Friday, 8 April 2011

A big grey clump

Today is going to be a very long day. I'm off to Soho in an hour or so to hand out fliers which might help us to discover what happened to Philip exactly a week ago. He still can't remember, and I'm told the police are not exactly falling over themselves to help. 

I don't know what to expect, really. I think there will be a small group of us; a mixture of fag hags, Guardian Angels, queens, community support officers and rent boys. I assume we'll be targeting Soho regulars; its clubbers, druggies, sex workers, taxi drivers and bouncers. The sorts of people who might be hanging out exactly where they were at the same time last week. Perhaps someone will have seen Philip doing his rounds, and might know if he was with someone. Perhaps someone saw him being attacked, but have felt too intimidated to talk to the police about it...

It's been another blisteringly hot day. Fair-haired Londoners are now beginning to look a bit like they've been boiled in a bag. My friend Helen, who hates the sun, must be hiding in a shadow somewhere. 

I did a morning's work and then sat in Waterlow Park with Nathan and a couple of sandwiches, watching two magpies plucking worms out of the grass. I drifted off to sleep for five minutes whilst Nathan listened to a song he's learning for a cabaret. He was singing along in a very soft voice and I felt warm and safe.

After the gym, I went to the BBC for leaving drinks with my new friend, Ernestina. What a great name, eh? I met some very interesting people and managed to convince myself that I'm not as painfully shy as I sometimes feel. 

A particularly inane girl on the tube holding a rose has just caught my eye and dissolved into peels of drunken laughter. I'm not quite sure what is so inherently hysterical about my face, but am assuming my big brown cloth cap has something to do with it! I hope she's not just looking at me because she thinks I'm some kind of weird old man. I have never felt as old as I'm feeling right now. Perhaps I'm just over tired - wrung out from the business with the BBC - but when I look in the mirror I see a very drawn person staring back. There's now a clump of grey hair in my fringe and the lines around my eyes are finally beginning to portray a man whose boarded the bus towards the forties! 

Nathan says I need to enjoy the ageing process with a sense of awe. I say I need a job, some money and a wardrobe full of well-tailored suits to enjoy getting old. He says "why bother to panic about the things you can't control?" I think about the polyps on my vocal chords, the lump on my gum and my pallid complexion, and wonder if I'm falling apart. 

Still, what's a clump of grey hair when one of your friends is lying in a hospital bed and another is trying to get over the death of her son? 

350 years ago, Pepys was awoken very early in the morning by his neighbour, Lady Batten. A day trip to Kent had been planned. They took a barge from the Tower of London and spent much of the day in Gravesend, by all accounts eating cheese! 

The evening was spent in a fine house in Chatham, with good displays of arms on the walls. Pepys was given a room to sleep in where the previous owner of the house had actually died. There were tales of it being haunted, which scared Pepys witless... But he claimed to have pretended to be more frightened than he actually was so that those telling the ghost stories felt better! 

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