Sunday, December 13, 1981

Paradise Bar

I was up early as we were off to London to see the Great Japan Exhibition. The news full of Poland: the army has been sent in. Dad gave me a lift down and we stopped on the way to pick up Laura and Halyna. The station was packed with the parents and all the kids who were going, fifty three in all. The train journey down was pretty boring and I sat on my own, across the aisle from Laura and Halyna, and then from Moorwood on, I had to sit with a merchant seaman en route to Stroud, Kent, plus two Moorwood housewives.

We reached London’s Euston Station as it was coming in dark. London was cold, damp and utterly depressing and after checking into our hotel and dropping our bags, we set out in blizzard conditions for the Tate Gallery. On the journey down, Mrs Blakeborough had introduced me to Patrick Caulfield’s work so I was looking forward to seeing the exhibition.

We had to pay 30p at the entrance (shouldn't all art be free?) but it was worth it: the exhibition was superb. Caulfield himself was there. He's a short, middle-aged, grey-haired intellectual type and was wearing a leather jacket and was surrounded by a tongue-lolling gaggle of hangers-on, all eagerly assaulting him with questions (I'm being unfair here). His paintings are amazing, and much bigger and brighter than I’d imagined, huge criss-crossed areas of vivid blue or red that literally clashed and vibrated as I stared at them. “Paradise Bar” was the best.

Suitably impressed, we launched ourselves back into the freezing blizzard outside and reached our hotel in the dark. Much indecision as to what to do. Adrian Barlow and Tim Moyles and I ate at the hotel (useless service for £2.55). Halyna wanted to go to the Venue but it was miles away and considering the weather we decided to stay in. Laura said we could all have a party in her room so I offered to go to an off-licence. With £2 in hand I tramped off to buy two bottles of cider and two cans of lager. I smuggled them into the hotel under my coat feeling like a wino.

In room 228 it was just me, Tim, Adrian, Halyna, Laura, Jill Davey and Louise Taylor at first, but Jackie Spurr and another 5th year showed up and we all sat on the bed, girls at one end, boys at the other, drinking awkwardly out of cans. But as the cider, lager and martinis mixed we all mingled, and soon the room was packed. Once the drinks dried up, a 5th year head case, pissed out of his skull, auctioned off a bottle of cider which I bought it for a pound. Fifth year Debbie Helliwell was really, really drunk and she slurringly asked me to top up her drink. She said she had to go to the bathroom and so I half-dragged, half-pulled her in the right direction but she slumped back on to the bed.

Somehow or other I ended up in the bathroom. I opened the door to find one kid snogging Debbie who by this time was completely legless. Half-seriously, I told him that he was taking advantage of her and he (half-seriously also), told me to piss off. I was on the edge of the bath. "I cut my finger, I cut my finger," he kept saying and I made a move to see if Hirst was in the vicinity and sssh-ed them both, pressing a finger to Debbie's lips. I felt warm inside; I was drunk. Then Hirst opened the door.

The real world, responsibility, voices raised in retribution, the throng dispersing back to their own rooms, a time for doctored excuses. I felt guilt, shame but also annoyance. Who knows what would have happened if Hirst had come even fifteen minutes later? I just didn’t want to go to bed. Halyna and Laura kept ringing our room and saying they’d come down if they could and this went on for 1½ hours and we even attempted to go up there at one-thirty but Mr. Metcalf accosted us as we emerged into the hallway.

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