Friday 19 April 2002

Holburn at 5.45pm on a weeknight

The tomato man. He's always there, handing out leaflets outside Pizza Hut. I look at him and I wonder how his tomato outfit stays bouffed out so round like that? Do the little green frills get hot around his neck? The sun gleams off his straight hair and his wire-framed glasses, and he smiles.

I love this man, and why? Because Pizza Hut is near Holburn tube, and what is Holburn tube at 5.45pm on a weeknight? THE DOORWAY TO PARADISE, that's what. Slap on some lippy, shoot out the heavy red doors of the office, abandon the bike gate-strapped to its nightime destiny, skip over the road.

What kind of night's it going to be? Maybe you should line the stomach, grab a surprisingly pleasant sandwich from the skinny little open-fronted newsagent with the smiley Indian men who make jokes about their wives. Or maybe you're all like fuck that! and maybe it's twenty marlboro lights sir, please, no kidding yourself you'll get away with ten. It takes guts to face up to your worst desires, right? So grab a Diet Coke too; rot the teeth, the belly, the sense-of self, dissolve it all. Lean against the railings next to the flower stall, and wait for him or her to turn up. Watch the tomato man unabashedly with a smile and fingers twisting in involutary wave.

Where you going tonight: gig, shop launch, private view? Who will you be with? The boy, square-chinned, blue-eyed, clutching a design book and a bike lock? Blunt-fringed best friend, whom you'll attempt to seduce into dancing and dissolution, easing the gardener's dirt from her fingernails with a bent paperclip? Or the bad fairy, the girl with the same apppetites and hungers as you? Hey it's all the same. Freedom and identity.

Who am I tonight? I'm not your fucking scan monkey, dear, I'm a writer, I'm a dilettante, I'm a flirt, I'm a troubadour, I'm a seductress, I'm trouble, I'm a superstar, I'm every bad and good and divine and corrupt thing that ever lived. I'll mash your heart up and eat it on toast and you'll love every fucking second. Get on, let's jump on the tube, let's whizz off to heaven.

We will all die in London, getting hit by buses

But after I opened the letter from the taxman I fell down in front of a bus! Well, actually, it was beside the bus. Between the bus and a green car. Traffic was all backed up along Kingsway, and I was crossing the road, on foot, to get on the tube for a lunchtime dash to Oxford Street. Fuck it, I had thought, fuck the 1000 tax bill, I'm *still* going to go to Borders and buy the Lester Bangs book that I lost when I was drunk. I'm a rock writer! I wanna read my canon!

So the traffic was all backed up, and there were lots of people on the traffic island, and I couldn't tell if the traffic was stopped or what. And then two little men, the kind who look like Jehovah's Witnesses from Peckham, all polite, with extremely round heads and plastic-framed glasses and big bibles under their arms, they darted between the cars and went around the bus.

Cor, I thought, I can totally do that too. I was feeling all happy and high because I'd had some nice emails that morning and because of the interview I did the night before with Electronicat (Disco B records), and I was like, fuck the tax bill, man!

So I darted too, sneaked between the cars. I'm a ninja, I thought. I ride a bike. I slip sleek between traffic like canoe down a rapid. No one can ever catch me.

Then I trod with my right foot on the long ripped-up hem of my flares, and went DOWN.

And as I was DOWN, the traffic began to move.

I thought I was dead. I thought, so this is how it ends, spending the morning emailing and not doing work and thinking about music and full of interviews and things I'm supposed to write and I'm going to be SQUASHED RIGHT NOW.

Well, I'm still here, aren't I. I've got a big cut on my knee and the road ripped right through my gorgeous black flares. I felt like such a chump. I followed some men, I fell down in the road! I'm a chump!

I went into the tube and stood in the queue for the cash machine, and my heart went thumpa-thumpa a bit like it did last night listening to Electronicat's bass, only horrible this time. It wasn't like a rollercoaster this time. It wasn't safe. I bought sandwiches and coffee and brownie and now I'm sitting here, trying not to cry, trying not to think about death. Trying not to think.

Things are hard

I bent down to pick up a magazine and the bedpost was too near my head. I walked out the bathroom and the door loomed ominous. I looked at the table corners. I thought about how sometimes the kerb seems too close to my pedal when I ride. Things are hard.

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