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Saturday, 21 July 2012

Sometimes you get to be who you are.

Last night I met up with an ex-lover in Waterloo. We met outside the Old Vic which is on The Cut where my mother got married to my dad in a church which has now gone.
As I had been writing all day, I hadn't spoken a word to anyone and I was very much inside myself, far away from where my skin meets the rest of the world. (Well, apart from speaking to the man in the newsagents who topped up my Oyster Card but he didn't want to laugh about my broken umbrella.)
I was reading the reviews for the play when an attractive, young woman came up to me and asked me if I was going to The Pitt Bar. I'd read on the door that a musician was going to be playing jazz later in the bar downstairs beneath the theatre. The advert said her voice was like a 'fog horn' which I'd thought was strange advertising.
As the woman came up to me I jumped as I thought it was going to be my friend. They had the same long brown hair, but different faces and the unexpected face was the thing that made me gasp. She laughed and I patted my chest. I said no, I wasn't going to the Pitt Bar and she nodded and walked away.
My friend turned up and I told her how I had been surprised by someone who wasn't her speaking to me and she said the woman was probably chatting me up. This is how it happens these days, she said. I said it was a bit fast and I preferred the days where weeks or months went by while you weighed up the words and actions of somebody, trying to work out whether they were gay or just being friendly. There seemed more time about then, but that's probably just nostalgia warping the past.


We went down Lower Marsh, where a stall holder was packing away small rustic cheeses and arrived at my new favourite spot, The Scooter Bar. We sat out the front so we could smoke. I went up to the bar and ordered a bottle of white wine. The woman stared at me and I thought for a long moment that she was going to refuse to serve me. 'Are you famous?' is what she said.
'Well, no. It depends, but no...' I say, thinking 'Here we go again. Another person thinks I'm Jenny Eclair.'
'It is you, isn't it? 'In Search of The Missing Eyelash'? I saw you reading, you were very funny.'
I felt I should say something funny, to prove to her that what she was saying was the truth.
'That is me,' I said, with a self-mocking flourish of the hand. The teenage me cringed.
'Famous author,' she said, nudging the bar maid next to her. 'Uh, oh right,' the other girl said, pushing up the optic on the Vodka with a glass then opening a can of R Whites.

I took the drinks back to the table and told my friend what had happened. I clapped my hands together.
She said, 'See?'
I said, 'Wow, I know'.

I am now famous in one place* and to one person.

*The Scooter Bar used to be the spot to get your Vespa fixed in the Sixties. While you waited you got a proper cup of coffee. It was the first place to have a coffee machine in central London. The word spread. It became a famous coffee haunt. It is now a bar with a toilet behind a curtain. It is one of the few Bohemian spaces left. It feels like the magic of London can still happen here, just like in Danny La Rue's Bar which used to be on Charing Cross Road. My aim is to have a stool at the bar with my name on it by 2020.

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