Much to my confusion and embarrassment I am living in a large cardboard box at the edge of a quiet road on Dartmoor. It is quite a sturdy box, it leans against a drystone wall and one side is open to the elements. The carpet is the tarmac. Nick B arrives unexpectedly. I hear his sonorous voice before I see his cream chinos, his brogues.
On hands and knees I come out. He brings books. He is too polite to inquire further of my abode.
Comet Gain, Sam F and myself are wandering around a deserted shopping centre in Berlin. We walk up and down still escalators to different levels. All the shops are closed. All the shops are empty. We are reflected in the dusty windows. Pigeons fly above us. They thud into the glass ceiling. They fall to the floor and limp around in circles, confused. Rachel Comet Gain suggests that we go through a door marked PRIVATE – this seems like a good idea, so we do.
We are in a series of empty concrete rooms. Pipework spaghettis the brick walls and our voices carry from room to room. Billions of tiny beetles underfoot like shells on a beach. The walls of the concrete rooms, the ceilings of them, melt away and the tiny beetles underfoot become billions of tiny shells on a beach. A soft and salty breeze fills the air and Sam says, “There aren’t any beaches in Berlin.”
Karen (I never knew her surname – or if I ever did it has long disappeared from my mind) X is walking on King Edward beach. It is a wild and windy winter’s day. I am high above her on the cliff top near the Priory ruins – although I may be in the air. I can see her quite clearly, she has not changed since the last time I saw her, which must be over 35 years ago: heavy kohl eyes, black bob, crimped, thick pan stick, pink-blush lips (Iron Lady by Miss Selfridge – I remember this detail for some reason). She has several layers of long black skirts, kitten-heeled suede ankle boots, black satin blouse with some improvised and kawaii bowtie of yellow silk. I am so surprised to see her that I call out her name. But the wind carries my voice away so I go to The Salutation pub where I find that Angela D is serving behind the bar. This doesn’t surprise me (although it should).
“I just saw Karen X on the beach.”
“She died,” says Angela D. “So you couldn’t have.”
The bottles and all the pumps are labelled Iron Lady.