So, I wrote a novel in November, taking part in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge. And now what? Well, I’m editing and writing more. The basic plot line is about a lady who aspired to the life you’re ‘supposed’ to have – career, marriage, 2.5 kids, but it didn’t turn out that way. She is now struggling to redefine herself and her life. With some time off, she plans a holiday but is side tracked by some graffiti. She sets out to find whoever is writing”Lager” and “Pie” all over London, but ends up rediscovering herself. It has become a bit of a monster with the addition of new (yet to be written) story lines. One will be about another lady, who appears to have it all, but is so bored with her life she wishes a terrorist attack would happen just to spice things up and one will be about a fictional (to me and to the story) graffiti artist.
It’s not perfect yet, but here’s a sneak preview.
You can practically smell the entitlement on this train and there is a scent in the air of expensive, day-time perfume and hair products and new designer bags. The metallic dog tags bearing Italian names or tiny engraved pictures placed carefully at eye level or held by the elbow to ensure everyone can see it. I swear I smell my bespoke scent- the eau de shitty morning and the hospital, the plastic seats and other patient’s coughs blending unflatteringly with my grapefruit-scented shower gel and sweat. My combed, but unstyled hair getting frizzier by the second from the humidity on the train and with a will of its own, just to spite the perfect bob standing next to me. My hand, bare of rings, looks naked as I hold the pole above the hand connected to the perfect bob. It’s adorned with gold and a large diamond, proving her husband’s love to the world. I move further down the aisle to free up a little more space, to avoid jabbing anyone with own bag I bought years ago when I was a fully-paid-up member of this club, the aspirational club
The graffiti, walls, bridges, trains scrolls by like a film strip. The soundtrack is talk of mortgages and house prices and the accountant and deposits and renting out their old flat.
A voice in the carriage, emanating from the walls, interrupts “we are being held here at a red signal. On behalf of myself and the driver we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause to your journey”. I’ve heard it so many times I recognise the voice of different guards. They speak the stock phrase in varying tones; sometimes it sounds like the guard actually cares that your journey is delayed, again. I stare out of the window like I’m watching a screen gazing at a stationary picture, waiting for it to move. The train is stopped under the shadow of another rail line, a bridge carrying other commuters to Victoria station, with a view onto a brick wall like some ‘affordable’ flats. It has layers of dark grime that makes me worry about the long-term health effect of living in London, demarcated by numbers and slashes for the builders who undertake the ubiquitous rail replacement works and some graffiti that makes you wonder what was the point of trespassing there to write. A series of decorative but barely discernible names and sayings that mean God knows what. A simple tag, Lager, daubed on the dirty bricks in white spray paint stands out. I guess so we know who London belongs to, what really keeps the city ticking over.There’s a small wooden box left under the graffiti. I wonder if it contains something gory, a crime story in an old cake box, but it probably just holds the empty cans from last night’s tagging session.
As the train starts to move, and it slithers and jolts through the underpasses. “Lager” is repeated, punctuated by a purple portrait of a girl with a bandana and large, confrontational eyes and confusingly and more white tags reading ‘piez’. Are the person writing ’lager’ and the one writing ‘piez’ friends? Is it an inside joke, a long distance rivalry played out on opposite moonless nights? Don’t these yobs have better things to think about? Gang wars to fight? Territory to dispute? Finally, someone has written ”The only good cop is a dead cop” and it reads out like a breath of fresh air, in a way. There they are, the inner city kids, the social unrest scrawled under all the cranes, new glass and unchecked development, half buried in the railway cutting next to the power station that was sold off in minutes to the highest bidders for unfinished flats which will sit empty, accruing wealth. The train stops again next to a signal box, a large arrow pointing in the opposite direction to the train, a note underneath says simply “Open country, this way” above a large arrow. Leave the city, leave the delayed journey and worries about house prices and good schools. Leave your problems, your job, your stamped-on dreams. Open country, this way. Evidently, even the graffiti is aspirational in this city. It reminds me that there are other places to be than on this train, other journeys to make than the commute. The train stops, with a view between modern buildings and renovated council flats of Parliament and the tower holding Big Ben. Too quickly to appreciate the view and with the spray paint pointing back along the tracks, away from Waterloo station, away from the city, away from London, the train whines into motion once again and it carries me to the big changeover at Waterloo where I fight my way through the backpacks and gym bags and oversized designer bags to the long wait on the stairs for the Waterloo and City Line.