Friday, October 28, 2005
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
We walk down the Tottenham Court Road before we turn into Soho. The streets are filthy, littered with boxes and cans from the kebab shops up the road. Every other shop doorway serves as a shelter for the homeless, buried in makeshift nests of cardboard and tattered blankets. Hollow eyes peer out of the dark as we pass the discount bookshop, an expressionless voice asks for some change. As always, I try to meet the eyes with mine before I say, no sorry, before I walk on. Being ignored, steps quickening, faces averting, being refused any kind of acknowledgement because you lack the security of bricks and mortar, that must be the most painful cut. I might not be able to give everyone money - I try to limit it to a daily delivery of sandwiches for Billy who lives in the doorway of the Empire, and buying the Big Issue from my local seller - but at least I can give acknowledgement. And sometimes I think that feeds the soul more than a pound coin ever could.
Our drinking club is not exactly legit; the fact that it doesn't announce its presence to passers-by can make it hard to find. All the doorways in this (seedier) part of Soho look the same; dented and rusty metal, smelling of piss, neglected, unmemorable, anonymous, without name or number. As usual, we ring the bell and a hatch slides open to reveal a pair of suspicious eyes. Our faces pass muster and the door swings open. We squeeze past the bouncer, a granite-faced boulder of a man, into a narrow corridor and head up the stairs.
Except for the blacked-out windows, it looks like the worst kind of student sitting room. Tatty old sofas, vinyl armchairs and chipped formica tables jostle for space. A makeshift bar, built by someone with only a passing acquaintance with D.I.Y. runs the length of the room, topped with bottles of rum and whisky and a couple of plastic cool boxes filled with beer. It’s not the sort of drinking establishment that has Apple Martinis on the cocktail menu, but as usual, the place is packed.
The first time I came here I was scared shitless. A lot of the punters wouldn't look out of place in a police line up and there is a distinct odour of menace in the air. Ready rolled spliffs are sold from a box behind the bar, useful for those nights when you’re so mashed you can’t speak let alone skin up anything thinner than a retro-sized tampon. And if you fancy a line nobody bats an eyelid if you chop it out and snort it up straight from the table. The only thing they don’t like is the really hard stuff. Not a problem for me. I have some limits.
We grab a table and send Danny over to get the drinks in. Suze is like, I so need a drink. Five auditions this week and nothing to show for it except a bruised ego. And to make it even worse, Ty dumped me. Suze has been going out with Ty for as long as I’ve known her so this is big news. I go, what happened this time? Hoping that my pleasure won’t show on my face - Ty is one of the biggest arseholes I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. Suze goes, he’s been fucking some tart who, he says, makes me look like an amateur. She sneers, although frankly, I find that hard to believe - it's not like I've ever heard him complaining when he's got his cock in my mouth. Suze's words are hard but her eyes are wet. It hurts me to see her like this. It hurts me to see anyone like this. I put my hand on her arm, are you alright Suze? She's like, what do you think? Of course I'm not fucking all right. She shrugs me off, oh fuck it, he'll be back. He always comes back. He always comes back when the thrill of fresh pussy wears off. She smiles but it's hollow, shrugs, like, you know, whatever.
It really pisses me off, the way Ty treats Suze. And I’m even more pissed off at her that she lets him get away with it. Every time he comes back, tail between his legs, full of self-pity, excuses, protestations, and there’s Suze - welcoming arms wide open, so fucking grateful to have him back that she’ll forgive him anything, wipe the slate clean, present herself to him like a gift when what he really needs is a push in the direction of the door. It’s way past pathetic. All that love stuff, it sucks out your brain and leaves a vacuum instead. Whatever happened to self-respect?
I'm so glad I'm out of that game. I am so, so glad.
I don't stay at the club for long that night. I guess I've kind of lost my appetite for it.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
He's been texting me every day, which is kind of nice, but also a bit of a cop-out as you don't have to say much, you can't say much, via SMS. But today James sent me a text saying that he wants to take me away this weekend - to a hotel in Sussex. I guess I'll be swapping some shifts with Suze because that's an offer a girl just can't refuse.
But I'm also planning a little surprise for him...
Wait and see.
Suze, Danny and I are the regular barstaff and ancient in terms of the usual job longevity - I've worked here for almost two years, Suze for coming up to three years, and Danny for ten months. The rest of the bar staff come and go so quickly it's barely worth the effort of remembering their names. Suze, Danny and I get on pretty well. I wouldn’t say that we’re best mates or anything but we’re united by our wish to witness the total humiliation and downfall of The Fat Bastard. So far, it's proven to be a superglue bond.
Suze is a wannabe actress who'd shag her granny on live telly if she thought it would get her name up in lights. So far, fame has proven elusive; Suze spends her daylight hours at castings, lining up with everyone else like a herd of cattle on their way to the branding shed. She’s resigned to having world-weary eyes flicking over her for a split-second followed by a clipboard-brandishing casting agent telling her that she’s too old, too young, too short, too tall, too ugly, too attractive, too big-titted, too small-titted, or just plain not right for the part. It’s not quite the stuff dreams are made of but she’s working hard at it.
Danny is, well, he's just Danny. He's just another no-hoper without a dream to call his own, waiting, hoping, for the call to something, anything, better than this.
We're usually out of the club by 3.30am, unless Don, the owner of the joint, is having a lock-in. On the lock-in nights one of us stays behind to tend bar and keep the Don posse happy - it's not too bad, there's usually a couple of notes in it for us and a taxi home. But on the nights when Don is nowhere to be seen, and when we feel up to it, or need to chill in likeminded company, we head for a private member's club hidden in the back streets of Soho. Don't get me wrong, it's not along the lines of the Groucho. Our after hours drinking club is the kind that you don’t need an exclusive membership for; you just need to look like you’re not a copper. We don't go there that often, or at least, I don't anymore - my energy levels are running on empty more often than not these days. But Suze and Danny did manage to drag me there last week. I'll post about it later.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Another memory. I am small and sitting on a child sized chair. I have an orange in my hand and I am peeling it. My mother tells me not to swallow the pips or a tree will grow in my tummy. I wait until she leaves the room, swallow three pips in quick succession and wait in terrified anticipation for a tree to burst out of the top of my head. Nothing happens, so I eat the rest of the orange.
I am at school. I must be around five years old. My nose starts to bleed and I am sent to the sanitorium. The nurse sits me on a chair and gives me a tissue to hold to my nose. She tells me not to move. Then she leaves the room to go to the nurses' office. I can hear her talking loudly to the sanitorium sister. Time passes. I need a wee. I really need a wee, but I can't move, the nurse told me not to. I call out but she doesn't come. I wee myself. I sit there, crying, nose bleeding, watching as the wee pools under the chair and trickles out in thin lines across the linoleum. I listen to the loud conversation from the next room and wait for her to come back.
I am seven. There is something nasty under my bed. I have to jump from the far edge of the rug stretched by the side of my bed onto my duvet. It's a long way. If I trip or miss the edge of the bed it will grab my ankles and pull me underneath. My heart pounds, my cheeks burn, my head buzzes. I back up until I am level with the wardrobe, steel myself for the olympian effort I am about to undertake, then run, faster, faster, faster... edge of the rug, leap, feet leave the floor, I am flying, flying through the air, and land, thump, safely slap-bang on the centre of the duvet. The relief is immense. Then, careful that no part of my body even peeps over the edge of the bed, I squirm under the duvet and tuck it around every part of me. Then I stare at the curtains and tap my feet until I fall asleep.
I am ten. My parents have stopped speaking to each other. They talk through me instead. Breakfast is the worst time. My father asks me to pass the milk, which is next to my mother's elbow. My mother asks me to pass the sugar, which is in front of my father. My mother's eyes look blank. My father's eye twitches. I pass the things they ask me to pass and eat my breakfast quickly. Then I go upstairs to my room and wait until I hear the front door slam and my father's car spraying gravel in the driveway.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
- My mother is a suburban socialite, a vision in Jaegar, addicted to the application of Mr Sheen to her rosewood furniture, and a WI paragon. I am the source of her lifelong shame.
- My father is a cosmetic surgeon, the type who advertises in the back of glossy magazines; heroically dedicated to making female dreams of thinner thighs and bouncier breasts come true.
- Neither of them know this blog exists. I hope to hell that they never will.
- My parents got divorced when I was quite young.
- I got a pony to soften the blow of Daddy disappearing into a shag-happy sunset with a younger, blonder version of my mother, who, thanks to my father, sported bouncy tits and thinner thighs. It seemed like a good deal at the time.
- My father is the classic story of a middle-aged man growing old disgracefully. It's kind of shamful to be seen in public with him at times.
- And yes, I am embarrassed at being given an allowance by my daddy at the grand old age of twenty-seven, but sometimes a girl's moral high ground disintegrates at the prospect of a life without blow or new shoes.
Anyway, Lighterate recently asked why I've been cut off from the paternal purse strings, so here's the story.
My suddenly reduced cash-flow poses a big, big problem considering that the rent is due next week, Helen has about as many pennies to rub together as I have (so, not a lot), and there's this great big credit card bill sitting on my desk getting redder by the second. Whatever, I'll figure something out, but this is all the fault of my stepmother, aka The Bitch.
Since my parents got divorced my father has gone through women like I get through packs of Marlboro. The initial affair, the one that struck the hammer blow for my parents divorce, lasted all of five minutes and then he was on to the next. He has a particular type, my father, which he adheres to it like a religion. All the women kind of merge into one; blonde, botoxed, silicon from lips to tits and preferably very, very tall. For this reason he is particularly keen on Russian women, and since my father is kind of wealthy and enjoys flashing his cash about, Russian women are particularly keen on him.
Unsurprisingly, The Bitch is Russian. She has the flinty eyed gaze that comes from generations of her people freezing their asses off on the Steppes and the kind of haughty high-boned face that always looks bored. In my more twisted moments I imagine her eyes looking out from over my father's shoulder, him in the throes of passion, her dispassionately examining her manicure and fantasising - Gucci, Chanel, Tiffany, Bulgari, Cartier....mmmm. I don't know what he sees in her, apart from the fact that she is very, very beautiful. Actually, that is what he sees in her. I shouldn't make the mistake of assuming that my father is any less shallow than he initially appears to be; he's not.
So I go to meet my father for lunch at Daphne's, a long-standing tradition, partly introduced by the fact that The Bitch can't stand having me in their apartment for more than five minutes. The moment I catch sight of his face I know I'm in trouble. He's usually pretty jovial-looking but this time he has an unmistakeable set to his jaw. I pretend not to notice, smile brightly and drop a kiss on his slowly thinning head (he's about two seconds away from hair transplants). He's like, sit down Sara. Uh oh. I'm like, is something wrong? I desperately rack my brain for what he might have found out about; nothing comes up. As far as I'm aware he thinks I'm squeaky clean.
He pours me a glass of wine, then says, Iryna is very worried about you. I'm like, what? I mean, let's get real here - The Bitch would like nothing better than for me to dissappear into thin air, preferably extremely painfully and with no hope of return for a number of lifetimes. I'm way too much of a threat to her anticipated retirement fund. Yes, he says, Iryna is worried because a friend of hers saw you at Embassy last weekend and you were, how can I put this... inebriated on something other than alcohol.
I'm speechless. I haven't graced that place with my presence for ages, and anyway, how the hell did The Bitch find out about my little weakness? It must have been a stab in the dark that hit home; she may be borderline evil but, as demonstrated by her latest little stunt, she's certainly not stupid. She knows what will push my father's buttons. He may be engaged in the ridiculous and futile activity of chasing after his lost youth, but he is, and always has been, fervently anti-drugs. I guess it comes from repairing too many celebrity septums over the years.
Daddy, I say, trying to smile through gritted teeth, I don't know what you're talking about. Iryna is mistaken. I don't think so, Sara, he replies, Iryna says her friend saw you stagger out of the bathroom with - he delicately traces a moustache on his upper lip - a trace of white powder just here. She was quite specific about the details.
By this point I've lost my appetite, a shame since the food at Daphne's is usually something I look forward to. I knock back my glass of wine and make a last ditch attempt to regain parental favour. Daddy, I go, I haven't set foot in that particular club for a long time so I really don't think the accusation is grounded in reality.
My father narrows his eyes at me, are you trying to say that Iryna is lying? Why would she lie to me, Sara? I shrug, I'm sure she has her reasons. Big mistake. I forget that my father takes any slurs about The Bitch very, very personally; I don't know what kind of hold she has on him but I suspect a tight vice around the balls is involved. Sure enough, he throws his napkin down and hisses, look me in the eye and tell me that you have never taken cocaine.
There is a brief moment when I think that maybe I can pull it off. I look him straight in the eye, open my mouth to protest my innocence, and then my eyes fall away, I blush, and all that comes out is a stammer.
My father's face is pure thunder. His lips are tight as he shoots me a filthy look and says, I thought so. He stands up, pushes his chair back, gets his wallet out from his jacket pocket and throws a handful of notes onto the table. This, Sara, is the last you'll get from me until you've straightened yourself out. I've reached the end of the line with you. Then he walks out.
Fuck. Talk about hitting me where it hurts.
It upsets me so much that I cry a bit on the bus home. And jeez, I hate crying in public.