Holiday Inn, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, December 2008

by George Pringle

Excerpt From “Lone Stranger – Tour Diaries”

I lay in bed staring at the styrofoam box which had contained the fish and chips. Outside was unanimously grey and by now the hangover had kicked in.  My chest was struggling to breathe again but still I went looking for my cigarettes which were invariably in my coat pocket, the packet collapsed, the cigarettes tatty and flaccid within.  I knew I shouldn’t smoke on account of my tooth.  My tooth was now intolerably painful, the gum throbbed.  I went to the bathroom to look in the mirror and noticed a large, yellow bump on my gum.

I got back into bed and lay there, wondering if it were an abscess.  I wasn’t even sure what an abscess was but I knew that this must be one.  What a miserable morning.   I had recollections from the night before, of the O2 Academy and then of walking about drunkenly, trying to find my hotel key and I remembered the fish and chips which were now sitting on the formica sideboard in a deadpan way.  I hadn’t eaten a meal for days and had felt great the whole time, simply snacking on modest sandwiches or bits of dried fruit.  I glanced in the mirror next to the bed. I was sure my face looked fatter, already.  I turned on the TV and lay there, one finger on my gum, feeling around the hole in my tooth.

What an irony, to have such bad teeth and to never find money for fillings.  Across the bed were strewn my thrift shop shirts, ballet pumps, skinny jeans and CDs in cardboard sleeves with travel-worn edges.  Pink ribbons from their wrapping were tangled up in the sheets.  I was sure never to sell them. Only in Scotland had I sold some and that was probably because of my surname.  People in Scotland liked me, people in Newcastle were indifferent.  My GeoMap of popularity continued as I thought of the tour.  The audience in Leeds were not nice, the South Coast was a joke and London, even worse.

I wondered about all these clothes on the bed and how I had found the money for them and then I thought about the tooth again and the cigarettes and how I always had money for them and how I had better get the tooth fixed.  Really, this was karmic.

I threw everything, indiscriminately into a canvas bag.  I didn’t care anymore and so I abandoned my usual systematic packing.  This month had been the longest and the loneliest of my life.  It was easy to feel that way.  It was December, I was cold, I still didn’t have a pair of socks.  I had to go back to London and do one last date. I didn’t care anymore, I just wanted not to sleep on a floor or in a room with people I didn’t know or in a hotel off a ring-road.

I got on the train. The Tyne bridge disappeared.  Seagulls, flying high, dropped suddenly between its girders.  Or did I make that bit up?  Rain lashed the window, falling in fast, expressive lines.

When I did get home, I returned to a filthy flat.  Islands of dirty laundry.  Surfaces covered in mugs, all filled with green tea bags and soggy cigarette butts.  Silver Fish were still swimming the sadness of my bathroom floor.

I had never truly gotten to grips with housework.

In the fridge there were two things, an apple and bottle of Champagne.

Half the lightbulbs were blown. I did my makeup for the last show in the dim,  smoking and resting my cigarette on the dresser.  When I left the house, I worried that I hadn’t put it out.  I went back and checked but it was extinguished and as I walked out the door, I worried again, that somehow I hadn’t seen right so I went back in to check one more time.

My boyfriend met me and told me that my face was a funny colour. He was right. In the half-light I had overdone it.

I looked like a clementine.