Portobello Puff - Chapter 5

Hannah and Geoff aren't your typical Notting Hill dwellers. Hannah lives above Poundland in Portobello Road in a rent subsidised flat, barely bigger than a Bran Flakes box. She freelances from home for a Health and Well-being website, suffers from panic attacks and the psoriasis on her left elbow is spreading rapidly. Her best mate Geoff has had three novels rejected, can't afford to liberate his only suit from the dry cleaners and survives on a diet of fried egg sandwiches...

'Are you sure the tiny woman is Wilson's girlfriend?' says Geoff, opposite me in Coffee Plant.

'Yes,' I sigh, 'she told me so.' I stir some more consolation sugar into my cappuccino. 'He's obviously a player.'

'But he looks like a geek,' says Geoff.

'I know,' I say miserably. I've always gone for geeks - Jarvis Cocker, Stephen Merchant, the Milky bar kid.

'So how did you leave it?' says Geoff, using his left hand to lift his cup.

'I told them I was off to another party,' I say, 'then I spent the rest of the night at home watching 'Ring of Bright Water' with a bottle of whisky welded to my mouth.'

I scratch my wrist. The psoriasis has taken a turn for the worse, not helped by the Guardian's Psoriasis Special supplement last week, which listed a rich and varied array of 'co-morbid conditions' that can often accompany psoriasis vulgaris. It's only a matter of time.

There's a short silence while Geoff and I contemplate the pile of pumpkins on Linda's veg stall outside. The top pumpkin, which obviously didn't make it to the party, has a half set of jagged teeth carved out of its side.

'What happened there then?' I say nodding to Geoff's right hand which rests limply on the table like a freshly landed fish.

'I had a run-in with the agent.' He explains that after leaving the Pop-up gallery, galvanised by Gallo wine, he headed into Soho and 'just found' himself hammering on his agent's front door.

'When he came out, I punched him,' he says, 'so now I don't have an agent anymore.' He rubs his knuckles and stares back at the pumpkin pile. It took him three years to find this agent.

The café door opens and the two yoga teachers walk in, peachy cheeks glowing in the afternoon gloom.

'That's why everyone's experiencing such crises at the moment,' says the one who calls herself Shakti, as she joins the coffee queue to my left. 'It's because of the shift in vibration. Whatever isn't working has to go, to make way for the new positive energies.'

As I study the smooth, smooth skin of 'Shakti's' face, picturing it riddled with psoriasis vulgaris, I feel something shift in me. It certainly isn't positive 'energy'.

I tap her on the arm. 'Excuse me,' I say, 'but aren't you bored yet? Energy this, energy that, Mayan calendars, paradigm shifts ...' My voice is weirdly high and louder than intended. 'Sai Baba, spelt bread, fish oils, Omega 3...' I realise I'm veering off course and venting at my job but I can't seem to stop.

'Quorn, quinoa, cardiovascular, Me-time...' My palms are slick with sweat and my heart is going like the clappers. I can feel Geoff's right hand on my shoulder. He's saying something but it sounds all distorted like one of those electronicky Cher songs.

'It's all a pile of cr...' Before I can finish a wave of dizziness engulfs me and everything goes blank.

To be continued next Friday...


What's Hot