Downstairs he told Pearl, the only person who’d spoken to him since he arrived, “It was weird.”
“They’re all fucking weird here.”
He had found her sitting on a window-sill on the second-floor landing, drinking from a bottle of Riesling and staring down into the garden as if calculating the possibilities of a sudden leap of faith.
“I don’t suppose I’m any better,” Shaw said. “Are you going to jump?”
This bought him a look of contempt. “Don’t be a twat,” she advised, “if you want to get anywhere in this life.” She had a blank, sidelong smile which didn’t always connect with the rest of her body language. “I’ll tell you two reasons why they’re weird,” she said. “For one, would you wear a suit? Be honest.”
“What’s the other reason?” Shaw said, after a pause.
“Try not to be glib. Another thing, they’re a fucking conspiracy. In ten years time they’ll be running your street for you. You can’t be arsed, but they can.”
Pearl herself preferred men’s casual clothing from the middle Thatcher period, obtained at a price from outlets in Fulham and Denmark Hill. She would also scour the Oxfams on a wet Saturday afternoon, looking for Hornsey pottery. She liked Bruce Springsteen between The River and Tunnel of Love and maintained her hair in a tall Erasorhead pompadour, which, extending upwards the thin white inverted triangle of her face, gave her a constant air of surprise. She seemed eager to talk–even to adopt, if not yet sure that Shaw was worth it. They passed the Riesling bottle between them until it was empty. Then, after a pause, Shaw said:
“I like that outfit.”
“This? Oh, this is just retro rubbish. You should visit some time and see the original stuff.”