Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

Low life | 29 September 2016

The reason I didn’t was not that the great man would have objected but that I was hoping to get lucky once I was there

I stood in front of the mirror in the £61-a-night hotel room in Paddington, buttoned my polyester dinner jacket and straightened my bow tie. The last time I’d worn a dinner jacket was nearly three years earlier, I remembered, at the Cigar Smoker of the Year. What a night that was. I dug through the pockets in case there was any MDMA still hanging about. I found a dog-end and a 100mg tablet of Indian-made Viagra. I took a selfie in the mirror, picked up the gift-wrapped birthday present and card, switched off the studio-quality strip light, and closed the door behind me. As I tripped down the front steps of the hotel into the velvet September evening, headed for Taki’s 80th birthday party at Loulou’s, life felt pretty good.

‘Fancy a nice time, dearie?’ said a small plump woman with a shining round face as her step fell seamlessly in with mine on the lamp-lit Victorian paving slabs of Norfolk Square. ‘I’m sorry. No. I can’t,’ I said. ‘I’m on my way to a birthday party and I’m late already.’ ‘Where is it?’ she said. ‘Loulou’s in Mayfair,’ I said. ‘Do you know it?’ ‘Never heard of it, dearie. So what about a nice blow job then before you go?’

I looked sideways at her face. She was English, from the north. Late twenties. Short black hair slicked smoothly over her scalp completed the impression of roundness. In return, I got a cross between a saucy smirk and an embarrassed wince. I liked her — of course I did. How could one not admire the courage, the fatalism, the capitulation. I liked the ready sense of humour façade. Her retro belief that a man wearing a dinner jacket and black tie is generally more open than most to offers of this kind, I also liked.

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