Friday, August 06, 2004


I have spent this morning lying in a graveyard and mostly thinking, Whose bright idea was this? A week’s holiday at home. Or rather, a week’s holiday spent lounging about London. Doing the touristy stuff. Seeing the sights, dancing under the lights. Lunching out, catching up. Or something...

Omens were there at Katy’s little gathering, perhaps, the only major thing I’ve done this week. Funny how someone you think you know comes across differently when she’s amongst her other friends.

First off, there was Ewan. An actor! Great. But not acting in anything right now? Some work soon though? Yes. Great! What’s that? It’s work in a call-centre. O... another temp grandly declaring themselves an Actor, announcing the word Actor as though the essence of their being shone out from that word, that word a beam from a lighthouse across the choppy ocean of low-wage London jobs, announcing to the ship of their future the port of the stage is theirs, just sail in the right direction, faith in the breeze will bring you home. Good luck, I tell him of course, when he tells me about some audition for some course in Poland he’s got coming up. But I don’t really mean it. Anyone who’s worked in the lower levels of an open-plan office here has seen Actors drifting into the slavedom of middle-age administrative assistance, heard them preparing their excuses for their resignation from the stage, for their retirement from treading the boards, sometimes even disappearing to teach kids, kids who at least might remember that last insane piece of physical theatre without laughter or boredom.

“I’m so glad you chatted with Ewan!” Katy says much later, who usually spots when I’m weary or unimpressed before I do. “He’s an actor, you know.” I answer, “No, he’s not.” The smile falls from her face and she looks over my shoulder. Stood right behind me. But I tell myself he didn’t hear that, as he shakes with a hard squeeze my hand goodnight, and goodbye.

Second, Pamela. Enormous her body spreading out over three-quarters of the two-seater sofa, even disguised in that cascade of loose, flowing black clothes. “Got any coke?” she asks me. “Cola?” I say. “Are you joking with me about cocaine?” she snaps. “Obviously not very successfully,” I answer. Silence. “I don’t have cocaine, no.” Pamela turns to Katy, and asks her. “You could try Clay over the road,” says Katy. “Forget it,” says Pamela. What happens next vaguely mystifies me. Katy – funny as anyone Katy, not giving a crap about meaningless crap Katy, easygoing Katy – is so very, very sincerely impressed by Pamela’s new ring. By Pamela’s recent raise and how much she earns as a script-editor for BBC dramas now. By Pamela’s seven hundred pound handbag. Perhaps it’s gratitude, because Pamela is treating Katy to a break in Barcelona soon. “Getting a Pepsi,” I say, and on my return I sit elsewhere.

I sit, in fact, next to Ian. As we chat, I watch Katy moving amongst her friends. Making flirty, nervous puns with Hilary about that threesome we had back in April (which I didn’t think that Katy really liked), glancing over at me and Ian. Gazing impressed at Julian as he waffles on about Philosophy and then some Activism website. I sense a bad mood rising and don’t know why. Time to get to know Ian.

Ian, as it turns out, is new to London. He took a photography degree and tried to make it in his home town. A few exhibitions here, a bit of sponsorship, a few commissioned pieces there. His home-life sounded similar to mine – keeping from school just a few close friends, whilst laying low and letting the mass get on with their fighting, failing and fucking. And eventually, to London! London and its great galleries, London, its millions and its mystery, its mess and its majesty. Or, kind of: in fact, to London to work for a magazine for lads, the sort stuffed with interviews with the wilder of the football and film stars, asking them about birds and boozing, stuffed with pictures of girls in underwear dishing out their wisdom on the subject of the best sex in the world – and at the grand age of twenty-two, no less, stuffed with ludicrous adverts for razors, aftershaves, and body-building feed.

Ian says he’ll get back to proper photography soon, as he shows me some of his work in the magazine. Odd to think, as I look at the woman with her breasts blurting out of her blouse while she eats a curry, that metres away from her stands the guy sat next to me, who is wearing a Rolling Stones t-shirt and denim, and who has long, lank black hair, under which his pretty, nervous face is talking wistfully about the photos he used to take of his home town, of the canals and shoppers, photos of the fights outside the night clubs, of the struggles of local shops and provincial lives, of his home town, where with such false-confidence the fists of adolescent boys grope for wads of such bold, brightly coloured pages, and pay his wage while elsewhere, he forgets about them and rolls himself a spliff.

The conversation stops as someone very drunk announces they want to play a game. It goes like this. Someone picks three people, and you have to decide who you’d have a dirty weekend with, who you’d marry, who you’d kill. Katy kills Stephen Hawking in order to have a dirty weekend with Bruce Forsyth and marry Prince Charles. And so on. Eventually it occurs to someone to play the game with the people in the room. I get to marry Hilary, suffer a dirty weekend with Pamela, and Katy kills me. For my part, I kill them all and use my hand. “Play serious, Adam! We all are,” says Pamela, and I feel nauseous.

That was my excuse to leave to the rest of my unsatisfying holiday. Did I spend this morning mostly thinking, Whose bright idea was this? Or have I more been trying to work out why I like this graveyard so much? Or plotting about the drinks with Queenie tonight? Or deciding whether Saturday and Sunday in the country is a good idea? I don’t recall. Insubstantial thoughts swirl about like the drifting wisps from cigarettes, that disappear into the drunken dark of a party night. Perhaps I spent this morning mostly staring up at the planes – ants crawling across a bright blue surface. Little dots departing, their smoke-trails crossing, then darting apart and away so distantly. One of them containing Katy and Pamela. Off to Barcelona. One of them containing Katy, Katy whom I suppose for a week or so I have been wishing safe journey, bon voyage, adios, goodbye.