Knee still smarting after four bottles of Bud. Yasmin fetches tub of painkillers out of bag. "'Ave you tried these Kaz? Mega." Shakes out pill that would kill an elephant. Fall to swapping advice on favourite drugs. Bossy Shena doesn't approve of medication. Tatiana agrees, "Well, 'cept for heroin." Landlady, Brandy, swears by "Devil's claw", though judging by the colour of her nose, she didn't get her nickname by accident. Personally, I won't leave the loft unless I'm guaranteed coffee, nicotine, spliff and Nurofen, and that's just for the lift.
Syd waves from another table. He is selling scratchcards for his Dome, intended to give "Arts in the Ditch" a venue. Syd's plan is demolition. "See, Kaz," he says, fingering something - possibly gelignite - in his pocket, "we'll explode a couple of buildings in the Kingsland Road ... make way for the 'Ome Dome."
"Not my home!" I exclaim, aware the boyfriend is in it. He has taken to his bed, staggered by a bill from the tax collector. "Nah," grimaces Syd, "I've got other plans." It's well known he is at war with the Bosnians.
"Wot you 'avin in it?" demands Tatiana. Know she is keen to host exhibit on the oldest profession. "I 'aven't exactly decided," says Syd, following hastily with, "loads of ideas, though. Gotta be locally relevant". Suggest voodoo rituals (Brandy is obviously into them). "Shamans," nods Syd. "Deen's doin' a book on hallucinogenics and Jesus. 'Course, all vision's dope- dependent." He fetches out and lights spliff he prepared earlier.
"Rubbish," says bossy Shena, "marijuana's not a performance-enhancing drug." "Oh, yeah?" says Syd, blowing a perfect ring. "D'you mind?" Shena waves an officious hand. "You can get stoned on secondary smoke." "Ah," says Syd, "if only."
"I'm stylin' the Dome," chips in Yasmin, "I'm plannin' a massive party New Year's Eve '99."
"I'll do the Karaoke," offers Brandy. "Karaoke ain't Art," scorns Yasmin. "Gotta be Opera." "Soap," mutters Shena darkly.
"I'm 'avin a video wall of shagging and models paradin' about wiv fireworks in their fannies." "Isn't that rather dangerous?" sniffs Shena. "People like a bit of danger," reasons Yasmin. "You can't stop 'em doing everyfing." "Tell me about it," moans Tatiana. "Going out at all is dangerous in the Ditch," I say. I should know, knee now the size of a football, with plonker- shaped ice-lolly from Brandy's fridge on it.
Limp home with scratchcard to cheer boyfriend. Bullit is steeplechasing round flat. The boyfriend has decided to sort tax bill by training him for the Grand National. Retire to bed with good book (Missing)
Carole Hayman's novel, "Missing", was published this week by Vista at pounds 5.99Reuse content