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The Other Side of Everything

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Written on December 11, 2004, and categorized as Secret and Invisible.
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This bright yellow box has appeared adorning the park. It’s full of “GRIT” – this means Winter is really here. And we are Ready for it. People Shall Not Slip on Icy Pavements. By Order of the London Borough of Islington.

I haven’t opened the Grit Box to check the contents, but whatever it is, by the time the cold weather hits, it either won’t be enough, or it won’t be deployed at the right time or in the correct way, or not in appropriate response to the conditions, or it will be enthusiastically deployed by schoolchildren for other purposes and be everywhere else when needed but in it’s nice yellow box.

In fact this country is notoriously unready for any and all extreme weather, and the merest flurry of snow causes gridlock, commuter hell, hospitals to overflow, and social breakdown. The Grit Box and the thought of Winter is making me pine for Spain.

Spain contains the biggest British ex-pat community and I can see why. I could live there very happily. It came number 10 in the world’s best places to live. I wouldn’t mind learning Spanish. It’s only 2 hours away from here and I could come back if needs be to say “ola” to my blighty-entrenched pals. The South coast is full of Brits enjoying a pleasant retirement. Which reminds me…

My now sadly deceased ex GF, whose ring I always wear, had a most amazing and colourful stepfather George. He grew up in London’s East End surrounded by the hard core criminals that became glamorised in the 60s – the Krays, etc. – all of whom have been re-glamorised since by films like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. He was a talented man, a natural actor, who fended for his entire family from 10 years old, an entrepreneurial spirit who could sell fridges to eskimos. For him, life was a contant drama. He was often on the edge of the criminal scene, occasionally over the edge, but somehow avoided being sucked into it. He told me things late night which (he quietly reminded me in the morning) could get us both killed were I to divulge them. Thankfully, the conversations were always so alchohol-fuelled, I could remember only the graphic details and the humour, never the names. I have tried, but I can’t. Thank God for selective memory.

Now this gentleman had a compulsive and occasionally turbulent nature, although by the time I met him he was somewhat mellowed. During one of the many separations and split-ups with his wife, my ex’s Mother, he went to live in Southern Spain. He was hanging out with his old crim mates, and he was partying like there was no tomorrow, living with (his own words) a “gorgeous blonde dolly bird model”, spending his time with pop stars (Rod Stewart et al), drinking champagne and cognac, and clubbing every night.

At one of these clubs, an old buddy from one of the London gangs came up to him and gave him a wrap of powder. “George” he said “You’ve been drinking for 3 days. You look like you’re about to keel over. Take this to the bogs and sort yourself out.” He’d never dabbled in drugs, he was a champion boozer, so he didn’t really know what to do. But buddy wasn’t going to take no. He took himself into a marble-tiled cubicle, and with some energetic hooting snorted the best part of 3 grams of Cocaine in one go.

He came back feeling much more lively and thanked his mate for the buzz. “Where’s the wrap?” his mate grinned. “You what?” said G, “I thought that was all for me!”

As George told me this story, he cracked up, rolling his eyes, weeping tears of hilarity, rocking with laughter, grinning with the memory of the one time he took drugs. “I was flying ! All over the place, dancing, dragging everyone from club to club, ordering champagne everywhere… fantastic!” His friend, presented with the most confident gregarious talkative man in the world recovered from the annoyance rapidly, forgave him and joined in. It was 2 more days before he slept…

Names have been changed to protect me…

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