The rumour-mill of White City is back in business, grinding down dirt to make more dirt, filthy accusations, gossip, lies and envy - and they say we have no manufacturing base anymore.
It's always nice when you hear a name you haven't thought about for a while. There I was, languishing at the bus-stop, on my way to a comedy spot (five minutes in a pub cellar that smelled of the adjacent gents'), when up pops husky Nelly with a gravelly salutation. 'Ben,' says she, 'you alright?' I was on the cusp of terror at my forthcoming stand-up, and fury that my life had come to this, doing five minute spots in smelly cellars, when things could've been so very, very different, etc, etc. But comedy aside, I said a cautious hello, recalling our last meeting, Boxing Day 2013, when Nelly wandered off with my portable telly in the middle of the night. We'd been using, run dry, and began looking around for things that someone in the minicab office might buy. The telly was cubic, and quite heavy, being an old-style cathode ray one, and I don't know how she jammed it into my holdall, let alone lumbered down the road with it over her shoulder.
Of course, she said she'd be back in forty minutes or so (you know it's a lie when such a specific length of time is given), and besides, it wouldn't have raised more than a fiver even if she had found a buyer. Obviously, I didn't see her again...until her greeting woke me from introspection at said bus-stop. 'Have you heard Jacob's back?' she asked. Her question at least made a change from the usual 'what are you up to?' (translated: do you want to use), or 'you alright though?' (translated: do you want to use), or 'you don't have a cigarette, do you?' (translated: do you have a cigarette, and do you want to use). Jacob, I thought. Oh dear, back in White City? That really wasn't good news.
My last memory of Jacob was hearing the toilet flush as he punished an inexperienced working-girl for not obliging his peccadillo for an amorous liaison in the bathroom - her head was down the toilet at the time, which he proudly disclosed on emerging from that darkened and grimy mezzanine, soon followed by a bedraggled girl with wet'n'lank brown hair, and a face that looked too young to be in such a predicament, although I can't imagine there's actually an ideal age for that sort of thing.
Months later, I heard he'd been accused of, or maybe even charged with, sexual assault. This didn't surprise me, because I'd once been in the kitchen of a flat he'd appropriated when he was torturing his girlfriend in the bathroom. That time, he'd emerged with a softly spoken speech regarding his girlfriend's lack of respect, and a complaint that her moans might have been heard by the family below. It's amazing how inconsiderate torture-victims can be.
There are numerous vignettes I could convey to you regarding the borderline escapades of Jacob. But now, according to the gospel of Nelly, he was back. He'd been spotted outside Cash Converters, looking shifty in a too-tight shirt. Nelly went on to say that Hamish was looking for him, because Hamish was the boyfriend of the girl he's assaulted before his disappearance. And there was speculation too about where he'd banished himself for that wilderness year...Nelly said Reading, but she'd heard someone else say Slough. But even back in White City, his old stomping ground, Jacob was still a fugitive, weaving through the market-crowds, laying low in a basement-flat, or brutalising a vulnerable female in a tower-block toilet. I felt a wave of antique fear swell like a foetus in my gut...would he spot me on my wanderings, accost me outside Costa, bark at me in the market, or hail me outside Halo Cabs? If so, would I be direct enough to make him go, or would I linger, be just a bit too polite, just a tiny bit too curious and malleable? Fear used to be a key part of my prelude to using, almost as if, once in that terrified state of paralysis, the only way to offset it, get rid of it, was to use. Many's the time Jacob would pop up on some gloomy night when I was hanging myself out to dry in the W12 postcode, looking for someone to score through.
My bus came to convey me to my comedy-spot in the smelly pub-cellar. 'You haven't got a cigarette, have you?' asked Nelly, but I garbled a polite 'sorry, no', and hopped on. She stayed sitting at the stop as we pulled away. I find it's always worth practising saying 'no', just to get your mouth used to forming the word. You never know when you might need it.
And that is all I have to say today. However, if you would like to hear my recent song, entitled 'Windswept', just click on the title, and your ears will imminently be delighted. It's angsty and autumnal, and I hope you like it...Windswept