By Liz Jones
David’s Birthday Weekend turned into a Birthday Week. We were supposed to spend Wednesday together but, as the Hospital Club and the whole of London were fully booked, it turned out we would have to spend Wednesday night at his flat. ‘Oh dear,’ said David. ‘I’ve been really ill, so I haven’t cleaned. I suppose I will have to go home and do it now.’
So he left me in the bar of the hotel while he went home to troubleshoot. He texted me: ‘The Hoover won’t work.’ He still doesn’t have a washing line, so his clothes, inevitably, will be drying on radiators: the sight of his myriad pairs of Levi’s perched, as stiff as boards, around his flat is like being at the lower half of a dreadful 70s rock concert. He returned, eventually, ashen, then remembered he hadn’t even got a card for his son, whose birthday we were celebrating that evening by having dinner in Berwick Street with him plus his wife, and David’s ex-wife. So he disappeared again. He also had to pick up the vegan cake, ordered from Lola’s bakery.
‘You will have to get changed,’ I told David when he returned, again, and he disappeared, to emerge in Levi’s and a white Levi’s shirt.
‘That’s not really a shirt, is it?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘It’s a Levi’s shirt. It’s almost denim. You can’t iron it. It’s too thick and casual.’
We drove to the restaurant. His ex-wife was already there: she is very beautiful and even more driven than I am. How on earth did she put up with David? Or perhaps he used to be more normal, active. She refused a glass of wine. ‘Do you drink, Liz?’ she asked me. David chuckled. ‘Does she drink? She can put away a bottle of champagne a night.’ (He was probably thinking of the price tag, not my liver.)
We were the first to leave. We drove back to his flat, and as he opened his flimsy front door, I thought, I can’t bear that he lives here. I remember when he first re-contacted me, sending me a text that he owed me lunch. I’d showed it to Nic. I was beaming. ‘Which one’s this?’ she asked. ‘The one who ended up in a hostel.’ ‘Then that’s a no,’ she said wisely. Now look at me. Homeless. It can happen to anyone.
The next day, we drove to Yorkshire. ‘Remind me to pay the congestion charge when we get there,’ he said. What am I? His mother? On Saturday, once I’d finished work, we went to see a house to rent in Middleham. It was dirt cheap, but I soon found out why: it was a wreck, with an overgrown garden, stained carpets, a plastic shower. But it’s in a beautiful spot, next to a racehorse yard, so I emailed the estate agent, said I really want it, but I would have to renovate it myself over time.
‘The Landlord [why don’t they just type God] doesn’t want it renovated, and it is available for six months only.’ So, three grand to move furniture in, three grand to move it all out six months later. Four million emails to EDF Energy, trying to make them understand I have moved in, then moved out. I couldn’t help myself. I replied: ‘It would take me six months just to get it clean.’ It’s incredible, the absolute dumps that specify: ‘No dogs.’
On Saturday night, I made vegetarian lasagne with gluten-free pasta. I spent hours making the sauce: de-stalking basil, steaming English broad beans and peas. We finally sat down to eat at 8pm. He took one mouthful: ‘It tastes “claggy”,’ he said. I gave it to the dogs.
‘I didn’t sleep last night,’ he added ominously.
‘Well, you should do more exercise, then you would be tired.’
‘I know what will tire me out,’ he said, a twinkle in his tiny eyes.
‘What? Poo picking?’
‘I don’t think you can manage it,’ I told him, then, seeing his face collapse in sorrow, I added, ‘all those hills. It’s too hard, pushing a full barrow as well.’
I made him Hoover the kitchen instead. I couldn’t understand why he kept unplugging it and moving it to a different socket. It turns out he hadn’t pulled the flex out. This from a man who told me earlier in the week, ‘I once thought about making a bicycle out of bamboo. I think it’s entirely possible.’