There comes a time in every old crone’s life when they have to sit down, take stock, brush themselves off and start all over again. So with that in mind this septuagenarian with a healthy ego made a decision.
The old git drove me to Tunbridge Wells station. I sat in the front coach of the 11.39 to Charing Cross. I meditated my way through High Brooms, Tunbridge, Sevenoaks, Orpington and London Bridge then opened my eyes at Waterloo East, gathered me bits and dismounted at Charing Cross.
A day of uncommon balm waited outside the tube. Camden Town in all it’s raggedy glory. In the 70’s I lived near the lock when furry Afghan coats were in vogue and amyl nitrate was the climatic drug of choice. The weather turned grey and cool so I crossed the road and went into a 75% sale in Urban Outfitters. I bought a t-shirt and dungarees, two vests, a pair of drawers and a pair of wooly leggings. When the bill came I nearly choked on my glottal stop but I acted cool. There retail assistants were young, papered in caramel foundation and huge caterpillar eyelashes. They didn’t laugh at my old jokes instead they gormlessly asked whether I wanted to keep the hangers. I had the labels cut out of my new clothes, folded up my summer dress and entered the Camden crowd looking like a very happy piece of mutton dressed as lamb.
The Northern Line to Camden was thrilling. Tourists and students, diversity and smart phones. I counted four pairs of shoes, a couple of sandals but mostly trainers. Old, young, fat thin, tall short, plimsolls were the thing. My grey and pink ones fitted in.
I heaved my bag onto the 214 which was peopled with old shopping dollies with their battered old shopping trollies. I climbed off at Prince of Wales Road, turned left onto Willes Road and took a seat in a tiny Vietnamese Restaurant. Eleven tables with lunchers slurping on Beef Pho, Chicken Pho, Prawn Pho and my Pho, which was vegetarian with squares of deep fried tofu. Everybody wore trainers except for a couple in the corner. I splattered soup over my new dungarees and smudged my lipstick. A dish of fresh bean sprouts, lime, coriander and chilli was placed before me to drop into my hot Pho. I have no trouble sitting alone but I have turned into the kind of old woman that makes inane conversation with whoever is sitting next me. I paid up and walked 150 paces round onto Grafton Road. The rain started and made more stains on my new dungarees. I found Rankins’ studio and rung the door bell.
A terrific hour of my life. From entering the building the young team looked after me. Nobody had make-up including me. I had on my signature lipstick but that was it. No hairdresser, no nuthink. Apart from my new t-shirt I presented myself as an unadorned 74 year-old with an air of faded grandeur.
Rankin is a dream too work with. In the space of seven minutes he clicked, I smiled, he called for a reflector, I opened my eyes. He clicked some more and we were done. His young assistants did their job, I did mine, Rankin did his and I walked out into the pouring rain.
I had an hour to get to Clapham South for a session with my Swedish acupuncturist. She felt my pulses told me to slow down and smell the coffee, stabbed me in my feet and behind my ears and I left at 4.00. Jumped on a bus to get me to the tube, counted the trainers on the return leg. Found a seat on the train and arrived home by 7.00 exhausted but satisfied.
The evening news was as shocking as ever. A ridiculous amount of blather and no action. I was back home, a day in the big smoke had revived me. So I called an agent and signed up with her. Contacted Spotlight and paid my fee. I had reentered the business with the help Rankin and his young platoon.
Wednesday was another scan for the ‘oosbind, and a morning drooling over the photos. Of course I look old but then I am. Thursday was admin and Friday was digesting my new reality. If the world is going to Hell in a hand-basket I’m now well prepared to be in a drama series slagging off the incompetent government. Or joining a modelling agency for mature women who wear clothes that have been recycled out of confetti and jigsaws. I look well enough to be in a podcast talking about the fate of the elderly and the destruction of the NHS. I am back in the game, although it’s Sunday now, and I’m fucking shattered. Thank God for Rankin who made an old thespian extremely happy, and thank you to Rishi Sunack for reminding me that there’s a job to be done, and since he ain’t doing it, we reinvigorated old fuckers will have to do it for him.