Monday, December 12, 2005

the Latists 4


September 12th Lunchtime
Flintoff Doubtful for Australian Tour

SMS from Pa: r u rn L-dn m-thon ths yr 2?

Thumbs were too tired to respond. Shut down computer and tried tack two. See, if the Reading Room of the British Library wasn’t quite Club Shag on a Friday night, there still were – wait for it – three love-potential cafes around here: first floor, second floor and in the courtyard. All of them brimming with forlorn single-seater Acko-Tot.

But which to choose?

In the end I went upstairs: there’s a terrace outside for the post-wholemeal-nosh smokes. In the queue for the till I bumped into a legging’d-up honey in all-black carrying a copy of the New York Review of Books.

“I didn’t know they still read in America,” I said, hoping fashionable anti-Americanism would play well here.
She had to be American, of course. She looked at my tray with its thin ham sandwich (low fat, natch) and the crumble and custard.
“Bread usually signifies sexual frustration,” she said in a Warhol monotone. “Meat suggests anger, and custard that you are in need of comfort.”
“Really?” This was sounding good.
“So I suggest you go and rub yourself against someone closer to your own age. I do believe Agatha Christie is dead though. Germaine Greer comes in once a week. Thursdays I think.”
“That will be eight pounds and eighty two pence,” said a Kleb-faced cashier in a low Balkan drawl.
For a sandwich and crumble?
I got out my shiny vampire credit card – it never knows if it is alive or dead – and fingered a PIN number.
It’s definitely downstairs for tea.
Then I paid with cash.
From behind me I heard Warhol girl grouching. “I so hate cheap men, don’t you?”
Ms. Cash-Register Milosevic didn’t seem to disagree.

Do you know how expensive Pizza Express is? Not so bad, right? Place to catch a bite on those non business-lunch days. One American Hot, carafe of rot-wein and a spresso mouthwash to finish and it’s twenty quid max.

62% of all Pizza Express home deliveries are repeat orders, according to its website.
But when your beloved children Glenn and Jem go off to study Media (or forgodsakes Landscape Gardening) at the University of Brighton you don’t expect them to dine on Pizza Diavolo and five Peronis every bloody night in their first week.

The Vampire had been bled for £287 in precisely seven days. Don’t they have a student canteen down there? Fresher’s Weeks? Sponsored parties to meet people? Christian Union handouts? MacDonalds vouchers?

That card was for emergencies, not extra chillis on the bleedin’ side.
I guess I have the worst divorce lawyer in Britain.

I put the vampire bill away and went back to Chapter One: Art School and Early Beginnings.

No joy there still.

At the next desk a gray haired man – don’t they know about, it has 1080 shades for sale on its website for god’s sake (including ammonia-free colour for those allergic to ammonia): we did their online mailshots last year – is reading from Dislexia in a Non Dislexian World.

Well, I assume he is reading. He’s writing a lot of notes down.

I’m angry now. Anyway, wasn’t that a Police song?

I just can’t start on this book. I need stimulation. I threw a few starry-eyed surprise glances around at varied studious Acko-tot but as usual nothing was doing.
I went for a walk to buy some smokes.

“Hi Pa,” I shouted at the front door. There was no reply.
Downstairs in the kitchen there were signs of life: two empty bottles of Prosecco, an artichoke heart given the works, hot lemony butter drippings all over the table. Upstairs somewhere I could hear Astrid Gilberto singing about something light and flighty and flying down to Rio. Then there was laughter. Multiple laughter.
From the bedroom.
Pa’s bedroom.
I went off to see Magda and bought my third half-pack of Marlbies for the day.
“Still dreaming of the eighties?” she asked.
“Something like that,” I said. Behind her on the till is an unopened copy of the Daily Mail. Above its masthead is a cut-out picture of Elspeth. Exclusive extracts from I Married a Mini Monster continued.
It’s just because she’s a children’s author. People think she’s the Virgin Mary. Unlike Bloody Mary who’s taking one for the team right now with Pa.

I gave them another hour by slipping into the Comely Vice Admiral’s Daughter for a pride of gins. As usual the Iron Curtain was well represented, so I stuck to the West Berlin side of the bar and read the Standard pretending to be Harry Palmer.
Elsepth is on Newsnight.
Oh please.

The Tommy-Lee and Pammy for the Saga Nation have made it back downstairs it seems when I get back. I can smell cooking.
I just hope they’re not watching their own home videos.
Brace myself for Bloody Mary.
Only it’s not Bloody Mary.
It’s what the Hu*h Gr**T? Karen.
“Hi,” I said. “I’m Henry.”
Who the hell is Karen?
“The Prodigal,” Pa said. “I told you all about him.”
Karen is in the 40-60 slot, another Blonde Da Vinci Code as far as I can work out. She gave me a crisp JFK immigration official stare.
“Did you come back earlier?” Pa said.
“Just got in. What’ve you been up to today?”
“Charity work,” Karen said, smiling. “Michael’s been helping me with my earthquakes.”
Pa sat down rather too smugly. “Karen works for an NGO.”

“I’m beat,” I said half a squirming love-dove hour later. “See you guys in the morning.”
“Nice meeting you, Henry,” Karen said.
At least she doesn’t look like a Daily Mail reader.
“It’s a quarter to nine,” Pa said.
“Writing’s tiring,” I replied. There had been enough collateral damage for one day.
“You’ll miss Newsnight,” Karen said, and Pa did his best not to smile.

9% of viewers 18-30 watch the BBC online.

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