Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My night with the sex workers

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…

10 comments:

one small fish said...

you start by expressing your doubts about moving to France but your conclusion is not clear, the throb of the city and it`s sex workers and risk of an excessive early death or the repressed, verdant, parocial Bretagne that you find your self in?

Rosie said...

I think I got distracted by the sex...but I suppose that I mean that we are all survivors of one sort or another whether from the risks of the city or ordeal by woodstove

meggie said...

What a pity you never got to ask the nice young man...

I take it your internet woes are solved. I hope Porridge is not suffering from the vomit episode.

We had agonised over whether we did the 'right' thing, bringing our children to another country at crucial ages.

katydidnot said...

i will be back here. very intriguing. god i hope that's spelled right.

Rosie said...

my internet connection is intermittant..but the man has been this morning and tells me it is because of a telephone line installed by my sweet H inside the house, which is very noisy indeed,so we have shut it up. So far so good...
Porridge is a mooching pale shadow of her former vigorous self and slightly off her food. I think she must have found a secret supply of something unspeakable left in the garden, or she still has a hangover from her clean up after the party...

amy said...

What an intense trip it must have been, what with seeing old friends, thinking about paths taken and not taken, city vs country, and the mysterious and compelling lives of sex workers. The risk but richness of a life in music, and having survived. Thanks for taking us along vicariously.

Rob Hopcott said...

Thanks for a great visit to the wild side of the great city.

Life is so full of options but as long as our choices lead us to the things we want, perhaps it doesn't matter which route we choose to get there.

Lucy said...

Fancy not telling you about the red thing...
Without such intense contrasts, I alwyays get something of that poignant, shakey feeling when visiting old friends and London especially. I think it's partly somethingto do with the passing of time.
Here's hoping you survive premature death by woodstove...

Rosie said...

amy, it is a strange sensation seeing people after so long. It made me look at myself through others eyes just for a moment.
rob, maybe the idea is to want what you've got and not be seduced by might have beens...
Lucy, yes, I'm wondering why no-one mentioned the red business beforehand, maybe it was in small print on the invite...surely I wasn't being set up?

Robert said...

It was incredible to see you at the All About Eve show, and wonderful to read your take on the evening.. ..the sex workers were so glad to have something to align with rather than fight with . The show was meant to raise questions and debate which I think it did . It was a difficult subject matter and as someone pointed out not one for everyones living room wall . The show will be in Barcelona in June.
please let me know when you come to London next time and we will meet in less hot and sticky surroundings Love Sandra T x