Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Article excerpt

Before I went to the party, I went to the pub for a pint. The pub was unusually quiet for a Saturday evening. Jay was on duty behind the bar. She leaned across the bar to embrace and kiss me. She had a terrible hangover, she said. I told her to have one herself, and she thanked me and put a pound coin in her tips glass, as she does. I like Jay. There was a stage in Jay's life when circumstances forced her and her two children to live in a tent for six months. Everything Jay has she's had to scrabble for. Yet hard times involving tents haven't politicised her. I've never heard her make a moral or a political judgment about anything.

After she'd served me, she resumed her perch on a barstool and continued with her texting. I braced my back comfortably against a pillar, stared out of the open door at the drizzle and the shiny street, and savoured every swallow of my pint. When my glass was empty Jay slid down from her stool and poured me another. While she was about it, I said, could she make my face up? 'Of course, Jerry, mate.

Of course, ' she said. (Jay's Scouse. ) I took face paints and a shaving brush from my carrier bag and she came around to my side of the bar and under instruction painted my face and neck stark white and my eye sockets red. Then I took out of the bag my chef's jacket, trousers and hat, all liberally splashed with fake blood, and put these on over my jeans and shirt. Job done, I resumed my comfortable position with my back against the pillar and began communing with pint number two. Jay returned to her perch on her side of the bar and continued texting.

Presently, a young woman darted in out of the drizzle. She was in her early twenties, light and energetic. Her headscarf, practical outdoor clothes and absence of cosmetics gave her an attractive, peasant air. 'Can I help you, love?' Jay said.

It might sound silly, said the woman, but although she lived quite near, she hadn't been to any of the pubs in town yet, and she was wondering if this pub was 'OK'. 'Yeah, sure, it's OK, ' said Jay, giving a considered and sisterly answer to a valid question. 'It's OK, isn't it, Jerry?' Yeah, it's OK, said the psycho zombie chef, her one and only customer, taking his nose out of his glass. …

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