(No. 31 cont. Fraser and the soft toy )

“Ye didnae think I’d come n see ye.” Fraser stood in front of me, pupils pinned.
I readjusted my towel, covering my small cleavage. Fraser back on the gear was an unknown quantity, I’d already risked my life when he’d hung me out of the 15th floor of the tower block we’d lived in. I’d promised myself I would never see him again. I also wanted to please Ian (the therapist no. 89), I’m sure he thought I could do better, but he didn’t know Fraser, I didn’t feel he could understand how nice he could be, how sexy he was, how he was a great carpenter, a great guitar player – if only he’d get off the drugs for good, then everything would be alright.
“Is Marni in?”
“No, she’s home soon. She’s out to get food.”
“I’ll come in then.”
I knew he didn’t believe me, and at that moment I didn’t care, he was smiling, his presence, his scar and familiar accent melted me into the hallway lino like a scene in Train Spotting. Neither of us believed anything about each other. He lied about the gear, I lied about not having boyfriends while he was in prison.
He crossed past me like he always crossed the lines of life and relationships. I followed him into the living room and we sat on the sofa.
“I’m off the gear.” He said. “Come back home.”
I looked straight into his eyes and saw the tower block, then realised I’d been wrong, his pupils weren’t pinned, I was so used to judging him – he actually looked good. He looked gorgeous. I leaned forward, held his head and snogged his face off. The towel fell to my waist. He leaned me over the arm of the sofa and fucked me. The phone rang as he was pulling out.
“You gonna get that?”
“It’ll be for Marni.” I retrieved my towel and dashed to the bathroom to clean my back. The phone kept ringing. “I’ll get it, she’ll be back soon.” I rushed back into the living room but it was too late, Fraser was unfurling the coil of the lead as he listened to the caller.
“Aye, aye,” he repeated. I tried to grab the receiver from him, but before I could get it back he’d slammed it back on the receiver. “One of your boyfriends?”
“I haven’t got any boyfriends.”
“Why the fuck did you leave then? I fucking go to work, get home and you’re gone, everything has fucking gone. You and Marni planned it, that fucking bitch. Where’s all your shit? Where’s that fucking bitch.”
Fraser’s shouting was more threatening than the man at the Samaritans and the fear of being burgled. I was scared. He picked up the coffee table high above his head and chucked it at the door, it clipped my eye as it flew, he picked up the TV and threw it onto the telephone table where a plant pot toppled and smashed onto the floor covering the carpet with fresh soil. I ran back to the phone and dialled 999, Fraser came after me, trousers at half mast, I screamed down the phone, dropped it then jumped up at him grabbing hold of his long hair, pulling a chunk out, we were on the floor and I was beating my fists on his chest.
Before long the police were banging on the door.
“It’s the bizzes, you called the fucking bizzes,” I covered myself with the towel and Fraser pulled up his trousers. We sat back on the sofa, like naughty children about to get a ticking off.
A man and a woman officer this time. I pulled my fringe over the cut eye.
“We had an argument, I’m sorry for bothering you. Everything’s fine now.”
“She gets paranoid, then she kicks off”

“We’re sorry” I reiterated.
The police made notes and left just as blood began to trickle down my face.
“You’ve cut your eye. I’ll get something.” Fraser disappeared into the bathroom and I looked in the mirror in the living room above where the stereo and TV used to sit. There was a large cut above my left eye, the eye that was just getting better from the optic neuritis, an MS symptom that had left me with blurred vision for the last 6 months. In the mirror I could see the state of the room. It was fucked. I wished Marni was there, or Wand, or someone. Ian would be horrified, I was starting my counselling course Tuesday and my eye was swelling, there would be a bruise. Yes Fraser, I’d cut my eye alright. I thought about what Ian might say. “You didn’t cut your eye. Fraser cut your eye. ” I thought about the girls in the pub when I was 16 . I didn’t get beaten up, those girls beat me up. But I was shagging about. The phone call could have been one of my ex men, he was right to be angry. I had done a runner, I had left him. The confusion and complexity of loving and hating someone at the same time was overwhelming.
Fraser came back into the room and dabbed my eye with wet toilet paper.
“I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” We sat on the sofa again and we cried into each other.
“Maybe it’s a good idea if we don’t see each other, for a bit. Just while I sort myself out. You’d better not ring or come round here again, Marni will fucking kill you for this.”
We looked at the devastation. “You’ve still got Scotty,” he picked up the small teddy on the floor near my mattress, poking out from under the sofa. “You must still love me.” He smiled through his tears, still like a child. “You do don’t you?”
“I still love you Fraser.” And I did. He handed me Scotty and I watched him walk down the stairwell and down Long Lane towards the tube. I put the portable TV back on its table, turned it on to check it was still working and began the massive clear up of the living room. The brush from the dustpan and brush was soft, and that and the hoover struggled to get up the wet plant soil. It was good enough, Marni wouldn’t notice the rest.
I was starving, hadn’t eaten since lunch the previous day. I found some dried pasta and stale bread in the pantry, ate the bread while I cooked the pasta and when just about soft, I shoved every piece of the swirly fusilli down my mouth as fast as I could. I drank a pint of water and with bloated stomach went to the toilet, knelt on the aubergine toilet mat, put the swollen fingers of my right hand down my mouth and threw up every bit, I drunk another pint of water and kept making myself sick until only bile came up. It was a relief my stomach was empty again. I wasn’t so overwhelmed now and flushed the toilet enough times to clear any evidence and cleaned round the bowel with toilet paper. I scrubbed my hands with soap and cleaned my teeth hard until my gums bled. My new dentist would kill me if he knew I was throwing up again, I hadn’t had to resort to this for months, since I’d been seeing Ian.
I picked up Scotty from the sofa. That fucking soft toy Fraser had bought me when he was on a weekend release. I’d always hated soft toys , Scotty was no different. I called it “SC” Fraser thought that was short for Scotty but it was short for Shit Cunt. I tried to pull its ears off but needed help. With kitchen scissors I cut the fucking stupid cuddly toy so it was completely mutilated. I opened the window and threw the remnants of SC into the square of the estate. It landed in the children’s concrete play area, some bits into the multi coloured spider climbing frame, other bits sank into the pit that had no sand in.

No. 89 The #Therapist (part one)

Ian’s private practice was at his flat at Falcon Point, Bankside, a riverside council block situated between Blackfriars Bridge and the New Tate, overlooking Saint Paul’s. In 1992 there was no New Tate, that stretch of Southwark’s riverside was quiet, and council flats couldn’t be sold off.
I was early for my assessment and had drunk a swift pint of cider in the Founders Arms in front of Ian’s block, also overlooking Saint Paul’s. The pub had been quiet and the river still.
“Ian Barnes,” his voice through the intercom.
“It’s Liz,” I laughed to myself, it came out like ‘sleaze’ my Essex nickname when I was forever drunk in the Crown in Rayleigh.
“Take the lift to the 6th floor. I’ll be waiting at my door.”
I got out of the lift and took no notice of him, just followed his arm gesture that showed me into his therapy room. I sat on the chair with my back to the view of Saint Paul’s.
“We have an hour and a half today. After that sessions are 50 minutes. What brings you to counselling?”
“I’ve split up with my boyfriend, but I still love him. Also, my work has put me on a diploma in counselling course. I didn’t do much at school, I’ve never studied before, that’s all a bit scary. I have to go into therapy as part of the course so I thought I’d get heads up.”
A small black note-book sat on Ian’s lap, a pen resting on top secured to the book with an elastic band. I was glad he wasn’t writing this down.
“I know a lot about counselling already.” I continued. “There are counsellors where I work. I know about problems. When I was fifteen one of my father’s friends took me to one side in the pub and told me he was having an affair with his wife’s twin sister. I listened and he cried. I’m a good listener. When I worked in an Insurance office one of my colleagues was gay but hadn’t come out to anyone apart from me and he told me he was a Samaritan volunteer and that I’d be good at it. I left my job to go on the dole and travel and stuff and I became a Samaritan volunteer. I’ve even gone into Brixton prison as a volunteer. Sometimes I wonder if I’m more suicidal than the callers. That was a joke, sorry. Sorry. It’s not funny.”
I dared to look at Ian, he wasn’t smiling.  He was about my father’s age, 50ish, handsome on first glance, like my father, and just as frumpy, he wore what were probably Marks and Spencer corduroys his wife would have bought him, I assumed he had a wife, he looked like he had.
“How did you come across me?”  Another question and I was off again.
“The BACP book, we have the directory at work, you were the first on the list, nearest to me. I work as a clinic advisor, receptionist in the Marie Stopes Annexe, in Whitfield Street, West End, it’s an abortion clinic. I don’t see the abortions, they go out for that, but I had to go to all the clinics and watch so we understood what the women are going through. I haven’t had an abortion by the way. We see the women when they find out they’re pregnant. A lot come from Ireland, some girls as young as 12, they’ve been abused or raped. When the last client leaves we take the classical music off, put our own music on then we drink wine and dance. My friend Mary sings opera style punk. Then we go down the pub. I really like my job.” I stopped for breath but couldn’t bear the silence. “We listened to ‘Suicidal Tendencies’ today, they’re a Californian thrash band.” Ian looked bored. There were bound to be other clients needing him more than me, all I needed to do was get Fraser out of my head, then I’d be ok and I needed to make sure Ian knew I was fit for the course.
From my bag I got out a carton of low sugar Ribena and pulled away the straw sellotaped to the side, I pierced the lid open with the sharp end of the straw and Ribena spilled over my hand and onto my jeans, some trickled down the wooden leg of the chair, a frumpy chair, similar to those in my parent’s living room. I drank the Ribena, leaned over and threw the carton at a wicker basket a few yards away. It landed upside down, there were blackcurrant drips on the chair, coming through the holes of the basket onto the floor. I picked out some of the man size tissues from the table by my side and tried to mop up the mess I’d made.
“I’m fine really, I just worry that it’s ok to become a counsellor and work with people and their relationships when I’m still in love with a heroin addict just out of prison for armed robbery? That’s kind of a joke, he’s been out of prison for 9 months.”
I was testing Ian out, seeing if he would be shocked. He didn’t seem to find my chat shocking or funny. I talked and talked, at times wondering if I was talking too much. Fraser, Fraser, Fraser. I chatted about how he looked like Kevin Costner in the Robin Hood film and how he had a scar down the left side of his face from where a symbol had been thrown offstage into the crowd at a punk gig and struck him.
Before the end of the session Ian asked me to fill in a form with questions about my health, GP etc. We agreed to meet for 12 sessions. At the end of the 12th session, Ian handed me a copy of a letter he would send to my GP.

Dear Dr Payne,  (that’s what he was called)

Re Miss Bentley, 25th June 1964, c/o 5, Bartholomew House, Long Lane, London SE1

I understand that this young woman is a patient of yours and I believe you would wish to know that she has recently approached me for counselling regarding primarily, difficulties over a personal relationship. I gather that she has been diagnosed as suffering from multiple sclerosis which understandably causes her additional anxiety.
Miss Bentley feels she would like to continue with our arrangement ‘ongoing’.
Yours sincerely,
Ian Barnes

Fucking MS.  I shoved the letter in my bag and marched back to Long Lane where I had been staying at Marni’s flat after fleeing from the tower block where Fraser and I had been renting a room from Dougie. Marni rented her council flat from a solicitor, who was also sub-letting. It was two bedroom, but one bedroom was set up for the solicitor, just in case a housing officer turned up. The deal was that she wasn’t to use it. I slept on a thin mattress in a sleeping bag on the living room floor. All evidence of me staying there was hidden every morning under the sofa, in case the solicitor or housing officer turned up. Neither ever did.
Marni was away visiting a commune in Spain for the week. I had an early night in her bed. It was luxury in comparison, despite the spunk stained black sheets that stunk of patchouli oil. It was easier to get out of Marni’s bed than up from my mattress. Everything was painful and uncomfortable. My toes and finger joints were red and swollen, my legs numb with pins and needles and my knees hurt like fuck especially first thing in the morning. I had been under 3 different hospital clinics, Guy’s neurology, Guy’s Rheumatology, and a new lupus clinic at St Thomas’s hospital. I didn’t like consultants or hospitals and even though it turned out I didn’t have lupus, I ditched the other departments and only went to the lupus clinic because the nurses were kinder, the clinic brighter and the consultant listened and didn’t try to thrust new bullshit medication down my throat.
That morning I’d had another session with Ian, he’d upped my sessions to twice a week, Thursday at 6pm, Friday at 8am. I was doing a ‘buy one get one half price’ deal. I didn’t understand why he’d done this but went with it. I was feeling a bit better, not obsessing so much about Fraser and I was starting my counselling diploma course the following week.
“I’m concerned about you,” Ian unusually interrupted. “You have a good job, one that you like and one where you are appreciated, your course begins next week and you are homeless,” with an emphasis on the homeless. I hadn’t thought of myself as being homeless, just in between accommodations and boyfriends. “Have you thought about applying to the council for a flat? I would be happy to write a letter to help an application.”
The next letter from Ian was in the making, and as soon as I got to work I rang Southwark housing for the relevant form. I was on an extra late shift, at a different Marie Stopes Clinic called PreTerm in Mortimer Street and didn’t finish until 9pm. There’d been a drama the previous Friday evening when a boyfriend of one of the women had broken in shouting “Where is the bitch who killed my fucking baby?” Luckily my colleague Cathy was in the toilet emptying urine samples so she locked herself in, climbed out of the window, down the drain pipe (PreTerm was on the first floor) and called for the police. The man turned over furniture and a few pot plants but the police were there fast and carted him off. Cathy had been given a week off to deal with the stress.
At the end of the shift I counted the day’s money. I was stuck for cash and needed fags and booze to get through the weekend. I looked through the pregnancy test forms. At least 4 were negative. I put £20 and two of the forms into my bag. The rest of the money went into the safe and the forms filed neatly in the ‘weekly pregnancy test’ drawer. Once the building was locked I walked back to Goodge Street tube station, tore up the forms into tiny pieces and watched them flutter to the bottom of the bin outside the station.
On the tube I felt a little guilty.  Ian had been getting me to think about my feelings and I was beginning to link these with past events.  I felt guilty now like I had done when stealing money from the church collection after Mr and Mrs Agerer left  (No. 2).
“Can you do maths?” A church steward had asked, taking note of my uncontrollable crying.  I fucking hated going to church but my parents had forced me to go, even though they never went themselves.
“Yes,” I’d said between sobs, not knowing if this would be the right answer. From then on I was given the special role of collecting the collection money from all the Sunday school departments including the Bible Cors where my sister had recently graduated. Every week from the collection I took the equivalent of a pound in six and threepences and spent them on sweets at the offie, I soon graduated to buying ten sovereign filter from the machine outside the offie.

Maybe I stole because I was being forced to do something.  I was an atheist.
My present guilt subsided when I reminded myself that most of Preterm reception staff stole money and anyway, I was doing a night shift at the Samaritans – that surely made up for it, giving of my free time to the community. I bought a litre of cider, had a quick drink and joint back at Marni’s and by the time I got to the Samaritans I was guilt free.
That night I was the only volunteer on the late shift, I had long since given up shagging other volunteers and preferred to do shifts alone.
“Hello,” it was a man, his voice deep, then silence. There was no heavy breathing so I kept on the line, then he spoke again.
“I know you’re there on your own. I saw the last one leave.” The last volunteer had left at 12.30 which meant the caller could have been watching for a few hours. The Samaritan’s window was frosted and had steel bars protecting us. I heard the sound of a train whizz through New Cross from the window, and heard the same train down the phone. He was calling from the payphone outside the station.
“I’m ready to come and see you now,” and he put the phone down. I was frightened but used to dealing with fear alone. The next volunteer was due in at 3.45am, nearly two hours to go. I picked up a bread knife from the kitchen and checked that the back door was locked, I checked the front door then locked myself in the telephone room. The next volunteer arrived early, I put the knife away and rang my supervisor to off load.
“Busy shift, there was a weirdo on the phone but nothing I’m worried about, my taxi’s here, I’ll ring you later if I’ve forgotten anything,” I would never fess up my fear, I wanted to be a good Samaritan – the best.
I didn’t speak with the taxi driver, I fantasized that the driver was also the man on the phone and was relieved when he dropped me off in Long Lane, in front of the flats. On the low wall in front of the block lay a homeless man asleep, his flies undone and his todger out, collapsed after a final drunken piss of the night. There were frequently men there that Marni and I encountered on the way home from clubs, the spill over from cardboard city at Waterloo. Bermondsey was a rough old place back then.
I walked up the stairwell. Marni’s yellow door was wide open. I didn’t walk in, I ran to the next block where her boyfriend Lang and Wand (from Pelekas) were squatting. I banged on the door and Lang answered it, looking like shit, dyed black spiked hair sticking out all over, dark rings round his eyes, scrawny man. Don’t know what she saw in him, he didn’t seem so cool away from Pelekas.
“Marni’s door’s been kicked in!”
“Has she been burgled?” Lang wasted no time in putting on his Dr Martin’s that lay by the newspaper covered wall of the hallway. The stale smell of the squat poured out into the night air.
“I didn’t go in. I was scared,” I didn’t care to be scared in front of Lang, he legged it, in front of me to the flat. When I walked through the kicked in door he was already in Marni’s bedroom looking under her bed.
“They haven’t taken any of it,” he gathered up his expensive camera equipment that Marni stored for him, her flat being safer than his and Wand’s squat.
I discovered Marni’s sound system had been nicked from the living room. Nothing else seemed to have gone.
“Where are you going?” I called. Lang was out the door.
“Back to bed,” he said his voice trailing down the stairwell.
“The stereo’s gone, they may come back, I can’t lock the door. Don’t leave me.” Lang was gone. “Come back you fucking little selfish American twat, I fucking hate you, you cunt, you fucking little shit cunt….”
Lang didn’t come back and Wand didn’t come to my rescue. The police came took notes then told me to ring the emergency council services. I had to wait for the man to sort the door and lock. It was comforting knowing the man and his todger were there. They might wake up if any disturbances happened. The council man turned up as the man got up and put his todger away.
“You should have been an emergency,” he said, clinking tools from his battered khaki fabric bag. “Young girl like you, left on her own,” clink clink. He finished the job and gave me a form to sign. I wasn’t sure whose signature to forge, Marni’s or the solicitors, I went for Marni’s, don’t suppose it mattered.

It was proper morning, I had a bath and was just thinking about which bits of the night’s drama I would tell to Ian in our next session when there was a knock at the newly fixed door. Thinking it was Lang or Wand I opened it.


No. 88 Nowhere Man

I read ‘The Road Less Travelled’ by M. Scott Peck.  I was coming to the end of this particular road.  I was experiencing ‘dark nights of the soul’ every other night and if the witches didn’t keep me awake, the bad egg smell from the corrosion in the water and heating system did.

I sat opposite Nowhere Man on the tube, having just visited Sam at Bart’s hospital. Sam had AID’s and was dying. I felt alone with my impending grief as Sam’s other friends were men from the gay community I’d decided I was excluded from.
I had already used the top of my cigarette packet for a roach, the packet was nearly empty so I put the remaining fags behind my ears and made the rest of the packet into an origami robot, with a massive dick that stuck out like ‘Jake the Peg’. Nowhere Man laughed, he looked a bit younger than me, dark skin, lean and fit. I wrote my number with eyeliner down the side of the dick of my robot man, gave it to Nowhere Man, and got off at my stop.
Nowhere Man called from a call box the next evening. He understood numbers and places and we agreed to meet at Eros, Piccadilly Circus at 8pm the following Friday.
I stood by the God of sensual love and desire, not aware of the meaning of Eros, Psyche or anything else that I was continually acting out. I did however feel like a circus, a clown one minute being bullied at work and a dancing horse the next, climbing over and around sexually transmitted diseases and the human condition of death and dying.
Nowhere Man was only a few minutes late. We got onto a bus, me distracting the driver trying to find my travel card while he got on behind me and found us seats upstairs so we could smoke. We ended up in a flat high up a tower block in a pretty North London area I hadn’t been to before, near Swiss Cottage. In the flat there were Nowhere Men everywhere, sleeping bags in corridors and on the kitchen floor. My Nowhere Man got a condom from a man standing up smoking a roll-up. We fiercely snogged our way into the bathroom and fucked, briefly.
I was shocked, but this time not by my own behaviour, I was shocked at this group of men who had nothing. There were hundreds of Bosnian refugees in and around London, victims of torture from Serb-run detention camps. These men had an air of trauma I recognized from Samaritan callers who had been abused.
I didn’t stay at the flat, I found my way back to my own flat via 3 different night buses – deep in thought. I wanted to understand the world more. I wanted to go deeper into the human psyche than my work as a Samaritan volunteer and I knew to do this I had to look deeper within myself.

No. 87 The Goth

Chris sublet the two other bedrooms in the maisonette flat.  He was a High Priest of a witch coven and meetings were held at the flat (post coded Mottingham, but the nearest station was Elmstead Woods, a short walk through the woods).

I didn’t get involved with Chris and the coven in the summer months as they had their meetings in the woods, and by the time I’d got home from work, they had already changed into their witch robes and left the flat for their secret wood clearing away from the main drag to the station.  I was always in bed before they got back and they kept quiet.  Once I got up for the loo and Chris was in the hallway with his long purple velvet robe wide open with long purple todger on full display.

The flat was above a shop on two levels, there were three bedrooms.  Chris and I had one each and Ricky moved in to take the other.  Ricky was a goth, he had long black hair and wore a purple silk bandana, large hoop earrings, black leathers and long-sleeved, multicoloured flowing tops, with purple in.

As the winter months drew in their witchy practice moved into the flat and when I got back from work, if I hadn’t gone for drinks with Sam,  I was ‘cut’ into their circle as a coven guest which meant that a sword was placed on my shoulder then directed – North, South, East and West (sweeping the circle?!) and the witches chanted stuff.  The room was candle lit and after getting stoned we went skyclad (naked) and paired off, or just hung about watching Chris and Maureen (High Priestess) get off with each other.  It’s strange, but apart from Ricky and I, the others did actually look like witches – Chris had greasy be-draggled  hair with a large spot on his nose, Maureen had the witchy large protruding chin and Lisa had a curved spine and a moustache on occasions.  They were the regulars and others popped in and out, equally as witch-like.  It was hard to know who was who as the robes had hoods and then when the robes came off I was too stoned to see clearly.

Because I fancied Ricky and he fancied me we got off with each other and I would sleep in his room after the coven shenanigans.  Ricky had a girlfriend and I had Fraser so it was an unsaid boundary that it was only on witchy Thursdays this would happen.

A few months into the routine Fraser’s weekend home visit was arranged.  I felt guilty and told Chris high priest I wouldn’t be joining the circle anymore.  It didn’t go down well, he ignored me in the house and so did Ricky which made Fraser’s home visit a disaster.  Fraser hated the flat, he was jealous of gay soulmate Sam and there was clear awkwardness between him and Ricky when they bumped into each other in the kitchen. Fraser hated Goths.

On the Sunday morning Fraser left early to meet his friend and drug dealer woman.  We were supposed to meet later on in the day and I waited for two hours in the Intrepid Fox, Soho.  I was worried he’d gone AWOL and contacted the prison, but he was safe and sound watching TV in is semi-open prison cell.  For the next few weeks I hated him and I hated Ricky as a now always freshly moustache shaven Lisa would stay Thursdays and they would have really loud sex with bondage which kept me awake and made me tired for work.

….  and work wasn’t going so great either, the medical records clerk was alcoholic and had it in for me, I was front line receptionist at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospital, and part of the job involved trying to find missing records for patients usually having abortions or with fertility issues.  Working at a women’s hospital there were no men, apart from the odd hospital porter and odd job man.  Even the consultants were mostly women.  Our reception staff were butch and bitchy and the supervisor bullied the manager.  I began looking in the back of free tube mags for other work.

…. then, Sam got ill.

No. 86 Sam, Sam you know where I am

Fraser had been moved to a semi open prison in Woking and I’d been forced by the dole office to sign up to job club.  I worked hard at job club, got my job club pencil and with a new CV (including my now extensive Samaritan experience) was presented with a job in women’s health.  I was feeling better and didn’t care that I wasn’t in a band or doing anything that seemed remotely exciting to me, I enjoyed working at a hospital.  Fraser and I were going straight, we both had negative HIV tests (his in prison) and I’d been kicked out of a squat and had found a ‘proper’ room in a flat near Elmstead Woods, a bit further South than I would have liked, but cheap.

Visitors Orders to see Fraser were split between me, his friend, and his drug dealer.

“Hi, Liz, great to see you again, you know what’s happening, better than Wandsworth, you went in when they were on strike?  Couldn’t get nothing in ….”  blah bloody blah.  We were queueing at the entrance.  The dealer talked shite, she was off her head.

That visit was shite too, I sat patiently while dealer woman continued to talk shite with Fraser.  I waited for my one on one time with him but I didn’t get it.  Instead this sleazy woman snogged him vehemently as he swallowed the gear she passed over.

“We better not kiss for now.  Don’t want them getting confused. ” Fraser said.  “I’m not doing it myself, I’m selling.  Need money to come out to my wifey.” He grinned at me and nodded at his older woman.

“I fucking hate her”  I said to Sam when we were out for a drink later.

“I’m not surprised. Bitch”

I’d met Sam at the Samaritan’s.  He was volunteer no. 311 and we’d become the best of friends/soul mates since I’d got back from travelling and Marni had submerged herself with American Lang who had moved to London.  Sam was gay and didn’t have a partner but after our drinking sessions he would go to late clubs in Soho while I got the train back to Elmstead Woods to get up early for work at the Women’s hospital.

“We’ll go Pride at the weekend,”  he said.  “That’ll cheer you up.”

So we went to Gay Pride at Brockwell Park and we danced in the dance tent, I was off my head having a great time then something came over me, the Ecstasy of ecstasy turned into rage, I was angry with Fraser – really angry.  I’d remained faithful all this time, hanging out with Sam so as not to be tempted.

I looked up at the largest pole in the middle of the Marquee that was in front of us.  I’d always been good at climbing poles.  Most of us primary school girls discovered masturbation climbing up ropes.  In PE lessons we would race to the top, cling on for a bit, go red then climb down, watched upon by gym teacher Miss Lee who also watched us change.

I was gonna go up this big thick pole and had reached the top before Sam realised I was no longer strutting my stuff with him.  I started a craze and soon every pole in the marquee had someone at the top or part the way up with fat security men in shiny black jackets pulling them down.

“The music will stop if you don’t get down” an announcement from a mic barely heard over the music.

A circle of these men that Sam called ‘internalised homeopobics’ gathered at the bottom of my pole and I was forced to come down with the threat of one climbing up to get me and chucking me out.

I didn’t want to be manhandled by security so did as I was told and continued dancing with Sam as if nothing had happened, but my thighs were red raw, burned from the pole – that’s how hurt I was with Fraser.  Drugs always came before me, even if he was saving money for us on the outside, which I wasn’t sure I believed anyway.

On the other hand I’d become Sam’s hero and his mates flocked over to congratulate me and give me more drink and drugs.  I stayed at Sam’s squat that night and he was really turned on by me for a while.  I insisted he wear a condom and we did it and never spoke about it after – ever.

Sam and I remained soul mates for the next year.  Fraser was coming out of prison soon and would meet Sam and would never expect anything could/would happen between us.  He couldn’t possibly be jealous.  It was Fraser’s first trial weekend release and his prison officer was happy that he would spend it with me at the Elmstead Woods ‘witches’ flat.  He might be ok with Sam but I knew he would hate my flat mates.

No. 85 The Man from Lyon to Paris

We travelled a long way with short exchanges. Dark skin, stubble and he smelt of diesel. He was hot, his truck exporting ice.
We were in a convoy driving to Paris. All vehicles stopped at the same rather lovely French restaurant, just off the autoroute. We sat on a table with the trucker we’d originally hitched a lift from, others joined us and before long the table was full of big strong hunks of men. The man to my right chatted to me in French.  I smiled and he gestured I could sleep in his bunk and worked out I could get about ‘cinq’ hours sleep. I was excited to be so nearly home, sleeping would make the journey faster, our trucker and Marni had talked nonstop (she had done A level French) it had been annoying as I’d wanted to sleep.
“I’d rather we stayed together” Marni said, but with free carafes of wine on the table I was having none of it.
I left my stuff with Marni in her truck, ruck sack, passport the lot, just took Yvon’s (our French Pelekas thief’s) sleeping bag.
“See ya in Paris” I said as I jumped into my new truckie’s truck.
I tried to sleep behind his driving seat but I couldn’t and was beginning to regret my decision to go it alone. I nearly drifted off but the engine slowed down as my driver pulled off the autoroute. No longer a smooth road, I sat up and looked out of the window and into the darkness. The head lights shone on a track with tall trees either side shadowing onto the track.  He pulled off the track and stopped in the middle of a forest.
I did try to tell him I had a boyfriend but he didn’t understand me.  I pointed at my wedding ring finger but he still didn’t understand and I had no ring on it anyway, my rings went with the Greek thieves and I knew this could be worse than the Greek thief I went with one drunken night (I missed him out, buried him in Pelekas graveyard memory, but now I had a flash back of the pink jumper he sweated from) this could also be worse than the Leo Sayer lookalike (No. 22) and the lockjaw. Knowing it could be worse made it easier.  Inside my head I recited ‘Derek and Clive’ .. ‘I was walking down the road one day and I saw a house on fire .. laugh …’ etc.  And I laughed inside, there was no knife, no torture – I’d got away lightly, and was quite proud of myself.  There was no such thing as a free lunch, free carafe of wine or a free bed for the night. Just a learning curve and if it turned out I had HIV, then I hoped he would have it too.

It felt like days had passed before Marni and I were reunited in a layby on the outskirts of Paris. She was later than me, her driver had stopped for a kip.  Marni and I waved off the convoy.
“Get much sleep?” she asked.
“A bit, you?”
“Yeah, the wine knocked me out.”
“Me too”

(No. 31) Fraser moves down

Before leaving Pelekas I’d received a letter from Fraser in response to a letter I’d written to the prison governor at HMP Saughton, pleading for him to be moved to a London prison.  Fraser had instructed me to write that I was his long term partner, he had fallen out with his family and that he would receive more support in London than in Edinburgh.

My letter worked, I had made sure no grains of Pelekas sand had got in the envelope and had sent it to Foggie to post for me in England so it didn’t look like I was abroad. The governor had surprisingly taken our relationship seriously and Fraser was moved to HMP Wandsworth. I had a duty when I got back to London and was keen to get to it.  I wished the dice had landed on No. 4 and we were going home.

Marni and I travelled round Europe – her excited because she loved travelling – I depressed because I didn’t ever really like travelling but didn’t know it then.   My legs were tired and the summer was gone.  I was cold, skint and longing to be home and receiving Visitor Orders for HMP Wandsworth where Fraser would now be waiting.
We stayed in Dubrovnic, Split, Florence, Rome, Pisa and nice Nice where I hated all the umbrellas. Our last stop would be Paris then home to sort out my life, do an HIV test, get a job, stop signing on, stop shagging about, stop hanging about with Foggie (cause it would wind Fraser up), stop drinking, stop throwing up, stop taking drugs. I was about to add – get into a decent band – but my hands were numb, fingers pins and needlesy, there would be no way I could play keyboards and I needed drink and drugs for the confidence to play the keyboards anyway so perhaps this was the sign to stop – STOP – stop everything.  I thought about Fraser and briefly envied him in his secure dwelling where he didn’t have the stresses of conventional living.

We were hitch hiking and had just enough money to get a ferry and keep us in booze.  The nearer we got to England the more I drank and the higher my spirits became.  When we got home Fraser and me would be the new we.  Marni would be alright, she had a career to go home to and Lang would visit her I was sure.