Sunday, April 18, 1999

`The door of my flat is opened by a bird in T-shirt and pants. I'd forgotten about her'

I'm staring at a door. It is my door. The door to my new flat. It is grey, metallic, stylish and industrial. The flat is a loft. There is much glass in its complex fenestrations. Some of it is made from hemp. Not too long ago, before the conversion, it clanged with machines that conveniently masked the sweaty weeping of slaves. Ah who knows, they probably loved it. I'm rambling here but it is a Sunday. I am very hazy. It is 2pm and I'm not long up. And the point is, I'm staring at the door because I am locked out.

Perelman says there are five types of being locked out - the act of God, the act of a landlord or girlfriend, `I thought you had the keys', `I thought I had the keys', and psychotically, deliberately shutting the door when you know you don't have the keys.

But as I stare dumbly at my door, I couldn't give a fly's tit how I've been locked out (went for milk, forgot the keys) - I'm just furious. After some light cursing and a couple of kicks, I opt for ruining a Visa card. I'm twisted in a weird hunch against the jamb, attempting keyhole surgery with my flat spastic tool, my tongue slewing through a cretinous wince, when a neighbour emerges on to the landing.

She's about 34, smart and professional. Plain as dust, but will do for a nightcap. `Can I help?' she says. I ask hopelessly about master keys. `I'm sorry, do you live here?' Oh gawd, she doesn't remember. `Yes, we met last weekend. I was being sick into the tree pot on the lower gangway.' No recognition. `I was with a crying woman.' Still no flicker. Dammit, she's one of only two people I've met here (the other is Paul, aka DJ Cattle Prod, who shared some lethal new-wave skunk with me the day I moved in).

I press on, wondering if I might gain access to the fire escape via her flat and climb in through my window - but I'm not surprised when she heads down the stairs. When I call: `Can I use your phone?' at the top of her gitty little parting, she informs me there's a phone box in the square. I find it next to the Vaclav Havel café (no-profit food, radical conversation, all furnishings from skips - oh wake up, you dreamy fucks and tell me you won't be a Starbucks by Y2K!).

There's plenty of time to slag off the area you have just moved into if you're waiting for a Sunday locksmith. Time goes viscous and gummy. The only thing you can do is take out a notebook and write down rubbish like `time goes viscous and gummy'.

It's like exercise-bike time. Each minute contains about 500 seconds. It is also related to missed connection time on trains. Except that when you travel by train, deep down you actually want to be stuck for hours on an island of concrete in Rugby - probably because you are married.

The locksmith arrives after 90 minutes. On the phone, he assured me he was a Banham expert but he gives the lock a rather ESN look. `They're real buggers,' he says. He then says he can either drill through the lock - full replacement cost £120 - or he can `have a go with this': a strip of plastic from a washing-up liquid bottle. My sleeping Anne Robinson yaps into life.

I tell him he secured the job on the strength of being an expert and had better do something bloody special with the plastic or he isn't getting paid. As the cocky locky tries to snake around the anti break-in chicanes in the woodwork, I ask him what there is to stop him performing this service for a thief.

`Nothing,' he says brightly, then explains: `If there's any trouble, I'm miles away by that point.' Which is wrong, because at the top of the stairs behind him appear two rozzers. `Problem, sir?'

I explain I've locked myself out. They look sceptical in an unintelligent way. They ask locko if he has verified that I live here. He says no. They say another occupant of this pad stack has reported a stranger trying to break in. Right. So gruel-lips opposite won't lend me her phone to call a locksmith but she will use it to grass me up. I make a mental note that she'll be getting 20 pizzas she didn't order delivered at four in the morning. Just then Cattle Prod appears. `Hey jumpstick!' I greet him hopefully. Roz 1 asks him if he knows me. He eyes us warily, makes a fuzzy calculation, and says: `No way, man.' Cheers, you scabid little slacker - I hope your decks blow up inyour balls.

But just when it seems to have gone the full pear, my door opens. Or rather is opened - from the inside - by a bird in T-shirt and pants. I'd forgotten about her. She'd spent the night on the bathroom floor, you see. Ill. She's looking bleary but in a slightly Kim Basinger way. What she says, though, is not so clever: `… sorry she only just got the door… very sick … something she ate … the big one with the dove on it … Tris said it could have been smacky …' And the looks all round become significantly more significant.

Then there is one of those split seconds during which three things happen. The cops suddenly lose interest, locko starts to charge me a call-out fee even though he's done nothing, and I decide that this is yet another woman, all gorgeous and pointless in her pants, who in the end just will not do.

And that is when I am seized by Perelman's fifth wave of madness. I reach for the stainless steel handle of the door and knowingly, deliberately, firmly pull it shut.


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