Yesterday I was feeling inspired, upbeat and positive. I had been to a UCU meeting to talk about plans to merge colleges. This is not a good thing as it will lead to job losses. It may happen eventually, but it is our job to resist so that we – staff and students – get a good deal.
I left the meeting in Camden feeling inspired and went home. I was in a good mood as I was meeting old friends – a good day.
As you know I have been sending my writing out to a lot of people. This is a deliberate strategy. I want to see where it ends up and who ends up reading it. I had sent it to The Kentishtowner, a local listings magazine and they have kindly agreed to read it. I also had positive feedback from the psychologist Oliver James, who I worked with years and years ago. I liked Oliver a lot – he is an interesting man with an interesting mind. He also paid me a genuine compliment – that I was ‘authentic’. I value authenticity very highly – it is an important quality in this fake world of ours – so I was very flattered by this.
I digress. I had also sent it to a man (who shall remain nameless) who I had spoken to via Facebook. He suggested a quick drink – I said it had to be quick because I was meeting other friends. All fine. He showed up late, which was annoying, and I got the drinks in. Fine so far. He was initially flattering about my work. All fine. Then his tone turned to sneering at my objectives – basically I want to use the writing to launch campaigns, but I also want to be paid for it, because I need to eat and I need to feed my kids. This apparently was evidence of greed. I got very emotional at this point – like a lot of women I get tearful when angry. I wish this wasn’t so – female emotions are a right pain in the arse. But I don’t wish them away because they give you compassion and a weird kind of strength. I am not an essentialist, but we are wired/conditioned in a different way – my experience of small boys has shown me that males are indeed very emotional but are conditioned to hold back tears as they are not tolerated by society.
I left the pub and walked off. I was going to look for my friends. However, I received a text which showed they wouldn’t be free for a while. So I walked back, planning to go home to compose myself. I walked past the pub and saw this man (who as I said must remain nameless). He apologised. I agreed to one more drink. This was probably a mistake but I felt embarrassed for ‘over-reacting’ (funny how us women always over-react). I was also a bit tired and thought it would be easier to kill the time than walk up the hill and back again.
Bad mistake. Our friend now decided that what I wanted was a fuck. I obviously needed a fuck. Anyone who knows me will know that I am the least prudish person on the planet. If anyone is ‘sex positive’ (such a 90s expression) it is me. This is made very clear in my writing. I see sex as part of life and life without sex is no fun at all. But that does not mean that I will have sex with anyone unless I want to. I do not see every encounter with a member of the opposite sex as a coded invitation to have sex. I like to think that some aspects of my life are not about sex. In a city of eight million people it is not hard to get sex, and if that’s what you want, good for you.
I find it absolutely absurd that I am writing these words as we approach the end of 2015 and that I felt the need to justify to this ghastly man why I wouldn’t have sex with him. Yet he seemed so disappointed when I said no. His face fell. It reminded me of when I deny my kids sweets after dinner or send them to bed early. It was really quite odd.
In the end I had a lovely night out with some old friends, so don’t feel sorry for me. Nothing bad happened. I was upset for a bit and then got over it. It reminded me a bit of the time when I went on Newsnight to talk about schools – some people I knew in the Labour party recommended me – and lots of trolls on the Guido Fawkes website said I was ‘bummable’. I went to a New Statesman debate on this subject last year where Laurie Penny and Mary Beard talked about the endless abuse they had received and I think it is part and parcel of being female and daring not to know your place. If I ever get anywhere as a writer I know I will be constantly trolled.
Anway, enough of this.
Let me give you something to read. At the UCU meeting we were talking about the power of celebrity in campaigning. How people listen more if someone ‘famous’ gets involved with a cause. It made me think of Blake Lovelace, my celebrity activist character in The Flats.
I started off mocking Blake, but the character grew and by the end of the book, I ended up feeling quite affectionate towards him. However ludicrous they are, we need people like Blake Lovelace if we are going to get things done.
‘Weasel’ is a genuine smelly dreadlocked activist and Lucinda is an upper class Trustafarian film maker who uses radical politics to make herself look good. Blake may remind you of one or two people….
I left Lucinda and Weasel feeling slightly depressed. Lucinda saw the campaign to save the flats as little more as fodder for her ghastly documentary and was already calling the even more ghastly Blake Lovelace as a possible presenter for it. Blake Lovelace was everywhere these days after Hollywood had got a bit bored of him and his chirpy Cockney with eyeliner act. Blake was rich enough not to give a shit – he had a good agent – and had time on his hands. He popped up at Occupy – pitching his antique Bedouin tent outside St Pauls – and picketed Starbucks with UK Uncut. But his big thing was housing; tears would fill his eyes as he talked about his old Nan’s council flat in Bethnal Green. Nan had obviously long since shuffled off this mortal coil and Lovelace himself inhabited a £5 million townhouse in Highgate Village. Lovelace was constantly redecorating and his main housing problem involved finding people who could tolerate his histrionics as he fussed over the interiors of his capacious mansion. One minute he would be baroque and then he would be minimal. Gossip from local builders revealed it was a nightmare; Lovelace would start out being one of the lads and then morph almost instantly into some Farrow and Ball fascist, micromanaging every brush stroke and nit picking over every nook. From what I had heard the place was currently quite hideous; Lovelace had decided that his aura was purple and as a result everything (and I mean everything) was currently purple. He had a purple bed with purple satin sheets, a purple toilet and even a purple kitchen. Next week it would be stripped out and Lovelace would begin again, burning money on his latest scheme. His involvement in the campaign to save the flats might be bad news for me but it would be good news for the small army of builders he had on the payroll – Lovelace was a strict vegan and meat and milk products were banned from his home. A teabreak therefore meant green tea (sugar was also banned) and anyone caught daring to consume a bacon sandwich would be sacked on the spot. It amused me greatly that ‘man of the people’ Blake Lovelace could be so precious, obviously he kept that one quiet as he went on and on and on about his ‘working class’ credentials.
Lucinda had put her celebrity friend on speakerphone, so we could all hear what famous friends she had. Obviously.
“Ere, Luce gel, I fink that’s a wicked idea to make a documentary. Yeah. Blindin’ idea. I can see it now. I’ll be walking froo the flats, doing a piece to camera about the bleedin tragedy of capitalism an’ how it is wreckin’ the inner city. Then I’ll interview the residents and they can tell me, Blake Lovelace , how bleedin gutted they is that their ‘omes is being trashed by some posh cunt of a developer….
….cut to me, playin football with the little kiddies and huggin’ the nans. Yeah an kissing the Muslims – you gotta have a few Muslims innit too. Gotta be multicultural innit? Yeah an then me ‘avin a go at the council for bein’ a bunch of tossers. An me goin’ dahn Mayfair or wherever them developers is and ‘avin a right proper go at them cos you can’t shit on the workin’ classes forever…
“Is there a fee?”
“Blake, of course not. It’s for the community. It’s, like, for the people. Seriously Blake.”
“What are you like, gel. Do you really fink that I, Blake Lovelace, would do such a fing to you? I will give you MY MONEY gel to make this documentary state of the art. Proper top dollar pukka production values innit. Honest, you posh birds can’t never take a joke. What are you like? I would nevah, evah, evah take a penny off of you. Bleedin heck, Luce. I’m likin this gel – I’m proper well up for it.”
“That’s seriously amazing Blake,” gushed Lucinda. “This is going to be radical. You’re my hero.”
Weasel looked furious. He was supposed to be Lucinda’s hero, not Blake fucking Lovelace. Wanker. What did he know about being working class? His house was worth five million quid. Tosser. He was not authentic, not like Weasel, who had lived in the flats for over 20 years. Weasel was the one to tell the story of the struggle not this Hollywood Johnny come Lately. And what if Lucinda ran off with him? The thought made Weasel boil with jealousy. Obviously, there were other Lucindas out there, but she gave fantastic blow jobs and had a massive trust fund. He had met other women as dirty but never as rich. That cunt Lovelace would not have his way with Weasel’s woman.
Obviously Weasel would never DARE voice these thoughts in public. The many nubile “social justice warriors” who followed him on Twitter would be horrified by such Neanderthal thinking. Weasel was special because he eschewed patriarchal discourse, never referring to ‘girls’ or ‘ladies’ or ‘birds’ – only ‘women’ or better still ‘womyn’. He professed a hatred of body fascism, claiming he liked ‘real’ women with ‘curves’ and ‘natural’ body hair. Lucinda was a size 8 and hairless apart from her tousled mane of expensively streaked tresses. She was not pierced or tattooed – save for a small dolphin on her foot – and bought her clothes from Harvey Nichols. She was gym fit, polished and precious. Lucinda looked expensive and smelt of old money. She was a trophy; no wonder Lovelace was so keen to get involved.
Enjoy. And if you want to read some more, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And here’s a bit of Patti Smith to make you feel inspired and energised. I always feel good when I listen to Patti. She is very, very special to me.