Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Rumpelstiltskin, Strange Twins, Woodland Creatures & Nightcrawlers......My Life In Snapshot. It's A Goddamn Fairytale

To the Charles Ledray show in a disused fire station in Chiltern Street, Marylebone. It’s a strange little area, full of tailors, wedding shops and a Long Tall Sally shop selling Amazonian clothes & shoes large enough to accommodate a Viking raiding party. The surrounding shops compliment the Ledray show, which consists of just 3 pieces: the first, a tailor shop with a dummy displaying a gentleman’s jacket and on a nearby table, a fan of ties. Everything is handmade, doll-sized & under ceilings that are 2 foot off the ground, so you have to crouch down to see the charming, Rumpelstiltskin madness below.
The second piece is like a charity shop, with a circular rack of Hawaiian shirt on tiny hangers & tables of old t-shirts & jumpers. The last, is what it might look like in the backroom of that charity shop, with tiny, bulging dustbin bags in shopping trolleys beside an ironing board piled with jumble.
Everything is exquisitely made and has a weird poignancy. We seem so big beside these things & yet they manage to remind us that we are by any reckoning, very small. When it comes to how far we stick out from earth, even the tallest basketball players aren’t even as prominent as peach fuzz.
I took my daughter, who is about to start her first term at London College of Fashion and we spent ages peering at these scenes in their three pools of light in an otherwise shadowy, empty room. Empty that is, until John Waters walked in wearing his marvelous coal black Errol Flynn moustache & then we had four things to inspect.
[Show ends Sept 30th]

Wanting to clear some life clutter, I decided to hire a stall at Portobello for the first time.
I got there at 5am, to find that I was an hour early, so I sat in my car watching the dawn break and the market team build the metal frames that, by 9am, are all shops. The upside of arriving too early was a prime spot, but all the regulars were muttering it was going to be a bad day because of Fashion Week. It was indeed a bad day and I only sold a few things, spending the rest of my time people-watching. The only fashionista to break ranks with the round of shows and come our way was Barbara Hulanicki of Biba fame. I had a Biba shirt hanging at the front of my stall & for one excited moment thought she might stop buy it – I mean, fashion designers can’t possibly remember everything they’ve ever made, but presumably they admire their own taste.... The highlight of my day was a double twin spotting. One identical pair walked by wearing the same striped shirts, although one was red/white & the other blue/white. Two minutes later, another pair passed, this time one had cut her hair short. I wanted to yell, ‘Have you see the other pair yet!?’ Are twins as interested by other twins as I am? Do they acknowledge each other when they meet - or are other twins just the norm & their fascination lies in us the single egg folk? Twins have been a gentle obsession for most of my life, but things got stoked in my teens by two court cases that made it into the national press. The first was a set of teenage twins from Cardiff who were done for arson. They spoke their own private language & insisted on being in the witness box together. One twin spoke of how claustrophobic their lives were & not long after, the dominant twin said she thought it was better if she died, which she then did.
The other court case was of twins stalking a hapless neighbour they felt they loved, but soon began to hate. They were exactly like how you would expect Clara & Clarice of Gormenghast to look. They spoke as one, in a strange
droning harmony. In order to dress identically every day, if outfits differed in anyway - for example different buttons - they would cut off them all off & share them out again so they both had them alternating. Even if someone gave them a gift of two different coloured soaps they would hack them in half and cram the opposing halves together to satisfy their hysteria for parity. Riveting stuff.

Doing the maths at the end of the day at Portobello, I worked out that after expenses, in a twelve hour day I had made a sum total of £3, which even by my capacity for low earning was going it some. I tried to work out what that meant as an hourly rate & then fell into bed at 9.

Tom, our choirmaster had booked us to sing at a miniature festival called Summer Sunset in Berkshire. Set in a beautiful woodland glade at Wasing Park, we arrived to find a mass of green-faced revelers dressed as woodland creatures, lying in heaps of day-after-the-night-before unwellness.
Our choir is not remotely professional – we do it for fun, & very
occasionally, we don’t even have fun; motly we do. It is made up of artists, actors, a doctor, a chef and a nutritionist. There was slight disquiet among the sopranos when we discovered Sinead, a lawyer [& unbeknownst to her] our lead soprano, was stuck in bed with flu. Luckily though, handsome Rupert our [unbeknownst to him] choir mascot was in attendance, but everything was in the balance. As singers we are very up and down & so today it was possible we were going to make grown men, weep, but it was equally possible they were going to throw their shoes at us.
Before we went onstage, Tom took us off to run through the two songs we struggle with: Lovecats & Bare Necessities. We failed to nail either & an attempt by one of the sopranos [me] to get them knocked off our setlist was dismissed. Ten minutes later, we lined up & sung our hearts out to an audience of seventy hung-over people. Life On Mars - not always a good one - worked fantastically, as did Hallelujah & I’ll Fly Away; then we massacred Lovecats & Bare Necessities.

A distinctly odd day.
To fully explain it, let the scene go blurry as I
guide you back through time to 1986…when I flew to Spain for the weekend to join my brother who was staying at the house of a well known Catalan sculptor. It was the 50th anniversary of the Civil War and I arrived thinking, very foolishly, there were going to be merry public celebrations. The sculptor's home, in a suburb of Barcelona, consisted of half a dozen small farm buildings that had been converted to bedrooms, living spaces and art studios.
There were various other guests, but it was hard to tell who or how many, although my brother had a few friends there including, one of his old schoolfriends, who I had never liked, but the living spaces were so scattered, it was easy to avoid people.

My room was at the far end of a huge studio containing lines of plan chests and scupting scaffolds. The bed was behind a glass wall, up a few steps on a raised platform at the far end of the room, all quite 60s.
In describing this room I realise the layout is very similiar to where I work now
, on a little platform hived off the back of a photographer’s studio, - although the proportions are smaller & the wall is solid not glass.

On the last night of the weekend the weather broke and the wind started to howl in from the sea. I lay in bed reading Tough Guys Don’t Dance by Norman Mailer, a murder mystery in which the protaganist wakes up after a night of boozing to find his Porsche blood-soaked & a decapitated head nearby.
I turned out the light feeling spooked and listened to the branches of a tree being dashed against the courtyard wall outside the bedroom.

Then I thought I heard a tiny noise inside the studio, at the far end. I peered into the dark. Was there a denser bit of darkness in the general darkness? I stared harder, but could hear nothing over for the wind. I kept staring into the studio thinking something was there. I wanted to turn the light on the but the lamp was a good stretch from the bed & I started freaking myself out that a decapitater's axe would crash down on my outstretched arm. I went on staring and listening, until I realised I had spent the better part of 20 minutes like this & it was getting ridiculous. I really had to
get over this Mailer-induced dread & sleep . I leaned out of the bed, switched the light on & there on the steps at the edge of the platform was a naked man.
There had been a denser black in the blackness. It was the schoolfriend. I had been staring at him creeping incrementally across the studio towards me.
‘Whatthefuckareyoudoing?’ I shrieked.
‘I’ve come to join you.' he said, now crouching down against the steps to hide himself.
' Getthefuck out of my room’ 'GettheFUCK out of my room’
‘Getthefuck OUT of my room’ Thankfully he slunk away. What kind of guy tries it on with a girl - who has shown absolutely no interest - by taking off all his clothes edging silently towards them in the dark? Afterwards I wondered what would have happened if I hadn’t been reading Mailer and had fallen asleep: he would have made it to my bed. Would he have raped me? If I had screamed for help would anyone have heard me? Had he raped anyone else?

When I got home to my bonsai flat in London, it had ceased to my haven; it felt like a wallpapered trap. I no longer slept in my bed, but on the sofa with all the lights on. I was wakeful most nights, listening. Sometimes I’d drink half a bottle of vodka before I could get my eyes to close. Weeks, turned into months and by the end of the year I put the flat up for sale & moved somewhere I could afford more than bedroom; I was a wreck living alone.
Years went by and I saw the schoolfriend on maybe three occasions: once across a crowded seminar, once at a party and once most oddly, deep in the Oxfordshire county.

I was driving along a narrow lane when another car appeared from the opposite direction, we slowed down to pass one another & as we drew level, I saw that it was him. On no occasion did we speak.

On Monday I drove to work, opened the door to the photographer’s studio and there was the schoolfriend, sitting in a chair. We recognised each other instantly. I passed him without speaking and went to my studio. All day long I could hear him talking to the photographer. All day long I wondered what to do.
Three sightings across 20 years & and nothing ever said.
In the afternoon, I could hear them discussing what they were going to do the following day & realised that this fouth time, I
finally had to do something. I told myself that courage lies solely in the hands of the alarmed & then stepped out of my studio and said as calmly as I could, ‘By the way, what you did to me had a massive impact on my life that went on for years and years, all of it entirely negative. The thought of breathing the same air as you again tomorrow fills me revulsion.’
He sat there staring at me, saying nothing and then I left.
I walked down the corridor feeling very emotional, my hands were shaking, but by the time I reached my car, I felt goooood.


The photographer rang me late last night, saying the schoolfriend had told him he couldn’t come back in. Annoyingly, I had to stay away from the studio today because the photographer can't be the fall guy & lose the job over something that has nothing to do with him.
With an enforced day off I decided to wash that sleazeball outta my hair & take up the offer
of M&M Management to experience hairdresser Paul Edmond's new UPR protein treatment brought here from Iran where, beneath their veils they have great glossy mains. I read somewhere that absolutely every adult Iranian, male & female wax their entire bodies. Whenever I look at Ahmedinajad fulminating on the news about the West, I can't help thinking that below that hairy chin of his he's as hairless as a spoon.
I then took my newly glossy mane to the first screening of my friend Bernard’s biopic Mr Nice, about drug dealer Howard Marks who is acted by Rhys Ifans.
I have sworn omerta until it is released.......& that's yr average four day in the life of a
writer, artist, insomniac single mother: Brent brigade [militant wing]

Stop Press. Word is that twins are joining the choir tomorrow; tenors apparently [& unbeknowst to them, our lab specimens for minute study].