I was back in my house in Notting Hill in the spring of 2002. The lodgers were all still there, the house was intact apart from the vegetation which had gone from Day of the Triffids to plant-a-geddon. The psycho locksmith, who’d broken into my bedroom at 2am, had disappeared, probably to found Stalkers Anonymous in jail. I was back at the BBC, miserably, the entertainment reporting having dried up and replaced with a mind numbing producer’s job at News 24. I had a reasonable amount of cash, as I hadn’t spent any of the money from the lodgers while I’d been away. But I needed to raise some more money for the house. The house was no more than a shell, with the higgledy piggledy flooring I’d laid at 3am, the peeling front wall I’d painted when it was dark as a mole’s boudoir, no decoration and bare plaster walls. And they weren’t the kind of plaster walls that looked “Italian” and deliberate, they simply looked like the builders had left halfway through the job. The exposed beams in the ceilings had turned bright pink after being painted with fire proof varnish. And the painters had got so high on the fumes of the varnish that they’d painted the entire kitchen with orange clouds. The place had potential but there was no way I could rent it out.
In my efforts to raise more cash (following the collapse of the ocelot breeding project) I came up with various unusual plans. I was amazed to discover you could flog eggs on the internet for up to fifty thousand dollars per egg. Fifty thousand dollars an egg! Whoopee! I thought, I’ve got millions! I’ll be a zillionaire in no time. Regaled everyone with astonishing good fortune – better than the lottery etc. The building project would be paid for in a day.
“You don’t have millions,” said a Sensible Friend. “That’s sperm. No wonder you failed sex education.”
One a month, I thought, not millions. Still fifty thousand dollars a month! In two months the building project would be paid for. I read on in the swiftly acquired Egg Donation Manual. “Favoured donors are tall, blond and blue eyed and went to Ivy League Universities.” Umm
EGG DONATION APPLICATION FORM
- How tall are you.
- 5’4” (ish) but am sole dwarf among otherwise giant family.
- Hair Colour
- Reddish brown (was) now brownish-brown. (Brown)
- Genetic or mental diseases in the family.
- Where do I start?
Ok ok……I accepted the fact that the eggs may have to be offered at a slight discount to compensate for dodgy genetic heritage. I read on. “Restrictions on the sale of eggs mean that donors in the UK are only paid up to £15 per egg.” FIFTEEN POUNDS! The price of a taxi! So my future prosperity would depend on rather lengthy trips to the States. I decided I’d stick to the scratch cards or, if I got really desperate, beg my mother for more.
I can’t remember how I met my interior designer Vlad. He swanned in, black cape billowing and with a pallid hue as if his night time surroundings were a coffin and not a bed. Despite his funereal air, he had long thick, flowing, black, locks and a pronounced twinkle in his eye. “Zis place has potential,” he said looking around the house. “What you hev done with it is interesting but it is not a house yet it looks like a sketch.” He rattled off some ideas for finishing the place, (which thankfully didn’t involve red velvet or multi branched candle sticks), and I hired him on the spot. Now he said he would normally charge £500 pounds a week but I didn’t have £500 a week, so he looked me up and down and said we “would sort somezing out.” Not only did he have to come up with all the ideas for getting the house up to scratch but also drive me around to pick up all the materials as the DVLA was persisting in its insane conspiracy against me. I also required lifts to lunch at various venues in London, as well as frequent trips to that North London version of Hades, Ikea Wembley. One on of the trips to Ikea, after we’d been there for five hours, we got to the till and I realised I’d forgotten all my debit cards. I was his poorest client, the others were all in Chelsea or Holland Park, I believe he’d done Robbie Williams house. It just shows what a pretty face and hot young body can achieve. Also of course he “respected my creativity.”
As the original builders had left me minus minor details, (such as a central heating system), I started looking for a new set of builders. After several false starts, I found the perfect team to finish the job in April 2002. They were meticulous, hard working, honest and a joy to be around. The fact that they were very good looking (and trendy) was an asset, I thought. I (very politely) asked all the lodgers to leave and moved a friend from the BBC and her boyfriend in instead, warning them building works were imminent. They didn’t quite understand what this meant until they came home one day and found the wall (and the floor) to their room had gone. Dust and chunks of wall were over all their clothes and a treasured family vase had been smashed by the bulldozer. I don’t believe they were actually paying any rent but, after much complaint, they moved out. I’ve never tried to mix lodgers and building works again.
Now I had started the job, typically, without the money to complete, and the way we were doing the job, with Vlad painting customized murals everywhere, was very expensive indeed. I soon ran out of money and was on the phone to my aunt in Jamaica, who’d taken over my mother’s financial affairs, begging her for more. This was a lot more forthcoming than asking my mother and I survived the building project with handouts from her.
Of course Vlad extracted his pound of flesh and, drunk, halfway through the job, I ended up in bed with him. Luckily I didn’t have sex and no vampire conversion tactics like neck biting went on. There was also the mysterious disappearance of a large amount of cash I had got out of the cash point (being slightly drunk I wasn’t monitoring it). I never knew whether this was the builders or Vlad or, as I was drunk, whether I’d just given it away to a beggar on the street. But the reason I called him Vlad the Inhaler was that all he had to do was inhale and things would disappear.
It was all go with men while I was doing the house, I had Vlad, and a boyfriend at the BBC. But unfortunately my feelings for Alex, my friend from Oxford, had come back and I thought I was in love with him again. My unrequited feelings for Alex had been one of the most painful things in my life. Aware of the impact my mess had had on our relationship, I became astonishingly tidy, leading my friends to say that I must have had a Stepford Wife change and turned into Anthea Turner. I was also extremely thin, having discovered diet pills in Jamaica. And would go to bed starving and wake up at 3am to eat weight watchers pizza with oodles of chocolate sauce.
I also had my first experience of pure cocaine, or cocaine mixed with something absolutely great. I thought the proximity of drugs in the mews was one of the best things about living there. After snorting it, I just had to go home and lie down on my bed while waves of pleasure gushed through me like the surf on Venice beach. I knew in that instant that if cocaine was that good I could develop a problem with it. Nonetheless, I did do a bit more with Vlad, who appeared positively human in colour after a couple of lines.
I was devastated when, halfway through a beautiful job, the builders announced they had a new boss: Madonna. “Why?” I wailed. The Material Girl had selfishly seduced them with a recording contract, album and promotional tour of the States. Their band, “Soul Hooligans”, acquired the same manager as Moby.
I cobbled together a crew to finish the house which I wanted to rent out. By the end of the job, I was £9,000 pounds overdrawn and so broke that I had to go round to my father’s house cap in hand begging for food handouts. None of my cards worked and the level of chaos I’d conducted the building project in was phenomenal. After spending at least £50,000, most of which was tax deductible from my future rent, I claimed nothing at all as I didn’t have a single receipt. The receipts had gone up in smoke probably when Susanna and I were drinking white lightening in the street, ignoring the trampish vibe we were giving off to the chic neighbours in the mews. Before I left, my BBC boyfriend took a series of photos of me lounging sexily in the newly completed house, in towering heels and a turquoise sequin bikini. I looked so thin I could snap.
After a short marketing process, including an article in the Sunday Times titled, “My Celebrity Hell,” an excellent tenant turned up offering a good rent. My moving date was set for the 19th of September. But “Notting Hill” writer and director, Richard Curtis, decided to spoil my plans. Moving day dawned…but the entire street was blocked with equipment for his latest film – the Hugh Grant vehicle, “Love Actually”. As usual, the catering station was camped outside my house. A six foot dolly was blocking my front door and it wasn’t the blow up kind, it was heavy and glowering, impossible to get around. There wasn’t even any sign of Hugh Grant or the other stars to relieve the gloom. My tenant was not impressed to find me still inside the house when he arrived.
I moved in temporarily with Susanna and Tupai and then shuffled back, broke, to Jamaica in October 2002. Luckily, I left my cocaine in the duty free shop at Heathrow airport (cocaine is, after all, not subject to VAT) before heading back to Jamaica to deal with my mother and cover the elections there. Sign up for updates on this blog
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Next week: struggling to cope with my mother, losing President Carter on Jamaica’s election day, why my mail ended up in Hiroshima and staging a one person Iraq war protest in the back seat of my car.