I agonise over our decision to leave the city and bring up our children in the country..in another country. Was it the right thing to do? Would I have been happier if I had stayed in London with my friends, been there for my parents when they died?
Going back to London always starts off this chorus of doubting voices. But usually I only go back to see the one good friend that I have stayed very close to. She moves in an academic world now, which is very different from the rock and roll circus that we both used to know.
So it was with mixed emotions that we set off together to see the art exhibition of another old friend from those crazy times. It was rather like going to a school reunion where you have seen no-one from your class for nearly twenty years. Will they be shocked when they see how old I have become?
A large security guard opened the door to a gallery which was packed out and very hot. It was difficult to see the paintings so I looked at the people, scanning faces and trying to remember. And, yes, I recognised some. Time had left traces of each battle we had fought and some had been harder than others. I struggled to the bar and found myself next to a charming young man from Marseille who helped me to a glass of white wine. He resolutely answered my French with English and when I asked what he was doing in London, he drew my attention to his red umbrella. “I am a sex worker”, he said. “All the sex workers here are carrying or wearing something red.”
My nerve failed me at this point and I felt that I was not yet quite ready to ask any more questions about what he did until I had at least finished my wine. Sure enough, as I looked about me, I noticed a few more items of red clothing and accessories. Relieved that I had left my red scarf at home, I made my round of the erotic paintings. The snippets of conversations overheard were as interesting as the paintings.
A collector was saying to a member of the gallery staff, “I love it, but where will I hang it? It’s a bit too up front for my living room.”
“What about the bathroom? It’s acrylic so it will be fine!” came the reply.
“No, I’ve got one in there already.”
I could only suppose that his bedroom, a more obvious place, was already over flowing with artwork.
I stared with interest at vaginas and penises some of which were curiously sugar coated in pastel shades. Perhaps this made them more palatable.
My favourite was Little Man which I would have been happy to hang anywhere in my house, but I do not have a budget for him. This work reminds me of a print we have by Hiroshige that my sweet H got when he was in Japan, the subject being the same but the realisation rather different.
I walked past the installation of pole dancer videos, looking for my friend to get her reactions and found her surrounded by a group of sex workers who were exclaiming delightedly at the paintings. It was obviously a positive experience for them to be at an event where they and their choices were taken seriously.
I caught up with the faces that I recognised and some that I didn’t and we briefly filled in the last twenty years. Sadly at least two of the circle I had known had died premature deaths. There is a high rate of attrition in the music business. It is a dangerous occupation. But those left were bursting with life, still in there, survivors.
Best friend and I did the rounds, offered congratulations for all the little red sold dots which had appeared on paintings, and made our way to an Indian restaurant to recover.
I’d still like to know what the young man from Marseille did though, and now it’s too late to ask…
1 day ago