18 January 2009

We interrupt this blog for a bit of Proust-inspired nostalgia.

I first began reading The Remembrance of Things Past in 1992, in the excessively moss green and floral drawing room of one Patricia Neatrour, retired dancer with the (British) Royal Ballet. I was 19, (voluntarily) bald, hopelessly awkward, and just as happy to sit at her home in the evenings (I rented a room in her flat for eight months) and read books, will Pat watched Snooker and did the crossword, and waxed nostalgic about that night so many years ago, when she finished a dance performance and was introduced to Prince Charles in his special box. (There was a photo of it over the fireplace mantel. His ears really are that big.)

Pat lived at Portman Mansions, across from Baker Street, and for some reason I found it ludicrously pleasing to be so close to 221b, despite the fact that it never really housed Mister Holmes, and Jeremy Brett in fact conducted his last interview only steps away, before dying some time later, much to my horror. 
But Pat. Yes. Her eyeballs were remarkably protuberant, her wardrobe invariably Marks and Spencer, and her underthings frequently hung on some wooden contraption over the kitchen table. 
The man who rented the room next to mine was Kevin, I believe, and he was very "shy" said Pat (read: gay). We never saw much of him, but he did have a fondness for potato salad. And he had marvellously orange hair.
During the days I worked at a record shop in Soho, that had previously been an Anne Summers shop, or so we discovered when cleaning out drawers and finding all manner of unmentionable things not saleable by a shop of our repute. My best (only) friend was my co-worker, one Pippa Hinge from Reading, die-hard Lloyd Cole fan, bless her, who had the most gorgeous olivey complexion that I was constantly jealous of. She could not figure out why, telling me of the time (when she was little) when her mum had come home to find Pippa with her head in the freezer. When asked to explain herself, Pippa burst into tears, and said that if white people could lie in the heat and get brown, why couldn't she lie in the cold and get white?
In general though, there were far less memorable moments then I like to suppose about those eight months. However. There was one funny time, just after new years, when I had freshly returned from visiting a friend in Norwich for Christmas, upon which occasion we listened to a great deal of Leonard Cohen and shaved my head in the bathtub while a one-legged cat (no joke) looked on. 
Back in London and at work, I got sent out to get change at the video arcade, with a 50 pound note. I went to the back, put it in the change machine, and made to leave with the booty: bags and bags of pound coins. Well. I got chased out by security, and only realized afterwards what I must have looked like with a swedish military jacket, docks, and a shaved head. And a non-english accent. 
He wouldn't let me leave the arcade, convinced I had rigged the machine somehow. Finally he escorted me back to my shop to have my story verified, and barred me from the arcade for good as a ne'er-do-well.
I'm pretty sure he didn't call me a ne'er-do-well, but what's a gratuitously nostalgic posting without a term like that, really.

Thank you for your forbearance, we now return to our regularly scheduled blogging.


4 comments:

RSS said...

Oh stef. Love. love. love. And I have to tell you about this book I'm about to read--do you want to read it too or do you only want me to tell you about it? Was trying to decide whether to buy a copy for you as well or not. I can just quote choice bits if you want--nostalgia as hypochondria of the heart. And there's more and better but i have to whisper it to you because it's all hoarded away for my book and can't be released out into the blog ether...

RSS said...

Also after seeing Man Ray's pic of Proust on his deathbed, I wrote a terrible poem once. I will send it to you. love coco

p.s. i love these words they make you type to publish your comments. usually they're ugly, but these ones seem mysterious and meaningful. Miefato. Tradula. Lanirus.

stef lenk said...

Send me the poem! They aren't asking me for lovely words today to double-check I'm not a spambot. I wonder why? Perhaps because the sun is shining.

stef lenk said...

I would like to know what the book IS!! When are you coming here? I have so many bloody books to read, dammit, but I'm not sure a few choice bits will do. Although Nostalgia as hypochondria of the heart is perfect. I have moved well past hypochondria, now, into, what is it, gigachondria?

About this book though, I'm NEVER sure a few choice bits will do, it's the bane of my entire existence.
I'm a victim of literary (and indeed all arts-related) detail.
Detail will be the death of me, to be sure.