“Baybee, let’s make love conceptuallee…”
It’s Christmas Day and a black and white TOTP from 1964 is on TV. Jack Duckworth from Corrie is singing “Baby, Baby” and almost crying. Everyone laughs at how shit it is, but I want to cry because behind him on the studio wall there’s a banner that says “Feminist Deconstruction” and I realize with a jolt that he means what he’s crooning.
It’s important before you do something exciting and important not to make yourself nervous by acting out of the blue. So, just before I get on the train I get Esther to cut all my hair off.
I’m coming down for my ex-housemate’s first solo art show- BLUE PLAGUE (named after the Tory lurgey we’ve all been infected with). WestLane South gallery is a renovated shop, replete with artists, poets and jolly artisans. Like the only child I am, I expect Lisa to entertain me and pamper me. When she dares to socialise with other people, I stand in the corner, trying not to look anyone in the eye lest they think I have a problem with social interaction.
Godiva, my sister from a different blister, is out tonight. We hug and gabble about stuff and follow the art crowd to the local pub (there’s a curfew on the gallery as there’s an old lady living upstairs). There’s some kind of war of wills going on between the eccentrics- one is staring and batting his eyelashes aggressively at another who’s saying “fuck off, stop it,” which just makes him flirt viciously at him even more.
“You WILL fancy me!”
On our way home, I run into a shopping centre in Stratford in search of a toilet- what I find is an ecosystem of incongruous subcultures, living peacefully side by side. There are gorgeous graceful black kids rollerskating backwards past benches overflowing with alcoholics, and odd conceptual artpieces lurking between them- whole tribes of office chairs lashed together.
In the middle of the night, I steal into Godiva’s kitchen for a glass of water, and terrify her boyf, Joe. He’s sat in his boxers, holding a a glass full of ice cubes and closing his eyes. As he opens his eyes, he sees my nighttime face looming over him and spasms in terror, his ice cubes leaping into the air.
I’ve been drinking too much tea because every time I buy a pint I try and blow it to cool it down.
I’m definitely in London. I know this because of the scary man on the next table who’s angry with me for sitting down.
“Fackin’ cahnt! Why can’t he fackin’ cahnt sit over there?”
My neck has gone rigid with fear. At least that means I can’t accidentally turn and catch his eye. Thankfully, his topic of conversation moves on to more abstract victims.
“Fackin’ Claire Balding. What a fackin’ ugly cahnt. Must be a fackin’ dyke, no cahnt that ugly can get a man!”
Lisa: “Something weird has been happening. Whenever I look at the digibox, the light changes colour. Even if I wake up in the middle of the night, it flashes from green to red. It knows that I’m going mad.”
I’m reading The Comforters by Muriel Spark. There’s a woman in it who can hear the narrator speaking her thoughts. It’s a man’s voice.
If I could choose, who would I have as the voice in my head?
I wouldn’t go for the obvious ones like David Attenborough or Morgan Freeman. They are too authoritative. I need a ditherer.
I think I’ll choose David Bellamy, the sadly neglected plant pariah.
Esther is out for drinks with Lisa. This means there is no one to slap my hand and change channels when I put Paranormal Witness on. Within a minute, the flesh on my scalp is starting to crawl with terror. Please god, someone turn over! But no one’s there.
It’s about a family who move into a house where there’s a strange set of doors halfway up the cellar wall. Behind them there’s an unlit room filled with earth.
I want my mummy.
At night, something comes from there and pushes the mother down into her mattress so she can’t scream. I’m petrified.
“PLEASE STOP ME WATCHING PARANORMAL WITNESS” I text Esther.
“DON’T BE SUCH A BIG BABY” she replies.
Finally the adverts come on, and I am released. I ring my mummy and put Golden Globes on in the background. It’s good to hear her voice. Before long though I become fatally distracted by Jodie Foster’s rambling speech. It’s so confusing and sounds so momentous I switch off from my mum’s voice and try and follow it, but I can’t.
I love Jodie Foster, she’s more of a man than I’ll ever be.
I want to cry, even though I don’t get what she’s going on about.
I always want to cry.
I try to go to sleep, but there’s a draught that feels like an icy finger pointing at the peak of my forehead. Every way I turn, it’s still there.
When Esther gets back, I tell her about the ghost that lives in the dark earthy room.
“You mean one like that half room full of rubble in our cellar!?” Esther says.
Christ, I forget that we have one too!
Suddenly there’s phonecall. It’s Lisa.
“I’m really scared because I can smell nail polish really strong,” she says.
“It’s probably just some glue Dom was using to make guitars,” reassures Esther.
“No, it’s overpowering, I can’t stay here!”
“In the olden days, having a really strong smell of nail polish was a sign of madness,” says Esther.
What? Oh God no!” Lisa is panicking. “Please can I come and sleep in the dog bed in your room?”
Within ten minutes, the room is full of me, Esther, and Linda on the bed, and Goldie and Devo flanking Lisa on the dog bed.
It’s an hour till I have to get up for work.
Through the window at work I keep seeing a van marked “SHEFFIELD MOBILE CCTV UNIT” passing by in hot pursuit of something. Isn’t that just like someone running along with a big camcorder?
There’s been a helicopter crash in London, but all I notice is the reporter saying;
“Many people dispersed to nearby coffee shops. They were in shock.”
I imagine them all sitting along the window tables, mochas trembling in their hands.
Every 3rd person I see on the street these days is carrying a hot bevvy. Someone should design gloves with a coffee cup already sewn in…
First day of snow. The world is a tabula rasa, and yet the only things someone has been brave enough to write are:
and underneath it, as if getting ever more daring;
on a car windscreen.
Is this the start of the great ideas drought of 2013?
Lisa has started saying ‘the’ whenever she gets a bad thought. She’s chosen this word as it has no emotional content.
‘the’ she says, while we have a cup of tea, ‘the. the, the.’
I’m in a retirement home where all Carry On fans get sent. All the Carry On stars end up here as well, but for them it’s a living hell because every time there’s a birthday they have to act out a scene from their movies.
“Carry On Carrying On…FOR EVER!”