Five things I miss about living in my converted municipal garage:
1. I didn’t need to keep Coke in the fridge – it stayed cold enough just being in the room, which saved time trekking to and from the kitchenette. There’s something wrong with the underfloor heating in my new luxury Bayswater apartment, and warm Coke is somewhat unpleasant.
2. I could spend the evenings watching the world go by through my binoculars. When Mum knew I was moving to London, she bought them for me because she thought I may go to an opera at some point. I tried to use them here to watch the world go by, but someone opposite spotted me right away and I think they called the police (I had to pretend I wasn’t at home).
3. I’m worried about the Chinese restaurant opposite, and whether it’s still open. They didn’t use to get many customers, and some days none at all (I knew this from checking with my binoculars). If they’d had no customers by 9.00 I would go and order something, even if I’d already had a microwave meal. Maybe I’ll go back this week to check on them, and get some sesame prawn toast.
4. I didn’t have to iron my clothes. Nobody noticed if I wore the same clothes for several days, either, but round here people are very well turned-out. I have found my time available for such simple pleasures as lying on the bed and listening to cassettes or playing Football Manager curtailed as a result.
5. I didn’t have any pressure from Vladik and his associates (see below).
The first thing I had to do when I turned on the laptop this morning was delete yet another email from Vladik, demanding to know how many sticks of sausage I’ve sold. He doesn’t seem to understand that it’s only been two weeks since I took the job – I’m still warming up.
I sold my first sticks this morning to the couple downstairs, Ray and Julian, who seem like nice neighbours to have (if one has to have neighbours). My washing fell onto their balcony overnight (I told you looking good is stressful round here), and I had to go down and fetch it:
‘I’m sorry about that. I’ll go now. Bye.’
‘Can I ask you a question?’ said Ray, apparently the more talkative half of the couple. I always feel nervous when people ask me that, and I nodded meekly.
‘I was just wondering where you get that fabulous salami from. We can always smell it in the corridor, can’t we, Julian?’
Julian nodded in a similarly meek manner, but my brain was already whirring. Young people. Trendy area. Like a bit of innovation. I cleared my throat.
‘Well, I’m meant to keep this to myself, but I’m actually selling the sausage on behalf of a Russian-based dealer. I’ve got a meeting with a vendor on Westbourne Grove a bit later today; she’s looking to buy the lot. The pigs they use are fed on a special, secret diet, which gives the sausage its unique, rich flavour. They’re the only sticks of their kind in the country.’
Ray’s eyes lit up.
‘What’s it called?’
‘Well, it’s quite difficult to translate, I can’t…’
‘Oh, do try!’
I was silent for a few seconds. My brain wasn’t keeping up.
‘I suppose the closest translation is, erm, “Moscow”.’
‘Yes, a simple name, but one that represents the lead city of the new, brave, forward-thinking Russia – a world city that’s full of innovation. That’s the credo behind this sausage.’
‘Can we try some?’
I spoiled the sales pitch somewhat by inviting them up to the flat for a taste, only then realising that I had a) only one plate and b) no proper knife. The Moskovskaya sausage was cut with a butter knife and served up on a side plate rescued from the sink, but I nevertheless managed to sell them five sticks at fifteen pounds each.
I spent the afternoon acquainting myself with Paddington Library in an attempt at celebration, but found that I couldn’t enjoy myself because of an odd guilt that was itching away at me. Had I lied to those men about the sausage? No, not exactly. It is called Moscow, the recipe probably is a secret concoction (of preservatives), and it’s unlikely that anyone else has imported it into the UK. My conscience felt a bit clearer. But what about Vladik?
‘I can’t believe you’re thinking of giving him all the money from that sausage! It’s you who’s done all the work!’
My bitch alter-ego does know how to ruffle an innocuous and supposedly soothing trip to the library. I found a seat near the large-print books and whispered back to him from behind my hands, hoping that no-one else would see what I was doing.
‘But I promised!’
‘You said you’d sell the sticks for ten pounds. Here’s your chance to make twenty-five quid. Where else are you going to get any money from? You’re too proud to sign on!’
‘I promised Dad that I’d get myself a job down here. And I have. It’s just that I’m not earning any money from it. Look, bitch, I need to go before anyone asks what I’m doing talking into my hands. I’ve got to email my boss.’
‘Well, don’t come crying to me when you run out of money and have to move back to that garage.’
I dashed out of the library, calling only at Portobello Road market on my way home. Without even grabbing a refreshing, cool glass of Coke, I switched on my laptop and emailed Vladik.
Sorry for not answering earlier – I’ve been busy getting my business plan together for selling our sausage. I sold five sticks this morning for fifteen pounds each to a local vendor, meaning that I have seventy five pounds for you. I have just got back from canvassing at a local market, and have set up a meeting tomorrow with an interested trader at his home address, 24 Leinster Gardens. He says that he wants to buy all the sticks!
As for your trial with Fulham football club, I’m afraid there’s no news yet. Would you consider an alternative? I have a friend living in Hereford, which is not too far from London. They are an up-and-coming team, and I am sure he would let us stay there for a night or two. Let me know if you’re interested, and I will contact their manager.
Your friend and business partner,
PS Did Ivan do anything strange to the underfloor heating? It’s always too hot, and is making walking around barefoot ever so slightly uncomfortable. Please ask him at the earliest opportunity, and, just in case I need to fix anything, please confirm that you will bear the cost of any repairs.
I hit send and flopped down, exhausted, onto the bed. I’m approaching my thirties, living in a flat owned by a fifteen year old wannabe footballer from Russia, and spending my time fretting over selling sticks of sausage. Sometimes I wonder whether I might be a little odd, and not at all like other people.
There’s one escape when I start thinking like this – I listen to the oddest song I know, just to check that it still sounds as strange as it always does. Having looped ‘No Idea’ by Earth Leakage Trip five times in a row, I breathed a sign of relief, levered myself off the bed and readied myself to face the world again. It still sounds very strange – as far as I know, nobody else has ever mixed seagull sounds, the little girl from Poltergeist and a children’s record called Happy Monsters together in a song before.
The so-called writer Saul Pope would not appreciate such fine things – no doubt he hasn’t even got a list of his ten favourite samples in songs. So please help him to afford some better culture by purchasing his lowly, but quite interesting, novel. If you click here you can even get a signed, limited edition version.
Anyway, time for bed – I’ve got an important meeting at 24 Leinster Gardens with that market trader in the morning. Hopefully I’ll be able to get rid of all that sausage…