Post 57 – A Nordic Artist Invites Flynn to Her Studio – excerpt from DARK CLOUDS

Chapter 8

 A dignified Albanian waits in the reception area. He’s in his late forties and his face is dazed with grief. He half listens when I say I was a media colleague of Rashid’s and that I always valued his friendship. There isn’t much more I can tell him, and I’m slipping away when Earl Connors comes downstairs. The thoracic surgeon is shaking his head. He can’t accept the bureaucratic niceties. He just wants to bury the mutilated body of his partner.

Robson offers me a lift to Islington, but I need fresh air, so I leave the anonymous morgue and started walking towards Bethnal Green. I’m thinking of the artist, Ingrid, as I go, and when I see a free sidewalk bench, I sit down and take out my mobile. The number she’s given me rings for a while, and I’m about to hang up when she answers.

‘I’m covered in plaster!’ she exclaims, ‘but I need to eat. Where are you?’

I’m not sure, but when I’ve described a few landmarks, she suggests I get a cab to a Vietnamese restaurant close to her studio in Dalston. If there was more time, I’d have walked, but I’ve taken the initiative and I want to follow through.

‘You’re not from around these parts, are you?’ a Cockney cab driver asks.

‘No – not really,’ I say and it’s like I’ve pressed the button on a recording that has the cabby going on about life and the universe and how London’s going downhill fast.

‘We can’t go on like this,’ he says. ‘It’s not workin’ ‘an it’s gonna get worse … I’m no racist, believe me, my gran was Jewish from East Europe. Only we can’t accommodate all of these cultures from around the world … an’ when they start wavin’ placards an’ destroyin’ our culture an’ heritage – well, that’s it, they gotta go, ‘avent they?’

It’s easier to grunt and nod occasionally than to participate, but when the cabby turns around to reinforce his point at a set of traffic lights, I catch a small badge with a Nationalist Party emblem on his jacket.

‘So what’s the solution?’ I ask. It’s meant to be a challenge, but I’ve put it tentatively, and it gets the cabby into free flow about what has to be done.

‘First we stop immigration, guv, then we start deporting anyone who shouldn’t be ‘ere …an’ for those that remain, we’ll ‘ave a proper education programme on what it means to be British. If they want citizenship, they’ll ‘ave to pass a test on the basics …an’ if anyone’s up for terrorism – well, I’d say shoot first an’ ‘ave the questions after …right!’

And so it goes on until we reach Shoreditch and turn up towards Dalston. I’m looking out for a mosque that Ingrid said was opposite an old hospital where Florence Nightingale spent time as a nurse before she went to the Crimea. I see a minaret as the cabby rambles on about Hitler, Mussolini and Franco and how it hadn’t been all that bad in Europe during the nineteen thirties and forties.

‘Could you stop here please,’ I ask, pulling a ten-pound note from my wallet and adding a few coins.

‘Oh, thank you very much, guv! You’re a gentleman, sir … ‘an I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in our country.’

There is a strong smell of curry from a Bengali restaurant near where we stop, and I grin back when one of the waiters smiles at me from the doorway.

‘You like nice food, sir?’

‘Sure – but not just now, thanks … I’ve got to meet someone.’

I see Ingrid waving as I turn into the quiet street where a Vietnamese restaurant nestles beneath a luxuriant cloak of ivy and wisteria.

________________________

 ‘Hey – good timing or what!’ she says at the door. I extend my hand instinctively and she takes it with an affectionate squeeze.

Inside, waiters bustle about in a large modest room that is divided in two by a row of colourful stone pillars.

‘You had good trip?’ she asks when we’re seated at a corner table.

‘Yes – it was fine. But I need a change of direction now – something different.’

My feelings about being at a crossroads flow out without restraint. I talk a little about my life in New York. I’m not sure where it’s all coming from or where I’m going. Ingrid listens though. I’ve definitely got an empathetic Valkyrie Princess sitting opposite me in the Vietnamese restaurant. Her eyes are incredible, and I’m imagining all sorts of stuff about what she might be thinking. But all the time she’s taking me in there’s an encouraging smile that keeps me telling her about where I’ve been.

I’m still going when a bottle of dry white wine arrives, along with a dish of prawns in an oriental sauce.

‘So what do you have in mind?’ she asks eventually.  ‘Are you going to write about the Irish part of your family or how we’re getting along with the Muslims?’

She got me thinking about it at Daisy Glover’s do. It’s a challenge. Faria Baily is still very much in my thoughts, but my ancestors would take me into a completely different world. Ireland in 1911 was staid and conservative on the surface. There was, however, a lot of explosive stuff smouldering away under the green fields and peat bogs.

‘I’d like to have a crack at the Irish,’ I tell her

‘This is good, Rudi … I’m sure you would find it rewarding.’

There are practicalities I need to think about, like time and money. But getting up early or working late at night might be a way to start. I’m trying not to think too much about Carla Hirsch and Earl Connors. I need a break from what’s been happening. I also want to find out more about Ingrid. She’s cool and I’m definitely getting good simpatico vibes.

‘Do you share your studio with anyone?’ I ask in between a piece of fried duck and a fork-full of rice.

‘That’s an interesting way of checking me out?’ she says laughing. ‘Do you want to know if I have a live-in lover … or maybe a space share arrangement with other artist?’

‘Well – ‘

‘I’ve been on my own for almost a year now. Although I have had one or two overnight or weekend interludes with people I fancy – in between work commissions … what about you?’

Faria Bailey is still up there on a cloud, and she waves occasionally. There has also been some intimate time spent with friends and occasional strangers. Up to now though, I haven’t felt sufficiently drawn to anyone to want to make a proper relationship link.

‘I would like to see your work,’ I tell her over the top of my glass.

‘As in, can I come up and see your etchings!’ She’s laughing, and I’m kicking myself.

‘I’m sorry – I didn’t mean ….’

‘But you want to see what I do … sometime?’

‘Yes – very much so … I dreamt about you the other night.’

Fuck it – what have I to loose? She’s hot and gorgeous.

‘Ah … but tell me what you think about Fiona. She is an interesting woman – you would agree?’

Absolutely. One of the best, and a great friend.

‘She kissed me recently in Knightsbridge,’ Ingrid says, sipping her wine. ‘It was full on and passionate … I was surprised, but she then caressed my breasts.’

Oh – no! What’s happening here? Is my lovely Islington neighbour a sexual predator? She’s never tried anything like this with me. And where does Ingrid fit in? Is she a hugely attractive lesbian? I’ve got a piece of Peking duck stuck in my throat. I’ve had a sheltered existence these last few years. But I’m choking when Ingrid gets up and comes around to give me a sharp smack on the back. It dislodges the duck, although I’m clutching at my chest when she sits down again and smiles across at me.

‘Thanks … my word – ‘

‘Are you surprised about Fiona trying to seduce me?’

No – not really. I suspected she might have been veering over towards her female side, but I hadn’t figured on Ingrid having similar inclinations. This throws me.

‘I can see you’re shocked,’ she says, but her eyes are laughing. ‘Do you want a pudding?’

I don’t think so. Vietnamese ice cream would have me throwing up. I should go back to Islington and make a few networking calls to the States. I need something to hold on to but Ingrid is picking up on my fragile mindset.

‘Come for coffee at my studio … yes? Is not far.’

I can’t do this. I’ve had lesbian friends, but Ingrid’s different. I fancied her, or I thought I did. Now I’ve got Fiona on one side of the bed and a Valkerie Princess on the other. They’re leaning across my chest, hungering for each other’s lips. I don’t exist; other than as a sort of wall across which they can pitch loving coos and kisses at one another.

‘OK – sure … then I think I’d better get back.’

________________________

I’m confused as we walk from the Vietnamese restaurant, but Ingrid has linked into my arm, which is encouraging. The neighbourhood is unfamiliar and a bit run down. After a while, we come to a grim nineteenth century factory-like structure surrounded by Turkish restaurants. There are also a few seedy looking clubs and cheap trading stores, and on one side the factory building overlooks the remains of a railway marshalling yard

 ‘This is it,’ Ingrid announces. I’m hesitating mentally when she leads me towards a forbidding metal entrance door. I feel I’m going back into the Victorian underworld of Charles Dickens. I’ve got thieves, vagabonds and faltering consumptives cowering in the alleyways while artistic spirits catch their essence on canvas or with pieces of sculpture, which the dealers are crazy about.

Her studio is at the top of the building where a huge industrial window looks out over a weed infested railway track. ‘We do still get a few trains,’ she says. ‘But not many, and I am inspired by the isolation.’

I feel I’ve stepped back a hundred and fifty years, but it’s the canvasses and pieces of sculpture that gradually pull me back into the present. They’re everywhere and they range from frightened children in a French mental institution to weird surreal figures in bronze and stone. They’re all fascinating, and I’m impressed.

‘You’re very versatile,’ I say after a while. It’s more than that, but I can’t express it.

Ingrid’s making coffee, and when it’s ready, she puts a couple of mugs on a low table in front of a battered sofa.

‘So – Rudi … where are we going from here?’ she asks when we meet up on the sofa.

Oh my god. A plane’s just come in, and it’s going to paradise. Do I have a ticket? I’m not sure, but I certainly want one.

‘Ingrid – ‘

‘Well – you did ring me earlier … and now we’re here.’

Her uncharacteristically dark eyes are sparkling and her lips are incredibly inviting. For a moment I’m unsure about what to do, but Ingrid is waiting. This is it, fellah, and you better get it right. So I move towards her and put my hands on her arms. She doesn’t respond straight away, but I can see a smile in her eyes as our lips touch. I think I’ve won a prize, and when we kiss she puts her arms around my shoulders.

I’m floating; it’s perfect. Everything else is irrelevant. Ingrid’s enchanting breasts are pressing into my chest. There’s a mattress on a couple of pallets in a corner of the room. It’s quite far away and we’re not there yet. After a while, however, we get up spontaneously and hold hands as we go over to this rather basic bed.

‘I think you are a troubled person,’ she says while we undress.

It’s true. I am, and it’s getting worse. Nothing matters now though. I’ve been mesmerised by a blonde Valkyrie princess. I haven’t felt like this for years. It’s good, and Ingrid’s amused by the effect that her magnificently sculpted body is having on me.

‘So what are you going to do for me, Rudi … will it be a surprise?’

Christ – I don’t know. I hope so. It’s exciting, and I’m doing my best to hold back. A teasing ploy, which one has to try and get right. The gods are with me this afternoon, I think. I’m there, but I’m hanging on. Ingrid’s excited. There’s a lot of volcanic passion, and it’s building. I’m on the edge of a steep cliff, and when I think she’s ready, I enter her. She’s soft, receptive and very welcoming.

‘You bastard,’ she whispers, ‘that was a calculated move!’

I answer with a long kiss while caressing the cheeks of her perfect ass. We’re moving inexorably along the right road. We’re together, and it’s building. I can feel a powerful passion between us. It’s new, and although I’ll never forget Faria, I think she’d approve. There’s a slight Scandinavian cry to begin with. It’s in Ingrid’s throat, but it quickly escalates. It’s fantastic, and I’m getting ready for a last memorable run to the finish.

____________________________

Afterwards, I hold her in my arms while she blows me a kiss before opening her eyes. ‘OK – ‘ she says. ‘I’ve enjoyed that, but now I need to know what’s troubling you.’

I want to tell her, but I can’t release the details – not yet anyway.

‘I’m involved with a story about al-Qaeda.’

‘Ah … here, in London?’

‘It could be – but I don’t think anyone knows yet.’

‘You were in New York on 9/11, Rudi?’

I’m not sure if I want to talk about it, but I do.

‘And you were in love with this Muslim American girl, Faria?’

‘Yes … very much so.’

I’m holding back from saying she still appears on clouds from time to time, and after a while Ingrid moves her thighs back towards me.

‘I’m getting hungry again,’ she says. ‘Your hors d’oeuvres has whetted my appetite.’

‘Right – ‘

‘But now I want the main course, please.’

I swim occasionally and I run up to Highbury Fields to try and keep in shape, but I’m anxious. Ingrid clearly has a voracious appetite. I’m not sure if I can satisfy her again so quickly. It’s mind over matter time. We fit well together. A vibrant urge is returning; I’m overwhelmed and driven. I’m excited by her agility and beauty as she rolls me onto my back and I can feel the muscles of her vagina as she tells me what’s about to happen.

‘I’m going to fuck you now… OK!’

There’s a protracted frenzy until we’re both exhausted and Ingrid appears to be sated.

‘So – you like tea?’ she asks.

‘Yes, please.’

‘And maybe the news?’

I’m not too worried about what’s happening outside, but a BBC reporter is talking about Marvin Malugo and how he’s on the critical list at King’s CollegeHospital.

‘Do you know who this guy is?’ I ask Ingrid, who’s filling a kettle on the other side of the studio.

‘He’s a drug dealer from Brixton who got chased by police and was involved in an accident after a robbery,’ she says. ‘He’s got people locally who are using him to say the police deliberately engineered the whole thing … so if he dies, there will be riots.’

She makes it all sound so normal and matter-of-fact. I want to confide in her, at least partly, about what I’m doing. I had already mentioned Sharif and Sulima when I talked about my life with Faria Bailey in New York before the Towers fell. It’s too late now though to raise the possibility of a nuclear strike in London. Ingrid’s making tea, and when she returns to the bed she has questions of her own.

‘This Irish woman you want to write about … what happens to her?’ she asks.

It’s like a piece of word-of-mouth family folklore that has come down through relatives in the States over almost a century.

‘Mary Rose was a Catholic in Southern Ireland,’ I explain. ‘In 1911she fell in love with Piers, who was the son of a Protestant landowner. They had an exceptionally hot affair, but the guy’s father disapproved and he was packed off to run a sheep farm in Australia. Mary Rose was devastated and later went reluctantly into an arranged marriage with an older man, Patrick. He was OK, but there wasn’t much passion between them, so she joined the Fenians and got seriously involved with one of their key guys, who was later assassinated.’

‘Hey!’ Ingrid cries, pulling me in close. ‘It’s a great story. You’ve got to do it!’

‘You think?’

‘Oh yes … and there is a Greek island where you could make a start.’

‘Just like that?’

‘I am leaving here in a while for Patmos,’ she tells me. ‘I will be there for six or seven months. It would be a perfect place for you to write your story.’

It’s too much too soon. I read fairy tales and frequently say yes, me too. I love the idea of bliss with a Viking Princess on a Greek island. I can’t go to paradise just yet though. I’m on duty for Her Majesty and my President so I skirt around it by telling her how I love the Greeks.

‘I must travel to Newcastle tonight to prepare for my exhibition,’ she says when we’ve kissed again. ‘And I have to get ready.’

‘Of course.’

‘But not immediately.’

‘Ingrid – I …’

‘You need Viagra – ‘

‘What!’

‘No – I am joking … although I do have some.’

She is insatiable. Already, she’s running her fingers around the cheeks of my ass and down to my groin. ‘You don’t have to if it’s too much,’ she tells me. But I’m willing myself back into serious action on the front line. We embrace tenderly. I feel like I’ve been taken over by a Scandinavian warrior who first seduces and then conquers all comers.

‘So – Newcastle?’

‘Yes – but I want you to fuck me, Rudi. Very hard, please. Then I want you to tell me all about Mary Rose and what she did with Piers and her Fenian rebel lover … OK?’

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