You’re looking out the window on the first floor of the old department store in the High Street. This was Williams and Griffin, Colchester’s own, which started out down the hill in the street of your ancestors. It’s now Fenwicks. They’ve splashed out on the refurbs, although the metal-framed windows haven’t changed. You’re looking across to the other side of the High Street that is a high street, top of the town and top street in town, always has been, always will be, walking tall historic buildings. At the summit the once fresh wet fish shop run by the other side of the family, the well-off ones that your great great aunt Charlotte married into, and now a well branded Subway selling the cheapest cuts in a showy white roll as deceptive as Trump.
You look across to the top floors on the other side. They all have them, but with no obvious access, and you wonder what’s up there and how to get there. It’s a thought and more than one two three two, second or third floors that from here look empty or full of junk. Are people living up there, as they do in the Holloway Road, access built into the gaps between shops, a door, a double door, a busy road, a major route north south and called A1 that says it all. Here it’s the A137 and if you had to choose between the Holloway Road and the High Street you’d go for this here, where you walked down the hill as Max with blue hair and over-designed flyers that said Max Attack. You see yourself strolling purposefully right to left saying hi to teenagers and waiting to be recognised. And you were. That was the point. Recognition was enough.
You were straight from the Bingo Hall, talking to punters on the hard metal chairs, older people maybe lonely and wanting to chat except who were you with your wild hair and fancy clothes and they were busy with the game paid money to be there might be on to a winner this time, too engrossed to make quality contact, the numbers on the sheet, the card, the flyer, the book, the dibber, the dauber, where’s my dibber, this sheet unique to me this is the one, must concentrate he’s started calling, eyes down, the numbers, the numbers, Kelly’s Eye, Rise and Shine number nine, Gandhi’s Breakfast eight nothing, Between the Sticks eighty six, In a State twenty eight, Key of the Door, Never Been Kissed, Doctor’s Orders, Nearly There, Top of the Shop, that’s the ticket. Press that button, be quick. And you’ve won a nice tin of biscuits and you’ll enjoy them all the more. Your unlucky lucky night, try again next Tuesday is what I do where I come and it’s my culture so don’t bring yours in here. I’m not interested. I’m not going, not my cup of tea. If you felt out of place that was the plan. You were the vehicle, the vessel. You were Max. It was not your idea as if that mattered and beyond an idea it was an encroachment, a transgression, and a good photo opportunity for Philip. And you’ve erased it from memory.
This is not what you choose to remember as you look out the window. You see an even earlier you walking up the hill towards the sixth form college to talk to Nigel about a live soundtrack for the Happening you’re planning for that huge deserted water tower at the very top of the hill that they still call Jumbo. This building that’s still out of bounds and defiantly untouched, impervious to developers, vacant, like those windows across the street that you’re still looking at. It’s what they conceal that intrigues you and suddenly this becomes a work, a mission, to try for access with the simple request that it’s all about photographing the view from up there. That’s it. Can’t we just take a look, and this is Jonathan, well known director of a local arts centre, to give you credence, ease the nerves, open the doors, up the stairs, and maybe you’re Max again, or another of your ancestors who walked these streets for their lifetimes doing the right thing and the wrong thing or you wouldn’t be here thinking these thoughts.