over here.’
Howard moved over on the bench to allow his friend to sit. The 3 friends didn’t look at each other much during their sessions, preferring to sit abreast whilst watching the Solent as the evening sun started to fall to the East.
Masters took a deep, audible, satisfied draught from his pint. ‘I agree, but you can’t complain about the New Forest beer. And what about jobs, those tourists from the mainland spend will spend money on anything.’
Howard coughed but said nothing. He wasn’t sure a vote for the Island to leave the United Kingdom would necessarily lead to fewer tourists, after all a ‘Whexit’ vote wouldn’t cause Brighton beach to suddenly turn from pebble to sand overnight.
‘Tourists are welcome,’ conceded Rolfe, ‘but I just don’t like it when Brummies come and live here, undercutting our ice cream vans and bringing their whole family over.’
He gestured to the distinctive Red Funnel ferry entering Cowes harbour, ‘All those mainlanders, getting off the ferry without even showing their passports, it’s a disgrace. Probably a terrorist on that very ferry.’
Masters nodded before playing his ace, ‘The chancellor says caravan prices will crash if we leave.’
Howard coughed again and frowned. He has 3 caravans and had just bought 2 more off plan. He wasn’t convinced this was valid, after all the chief treasurer of the Island, Urquhart, had the right to allow Funfairs to print more IOW ‘Chitties’, the official currency of the Island, each emblazoned with the phrase ‘I promise to pay the bearer one cuddly bear on demand’. Urquhart had used this right on numerous occasions over the last decade and had just announced a new wave of her ‘New Caravan Leg Up’ scheme that would no doubt stoke prices further.
Howard looked at Rolfe finishing his pint and thought he was going to talk about crab legs next.
‘The London government is full of idiots,’ Rolfe obliged, ‘they pass laws saying our crabs have legs that are too bent! We’d be better off without them. And whilst we’re talking about London I went there once. The streets around Islington stink of quinoa and goji berries. I just don’t want them here.’
Another coughing fit overtook Howard. He should really go to the doctor but unfortunately there had been a shortage and long waiting times since the ruling party on the Island clamped down on Indian immigration visas, and candidates from the UK didn’t want to live and work on the island. Across the water the flames from Fawley power station brightened as the dusk strengthened.
Rolfe and Masters’ conversation had descended into banter about the time they went to Newquay and Rolfe had found it hard to make himself understood whilst ordering Cider and Pasties in his best West Country accent.
Howard retreated into his thoughts as he watched a Dutch blue steel hulled 50 foot ketch running before the light cool Easterly that had developed as the sun fell. He didn’t like the London government and hated being told what to do by that opaque, far off bunch of bureaucrats in Westminster. On the other hand he felt people should be free to travel, to settle, to trade, love and live where they pleased, without arbitrary borders and the need to show papers. He didn’t much care for the local small minded numpties who would gain control even as London rule was cast off.
In truth he resented any man who had power over him, and more than anything hated those who sought out that power to use over others.
He considered the Ketch again and, not for the first time, plotted an imaginary journey, out into the channel and past the shipping lanes, down to Gibraltar and the Mediterranean for the summer then across to the Azores and on to the Caribbean for the winter. Such an existence would be under the fickle whims of the waves and the sea yet somehow would be a world removed from the petty rules of his fellow man. He would be free.
Perhaps freedom comes from within, he thought, as he went to the bar to buy his round. Perhaps this year would be the year he finally made the journey himself.