Portobello Puff - Week 13

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...

"You feel a slight tingling sensation in your right hand. Do you think:

a) You must have slept awkwardly. It'll go in a couple of hours.

b) It's probably from too much time on the computer. Better take it a bit easy.

c) It's definitely the start of Locked-in Syndrome and by tomorrow morning your entire body will be paralysed and you'll be strapped into a hospital bed like the man in the 'Diving bell and the Butterfly', reduced to communicating with the outside world by blinking your left eyelid..."

I am at my desk working on a questionnaire for the website, to help readers gauge their level of optimism and trust in the world. I've already done one, but it seemed a little lacklustre so I'm doing an alternative. My editor suggested the subject of trust after reading me a quote from Einstein ('The single most important decision any of us will ever make is whether or not to believe that the universe is friendly'). She then went on to tell me how quantum physics is now proving that a person's thoughts can have a direct effect on the world around them, but to be honest I'd switched off by then.

I go back to my alternative questionnaire.

"There's a strange musty smell coming from beneath the floorboards. Do you assume;

a) It's just the drains playing up. It will pass.

b) You must have mice. A quick dose of Pest Stop Mouse Killer will soon sort it.

c) Your home is in fact built on a mass grave, having once been inhabited by a particularly industrious serial murderer. After forensics have dug up the ninety five bodies (with the whole street watching on, agog), the entire house will be ripped down and the derelict site will become a prime attraction on one of those ghoulish London tours which takes in the former homes of mass murderers...

I glance over at Geoff, keen to test run this new questionnaire, but he's still snoozing on the sofa after an eight hour taxi shift. He moved in two days after Christmas and says he'll be gone by mid-January.

"Your boyfriend/girlfriend is away on business. You can't get hold of them. Do you assume;

a) They're busy brainstorming and will call when they can.

b) They must have had a big night and are sleeping off a hangover from hell.

c) On the way back to the hotel after the big night, they were hit by a heavy goods lorry which didn't stop so they were left to crawl into the doorway of Accessorize, where they bled to death from internal injuries with people trampling over them the next morning to get to those decorative woolly gloves in the sale.

My mobile vibrates on the desk by my computer.

'Hello you' says the text. It's from Wilson.

Geoff stirs and yawns. 'Who's that?'

'Wilson,' I say.

'Why's he texting you? I thought he had a girlfriend.'

'They split up eight months ago,' I say. 'Remember?'

Geoff laughs. 'And you honestly believe that?'

To be continued next Friday...


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