Brenda’s Unfortunate Record #26
‘Oh my god that’s sooooooo Dalston!’
She’s dressed in upmarket high street punk, donning a plastic crown and she’s now eying us up despairingly. A few seconds ago a wand was waving at the blue IKEA sack we have on the table. ‘What’s in the baaaaaaag?’ she’d said before making a guess ‘I bet it’s one of those globes you open up to find a mini-bar’. In fact it’s a rather plain looking TV/DVD combo, that oh so Dalstonian staple, which DC and I have carted up from Morden. It’s 1030pm on a Monday night & we’re in Superstore, tucking into a well-earned nightcap. The girl is with a group of similarly outfitted ladies, one of who DC recognises as a Top 40 radio DJ.
‘How do you know these things?’ I ask and she tells me it’s amazing what you unwittingly pick up on Instagram.
Not so long ago the lights from the disco ball were making the room rock. We were still out to sea, having stepped through the looking glass hours before. It was DC’s idea ‘cause what else are you gonna do on such a long journey?’ and I easily went along with it. I don’t think either of us anticipated what an epic voyage we’d set off on.
By the time we emerged from the Northern Line both our eyes were saucer’d. I’d had the foresight to take a couple screen grabs of Google Maps before we left Old Street. ‘Let’s just get out of the station’ I said. Pushing my heavy limbs up the stairs. We were both laughing. Out in the bright lights of Morden I tried to make sense of it all. DC was distracted by a long queue of people.
‘What are they waiting for? Is it a bus? Why are they all in a line like that? OMG there’s a Whimpy!’. Sure enough there was and with that, we were plunged into the 1970s. I worked out that we needed to cross the road but doing so was a whole other matter. The blue dotted lines jumped from the screen, snaking their way through the traffic lights. Taking DC’s arm, we tried to follow.
‘I think it’s this way. Stop G’
Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long and when the single-decker bus arrived, we cocooned ourselves in a couple of seats towards the back. I looked out the window in awe, dropping my jaw at the Hopper-esque beauty of the Kebab shop.
‘You know this place really reminds me of Hamtramck’ I said, pulling out my phone. DC agreed. The resemblance was uncanny. Like kids in a candy shop we squealed in delight as every bit of mundane suburbia transformed before our eyes. It was hysterically funny. ‘We can’t miss our stop!’ I gasped, paying no notice to the other passengers until it was finally time to get off. They couldn’t have been impressed.
Back out into the night things felt a lot more rural. Gone were the brightly lit take-aways. We were near a motorway. The air felt colder and the stars in the sky were vivid and sparkling. DC was fumbling through her pockets. ‘I don’t have change’ she said. ‘It’s £27. I want to have it all counted, I don’t want to hang about’. We’d been reminiscing about the time I’d accompanied her to view a room in Lewisham. It was miles away and totally not right – a windowless shoebox in the basement of this strange lady’s house – only I’d made myself at home, accepting a cuppa and getting drawn into a lengthy conversation about kid’s books. DC had been livid, desperate to get out of there. Me on the other hand, I mean we’d come all that way, right? …. so tonight she was being extra cautious, ’if they offer biscuits, you say no!’
‘I wonder what Jane’s like?’ I asked. ‘I bet she’s there with her husband. I reckon they’re nearly retired. I mean, who sticks a TV/DVD combo up on Craig’s List? I bet one of their kids helped.’
Jane was not what we imagined. Her very narrow condo-house was down a very narrow lane. She opened the door and invited us in. The appliance was plugged in at the entrance, ‘you see it works!’ she said pointing at the foreign-language film playing on the tiny screen.
‘Yep it’s great!’ DC was nodding, shoving cash into her hand as quickly as she could. I was eying up Jane’s husband. I decided his name was Charles and I was waiting for him to say hello. DC unwrapped the IKEA bag and stuffed in the telly as quickly as possible, all the while retreating. ‘Thank you!’ she said, pushing me back into the cold.
‘Awe sweet! Are your cats coming in?’ I asked about the two ginger moggies who’d appeared at my feet, looking keen as ever to bolt in the house.
‘They’re not ours!’ Jane said, swiftly closing the door.
We fumbled back round the corner and erupted with laughter. Then DC started to have doubts, ‘what if it doesn’t work?’
‘But we saw it playing! It will!’
‘Yeah but with her DVD. What if it doesn’t work with mine?’
‘Well then maybe you can email and ask for hers?’
Back on the bus DC was still suspicious, examining her purchase. ‘Oh my god, look at this, it’s totally fake’. I came round and investigated the back ticket. She was right, it definitely wasn’t written in any language I’d ever seen. ‘Is it hieroglyphics?’. Another fit of hysterical laughter.
‘I don’t want to leave Morden’. The tube journey back was arduously familiar. By the time we got to Old Street we’d both had enough of public transport and decided to walk back, each slinging a bag strap over our shoulder. It was like some variation on a three legged race. We moved up Pitfield street slowly, nattering away and laughing laughing laughing. The shadows danced whilst we wove between worlds, all the while managing to stay on the same plane. Splashing through the expanding puddles of traffic lights, senses on full alert.
Arriving in Dalston, DC still didn’t quite feel comfortable enough climbing on a double-decker ‘I need a simple bus, none of these multiple entrances or lotus-like looks’, which is how we ended up at the bar.
And now the girl with the crown is sat at the next booth. They’re taking turns posing for photos and she seems to have forgotten us. I ponder her, her friends, her comment, our night … there’s always gonna be some Nathan Barley isn’t there? But ultimately, I’ve gotta be and so does she, no matter where we end up or what we’re seen to represent. Onwards and upwards, sisters!