When I was nineteen, I started writing a novel. I got up to ninety pages of neatly word-processed A4 – around 45,000 words if you are interested – before I realised that it was perhaps the biggest load of twaddle ever conceived (though I admit I haven’t yet read the latest Jo Brand, so should probably avoid leaping to conclusions).
At the time, I had filled my head with the foolish idea of developing it into a screenplay and taking the lead role in the resulting Oscar winner. I believe I was in the process of engineering a scene where I got to perform a trois with my leading ladies (Miranda Richardson and Helena Bonham Carter) when it struck me that my ability to write toe-curlingly embarrassing erotica was rivalled only by my stodgy dialogue and hackneyed plot development.
Chastened and ashamed, I decided never to write fiction again. Obviously time healed and I subsequently started a handful of other projects only to have my enthusiasm waver, confidence shatter and wastepaper basket overflow with further turgid dross.
It is ironic, therefore, that the only piece of fiction I have ever finished was the only one I didn’t actually start. A while ago the BBC ran a competition called “End of Story”, for which several prominent authors penned the first half of short stories and contestants were asked to finish them. The best ones (as voted for by the authors themselves) won all sorts of literary riches like publishing deals, leather-bound souvenir copies of their winning entries, and gushing praise from the hostess of the accompanying TV show, who, from memory, was Claudia Winkleman, but could just as easily have been Davina McCall or Kate Thornton. A slightly geekier version of Pop Idol, you might call it.
Anyway, you have probably gathered by now that I didn’t win and I have placed the blame firmly at the door of my chosen writing partner, the “comedian” Alexei Sayle.
I can only imagine the sleazy, over-acting Scouse twat was unmoved by my tender, slightly sexually ambiguous denoument to his trashy preamble, because I thought the eventual winner’s effort was tame and unimaginative by comparison. OK, maybe he wasn’t convinced by the homoerotic subplot, but, in my opinion, the latent gayness lends the piece a poignancy Sayle can only dream of. See what you think.
For legal reasons, I cannot reproduce Sayle’s original start to the story, but I doubt the BBC will give two hoots if I display my ending here. All you need to know about the beginning is that hero Rory invents a make-believe tenant so he can justify evicting his best mate Byron from his flat.
If you are at all moved by it, I would be grateful if you could get in touch with Alexei and let him know the extent of his error. I will content myself with watching Young Ones reruns and dreaming of smashing his pudgy face in…
Unpromising beginnings: Alexei Sayle
Rory conceded later that this may have been an apt moment to come clean, but something was holding him back. He had always felt himself cast in the role of supporting actor to Byron’s swash-buckling action hero, living life vicariously through his friend’s meaningful life experiences. Now he was part of the adventure himself. Katherine Walker had done that – he was not about to cast her adrift.
“I think she’d like to meet you too. She’s always going on about how much she loves your poetry.”
Byron was clearly intrigued. “Really? Which one in particular?”
This threw Rory somewhat. Desperately he thought back to those early recitals. It was hardly “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” stuff. At best one might call it edgy and avante garde; more realistically it was rambling pornography describing acts that were certainly unnatural, probably illegal and frankly just plain wrong.
“Er, she was particularly fond of the one about the goat and the large Brazilian woman,” he said finally.
“Ah Juanita,” Byron murmured, momentarily lost in thought. Regaining his composure, he went to his case and retrieved one of his notebooks. “Man, I feel such a connection to this chick.* She really inspires me, you know?” He sat at the small desk and began to write in his familiar ostentatious scrawl. Rory sat back and admired the passion that was obviously flowing forth. Eventually he backed up and tiptoed unnoticed from the room. He knew better than to try to disrupt Byron’s creative process.
Two hours later, Byron emerged weary but elated and presented Rory with the fruits of his labour: a beautifully presented scroll of manuscript tied in a flourish with vermillion ribbon. “See that she gets this,” he said earnestly, touching Rory lightly on the arm.
“No problem, mate.” Rory studied his friend closely, noticing for the first time the long, lavish almost feminine eyelashes and tousled hair that clung seductively to his temples, moist from endeavour. In his Regency style shirt with frilly cuffs (that Rory had always privately thought to be a trifle pretentious) he looked quite the romantic hero.
As soon as he had closed the front door, Rory dashed back to Katherine’s room, threw himself on the bed and attacked the manuscript with the enthusiasm of a small child opening his first present on Christmas Day. He pored over the poem, greedily devouring every poorly formed couplet and clunking metaphor. Byron had toned down considerably since “Ode to Juanita”, but this was still jaw-droppingly explicit stuff to a man of Rory’s limited sexual experience. He felt an ambiguous shiver of excitement as he concocted Katherine’s response.
* * * * *
The euphoria lasted a week. But what a week: Blissful, endless hours of pure exhilaration. Rory and Byron met daily, sometimes in their local pub, but usually in Katherine Walker’s room. Letters, poems and saucy little notes flew back and forth. Rory acted the faithful middleman, but he secretly revelled in the power he was wielding. He loved the way one swirl of the pen, one slyly worded innuendo would leave Byron visibly dry of mouth, aching and vulnerable.
It couldn’t last. Lies, like ill-conceived dot-coms, are generally doomed to failure. Byron had an extremely short attention span and while their early meetings tapped into his fervent almost child-like enthusiasm for anything new and vaguely sexually charged, he soon tired of Katherine’s games.
Rory realised he had let things get away from him rather. Katherine’s room had become cluttered with clothes, knick-knacks and expensive perfumes – he had spent more time, money and effort on her in the past month than he had on Jenny in the last two years. Jenny. He had barely spoken to her in a week.
Clandestine trips across London clutching tampax had brought the whole sorry affair into some perspective. As he sat on the sofa in bleak contemplation, he realised he had only one option: He had to come clean. Tonight.
* * * * *
Trust Byron to be late. Bastard probably won’t show at all Rory thought darkly as he ordered his fourth pint of Stella. At that moment though, the pub door swung open, and Byron bounded over. “I’ve done it Rory,” he said triumphantly, “I’ve given Danuta the boot. Bloody Croatian maniac – I should have done it weeks ago.”
“That’s great, but look, there’s something I…”
But Byron interrupted and gestured flamboyantly at the barman. “Another two of those,” he said, pointing at Rory’s pint, “and two whisky chasers. You and I are celebrating, my friend.”
And, just like that, Byron was back. The next three hours whirled by in a haze of laughter, back-slapping and strong continental lager. By closing time, Rory was rapturous. He gazed dreamily over Byron’s features: The eyes that burned into him like flaming emeralds; the masculine jaw and elegant nose. Rory was captivated – utterly seduced by his companion’s sheer brazen confidence and splendour. There was no way he could let him down now.
“So compadre,” Byron said finally, “What news did you have about a certain Miss Walker?”
“She’ll see you tomorrow,” Rory whispered. “Come round for lunch.”
It was worth it just for the wonderful warm smile that played over Byron’s lips. As the two men embraced, Rory felt a surge of unfamiliar, latent energy stirring deep within his soul.
Once home, he staggered straight past his own room and into Katherine’s. He opened the wardrobe door and rifled maniacally through the extensive range of charity shop dresses, Jenny cast-offs and, latterly, designer brands. Eventually he yanked a fetching black satin ball-gown down off the hanger and slammed the door shut. A handsome alluring figure stared back at him in the mirror. Rory raised the dress to his face and breathed in deeply, enjoying the luxurious softness against his bristly chin. The figure in the mirror spoke quietly:
“’Have to look our best for tomorrow, don’t we girl?”
* * * * *
He was woken next morning by the sunlight piercing his brain like a million shards of glass and a nagging sense of foreboding. The first thing that struck him was the smell. The room was heavy with an intoxicating blend of tart’s boudoir and wrestler’s jock-strap. Exhaling, Rory realised that his breath was the chief culprit – it smelled like a badger had crawled into his mouth and died.
Groggily he got out of bed and immediately collapsed to the floor, a shooting pain in his ankle. Reaching down, he was more than a little surprised to see his whopping size nines stuffed into a pair of tiny stilettos. Fearfully, Rory inspected the rest of the damage. It was not good. Coarse black hairs splayed through a pair of laddered fishnets and the rest of his sweaty carcass was crammed into the black gown – a large, ugly split exposing an expanse of fleshy thigh.
He opened his mouth to scream but no noise came out. In the same instant, he heard urgent footsteps on stairs outside and Byron’s big booming voice overpowering Jenny’s desperate protestations. As the voices neared, Rory remained frozen to the spot silently cursing the fact that a woman as sassy and liberated as Katherine Walker had no need for a lock on her door.
*Yes, I know the dialogue and language is embarrassingly poor, but it's all about assimilation - Sayle's original dialogue made the Clangers sound eloquent.