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Take me down to Paradise City

Meeting old friends in the Cork and Bottle last night, one brought a special guest with her. In what has been a strange season of death, she is carrying life, smiling and great to see. She was abstemious while the rest of us celebrated, knocking back vino and cheeses and cheesecakes, laughing at everything in the world. It was a great night.

Out of the Cork and Bottle, the four of us walked past the Hippodrome. I remember when this was a Stringfellow thing and then a huge but terrible disco. Now it's a casino. I suddenly remembered Steve Ash's birthday last November, not long before he died - we all met at the Phoenix Art Club, and he wanted to go to the Hippodrome Casino afterwards. I left early, not being at all interested in casinos. He regaled me later with his experiences of the downstairs club, Lola's, a place of burlesque dancers with sultry stories and insanely drunk denizens of Chinatown chucking money at craps tables.

Anyway, seeing it last night, we decided to explore. The main rooms are full of game machines, roulette tables, blackjack, all the usual. Going downstairs to Lola's,the Sanxing smiled in welcoming majesty and a troop of dancers in fetish gear wandered past. It was less exotic and more relaxed than the impression Steve gave me, but then it wasn't burlesque/cabaret night. We all decided the place would be fun to try when it is. Only sticking point was a strange and rather unpleasant waitress determined to feed me the most rank vinegar masquerading as red wine imaginable. She actually protested when the manager wanted to give me better wine. Maybe it came from her home town or something, tended by a family of trolls who live under the vines and enhance the grapes with boot polish. In any case I couldn't and wouldn't drink it. My solution, when and if we give Lola's another go, will be to stick to cocktails and stay away from her. It's a big place, should be easy, but won't be; they find me, you know, somehow they always find me...

Today was our chance to have a ride on a stunt speedboat down at Southampton. The waterfront's not exactly Sorrento but the ride was great, all sharp turns and bouncing across the Solent. I prefer sitting at the back; there's a sense of being much closer to the wind and waves as they rise high each side of the prow, green and white and sparkling salt spray everywhere. It's one of my favourite sensations in all the world.

Now I am home with a glass of excellently crisp, very cold white wine. The grass is green in Paradise City they say. I wonder if we're in the same neighbourhood.




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