My lofty life

Novelist Carole Hayman's postcard from the cutting edge of London living - Shoreditch
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Once upon a time in the Ditch, there lived a beautiful Princess. I shall call her Serafina. It's not her real name, but the Royals can be sensitive and I'd like to go on living. There has always been Royalty in the Ditch, kings and queens - quite a lot of them - princes and princesses. But the most powerful of all was the Baron Serafina married.

Serafina came from the common folk on the Bethnal Green Road. But because she was young and fair and had never been involved with any rival firms, she was plucked from obscurity in her council flat and ensconced in the Baron's penthouse. They had a champagne lifestyle. And coke and smack and marijuana. The Baron said marriage was OK as long as it didn't interfere with his habit.

Serafina quickly became unhappy. The Baron's family had never heard of sexual politics. The loft, though magnificent with sand-blasted brick, neon lights and industrial heating, was far away and claustrophobic... there were rumours she had tried to throw herself off the roof in a bid to get back to the high street. She missed the poor people (though not, in truth, their poverty: she liked to shop at Versace) and soon began to sneak out with gifts. For the homeless, she'd turn up with a bit of spliff or the remains of a Vietnamese banquet. She stole from the Baron, who was too smashed to notice, and funded a "legalise drugs" drive. This really pissed the Baron off as it would have ruined his business. She gave money to a shelter for battered women, which upset the Baron's friends as most of their wives were in it.

The Baron's numb upper lip began to tremble. She was dissin' him in public. His firm said she had lost it... which was daft; in the Ditch who'd notice? The people didn't care. Her flaws made her one of them and her lifestyle was the one they'd have, if they won the lottery.

One day a handsome Prince came to the Ditch. It was said he came from Clerkenwell, but I don't think that should matter. He fell in love with Serafina at a function thrown by the Iraqi bank where the Baron had many connections. In no time, he had whisked her away to his lofty penthouse. They were blissfully happy; he was a great shag and had serious wedge to help with the poor, being a property developer.

They died while they were still in love. In the Prince's warehouse there was a massive explosion. Some said it was a bomb, a contract on them by the Baron's firm. Some said it was a suicide pact, others that they were tripping. Most blamed faulty pipes from a dodgy deal the Prince had done.

No one had ever seen the like of Serafina's funeral. Diamond-bit drilling was silenced for the day and the DSS closed. They would have stopped public transport, but that had already been done in the Eighties.

The Great Houses all came in Armani suits and dark glasses. It was like Reservoir Dogs, except out of respect nobody shot anybody.

The wake was wicked. A local band did a drum 'n' bass version of Carmina Burana. The people sang and danced (Serafina loved to dance) and brought intimate personal treasures. At her shrine, they laid cell phones and bottles of Bud. A Bosnian, whose hangover she'd healed, left a Kalashnikov rifle.

Things never returned to normal. The Baron's family gave all their money away, they were feeling so guilty. Some people refused to believe Serafina was dead. They said she made visits in the middle of the night. Some claimed to have seen a brilliant new star, others pointed out it was the warning light on a nearby city sky-scraper. But people will believe what they want to believe, when it fills empty hearts with gladness.

An eternal flame was set up, it was the least they could do in the circumstances. There, the people cry and swear to be good. For the moral of this story is, we lived in a time without any