Thursday, 30 September 2010

Sofa, so good


Sprawled on sofa was I, watching a documentary about feral children. I had begun the evening attempting to read Raymond Carver. But my attention wandered, the TV was switched on, and I became engrossed by the sight of a thirteen year old Russian girl jumping about on all fours and barking. My concentration was beginning to fade (again) as the telephone rang. By this time, the documentary had stopped running film of the girl acting dog-like and, instead, was referencing Noam Chomsky and language development. Nobody watched a documentary about feral children to listen to Chomsky’s formation of language hypotheses. It was all about the barking girl.

It was Alex that called. He was a person that I vaguely knew through a friend of a friend of a friend. We had once attended a night of Morrissey music together and he’d complained that the DJ played too much Morrissey. I turned away from him following that comment.

“Hey, Kay,” he said. “Long time … You doing anything tonight?” he started.

I told him that I was watching a programme about feral children, after which I surf the web and then go to sleep.

“Thing is, we’re desperate for someone to play football.”

I asked who ‘we’ were.

“Torpedo Tooting,” he said. “We ate a dodgy curry yesterday. The team’s been decimated. I remembered - on that Morrissey night you said you played a bit.”

I never said this. I told Alex. I told him that football was for plebs and I hadn’t played for ten years.

“Even so … could you help out? I’m literally ringing everyone I know. We’re dead desperate. And we’re going out in Clapham after. I’ll buy you a few pints.”

I asked how many. Alex seemed confused.

“You want an actual number?”

I told Alex that I would play for five pints. He asked if I were joking. I told him that I never joked about alcohol. So desperate for players was Alex that he agreed to my price. Possessing no items of clothes sporting, I asked if I could borrow some kit. He said that it shouldn’t be a problem. He asked the size of my feet and I replied ‘massive’.

Train. Tube. And on the underground I sat next to a small woman. Across her lap lay an open sketch book. She drew snatches of the tube carriage’s occupants. In time she turned to me. Quite brazenly, she would look up from her drawing to study the lines of my face. I noticed this from the corner of my eye. And I was determined not to react. All artists crave attention. I wasn’t playing ball.

The tube whizzed through four Northern Line stations on its way south to Clapham. The sketchy woman had finished the picture of my face and was now studying the form of a small American girl that sat opposite. She drew the girl on the same page as my face, so I was able to peer awkwardly at her representation of my features.

Instantly, my determination to remain impassive was ruined. There, on the page, sat a fat-faced, baggy-eyed version of Kay Richardson, ten years older and three stone heavier.

“That’s not me,” I said, jabbing my finger at the page. “I look like a fucking hamster.”

The woman glanced up at me with a quick, bird-like movement, but continued to sketch the girl opposite. I was prevented from continuing the conversation by the tube’s arrival at Tooting Bec station. I screwed my eyes and wished silent misfortune on the ‘artist’, as I joined the throng of grey commuters off the tube.

“Do I look fat?” I asked Alex at his car outside Tooting Common.

He didn’t respond, instead he pulled me some clothes from the rear seats of his car. There were no changing facilities. I would have to change in the open. He didn’t have any massive sized shoes. I would have to make do with size 11. This was a size too large, but seemed to fit OK.

The match passed in a blur. I touched the ball three times in the first half of forty-five minutes. Once was to whack the leather out of play, another was a weak pass back to the goalkeeper (which was intercepted by the opposition’s striker to score), and the third was a back-heel into space. I spent much of the first half bent double, tired hands on tired waist. At half-time, sweating over orange slices, Alex told me that I was doing ‘OK’, but to keep things ‘simple’. We were winning 3-1.

Second 45: there were a few missed passes, a kick of an opponent’s bum, and one punt at goal that was so close to going in that it brought tears to my eyes. The game finished three goals each. As we changed back into our civilian clothes at the back of the car, Alex said it was a ‘reasonable’ result and that I was shockingly unfit. There were no showers. I was forced to pull my clothes (that smelt still from the tube journey) over a body whose skin still gushed sweat from every pore. It was not pleasant.

“Right. Those five pints,” I said and Alex didn’t respond, but walked off. I followed him to the congregation of players (both our team and the enemy) at the gate of the common’s car park. They began formulating a plan.

Twenty minutes later, I was sitting in The Sun pub, Clapham, with seventeen other footballers and five pints sitting on the table in front of my hands. Alex (who had turned rather surly) said that it was a Sunday evening and he wouldn’t be drinking lots and he couldn’t believe I was insisting on the alcohol, so he’d buy the five at once and there would be no argument.

Five pints to the wind, one hour later (2130) I felt fuzzy. I had grown tired of football talk, and amused myself by reading The Sunday Star. One article described Susanna Warner’s drunken stumbling outside a West End nightclub. A picture accompanied the story in which you could almost see up her skirt. Some of the footballers threw abuse at me for reading a newspaper in a bar, but I told them to ‘fuck off’ with vicious timbre.

And in shocked Rosalind.

Accompanied by a small, pretty and short-skirt-and-boots-wearing girl, she passed our long table, and stood at the bar. She didn’t notice me. I studied her back. Even though there were a couple of others waiting for drinks, she was served instantly. Taking an orange liquid, she disappeared in one of the corners away from us sportsmen.

I gulped and dropped the paper onto the table. The footballer sat next to me said that I should mind his pint. His words (and tone of aggression) flew over me like a silk sheet.

Rosalind.

The last time we met, she claimed that she never wanted to see me again. The thought of such rejection made the five pints of continental lager simmer in stomach.

But of all the bars in all of London, she had walked into The Sun. Serendipity, Reader, serendipity. I jumped up from the table, knocking my neighbour’s pint over his jeans.

“For fuck’s sake!” he swore, all wet.

“Soz,” said I, but was already at the bar, buying a double vodka (easy on the ice).

Confidence increased by this further injection of alcohol, I sought out Rosalind.

There she was, in a wooden booth. Two benches, either side of a table, all wood.

There she was, in a wooden booth. Rosalind and her friend. With two men.

Standing across the pub, watching the party of four, an awareness of my drunkenness grew. I found it difficult to focus, and there was a palpable sway to my carriage.

I watched the table. Rosalind, friend and man #1 were listening to man #2 speak. His eyebrows were large, he wore a tight t-shirt and the excessive movement of his arms spoke of an actor. The hope that this man might be gay flickered within my drunken pessimism.

I ran a finger through my hair, straightened my hoopy polo shirt, and approached the table.

“Hey, Rosalind,” I said.

Three hours later, I stood swaying in my flat. The aroma of Rosalind’s perfume lingered still in the air; the thud of the slammed front door resounded within my rib cage.

The two men that had sat with Rosalind in The Sun were only friends. Although slightly smug, they were good fun. Rosalind asked me to sit with the party after only five minutes of standing and talking. She seemed pleased to see me; she said as much. It had been her birthday and her friends had forced Rosalind to drink. A faint fog behind her eyes spoke of intoxication. I felt less conscious of my slurred articulation.

We five spoke of:

My eyes (bandaged and bruised);
My odour (sweat);
Julian Macbeth (Rosalind admitted he was a prick);
My gift to Julian;
A number of invented roles that I had been offered post-sacking (lies regretted);
Rosalind’s friend’s cat’s cancer;
Cat funerals;
Clapham and Rosalind’s flat;
The coincidence of our meeting;
Sunday evening drinking.

We were thrown from the pub a little after ten thirty (damn Sunday closing times). I asked Rosalind if she wanted to come back to my flat for birthday doughnuts (newly bought from Sainsbury’s). She looked at her feet and said that she did. She was still able to stand and speak. I hailed a cab and we drove to Outer Blackheath. On the way, we stopped at a petrol station. There Rosalind bought water and sobered up.

“I’ve decided to enjoy life more,” said Rosalind stumbling out of taxi on Lee High Road. “Why shouldn’t I have a few drinks on a Sunday evening?”

Shared door passed, I wondered if I had any condoms. I wondered if Rosalind had accepted my invitation home understanding that doughnuts meant sex. I wondered if I should ask her.

“Look, Rosalind. Are we going to have sex or what?” I would say.

I struggled to find my door keys, having to empty all pockets twice before locating them in the back, left trouser space. We walked in silence up the stairs to my flat’s door and I considered kissing Rosalind’s face – just like that.

No kiss! Alarm! My flat’s door was open. I told Rosalind to wait in the hall. Adrenalin pumping through ears, I feared burglars and didn’t fancy my skull coshed. I crept into the lounge.

Sat on my sofa was a greyhound. It didn’t react to my swearing. It scratched behind its ear. There was dog shit on the floor.

I darted into the other rooms. There were no burglars, only dog.

“Wait there,” I called out to Rosalind and wondered how quickly I could clean the shit and get rid of the greyhound. And then I noticed the one wall without doors or windows.

FUCK OF JULIAN
was sprayed red across the white.

“Fuck of Julian,” I read, confused.

And then I realised – it should read ‘Fuck off, Julian.’

The dog jumped from the sofa and ran into the hall.

“A greyhound just ran out …”

Rosalind’s sentence faded. She stood framed by lounge door. I turned to her. She studied the room, her face contorted by disgust. She inspected the dog shit, the week’s worth of abandoned newspaper, the discarded beer cans, the clothes. Finally, her stare rested on the wall:

FUCK OF JULIAN

“It was the bloke downstairs,” I said.

“My God. You’re crazy,” she whispered.

Rosalind walked away.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

KayCast - the beginning or the end? YOU DECIDE

Gabcast! KayCast #0 - KayCast Trial

Let's see if this works/people listen.

Warning: contains one joke.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Quiz Call


Swanky. Glass and steel exterior. Through window, and past the reflection of suited pedestrians, one glimpsed a huge reception. I craned my neck skyward, but could find no ceiling. The only furniture past glass was a desk. This desk - a tank. The receptionist’s position was similar to the soldier you’d see on top of such a vehicle. You could only perceive her shoulders and head and hair, so high was the fucker.

And so I felt oppressed, having whisked through automatic doors, standing small-y in front of her.
She made me wait uncomfortable upon uncomfortable minute before she raised her head.

“Yes?” she called.

Her voice was soaked in privileged intonation. Even the receptionists in TV had attended Oxbridge.
Reader, she wore a ridiculous wig. There was no chance that she wasn’t bewigged - such was the height of her piece. Beehive, it was, and blacker than any hair should be. As black as the metal desk that stood between us, in fact (blacker than the night).

“Can I help?” she spoke.

I realised that I hadn’t yet replied. I had been staring at her hair, thinking of the B52s.

“I’m Kay Richardson. I’ve come for the Quiz Call audition,” I stammered.

“Quiz Call?” she bellowed, inflection close to the cinematic version of Lady Bracknell’s ‘A handbag?’.

I repeated myself.

“There’s no ‘Quiz Call’ here,” she said. “This is London Weekend Television. LWT wouldn’t produce ‘Quiz Call’.”

She spoke Quiz Call as if the words were more offensive than ‘fucking cunt’, say.

I beat a sharp repeat, coughing ‘wig’ as I passed through the swishy doors.

Five minutes later, I was standing in an office as garish as Burger King and smaller than a ladybird’s bathroom. This was the correct place. I had mistaken the number ‘13’ for the number ‘31’, you see. I’ve never felt easy with numbers.

Five desks there were, all covered in paper and computers. Brightly coloured posters stained the walls. They advertised Quiz Call programmes. Ridiculously attractive models looked out at you, speech bubbles thrusting from mouths. ‘Call us’/’Win money’/’Do it’ they invited.

There was only one other human in room. His name was Dominic Shatley and he was speaking loudly into an expensive mobile phone. He sat at a desk, legs perched upon a pile of paper.

“Yeah. I got him here now, you twat,” he said. “We need studio time. What? Fuck rehearsals. You don’t even need rehearsal. He’s calling out fucking numbers. You don’t need rehearsal to call out fucking numbers. My fucking dog could do that. Yeah. He could. He’s a clever dog. Yeah. Twenty minutes,” he continued.

He threw the tiny phone upon the desk and gave me the once over.

“You always wear that patch?” he barked.

“No,” I said. “Only for the next couple of days. I scratched my cornea.”

“Good,” he responded. “You look like a fucking pirate.” He pointed at his mobile phone. “That was the director. Fucking twat.”

Dominic Shatley was a wanker. He wore a pin-stripe suit. It didn’t have the baggy quality of my suits (bought from H&M). It hung from his body as if he’d lay upon the original fabric and the tailor had drawn an chalk around him to detail his body’s curves.

Dominic Shatley wore no shirt. Oh no. He wore a T-shirt. This was blue and displayed the wording ‘Tom is not my friend’. I didn’t (and don’t) understand, but do/did assume that this was ironic.
Dominic Shatley picked up a sheet of paper, crumpled at the edges.

“It says here that you’re black,” he said. “It doesn’t fucking look like you’re black. Apart from your fucking eye.”

“I’m not black,” I replied.

“A shame. You’ve got TV experience, right? We’re gonna spend some time in the studio this morning.”
I looked at his fat face and greased-back hair.

“Yes,” I lied.

There followed twenty minutes of questions. I presumed that this was the opening section of the interview, although at no point was the presumption clarified. Shatley remained in the same pose he had assumed to speak to the director over telephone – slouched in office chair, with loafers crossed on desk. His questions focused on the lies of CV I’d sent. My responses were a combination of ill-informed waffle and hard denial of the resume’s claims (I assured Shatley that I’d never appeared as a Dalek on Doctor Who and that my email must have corrupted). My legs had begun to ache after five minutes of interrogation. I was refused a chair to sit upon.

When Shatley had finally expended all questions by which to condemn my deceit, he wasn’t convinced. I knew this because he said ‘I’m not convinced.”

Next we went to a pub. Shatley assured me that the conversation that took place in bar would not form part of the assessment. The bar was called ‘The Ironmonger’, but Shatley referred to it as ‘The Bald Bollock’. When I asked why this was, he looked at me as if I were an idiot.

The forty minutes were spent drinking two pints of Fosters and listening to Shatley expound on the fortunes of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. I, in an ill-conceived attempt to curry favour, claimed I supported Arsenal. He challenged me to name two of their players. I could manage ‘the French one’, nothing else. Shatley called me ‘a fucking lying prick’, which I thought a little harsh.

During the Thames bank brown brick walk to studio, Shatley let slip that I’d been the only applicant called to interview, mainly on the strength of my Dalek appearance. He said that I was a good looking fellow and that I’d have to ‘fuck up royally’ not to get the job.

I swallowed hard and smiled wetly.

The studio wasn’t much larger than Shatley’s office. The back wall was coloured blue and held a whiteboard. There was a slight lighting rig hanging from midpoint of ceiling which pointed towards this blue back wall. Behind these lights was one camera and (I guessed correctly) an autocue.  A sweaty man with hair on his face lent upon this camera, and stared into the middle distance. Behind him was a sexy blonde with clipboard. Behind her – at the opposite corner of the room to the entrance – hunched a man over machinery that looked like a mixing desk. A couple of monitors were built into his grey technology.
“I won’t bother explaining all this shit to you,” Shatley said to me. To the others: “He’s done this before. Let’s have five minutes – use the script from last night’s edition.” The blonde woman, sweaty cameraman and man at machine all jumped into action. I stood still. “Stand over there, you cunt,” said Shatley pointing at the blue wall. “Don’t fuck it.”

Reader, it was abominable.

A mixture of idleness and vanity meant that I’d never bought the glasses that my dodgy left eye deserved. In day to day life, this wasn’t a problem. It only (yes) became one when I was called upon to read small text from a distance greater than two metres and my good eye was covered (in bandage).
Quizcall’s autocue was three metres away.

“Hello and welcome to Quiz Ball,” I said. “What have liberally thousands of hounds to give away today,” I continued, squinting like an embarrassed mole. My delivery possessed the confidence of a leper asking Miss World for a handjob (a shy leper too).

Shatley signalled the end of my piece with a loud “You’re shit - put this one-eyed twat fucking wanker out of his misery” soon after I started.  I hadn’t even time to crack any of my planned adlibbed jokes.
The lights cut out and the camera drooped.

“What the fuck was that?” bellowed Shatley.

The woman with the clipboard was openly laughing.

“I forgot my glasses,” was my feeble response.

“Do one,” said Shatley, pointing at the door.

I left the room, but was forced to return a few seconds later – I couldn’t remember how to leave the building. It was labyrinthine. You had to enter keycodes and that. Shatley was calling me a twat to the woman with clipboard when I re-entered the studio.

“I thought I’d told you to fucking do one,” he said.

I agreed that he had, and explained that I understood, but couldn’t remember how to leave the complex. Shatley shook his head and the woman with the clipboard gave me directions and a keycode. As I apologised and thanked them both, Shatley stopped shaking his head and asked me a question.

“What was the name of the presenter you claimed to fuck?”

“I don’t remember,” I replied.

He started shouting that I’d put ‘dating a past presenter’ on my C.V. and that it wasn’t that I couldn’t remember her name it was that I was a fucking liar.

I closed the door upon the vile man’s vitriol. I’d been sworn at enough for a day.

I bought a mint choc chip ice-cream at Waterloo station. It melted quickly.

Reader, I wasn’t disappointed. I attended the interview without hope of employment. But as Father’s money cascaded from my bank account, finding employment became increasingly important.

The Stage had adverts for dancers.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

I think I'm coming down with the boogaloo flu


The ringtone (Ride Of The Valkyries) of my mobile telephone woke me at just past eleven (in the morning). I fingered phone. Tom was at the other end. I knew this because my eye spotted ‘Pink Tom calling’ on the telephone’s screen.

Pink Tom remained half friend/half enemy.

“Knock, knock,” he said.

“Who’s there?” I sighed.

“I done a Puh,” replied Tom.

“I done a Puh who?”

Tom shrieked down the telephone.

“You’ve done a poo!” he called.

I ended the call and laid back on bed.

Seconds passed; my phone rang once more. Tom spoke.

“What you doing tonight? Fancy free drink? Money? I have a preposition for you.”

The mist of sleep vaporized.

“Proposition,” I corrected. “Carry on.”

Pink Tom told on. I stroked my bandage. He was hosting a party. Tom, you see, was a part-time party organiser. Media companies (PR people, that sort of thing) would call him up, quote a budget, name a date and pay him to hire a function room. Tonight, he was to hold a party for ‘Nil by Mouth’, the acclaimed theatrical company. His problem, he said, was that the DJ he’d booked had pulled out because of gastroenteritis. And the reserve DJ had torn a ligament through excessive scratching. He remembered that I’d Deejayed at my 25th birthday party to much critical praise. He wondered if I could help him out.
I admitted that my 25th birthday party had been a triumph.

It’ll be a great place for networking, said Tom.

Pink Tom offered free drinks and fifty quid. I would spin the decks from 2100 to 0100 (when the event ended).

I agreed to do it. The fifty pound would keep me in claret for another week.

The rest of the day was wasted watching TV and wondering whether to remove eye bandage. During the tedium, I even picked up a book. The afternoon’s highpoint was receiving an email from Quiz Call, inviting me to audition. It was to be held at a venue on the Southbank (you know, opposite Parliament, with the wheel). Reader, I was unsure whether to attend. The CV I sent was even more full of lies than these here words. I rubbed my bandage and pondered.

By the time I left for East London, the dressing remained over my eye. I was a good boy.

Pink Tom had hired out an entire bar. And the bar was Legion, Shoreditch. Shoreditch is a gentrified part of East London. Gone are the squat houses and squalor to be replaced by fusion cuisine and pretention. Reader, I would go to Legion. They sell San Miguel on draft and (on a normal evening) the music is pleasant.
I arrived, as Tom asked, at 2000 hours. The place was yet to open and there were half a dozen white-bloused servants scuttling around, tying up balloons and emptying ashtrays from a day’s worth of custom. The venue reminded me of a bierkeller – it was long, brown, full of benches and built of brick. Green lighting made it seem green. Three-quarters of the left wall was bar. Opposite this stood a thin stage. Placed on this platform was a wooden trestle table. Two turntables and some black wirey boxes rested on top. This was to be my music station.

The evening was … problematic.

Let me structure this section of narrative by presenting, in turn, the problems I encountered:

No Music

Is this the greatest problem a DJ could face? I think so. Pink Tom was mincing about the interior, checking tills and hassling waitresses, when I entered the venue. The second he saw me (which was the second I entered), he rushed over (clipboard tightly gripped) and yelled ‘Where are your fucking records, Bluebeard?’. I told him that I didn’t know to bring any. He laughed a laugh stained with hysteria and said ‘You’re fucking joking, right? Tell me you’re fucking joking’. I told him that I wasn’t ‘fucking joking’ and that he should have told me on the ‘phone that I needed records.

He thrust the clipboard to my chest. I held it loosely. He shoved one arm into camo-trouser pocket. This arm sported bands from wrist to elbow. They spanned the spectrum of colour. His hand brought out a wallet that looked as if it had been made solely from gaffer tape. He took a credit card from this wallet and held it before me.

“Take this. Get £100 worth of decent CD’s from HMV – it’s around the corner. Get compilations.

Indie/dancey stuff. Don’t fuck it up, Kay. Indie or dance. Ok? Indie or dance. The pin’s 0345.” I nodded and handed back the clipboard. “Kay. After this, you’ll have to be stunning for that £50.”

“There’s still free drinks, right?” I asked.

But Pink Tom shook his head, turned away, and whined at a ginger waitress about canap├ęs.

Walking to HMV (in the rain, Reader, in the rain), I wondered whether I shouldn’t use the credit card to buy myself fags and booze, before returning home. Pink Tom had spoken to me in a harsh tone. And he hadn’t earlier told me that I needed music. It was me, Kay, doing him a favour, for fuck’s sake.

I was doing him a favour.

I didn’t buy cigarettes and alcohol. I bought £97 worth of Ministry of Sound/bland indie shit. I also bought a ‘Best of Disco’ compilation because everyone dances to Disco.

Lucy

Lucy was assistant to the assistant director of Nil by Mouth and she didn’t dance, she attacked air. Between 2130 and 2230 she also talked at me. Initially, I was willing to suffer her company, for she seemed happy to deliver my free alcohol.  Pink Tom had tricked me, you see. I was permitted free alcohol, but I wasn’t allowed to leave the DJ table. I imagine he felt immense satisfaction at this - my personal Catch 22. Tom stated that there was no way that I’d be paid if he saw me leave my post. He’s a devious bastard, but he hadn’t reckoned with Lucy. And she brought me many a beer.

At 2215, I began to tire of Lucy’s company. She didn’t have much of interest to say and didn’t know anyone in the theatrical company with influence. During these three quarters of an hour, she wasn’t approached by any other party-goers. This suggested that she wasn’t a popular member of the company. And she never mentioned my eye bandage.

“They all went to college. I didn’t go to college. I didn’t see the point in getting in all that debt,” she shouted into my ear and I could only nod.

At 2230, I told her to ‘fuck off’.

I had been intimating that I wanted her to leave for ten minutes before the ‘fuck off’. As much as I repeated ‘Anyway, better get on’ and ‘It was nice to meet you’ and ‘I’ve got a girlfriend’, she refused to understand that she was persona non grata.

“Well … I’ve got a boyfriend,” she said and winked.

Frustration grew to anger and at 2230, I told Lucy to ‘fuck off’.

Her face crumpled as if her very bones had crumbled. But ‘fuck off’ she did. I played Sister Sledge and the crowd went mental.

At 2236 Tom appeared in the booth and told me not to tell punters to ‘fuck off’. I told him to ‘fuck off’. He told me to play less Disco. I told him to ‘fuck off’.

Getting Drunk

Drinking was a fair and natural reaction to Tom’s officious and offensive behaviour. I was already fairly tipsy after eight pints of San Miguel. There was a waiter named Pete that smiled at me with hungry eyes and I managed to convince him to bring vodka on a number of occasions post-Lucy.

The drink didn’t adversely affect my ability to DJ. I’d say it definitely improved it. Some club DJ’s ingest handfuls of E’s during their sets. I didn’t take any ecstasy. I did play ‘Fuck da Police’ and the dancefloor emptied and Pink Tom came and changed CDs (mid-track) himself, but minutes fell away and the partygoers danced and three praised my spinning skills. Pink Tom smiled at me across the room on one occasion.

Skipping CDs

During ‘Jump Around’ by House of Pain, I was forced to make a request, through microphone, that people didn’t jump too heavily. The reverberation of eighty pounding feet caused the CD to skip.

Lucy’s boyfriend
The nadir of my evening was also its conclusion. During the full version of ‘Love to Love You, Baby’ by Donna Summer, I sensed a presence over my left shoulder. I assumed it was Tom checking up, so ignored it for a full four minutes.

It wasn’t Pink Tom.

“Oy! Cyclops! Did you feel up my bird?” said a big man when, eventually, I turned around.

The guy was large. He wasn’t just barrel-chested – more brewery-bicepped. My head reached his nipples. His T-shirt was tight and black and voluminous.

“What was her name?” I asked.

His fist flew and in an instant I was on the floor, right (and unbandaged) eye booming with pain.

Reader, he’d punched me.

“And don’t you ever come near my Lucy again,” he said, looming, fists clenched.

Donna Summer continued to play as I sank into unconsciousness. My last memory was of Lucy’s smug face gurning in the firmament.

Tom refused to pay me. He claimed the alcohol “I stole” amounted to over £100. The theatrical company for whom he’d organised the evening demanded a deduction because of ‘the wildly indecorous DJ’. Tom reported that they complained about the amount of disco played. I didn’t believe this – the punters danced all night as if their shoes were alight. 

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The monotony of festering



The monotony of festering in tiny, tiny flat with nothing to occupy my hands nor brains drowned my sanity to such an degree that I reread the script of Vague Blizzard. Its words, my words, disappointed, and I returned to the bed.

Bark!
Fuck off!

Bark!
Fuck off!

Bark!
Fuck off!

Bark!
Fuck off!

Bark!
Fuck off!

Bark!
Fuck off!

Bark!
Fuck off!

Bark!
Fuck off!

Bark!
Fuck off!

Bark!
Fuck off!

Bark!
Fuck off!

I couldn’t sleep. Underneath my floor, a dog barked and a voice yelled ‘fuck off’ in retort.

This duologue (dogologue?) repeated every minute for two hours. It was, then, the 120th ‘fuck off’ that spurred me to action. I jumped from He-Man duvet and, without thought of threat, stomped downstairs to ‘14a’, the ground-floor flat.

I knocked, with rapidity and force, for thirty seconds. The purple paint-peeling front door of 14a was opened with such speed that I only narrowly avoided punching the man in the face with my flailing fist.

“You trying to punch me?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

The man wore only (stained) shorts. He appeared younger than me, and shorter too. His skin was ghost-like and his chest concave. The was a gap where an upper front tooth should have stood. He looked like he hadn’t seen sun in seven years.

“What d’you want?” he asked with a voice a-hoarse.

I told him that I lived in the upstairs flat. He told me that he knew and asked my name.

Naturally suspicious, I answered:

Julian.

I asked his name. He didn’t tell, instead he claimed that I had ignored him three times in recent weeks when passing at the letterboxes. This I refuted. But he was insistent. I told him that if I had ‘blanked’ him, which I doubted, that I was sorry. He asked if I had come downstairs to apologise. No, I said.

“I am here because of the noise.” I pointed at my eye-patch. “I’m sick. I need to sleep. Your dog’s barking is loud.”

“I don’t have a dog,” he said.

A dog barked from his flat. He shouted ‘fuck off’ without flinching.

“What was that?” I asked.

“My girlfriend,” said the man.

I shrugged, sensing that the conversation was drifting away.

“I’m asking if you could keep down the volume of swearing and barking.”

He told me to ‘fuck off my own business’ and that his uncle was the landlord, Dowson. This, he said, meant his dog, even though he didn’t have one, could bark as loudly as it wanted. I told the man that his relation to Dowson was fortuitous as it would make complaining about the noise easier. I got on well with his uncle, I told him. He shook an emaciated arm at my face.

“Don’t you fucking dare,” he said and slammed the door, pulling in his skeleton limb at the last second, like Indiana Jones and his fedora in Temple of Doom.

Upstairs, on bed, the air was free of dog-barking for ten minutes, after which the crushing cycle of ‘Bark!’/’Fuck off’ began in earnest once more. I left an irate message on Dowson’s answer phone, reminding him that I’d paid my rent on time, and placing the phone on the carpet so as to catch some of the subterranean (woofy) cacophony.

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.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Homosexual dog walkers


I have embraced literary success in the past. A short story entitled ‘Blurred Clarity’ was once published in an e-zine. It concerned two homosexual dog-walkers. And it was bloody brilliant.

With a-money in the bank and time on a-my hands (wrist?), I decided to dedicate one week to a-writing. I would find auditions to attend and roles to bag the following week. There were always gigs for actors of my genus.

I needed a rest from Vague Blizzard. I feared the plot-line has become too convoluted. The graphic sex scenes did not sit happily upon my sense of aesthetic neither. I’d write something new.

But … what if I were to write a novel? I imagined that if I worked for a week, giving birth to 5000 words a day, I could complete 35000 of the bad boys with ease. Sitting at computer*, I decided to bung copies of the opening shit that I produced in this first session into brown envelopes and spunk it off to literary agents in the City.

The novel’s central premise was rather good:

It was based on the song ‘This Charming Man’ by The Smiths.  If you don’t know it, you should listen to it. It has a good tune with the guitars and that. As far as I could see, this particular song is about some bird who catches a lift with the titular ‘charming man’. They have a chat and possibly indulge in rudeness within his leather-seated car. Now, my idea for a book was a novel variation upon this situation:

A woman gets in a car with a man and they chat and possibly more ... the woman has a limp which is never explained. This creates mystery (an authorial hook).

They would talk about their life before the meeting (in the car). She would have been abused as a child, he was a pop star … etc etc … I hadn’t fully worked out the minutiae of their lives, but was sure that it wouldn’t be a problem. Too much preparation can sometimes be counter-productive. This car-chat would be the detail glue that bound together the repeated (but not repetitive) sex scenes.

I sent the following section of ‘That Charming Man’ to eight literary agents whose details I found on’t internet. I decided not to bother continuing with it until I received some response. I could then mould the narrative according to the interested agent’s tastes/suggestions. Read it with an open mind:

Eyes – narrowed. The road ahead – lengthy. Ears - listening to the radio,  listening to ‘This Charming Man’ by The Smiths. He liked this song because it reminded him of himself. He took his eyes off the black tarmac of the road he was driving his car upon and looked about his car. His car had nice leather seats.

WHAHWAHA.

Suddenly, he saw a woman on the verge. ‘Cor,’ he thought to himself.

And he pulled the car over.

The woman opened the car door herself, with her own hand. The hand had red nail varnish on the nails. When she got in the car, he smelt her perfume and he liked it. It was Chanel Number 5. He looked at her nails. Red, he thought, like passion.

“Hello,” he said. 

“Hello. My name is Anna. I would like to go to Aberdeen,” she said.

Aberdeen?” he shouted. “You realise that we are in Weymouth?”

Weymouth is at the opposite end of the UK to Aberdeen.

“I do,” she shouted and she began to speak as he pulled off into the night.

Haunting stuff.

What do you think, Readers? If I'm not on next year's Booker list it's either because I shagged the wrong judge or I'm not related to the correct publisher.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Throbbing Temple

At the instant of consciousness regained, my mind was an empty Word document. ‘Life is shite’ was yet to be typed. My throbbing temple (band name?) monopolised all initial thought. 

NO WORK TO GO TO – CAN STAY IN BED. SLEEP WILL CURE PAIN, said my mind.

A strange conflict between joy and despair: joy because I could snooze off the hangover, but despair because I was still unemployed. This dichotomy was resolved by eyes turning up skull and sleep sweeping over me once more.

When I awoke in the afternoon, my head felt less painy. My mouth, however, was as dry as a tortoise. I lurched to the bathroom to take water. Alas, I didn’t allow the water to run from tap for sufficient time. The liquid was warm from sitting in the pipes overnight and so my stomach lurched to nausea.

Barbeque Sausage Sandwich from Supermarket!

That’s what I thought, standing over sink, waiting for stomach’s decision re: sick.

Could I afford this delicacy? Should I not buy some more economy beans?

That’s what I thought, standing over sink, thinking about sausages.

I possessed (and still do) a mesmeric visage. Strange girls traced (and still do) my face with their eyes. This isn’t arrogance. This is truth. And my face’s quality wasn’t solely due to a random genetic coincidence. Oh no. I kept myself fit (I would walk to the train station and often had (or thought about) energetic sex). I ate well. I kept my body sustained with appropriate nutrients.

Sainsbury’s own label baked beans (retailing at 24p) did not constitute these appropriate nutrients. And, Reader, they never will.

Damn it! My future success on stage demanded I buy a Barbequed Sausage Sandwich from Sainsbury’s. And a Raspberry Smoothie too. I owed it to my body. Money would sort itself out. I had thought the same about the nasty rash that consumed the top of my right thigh some months earlier  - and that had completely vanished.

And so I pulled on some (cool) clothes and moved down the stairwell.

I opened the communal entrance door. Old Spice filled my nose and an England shirt stood one inch away from the open world. Landlord Dowson consumed the entire doorspace. There were gaps of air around his head and legs – otherwise it was a perfect fit. His stomach was a match for frame width. Such was my fear of him (Rent money! Rent money! Rent money!), that the peculiarity of finding him in such a position didn’t register. I later wondered if he’d been standing there for a length of time.

“Ah, Mr Kay Richardson, my man,” he said, all smiley-like.

I stood still – a lame badger.

“I’ll get the money by the weekend, I swear,” I said, emoting.

Mr Dowson laughed, face wobbling.

“You are a funny man, my boy,” he guffawed, breathing staggered somewhat. “I check my account extra early to sees if your direct debit passed. I was thinking to call my brothers with their bats to visit you …” I gulped. “But you are a man of your word. I trust you in future. So … how is the acting? Thank you for your rent.”

If it wasn’t for the stench of Old Spice, I would have assumed I was dreaming (you can’t smell when sleeping).

“I paid the rent?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Dowson. “Of course.”

I nodded, and intimated that I needed to pass him. I revealed that I was in a rush to buy a sausage sandwich and he wished me luck.

I was back in flat, lying on bed (resplendent in newly washed He-Man duvet) with the Guardian thrust open and a spicy sausage in my mouth, when I took a call from Mother on my ‘phone.

She untangled the monetary mystery. When she informed my dear father that I had rung requesting financial assistance, he had ‘gone all quiet’ and disappeared from shed-building to his study. When Mother later interrogated him, he broke with ease. He spilt all. He had transferred monies from his personal savings to my current account. Mother demanded that I transfer it back immediately, because Father was of dull mental facility (following a stroke). I pretended that phone was losing reception and ended the shriek of Mother’s hysterical ranting with a sharp prod of ‘disconnect’.

I left the sausage sandwich uneaten on bed. I fell upon the computer (in lounge, Reader) and checked my bank balance.

Father had transferred £1000!!!

£1000!!!

Minus the £600 rent and £40 I was overdrawn, that left me with literally hundreds of pounds to spare! I loved Father.

Even if he was married to Mother. My fingers, without instruction, directed my internet browser to Amazon. I bought books, Reader, and CDs. I also considered a Kindle.

A Kindle, goddamit.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Money


After Columbo, I rang Mother:
Kay: Hullo. Kay here.
Mother: Hello, Kay.
Kay: How are you?
Mother: Good. And you?
Kay: Not too bad. How’s Father?
Mother: He’s in the garden. The shed collapsed last Tuesday. It killed Percy.
Kay: Fuck. Who’s Percy?
Mother: Don’t swear. Percy is next door’s cat. We were obliged to pay for his funeral.
Kay: Cats don’t have funerals.
Mother: Mothers don’t lie.
Kay: I was ringing to see if I could borrow some money. Only for a couple of weeks, I’d pay it back.
Mother: No.
Kay: Please, Mother.
Mother: The funeral was very expensive, Kay, and your father had to buy a new shed. It was only one month ago that we sent you £500.
Kay: Two months ago.
Mother: And what about the play? Malcolm is a large role, you told me. You said you’d be a star, Kay. I imagine you are paid well to appear in Shakespeare.
Kay: Goodbye, Mother.

Reader, I was banking on Mother’s money. She never refused. I knew she had savings. I knew she had cash. Fucking cat funerals couldn’t be expensive. And I didn’t believe Percy was having one, anyway. I telephoned again.

Kay: Mother, I’m desperate. I have rent to pay.
Mother: I’ve always said you pay too much for that tiny flat. You should live in a shared house like your nephew does. He went to Cambridge University.

I ended the telephone call by throwing the mobile across the room. It struck the wall, leaving a black fudge, and fell to the floor in three pieces. I mended it with gaffer tape. It looked ridiculous.

We move to the following morning:

Dressed in a retro NY Cosmos soccer shirt and Diesel denim, I left my flat and walked down the stairs that lead to the communal exit past which Mr Dowson, the landlord, lurked.

He looked Turkish. Sweaty hair. He spoke with a Turkish accent. But I never saw him without an England football shirt. At the beginning of our relationship, when I paid rent on time, he would regale me with tales of his childhood in Devon – running through fields of corn and drinking cider and watching the local soccer side. All damn lies, I’d bet. I would gamble both feet that he was from Ankara.

“Your rent is a late,” he said, every word mispronounced.

“But that can’t be, Mr Dowson,” I said.

“Dave,” he corrected with sinister civility.

His body stood tall and wide - the sun’s rays were temporary blocked. I could see nothing but the dull white of the over-washed England football shirt. And I could smell nothing but Old Spice. My nose tingled.
I feigned surprise and ‘swore down’ that he’d have the money in his account by the end of the day. He nudged slightly to the right, a subtle signal that I could pass.

My landlord shouted something after me, but it was lost in the ambient noise of a SE London high street of buses and teenagers and police sirens. It sounded like ‘You’re a gay’. I would be surprised if that’s what Dowson actually shouted. I’m not gay. And it would also be a strange observation to make at that point. I’d done nothing homosexual when passing, I was sure.

Before leaving the flat, I had taken all banknotes from Doctor Faustus. I counted them as I walked to Sainsbury’s (shopping for bread).

Three times I checked, and three times the figure remained the same:

£135

Before meeting Rosalind, I possessed £245. I had travelled to North London and bought lemonade. In the following few days I had only left the flat to buy economy brand foodstuff from Sainsbury’s and a few bottles of wine. I had also bought The Stage newspaper (£1.40).

In doing all of this, I had spent over a hundred quid.

Jesus F Christ.

In despair, I purchased a quality bottle of Bordeaux. Alcohol would free me from despondency and inhibition. And inhibition is the enemy of remuneration.

I forgot to buy bread.

Twenty minutes after drinking the wine, I rang Mother once more. And, once more, she refused me money.