Suspending Disbelief in Real Life: A Night Out in The Big Smoke
“You JUST couldn’t write this stuff!”
As a writer (or even as a non-writer), have you ever said that to yourself or to someone else? I know I have. Many times, in fact. I’ve seen and experienced things that are so unlikely, not to mention so outright ridiculous that if I’d written them, I’d be putting myself at risk of failing to suspend disbelief in my reader. Usually it’s the kind of thing you’d never dream up in a million years, not even if you’d raided the shelves at your local pharmacy.
Last week I received an email from a television comedy writer who had a big hit series on the BBC some years back. Apparently he was looking out his bedroom window the other morning, only to discover that his front gate had vanished. Certain he hadn’t misplaced it, he got dressed and promptly set off to search for it, eventually finding it in the next street over, leaning against somebody’s front door. The homeowner, who appeared in her dressing gown looking none too pleased at the intrusion, didn’t take kindly to my friend’s claim that it was HIS gate on HER property. She proceeded to interrogate him, demanding to know how he knew the gate belonged to him in the first place – whereupon he drew her attention to the fact that the gate had his house number on it. How did the gate get there? He concluded that the local lads had stolen it as a drunken prank.
A hit comedy writer for the BEEB, and even he had to admit that he could never have come up anything this bizarre in one of his television scripts.
I know exactly what he means. Only last night I attended a drinks do at a pub in Islington (one that wisely supplied my Belgian strawberry beer on tap, I might add). It was a bon voyage-slash-fundraiser for one of my friends, who’s setting off this weekend to bicycle from London to Lourdes to raise money for the Glanfield Children’s Group (https://www.bmycharity.com/V2/cycletolourdes08). I assumed it was going to be the usual piss-up at the pub kind of evening, replete with a mob of Irish Catholics suffering no guilt whatsoever about imbibing as many pints as the Vatican will allow. And that’s exactly how it started out.
…Until the guest of honour’s girlfriend brought out the waxing strips.
Undressing from the waist down to a pair of black bicycle shorts, her boyfriend bravely leaned back in his chair and shut his eyes. In true Murder On the Orient Express fashion, one by one we proceeded to have a go, stripping the virgin hairs off this poor lad’s calves, knees, and thighs. He was even forced to lie facedown so that the backs of his legs could be attended to. Much maniacal laughter ensued, along with yelps of pain from our victim, as both video and photographic evidence were collected on mobile phones and digital cameras – all of which will likely appear on Facebook. Save for a few glances in our direction, the other patrons sharing the mezzanine area with our little group carried on as if nothing unusual was transpiring within a few feet of their pint glasses. And perhaps this was true; perhaps men having their legs waxed in a pub is common practice in north London. Thank god nothing else was being waxed, that’s all I can say. Indeed, I was told more than once that this could be the inspiration for my next erotic story. It’s always nice to have your mates support and encourage your creative endeavours, isn’t it?
(Now in case you’re wondering if this waxing was initiated in order to appeal to the passions of the rural French he’ll be meeting on the way to Lourdes, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Its intended purpose was far more practical and far less erotic: if our bicylist ends up sustaining an injury to his legs, his wounds will be easier to clean and treat without all that manly hair getting in the way.)
Since the evening was supposed to be a fundraiser as well as an excuse to drink, a member of our party decided to round up a nearby quartet of women to have a go, afterward informing them that they must now pay for the privilege. Upon hearing this, their drunken giggling faded in volume, however, they did open up their generous hearts by depositing a pound coin on the table as blood money. After the waxing strips had finally been exhausted, our charitable bicyclist was left with a patchwork design of silky white skin and brown fur on his legs. Little red bumps had already begun to appear on the plucked flesh, and he rubbed some soothing lotion onto them which had been thoughtfully provided by his girlfriend who, in case you’ve forgotten, is the same kind soul who thoughtfully provided the waxing strips. When he finished, he put his trousers back on – an act which seemed to generate far more interest from the other patrons than the act of his depilation. We quickly downed the last of our pints and headed out into the night, all of us secure in the knowledge that we would never show our faces in this pub again. The last glimpse I had of Mr. Sexy Legs was of him being dragged across the road to a curry house.
Which brings me right back to my original statement: You JUST couldn’t write this stuff!