Friday, 17 September 2010

Blackheath


I swung into Blackheath to pick up an edition of The Stage. Although I’d resolved to attend auditions the following week, my change of writing plans meant empty days until an agent responded. Literary agents must receive a mountain of manuscripts every day, and so I was aware that this process could take time. It seemed wise, therefore, to scout for auditions/attend auditions during the recess. I needn’t actually take up any offers of roles, anyway. I still thought it best to prioritise the writing.

I walked into Blackheath Village. It was a walk of ten minutes. The route takes one up an attractive, albeit knee-achingly steep, tree-lined big-house-surrounded road. The only other people about were young mothers with prams and old women with handbags. I greeted all, regardless of age or colour (although all were white).

And, you know what, I hadn’t even entered ‘Hello Matey’ newsagent* before a young woman had approached me on the busy street. Autograph hunter, I thought and smiled a self-deprecating smile.
She was short (up to my shoulder), pretty (nose especially) and wide in the appropriate areas (boobies). She wore strange, outlandish clothes. A red baseball cap, a red (& plastic) blazer – both inscribed with troubling words – CHRISTIAN AID.

“Have you ever thought about starving children?” she asked with rising inflexion.

Her diamond eyes stunned me like some terrible alien ray gun.

“Sorry?” I said.

“Have you ever thought about starving children?” she repeated, even furnishing the question with a smile.

“Yes,” I said. “Constantly.”

She nodded, waited for five seconds, then continued as if my response was irrelevant.

“During the time we have just spoken, 540 children have died in Ghana,” she said. “For just a few pounds a month, you could help prevent these unnecessary deaths.”

She asked my name. I told her my name.

KAY RICHARDSON!

I also communicated my doubts as to her statistics. I told her that I didn’t know where Ghana was anyway and it sounded rubbish whatever.

She assured me that the numbers were correct. She told me that Ghana was in West Africa and it definitely wasn’t rubbish. She asked if I wanted to set up a direct debit mandate. Two pounds a month would be fine, she said.

“Honey,” I spoke loudly, fearing that my words would be lost over the hum of Blackheath traffic (we were also close to Blackheath Station, so I was aware that at any moment a train could pass under the railway bridge that lies central in Blackheath. That, of course, would create an awful cacophony of pistons and screeching and the like and make communication entirely unworkable.) “Honey, I can’t spare any money. I’m an unemployed actor. I should be approaching people on the street and asking them for money” (not a bad idea?).

The stiffness of the woman’s face melted somewhat. The smile, once a three-bar fire, now seemed open and loggy. She spoke:

“I’m an actor too. Where did you train?”

I waited for a woman with 72 shopping bags to push through us. Railings separate road from pavement in Blackheath, so it’s always fairly congested – carrier-bagged women notwithstanding. I mumbled something about New York and quickly asked her where she’d trained before she could unpick my lies.

“Lamda,” she said.

I’d heard of this place.

I fell upon a plan. Fuck knows, I wasn’t going to do anything meaningful in the day. Decision making, such as this, was proactive. I wouldn’t get my career back on the road by sitting in the flat and eating cheese/watching pornography all day. The showbusiness bus is driven by contacts, Reader. I couldn’t turn down such an opportunity as this fair woman presented. I could pick her mind.

“I’ll sign up for fifty quid a month,” I said. “If you’ll have a drink with me.”

She laughed so hard that red hat almost fell from blonde locks. I looked about. Mothers with prams frowned from across the road.

“I thought you said you were out of work,” she said. 

“Rich parents,” I shrugged.

I filled out her direct debit mandate, fully confident that I would cancel it as soon as I’d had a drink with/snogged/worked this girl.

She kissed me on the cheek, happily explaining that my contribution would inflate her day’s wage. I mumbled. She seized my hand (in a misjudged attempt to be eccentric, I fear – she could have just spoken the words) and wrote ‘ICA Pall Mall 1930 Nick’.

“Your name is Nick?” I asked.

“Short for Nicola,” she replied.

My eyes studied her features. She was definitely woman.

I left Nick.

And bought The Stage.

I was greeted with ‘Hello Matey’.

All seemed well in the world.

LITTLE DID I KNOW, Reader, LITTLE DID I KNOW.

Five hours passed. I read The Stage.  There were lots of adverts for table dancers. Not many for serious actors. I noted one:

Casting Call
Calling all experienced, enthusiastic and energised presenters. You must be innovative in your approach and clear at explaining Quiz Call games to audiences.
LIVE TV EXPERIENCE ESSENTIAL!!
Quiz Call is presenter led and consists of a series of quiz game shows where viewers telephone the studio to compete for cash prizes. Quiz Call broadcasts on Freeview 37, NTL 165, Sky 855, Five.
PLEASE DO NOT APPLY IF YOU DON’T MEET THIS CRITERIA!!!

I spunked off an email, lying about my experience of live TV. I said that I’d dated a presenter of Quiz Call and had appeared as a Dalek on Doctor Who. All lies. In reality, the closest I’ve ever been to live TV was performing illegitimate impressions of a monkey behind a local news crew in Paignton when I was 12. And that didn’t even make transmission.

I doubted that I would be called to interview. And if I was, I resolved to admit that I’d lied and allow my personality to do the elbow-work. I could be charming, if so I decided.

In bedroom, I placed over body some of the sexiest clothes that I owned. I hadn’t been with a woman for over a month. Clearly, a ridiculous situation. I would hear the upstairs neighbour having sex occasionally. He suffered a growth on the side of his face and wasn’t a nice person. I thought of Rosalind for a few seconds.

Head – nothing. Some gel.
Neck – nothing.
Torso and arms – a black silk shirt.
Trousers – darkly denim Jeans from Oki-ni.
Feet – white, limited edition ‘polo’ Adidas trainers.

I was looking cool. The mirror almost cracked, such was the splendour of my reflection. I felt sorry for the girl Nick.

It was a piece of piss to get to the ICA. It was on the Mall, down from Buckingham Palace. I ignored the fact that ICA stood for Institute of Contemporary Arts and entered the tiny door, located in the corner of a sublime Georgian palace (it wasn’t really a palace, but it was bigger than a house and the architecture was fairly impressive, all white stone detail and windows).

Inside, the ICA looked much like a cinema foyer. There were even posters for films that the place was showing and neon signs for Screen One and Screen Two. I approached a cheeky oriental lass who sat behind a glass desk. She wore small glasses.

I asked where the bar might be. She pointed down a corridor that I hadn’t noticed, such was the subtle shading of light.

“Are you a member?” she said, always words to strike fear into the brain.

“No,” I admitted and was forced to give her THREE pounds.

I ‘swore down’ that the bar had better be good, but she was relost in the glow of computer monitor.
The passage to bar was MASSIVELY disturbing.

Let me describe what I saw to my right, as I walked towards the tables full of trendies drinking beer in bar:
One long wall, painted green. There were only a few glances of green, mind. Because the rest was covered in pornography. The pornography took the form of pages of lewd magazines (Playboy, Mayfair, Sweet 16, etc) stuck roughly to wall to form a collage of rudeness. It wasn’t that simple, though. The heads of the porn models had been replaced with the heads of politicians.

Reader, it sickened me.

One might have been excused not noticing the right side of corridor. I did, however. I did. Partly because I’d turned my head, in disgust, from the politician porn.

If only I hadn’t…

Two rooms, I passed. Along with tiny doors, both possessed long rectangular windows that were free of glass. One’s eyes easily fell though these spaces to the rooms beneath.

The first room, although surreal, wasn’t sickening. There was a massive shoe rack that covered one entire wall (20 foot by 10). It was full of a variety of shoes (in colour AND style). There were a few benches scattered across room. People (punters, I suspect) were trying on shoes. There was a sign on the east wall: ‘Walk a Mile in My Shoes’.

Fair enough, I thought.

The neighbouring room stood in blue gloom, but there was enough light present to distinguish the two figures central. They were a couple of mannequins. One masculine model (had a brown wig) was bent over a table. The other was stood close over t’other (wearing a blonde wig, looking like a woman). Its arse moved forward and back in a slow approximation of anal sex. Behind them stood a wooden mock-up of the front of a blank-screened TV.

Reader, I was outraged. I didn’t visit bars to view mannequins fuck, however interesting and po-mo they might be.

Nick was waiting in bar.

“I just saw two plastic people having sex,” I stormed.

“You’re forty minutes late,” she replied.

“Did you see the walls? There was filth with Tony Blair’s face on it,” I said.

“You’re forty minutes late,” she said.

I bought her a spritzer and charmed until she stopped moaning about the ‘forty minutes’. The ICA’s bar was fairly cool. It only sold beer from the bottle and the all the lager was imported from Eastern Europe. I drank it. Nick told me that the porn/mannequins/shoes that I saw were part of a competition. New British Artists. Modern Art.

“It’s a noteworthy contest,” she said.

“Noteworthy, scroteworthy,” I retorted.

I, drinking, pumped Nick full of questions about Lamda and acting:

Q: Did she have an agent?
A: No.
Q: Had she been in a professional production?
A: Yes. Five.
Q: How old was she?
A: 21.
Q: Why wasn’t she working now?
A: She was. A play at the Royal Court. Her work for Christian Aid was helping pay for an Edinburgh Festival project.
Q: Wasn’t it just her contacts that saw her successfully employed on stage?
A: No.
Q: Definitely?
A: Definitely.

These were probably some of the questions that I asked. The conversation becomes murky after the seventh bottle. I remember asking if she had a boyfriend. Her ‘No’ was delivered in an inappropriately aggressive manner.

As I later told the Police, it was the lager’s fault that I mounted the mannequins (or ‘art installation’ as they insisted upon calling it) and aped a sex act. I made stupid monkey noises, I was told. It was the drink too that saw me lose balance and stagger into the model TV screen. It was not, however, the fault of alcohol (nor me) that the TV wasn’t securely fastened to the ceiling. My last memory of the ICA was the man-sized wooden black television falling upon my face.

I was interviewed by the Police in Charing Cross hospital the following morning, sporting a cream bandage over my right eye. I had scratched a cornea. The entire right side of my body was purple-bruised too. Such pain was accompanied by an heinous hangover of head.

The young, stupid moustached Police Constable informed me that the ICA wouldn’t press charges (criminal damage) if I didn’t sue for personal injury. This seemed like a fair pay-off and I agreed. I signed forms.
The PC handed me a note before he left my ward. It was from Nick. It said:

I won’t ever see you again - thrilling knowledge.
Advice - Get a job in Burger King and quit drinking.
Nick
PS You’re a dickhead.

Discharged from hospital and safely secured at home, I cancelled my direct debit to Christian Aid.

*This was not the newsagent’s official name. This I called the shop as the proprietor always greets me with a stout ‘hello matey’. This was not unpleasant. I did not complain.

4 comments:

Ashley said...

Love the new blog page. It's a keeper. Kay Mart? Brilliant. "Blackheath Blog Entry" How can you not love and laugh at plastic fucking? How can you not, I ask you? Sorry about your head injury although it does explain a little bit. Merci monsieur.

Kay Richardson said...

Ashley, thanks for your lovely words. They filled mine mind with happiness. Thanks for reading.

K
x

Sam said...

Two encounters with the police in as many weeks!!
Love the blog it's really excellent.
Any news of Lady McBeth?

Sam

Kay Richardson said...

Fuck the police as NWA said. That's what I say now. Sam, your words are kind. There may be news of Lady M. I may share it with you soon. EXCITED OR WHAT?

Thanks for reading.