Tag Archives: Shepherd’s Bush

I will not be found dead in my flat with cats eating my face

Sunday night, my freezing and tiny flat, West London.  I switch on my laptop to watch a movie before going to bed: a fairly regular routine for me to welcome the working week.  Netflix announces a specific “recommendation for you, Simone” and I glimpse at it without too much thought. I take these recommendations with a pinch of salt.  They’re usually popular movies and often not worth a second glance, but today I’ve been recommended a documentary which is rare.  I decide to click on the information button to find out more.  I read the summary with shock and a slight sinking feeling. “Dreams of a life” tells the “strange story of Joyce Vincent, a 38 year-old woman whose body was found in her tiny flat three years after she died.”  I am 35.  If I died now, my body could be that of a 38-year-old woman found in her tiny flat in three years*.  With slight discomfort and anxiety, I press play.

I expect an American story so I’m startled by the opening close-up of a map of my area.  I know every street staring at me.   The map is replaced by shot-after-shot of Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherd’s Bush.  I’d been there just two hours ago.   Ugh, this is making me feel very uncomfortable.  But I’m sure that Joyce Vincent is an outcast or a misfit, she’ll have been weird and dysfunctional … not “normal” and nothing like me, that’s for sure.   I keep watching.

Joyce Vincent was well-spoken, middle-class, very attractive, friendly, had a good career, people liked her.  I cringe.  Joyce Vincent was far better than me.  Her death, and the reason she wasn’t discovered is a mystery.  How she went from an engaging and social human being to an undiscovered missing person is inexplicable.  Her skeleton was found on her sofa and the TV was still on after three years (I look guiltily at my TV glowing in the corner …).  No one knows how she died and her family hasn’t commented on why they weren’t in contact.

I feel the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is staring me in the face.

My friends and family are aware of my hermit tendencies.  My workplace shuts down over the festive period and a few Christmases ago, when it came time to return to work in the New Year, I realised that I’d not seen or spoken to a real-life person in thirteen days.  It hadn’t even dawned on me that I’d not interacted with a flesh-and-blood human until I arrived at work.  When I enter my cave I can be reluctant to emerge unless absolutely necessary.

This year I have a choice to make for Christmas; I can stay on my own in my flat, or I can visit my friend and her family in Ireland.  For weeks I’ve been stalling on a decision, but the moment has come.  I close netflix.com and open aerlingus.com.  Ten minutes later my flights to Dublin are booked.  I will NOT be Joyce Vincent.

And Netflix, you can keep your judgemental recommendations to yourself!

Afterword

I really didn’t appreciate one woman in the programme vehemently saying “It’s bad enough reaching 40, let alone being forty and alone.  Awful. Shocking.” Not all of us are lucky enough to be happily paired up and that doesn’t make us depressed lepers, thanks very much.

*I realise that I’d be a 35-year-old body in three years rather than 38, but you get my point.

Solitary adult pleasure

I’m not sure when I became the person who takes a bottle of wine into the cinema on their own.  At fourteen, my movie marathons were accompanied by awe-inspiring sweets and crisps binges; at some point I progressed to the adult version.  In time, I’ll be covered in cat hair and a trail of birdseed will spill from the bin liners I carry.  It’s Tuesday afternoon at the Vue Cinema, Shepherd’s Bush.  I’m in the ticket purchasing area having just watched “We Need To Talk About Kevin” and about to head in to “The Help”.  A woman in a grey suit holding a clipboard makes eye contact with me in a way that’s beckoning me to stop.  Slightly tipsy, I oblige.    

WOMAN:  Are you interested in two free tickets to a movie?

ME (pausing slightly, wary of the sales catch):  Um, maybe.

WOMAN:  All you have to do is put your name on this list and the tickets are yours.  We’re screening “Red Dog” here on Thursday.

ME:  Ah, that’s an Australian movie! (Nostalgia’s making me encourage her when I should be cutting her off).

WOMAN:  Ok, give me your name and I’ll put you down.  You need to bring a male with you for our numbers.

ME (thrown by the condition attached to the free tickets):  Oh, um, I don’t know who I’d bring ….

WOMAN:  You must have a male you can bring?

ME: Well, not really.  I’m single so …

WOMAN:  And you don’t have any family here?  A brother?  Cousin? (My Australian accent should indicate that my family are not Londoners).

ME (starting to feel pressured):  Well I have males I can bring, but they all live in other parts of London and won’t be free at such short notice. 

WOMAN:  So, you don’t have any male you could bring with you?  We can’t give you the tickets if you don’t bring a male. 

(Jesus Christ, is she trying to make me feel bad?  I look at her and just sort of shrug).

WOMAN:  I could give you three tickets instead of two and you could bring a couple with you?  (Ugh.  I’m in a scene from “Bridget Jones“). 

ME (pity and discomfort have drifted into the situation so I lie):  Oh, no it’s okay, I know exactly who I’ll take – two tickets are perfect! (My enthusiasm reeks of overcompensation).

I put my name down for the tickets, but won’t collect them; her judging eyes have slightly tainted my afternoon retreat.  She feels sorry for me, but her pity is misplaced.  Yes, I’ve developed some habits that might be described as eccentric, but at this very moment I’m entirely happy – few pleasures compare with a good movie and a “glass” of wine.  

Entering the cinema to watch my second movie of the day, I see there are only three other people viewing – all on their own and all men (I wonder if the “numbers” are acceptable in here …).  To some people, we’re desperate loners; if we were about to see an adult movie the whole scene would be sordid.  Instead I hear the familiar crinkling of food wrappers from three other seats and think of us as innocent fourteen year olds (nostalgia creeping over me again).  There’s an intimacy in our united solitude and anticipation of the escapism we’re about to share.  I stretch out, take my shoes off, pour myself a drink and wait to be transported to another world.