Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Article excerpt

Then she rented us a luxury apartment at Penzance in Cornwall for a week. Sightseeing was not high on our agenda. Bring cable ties, she'd said. I've been a naughty girl.

She went down by train; I drove. I drove due west for three hours through a rainstorm of tropical intensity. My new phone's blue light winked text messages from her all the way down. One said: 'Lost my musth. It's completely gone. Menopause?'

The apartment was called Stanhope Forbes, in homage to the leading light of the Victorian era Newlyn artists' colony. Stanhope Forbes's paintings of bustling late-Victorian fish quay scenes, with lovely girls in virginal pinafores, decorated the apartment's whitewashed walls.

The domestic appliances were state of the art - I couldn't work out how to operate any of them - and the furniture was both contemporary and comfortable.

E arlier in the week, she'd sent a photo of the lounge, excited about the possibilities offered by the low, comfortable-looking curves. With her musth now gone, at least the chances of her getting the damage deposit refunded in full at the end of the week had increased dramatically.

I n case it stayed away, and we found ourselves with little or nothing to occupy ourselves, I applied for a week's temporary membership at the gym.

E ven though I 'm a gym member at home, for health and safety reasons I would have to go through the long and tedious process of a three-part gym 'induction', warned the woman on the phone when I rang up. The splendid reality, however, was a friendly gym instructor looking me up and down, then saying, 'See that door there? That's the fire door.

I f there's a fire, you'll be following me out through it. Have a good workout.'

On the first day we visited St I ves. Middle E ngland was there, possibly in its entirety, like a victorious army of occupation. We took refuge from the crowds in a small bookshop.

After browsing for a while, I looked around and saw that she'd picked Fifty Shades of Grey off the shelf and was standing motionless as a statue, utterly engrossed.

'Listen to this rubbish!' she burst out. Then she read out a passage of dialogue.

I t was rather cliched.

I wandered about the shop fingering more paperbacks from the shelves. Another derisive snort from her and she read out a passage in which Anastasia receives a photograph from Christian, plus a message which says (something like): 'There are 30 surfaces in this picture. …

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