South London, the summer of ’89. Dan Blake’s world has been turned upside down by mental illness – inexplicable, invisible and certainly not cool. He’s been sectioned – life in Woodland Park Hospital is no picnic, but it does have its moments. …He was plugged into the main source, lit up. He could …
There’s a song Jackie and I used to sing; we found it on some ancient disc in a box-full in the dayroom – ages ago, turn of the century time I think, no, later, ten years or so in. We didn’t even know what they were. We smashed a couple up, chucked a few around like crappy Frisbees – just messing about – when Ian came in. He seemed pretty pissed off, told us to stop it, that they were his and even though they were out of date they had some great stuff on them and we should treat them with a bit of respect. Jackie started to cry, and I put my arms around her feeling a pain in my chest like I used to feel when I watched nature programmes on TV or saw Mr Judd’s old dog hobbling along behind him as he did the garden.
It’s the opening of Ricardo’s new restaurant in Notting Hill, to which he’s invited a couple of hundred of his closest friends, all of whom he secretly despises. It’s tipped to become the place to end all places.
Picture the scene: the beautiful people, the fabulous décor, the tiny fried quails eggs on little hash brown cakes strewn with morsels of bacon, the three skewered baked beans on a slice of quality sausage, a fried cherry tomato on a square of black pudding, a wild mushroom astride a triangle of fried bread. The journalists are busily thinking up their articles for the Sunday supplements. ‘Absolutely brilliant’, ‘Po-mo party food to dine for.’
Like trees coming into leaf, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when change begins. Once established, it’s too late, you can’t imagine the possibility of bare branches. Dan was feeling really good. Something weird had happened to the world around him. He knew it had begun with the altered colours, but he couldn’t have said when. In fact, by the time traffic lights began to leave their normal confines, radiating diffuse mists of red, amber and green, mingling with the air in watercolour washes, he was past the point of no return.
‘That would be lovely!’ Anna regretted it the minute she’d said it.
She should have said that she’d check her diary, counted to ten, then said, sorrowfully, that she had a prior engagement, preferably some obligatory family business that Laura could sympathise with, something that, as much as she’d love to, she really couldn’t escape.
Sir, That’s how you start this sort of thing. Not Dear Sir. Dear Sir’s a bit too personal. Sir on its own sounds far more, oh I don’t know … respectful. It’s got gravitas, if you know what I mean.