I have been wary, very wary of writing anything on here, or printing up anything I’ve written already. ‘Why?’ said Poppy. ‘Julie Burchill does; she’s got a blog, says what she likes and everyone writes little notes at the bottom.’
I know about Julie Burchill and Julie Burchill knows about me, but I desisted from filling in Poppy – Poppy’s references are frighteningly pertinent and completely unconscious - and looked really hard at the hyacinths, which were of course beautiful. I’ll draw you a picture because otherwise you’ll think about hospital beds and get it all wrong and we haven’t got all day on description.
Instead, I told her this.
‘Julie Burchill won her spurs writing subversive, nasty and rather brilliant journal posts with plenty of bad language many years ago (I know this because my photographer lent me the book), with someone called Tony who said stupid things about Bonnard later on when he became dull and middle class as everyone does. That’s how she became famous, by being acerbic and dirty, and telling people how vile they were. She made a profession of being underwave and foul; she was a punk for Gods sakes.’ ‘Oh, was she?’ ‘Yes. I am meant to be a beautiful esoteric artist in a mob cap leading a quiet life with my eye on nothing but idealistic skies, though I do in fact have a mob cap and do in fact spend a great deal of time doing just that. What else is there, now that the worst has happened but stare at skies, however pale and grim, however much they betray their true colour, however much I weep? But this is a world aside from what I write; the contrast couldn’t be more extreme. There will be a scandal, and I will lose what little good reputation I have, quite aside from upsetting Alice who’ll never live it down, my stepfather said so. He told me to shut the fuck up. ‘Never write again,’ he said, and he’s not the only one; many, many people have said they felt fine before reading something I wrote but an awful lot worse afterwards. They want the pictures. They want to be happy, feel uncriticised, see the world as an ever-opening pomegranate. I will ruin all that for them. And I will ruin my career as well.’ ‘Oh, no I think the two things go together, the drawings from heaven, the writing from hell.’ ‘You think I’ll lose nothing by it then.’ ‘Nothing at all, you must do it.’
OK, I’ll crack on then. Poppy banned Mendel as a subject, but not Shaun or Daniel Downstairs because she knows I am not interested in either of them. Shaun I feel has relevance both as a symbol of men generally (now) and also because he’s easier to understand than Mendel, who’s the complicated version. So complicated is he that I am just about to start my fourth novel on him, or maybe I just like repetition. But Shaun has his share of perversity: perversities that have led to a bankrupt state, a cold war: ‘but men are all like that around me, they reach a fork in their lives: can either go with me or go the other way, and they always go the other way; they have all betrayed me. Indeed, what I write is the fiction of betrayal, which isn’t a particularly popular subject. Shaun, in fact is the only one still hanging around, which makes me feel I was his ultimate quarry from the start, but not in a fulfilling way, rather like being locked in a box full of dead toys no one ever plays with; he’s not really got the blood to eat me properly and I still feel he’s a stand-in for Mendel, the cartoon version, not the poor man’s version, more like the rude mechanical version, if this were Midsummer Night’s Dream. Which it isn’t. It’s a nightmare. This is what I keep saying really, that love can’t exist in this era, it’s the wrong century and as a result all relationships are doomed. In fact none really exist because they’re some sort of babbling round an emptiness, and until you get Regency Romance back in fashion, the whole thing is fake. Well, aside from Daniel and his girlfriend.’
‘Oh did they get it back together on Valentine’s Day? Urgent and pressing. Pressure.’
‘Long before - the day before – and yes she was round last night actually. But I had to see them walking up the street arm in arm the day before – I was working in the drawing room for a change and saw them out of the window - and taking the rubbish out, doing domestic things…’
‘It’s all a lie.’
‘Well, Poppy, do not start getting like Tiffany. She – and I agree it was terribly tempting, if one was to write a Mills and Boon, to do this brilliant volte-face and have the heroine change from being in love with the creepy concept artist with no character at all who’s just cast some sick spell on her to the love, life, health and vitality of the true lover who lives downstairs, and they could both become bloody rich – he richer than ever but she rich because of his love – the love that has set her free - and buy up the entire house and get married - yes I can see how it would WORK, but it is just not true. I am not in love with Daniel. Daniel is not in love with me. In fact what worries more than anything is that I may be like that awful woman in The Stand – someone called George told me this at University – we were both reading The Stand at the time and I was having a fling with his mate – ‘you – you’re the one that goes with him’ (he meant The Evil One, the devil figure, obligated, duty-bound from birth, given to the Son Of Hell, the Adversary, Lucifer, read it) he said, and I wondered where he’d got that one from, but there is a sort of compulsion towards these fatally fraught characters, and of course the supernatural plays a large part – it helps if these people talk through your mind, if some telepathy is involved.’ I was drinking champagne now - phone calls always excite me so much I have to start sipping away right away. Whatever time. I think this was about ‘noon’ as they say on Mad Men but have no real idea. This is why I have so few people phoning me and have destroyed my mobile; everyone, everything influences me, over-stimulates me, if I let everyone in I’d be on coke the entire time. Poppy changed the subject to some other subject that still actually was the same subject (we now know this), which is making me go and watch some screening of Easy Rider with her tomorrow night. Why it is the same subject I will not divulge or will reveal later.
It is now many hours on as I had to take a little time off to write to Ropework (OK Cupid), who frankly is not helping at all, though I enjoyed my letter, as I enjoyed listening to Johnny Rotten while I was doing it.
No, I am not sleeping with Shaun again, don’t even try to make me. I am not sleeping with anyone ever again. Why bother? I am bored with these people’s minds.
Poppy has learned that I do not leave my house and have to be limpeted out, so she is actually coming over to winkle me from my rock and chat, and make me put on clothes, coaxingly, and force us to a bus stop and down to Soho to watch a film I have avoided for many years as one of the protagonists bears an uncanny resemblance to Mendel, though not of course the Jack Nicholson character who resembles me.
‘I hadn’t noticed that, but, now you come to mention it…’ said Poppy.
‘So we can argue throughout about whether the good-looking, slick empty character with the beautiful hair and lovely, elegant hands and natural poise is more charismatic than Jack. Which he isn’t.’
‘We shall talk all the way through.’
I like Poppy. I like my female friends. They WANT to see me and make no bones about it. Unlike the rest of you lot.
Poppy may stop talking to me now I’ve referred to her on a blog post, but she told me to do it. I’ll check with her, see if she can cope with the glare of fame. And I’ll listen to her and obey her, change the names if necessary. I have not told her – I held back at that crucial moment - to watch Grace, which is a movie about giving birth to a monstrous child, a vampire, who bleeds you for every inch you’re worth and destroys your integrity, love, life, soul, all that matters – I found out about this film when trying to find photos from Eraserhead, which, by the way I am too incompetent to download – still, achieved some knowledge - because Poppy actually has a child called Grace. Thing is, Grace isn’t a bit like that and really nice – it’s actually the rest of the world that treats Poppy like that, but she might not get it. Oh she will. We’ll all watch it together, after sinning by slurping up the cold beautiful psychopath in Easy Rider and I know without saying Poppy won’t fancy him. She’ll fancy Jack Nicholson. I would too, if I weren’t him.