My lofty life - Life and Style - The Independent

My lofty life

Novelist Carole Hayman's postcard from the cutting edge of London living - Shoreditch

The other day, a helicopter whirred past the window. Thought I was tripping... Syd's had some wicked acid... until the boyfriend shouted "Babes, there's been a shooting!" Flung dope plants in laundry basket and rushed to look. The helicopter landed, twirling like an elephantine ballerina and men in flak ran into the pub. Pointed out that the pub did lunch-time striptease and it was, in fact, one-thirty, but boyfriend said, no, he'd heard a shot and this was the Instant Response Unit. Decided it was time to visit peaceful, devoted Welsh relatives.

It was raining in Wales (sorry, "Cymru"). We spent the day in a pub in Mold ("Mould"), where the natives celebrated their freedom by staring into their Boddingtons with faces as long as tax bills. Perhaps they have realised that, now, their only link to the outside world is Railtrack. It's certainly peaceful. Like the grave. Relieved to get back to street violence.

The loft is a shambles. Boyfriend has had Celtic fiddle band in for a shoot. With a Hasselblad this time, though, frankly, a machine gun would be too good for them.

Race to see if dope still there, stepping inadvertently on skateboard. Collide headfirst with wall. Fall back, moaning.

Throw open fridge. It's completely empty. "Where's my pickled thumb?" I demand menacingly. "Dur?" says boyfriend. "The thumb! The thumb!" I shriek, sounding like a character from Hans Christian Anderson. "The one I snatched from under the steel-plate door which had, apparently, slammed on it and placed in a glass jar of pine disinfectant, being unaccountably out of formaldehyde?"

"Oh that," says the boyfriend. "One of the fiddlers ate it. He thought it was an onion."

"No!" I wail. "I was going to add that to the entrails I found in Old Street station, now residing in the freezer, as my piece for the lottery-funded Buzz gallery opening!"

Run to window to throw myself out. Opposite, the Instant Response unit are abseiling down the Town Hall. Are there terrorist cells in there, or are they doing it for charity?"

"Never mind, babes," says the boyfriend philosophically, "you'll get one in the market."

Hasten to Brick Lane. Pirate CDs of Oasis for three quid (over-priced in my opinion), pirate videos of Princess Id's funeral (ditto), but Bonsai's confused when I ask for body parts. One offers me his granny. Another, a jar of cucumbers. Return in despair. Now Ditch poet Eden Per will triumph with erotic installation, Cockroach in the Bath. Smug bastard.

BIG night. Gallery is in an abandoned school. Wicked building. Artists surge round the square screaming that they're "on the list", or intimately acquainted with the Minister of Culture. There's even a paparazzo... (contrary to rumours, these are rarely "in the ditch") flashes his camera in Eden Per's face. Ignores me completely.

People partying Ditch-style; downing 10 pints and crashing to the pavement. The ground is a litter of crushed lager cans. Step on one which explodes, douching me with Boudoir. The main attraction is an actress, naked, shitting in a bucket. Outraged residents have sent for the Instant Response unit.

Stagger home. The derelict is passing in our doorway again. "Fancy a shag? Oh it's you... how about a fag then?" Slam door, narrowly missing his willy. Pity. It's about the size of an onion and has the advantage of being already pickled.

Sit weeping, but at least on a lavatory. Tempted to defrost entrails and enquire into the future. Please God, it's out of Shoreditch!

Next week: This Demi Paradise. Martin Plimmer continues his journey around Theme Park Britain

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