Francis Bacon

April 1 1927.

April fools day! Dinky and his friend Francis came over for a visit which ended up lasting all night. Francis is a wild young lad indeed. His name is Francis Bacon! I christened him Piggy. He comes from some rich Sheffield steel family. His father was a captain in the Boer War. A right old grizzly bear it seems. We traded ‘horrid father’ stori es. I think Francis might have won with the story of how his father had him horse whipped by one of the servants because he found him dressing up in his mothers smalls!

He brought around two bottles of whisky that he had shoplifted. I’ve never been so drunk in all my life. I felt as if I could do anything.

Francis is a devote of Frederich Nietzche and had a crumpled copy of “Thus Spake Zarathustra” in his pocket.

At midnight we crept out and stole another poster from outside the cinema and shouted “God is Dead” as we ran back to my room giggling like naughty school boys and hoping Mrs Pankhurst wouldn’t come down and spank us.

Francis tried on some of my clothes and pranced about singing “If You Knew Suzie”. So I put on his shirt and trousers and sang “The Girl I left Behind”. Dinky was having a marvellous time because he loves Francis, but he was much more subdued than usual. I don’t know if it was because he likes to let Francis steal the show, or because he was jealous of Francis and me or because Francis is going to go to Berlin with some old friend of his father’s.

We talked and argued all night, keeping our voices down as well as we could so as not to wake Mrs Spankhurts.

Eventually Francis passed out dead drunk and I threw a blanket over him. Dinky kissed us both and went home. When I lay down I tried to read Nietzsche. He writes like a pompous naughty boy trying to rewrite the Bible. Well why not, I thought. The original isn’t very helpful.

I decided I should memorise a part of it so I could sound clever. I chose the lines “Many die too late, and some die too early. Die at the right time.” That sounds like good advice.

In the morning I was too sick to go to work. Francis and I went out for tea and crumpet and walked around Regents Park. We both do things with men for money so it was nice to have someone to share stories with. We had lunch with Dinky at The Heals Brothers store and both Dinks and I tried to dissuade Francis from leaving and going to Berlin. I’ll miss him. He’s awfully clever and wild. Just like me.

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March 26 1927

It was a slow night at the 43 club last Thursday. So I struck up a conversation with Dora, one of the dance hostesses. She’s like a cute little mouse with bright inquisitive eyes. I asked her if she knew “my friend” Julia Smith and she squeaked ,

“Yes, lovely Julia! Are you a friend of hers?” and before I could say any more she called over one of the other girls and they were both looking at me like I was the resident expert on a girl I know absolutely nothing about.

And so here was the turn up. They were asking me what happened to Julia!

“She just disappeared.” Blinks Dora “Did she run off with another man? Poor George looked awful after she left him. Do you know George? How is he?”

I try not to stammer as I think fast on my feet. Blimey I don’t even know what colour Julia’s hair has. All I know is that her real name is Sylvia Stubbs and that she left her will and a wedding ring in the room she rented before me.

So I came up with this. “Well I’m trying to find her too. The truth is I’ve only just moved to London and she no longer lives at the address I had for her.”

“So you’re from Stratford too.” Declares Dora. And I mumble something about my family moving around a lot. Then she gets a cheeky look on her face and asks me if I’m in the same line of work as Julia. That does make me stammer and I’m casting about for a response when her friend, Olive, slaps Dora on the shoulder and says “Dora, you’ve embarrassed her.” And we have a little laugh. But of course I’m dying to know what she means. Was Julia on the game as well? Was she married? Was she murdered? Was George her husband? Will I end up dead too? My silly head spins and I must have looked a bit woosy.

Dora pats my hand and says not to worry. Julia was such a wild girl she probably married an Arab prince and is riding across the dessert right now on a Camel train. Then Dora has to go off and dance with one of the patrons. So I pull myself together and while the bloke is finishing his drink I ask her what she meant by ‘am I in the same line of work?’. And she whispers to me that Julia was a dancer at a very different kind of club. Where the girls wear considerably less clothing. And she makes such a funny face of mock shock with one hand over her rounded mouth as she takes the dance floor that I have to laugh. Dora’s cheeky. I like her.

So now I have two new questions. Who is George? And how much could I earn dancing in my bloomers?

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March 06 1927

Dinky and I have become regulars at the 43 Club in Gerrard Street Soho. It’s a fascinating place. It’s the sort of place where you might see royalty sitting right next to a table full of gangsters. The band is always marvellous and everyone is focused on dancing and drinking and smoking and being seen.

The owner, Mrs Meyrick, runs the show with an iron fist. Even though everyone knows she’s been in prison she swans around like she is the Duchess of York. She and I have sized each other up like a couple of cats on a fence.

She has a team of pretty girls who are paid to dance with the gentlemen. Anyone would think they were d├ębutantes, but of course they are not. Although you never see them soliciting openly.

That’s part of what makes the place so fascinating. It has this undercurrent of lust and vice with a shimmering surface of respectability. But I suppose that’s true of life in general.

It costs five shillings to get in. So you need to be either well heeled or very determined to have a wild time. For me it has been a happy hunting ground for rich men ready to pay for the attentions of a pretty blonde. I feel I should probably be giving Mrs Meyrick some commission. And I’m sure she would think so too. But I’ve been very discrete. Or perhaps cunning is a better word.

And I have finally taken up smoking. Well simply everyone is doing it these days and you do look so very elegant when you lean over to get a light. I used to hate cigarettes. They always made me feel sick. And one time my father caught me smoking he threw me against the wall so hard he nearly broke my shoulder. It didn’t seem to be worth the coughing and pain. But I’m free of that monster now. I can do whatever I like. And I find that smoking a cigarette not only makes me look splendidly sophisticated it actually makes me feel quite relaxed. I need to get one of those long cigarette holders with diamontes on it. And maybe a silver lighter. Although asking for a light is a very good way to talk to men.

I still haven’t asked if anyone knows Julia Smith. I’m always so busy having fun and flirting that I always forget.

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The 43 Club.

February 5 1927.

I asked Mrs Pankhurst if she would mind my painting the rusty metal dresser in my room. She pursed her lips and said she didn’t care what I did with it. She told me it belonged to Julia Smith who had rented the room before me. All this time I have been trying to forget about the will and the wedding ring I found in the drawer and suddenly Mrs Pankhurst starts telling me all about the girl who must have owned them. She said she was always out at the 43 Club in Soho where she was probably taking cocaine and running around with all the wrong sort. She had left owing a month’s rent and leaving behind the old dresser and half her clothes.

I couldn’t help but wonder out loud if something dreadful had happened to her. Did Mrs Pankhurst tell the police? Mrs Pankhurst became even more stiff lipped and said ‘girls like that’ come and go all the time.

So I have spent the day painting Julia/Sylvia’s old dresser a deep naughty red. It looks so shiny and new now. I feel very proud and satisfied. Perhaps this is the sort of work I should be doing. I fantasise about running a workshop that paints old things and makes them all spic and span. Women painted trucks and things during the war. But now the men are back there’s no interesting work for women. Maybe the smell of the paint is just making me crazy.

I have to go out. I telephone Dinky and arrange to meet up with him in Leicester Square. I am going to drag him along to the 43 Club in Gerrard street. It is a notoriously wicked place. I think Dinky and I will fit right in. I might ask if anyone has heard of Sylvia Stubs or Julia Smith. Or I might not. Maybe I should let sleeping dogs lie.

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Cash and Chocolates.

January 30 1927

On Tuesday night I decided it was time to land a bigger fish so I dressed neatly and hopped a bus to Russell Square. Not a place for rough men looking for sex. But all men are looking for sex in some way or other.

I arched my back as I walked along placing one foot in front of the other with deliberate pride. I am wicked. I fixed my attention on a pudgy man walking down the street in the opposite direction. I looked at him like I was going to eat him. He stared back at me in confused fear. Then I smiled at him and the confusion on his face turned to awe.

‘Mr Lawrence.’ I said ‘How lovely to see you, you naughty boy, what are you doing out after dark?’

He stammered that I must be mistaken, that he was not Mr Lawrence.

‘Oh dear’ I apologised and said I should wear my glasses. I watch his little pink tongue rubbing against his lower teeth like a piglet wanting to get our of it’s pen.

I waited for him to try and engage me, but he was too stunned and slow. I didn’t want to make the first move, but he looked as though he’d never spoken to a woman. I began to just babble away at him holding his gaze like a hypnotist. I went on about how dreadfully cold it is and how I would so love a hot drink, but it wasn’t really proper for a lady to go into a cafe at night alone. What would people think? Would he care to accompany me? His eyes darted about like prisoners looking for a way out, but his curiosity had hold of his nose and dragged him along with me.

We had a cozy cup of tea in a lacy little place place full of old people. I ordered a Bakewell tart and just kept gabbling away while he sat there enthralled. I then steered him to a bar where we had a couple of glasses of sherry before I gently explained to him that if he was willing to pay, he could have me and no one would ever know. I thought he’d be a little flustered, but he took it as if I’d just given him some sound stock market advice. Yes he would be interested in that kind of transaction and how should we arrange the terms?

He is 32 years old, works for the Royal Bank of Scotland and lives at home with his mother. This is pretty much all I know about him as I do all the talking and he just blinks. His mother goes to bridge on Thursday nights so we arranged for me to come around and entertain him while she is out. He has never done anything like this before so I took the lead in all matters. He is quintessentially boring. Perhaps the most boring person I’ve ever met, but he is nice and clean and seems harmless enough. Although it’s impossible to know what is going on behind those little piggy eyes. He put the money in a nice pink envelope (I’ll bet he nicked it from his mother’s stationary draw) and also gave me a beautiful box of chocolates which just about made me swoon.

I said I’d call him Mr Chockywocks which actually made him smile. He has a somewhat creepy smile and terrible teeth, but I’m glad he is a happy customer. We’ve agreed to regular Thursday night trists. I hope he gives me chocolates every time.

A few more like him and I could move into a nicer flat.

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The Masked Ball.

January 2 1927

1927 is going to be my year. I am going to go from being a shop girl to being a proper courtesan. I’m going to go from living in a subterranean bedsit to a proper flat with big windows looking over a park. I’m am going to progress from rough sailors and working men to politicians, bankers and princes.

Christmas at Dinky’s parents’ place was bitter sweet. His mum is quite kind in her own crazy little way, but his father is a huge surly monster. All he does is talk about the war and how pointless it was since the younger generation had turned to lewd decadence and the country would become just like Sodom and Gomorrah in a matter of months. Every time he looked at Dinks he would narrow his eyes and sneer. At one point Dinky and his mum were in the kitchen fussing over the Turkey when his father leaned over to me and said, “You’re a very pretty girl.”
He said it like it was an accusation rather than a compliment. Then he asked outright, “What is a girl like you doing with a nancy boy like my son?”

Well I told him that Dinks is the kindest sweetest man I’ve ever met and that he is handsome and fun and that anyone would be blind not to see that. He just leered and sneered and poured himself another glass of brandy. I felt like I’d scored a point for Dinky. Thankfully he fell asleep by the fire while Dinks and his sister, his mum and I played cribbage and had a tolerably nice time. Are all fathers bastards? Maybe men just aren’t meant for family life. Maybe they should just pay for sex and live together in big barns where they can be mean and have punch ups and leave the rest of us alone. My father, Dinky’s father, they are so miserable and so determined to make everyone else miserable too.

On the train back to London I told Dinky about my father. How he once threw me into a chair so hard it tipped back and I cracked my head. All because I’d worn lipstick and rouge to church. As we drew closer and closer to London we started to feel just how lucky we are to be rid of them. To be making our own way in the capital. To be young and free and destined for greatness.

On new years eve we really went to town. Dinky had heard of this marvelous masked ball in Soho, but the tickets were outrageously expensive. I said I’d buy them and this led him to ask me why I always have so much money when I only work in a shop. Well I hesitated, of course, but finally I told him that I go with men for money. He was shocked, but he didn’t deride me for it. He said his friend Frances goes with old men for money too. That he would like to do it, but that he just can’t stomach wrinkly flabby old men. I said it’s not his stomach they would be interested in and we screamed with laughter. It feels brilliant having a friend that knows what I am.

So we saw in 1927 at a big bang up party. Dinky met a boy and I met lots of boys. I even met a lady of about 50 who said she had been a courtesan in Paris. She was with a tall old man who spoke no English and wore a full face mask. She said the key to being a courtesan is discretion. That is what ‘clients’ (that’s what she called them) value more than anything. They need to know you won’t go blabbing to their wives or to the newspaper men. And she had everyone eating out of her hand. They all knew what she was and they all treated her with admiration. She wore the most fabulous jewels in the room. I glimpsed my future and it was sparkly.

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Rudolph Valentino

December 17 1926

Poor old Valentino may be gone, but his films live on. Last night they were playing Blood and Sand so I dragged Dinky along and we both shed a tear or two in the dark for Rudi. He was so beautiful. How could he die? It is so very peculiar to be watching him on the screen as if he were still alive.
When we came out there was a man pulling out the poster for Blood and Sand and putting up a new one it’s place. I told Dinky to distract him while I made off with the poster. I sidled into position and I thought Dinky would start up a conversation with him. But instead he started singing ‘Hello my Honey’ at the top of his voice and doing a little dance right there in the foyer. Everyone stopped and stared at him including the poster man. I grabbed the Valentino poster and slipped out the door waiting for Dinky in the street outside. He finished his song and dance in the big brass doorway and lifted his hat and bowed as the people inside laughed and clapped. Then we ran up the street and round the corner. I expected to hear a shout and for the poster man to come running after us. But he probably didn’t even care about the silly old poster. But I have taped it up on my wall and it looks marvelous. I want to cover every square inch of my walls with posters. I hope Dinky knows enough songs.

But the best thing is that Dinky asked me if I was going home for Christmas. I said I wouldn’t be because things at home were not too good. He seemed to know just what I meant. He and his father don’t get on at all. Well obviously because Dinky is so very effeminate his father does not approve. His mother is alright, he says, but she always asks him when he’s going to get a girlfriend. So he’s had the mad idea of me going for Christmas lunch with him and pretending to be his girlfriend. He was afraid to ask, but I jumped at the idea. I only needed to know one thing. Does his mother make a decent Christmas pud? He said it is the best I’ll ever taste. I said “I’m in.”

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Sylvia Stubbs

November 26 1926.
Who the Hell is Sylvia Stubbs and what on earth happened to her? One moment I’m vowing to find out, then ten seconds later I’m vowing with equal vengeance to pawn the bloody wedding ring and forget about the whole thing for ever. These thoughts have been ricocheting around in my scull till I’m quite dizzy and sick. I addressed a letter to Sylvia Stubbs at our address and slipped it into the pile of mail as soon as the postman dropped it through the door. Then I picked up the whole pile and wandered into the kitchen and casually asked Mrs Pankhurst who she was. She looked at the envelope and frowned and said she’d never heard of her. I didn’t expect that. Which makes me a bit thick. Because I don’t use my real name here in London. I don’t want my parents to be able to find me. And that put a big chill up my spine. If I was murdered or just fell down dead in a ditch, no one would know who I really was. Was Sylvia just like me?

I want to ask who lived in the room before me. But then I tell myself to forget it. Pawn the ring and buy something frilly.

The other woefully dark thought that keeps pestering me is Christmas day. Mrs Pankhurst asked me if I will be spending it with them. My parents always hosted a huge Christmas Feast. And half my father’s faculty would file through the house drinking brandy, eating my mother’s mince pies and spraying their pompous opinions all over the sitting room.

Does Sylvia’s sister Emma know what happened to her? Does she care? Is she sick with worry? Is my mother sick with worry about me? These thoughts turn my stomach. So I decide to buy some magazines and some chocolates and be glad I’m still breathing. Maybe Sylvia just got wise. Decided she didn’t want to be reminded of her husband and death and flew the coop without her ring and will. Maybe she found out sister Emma was having it away with hubby and she wrote herself a new will and moved to Spain with a Latino lover.

Maybe I’ll eat this whole box of chocolates right now.

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The Drawer

November 6 1926.
The Drawer Dinky got us into the KitKat club by putting on an outrageous American accent and telling the doorman we were on our honeymoon. Everyone was so gay they sparkled. It was like a magical cave full of beautiful people running wild. Dinky made very cosy friends with some of the members who said we could come back as often as we liked.

I was so very happy yesterday that I met Dinky after he finished work, he works for Heals, and took him to the pictures to see The Triumph of the Rat because we both love Ivor Novello.

After the film I invited Dinky back to my room. His dream is to decorate rich people’s houses for them. ‘Interior decorating’ he calls it. It seems like an odd way to make money, but then who am I to talk!

I open the door and before I can make excuses for the rusty old dresser he throws his hands up and exclaims he loves it! I thought he was joking, but he explains that is very French and chic and that I should get a little wire brush and scrub all the rust off it and paint it.

So I asked him to help me unstick the jammed drawer. We pulled and tugged for a while until Dinky ducked underneath and found a hook of wire that was keeping it shut.

He prized it out with his fingers and now I am sitting here with my chin in my hand wondering what to do about what we found inside. We found a wedding ring and the Last Will and Testament of Sylvia Stubbs. It isn’t easy to make out the writing as it is a little bit smudged from having been in the moldy old drawer. But it appears to bequeath all her worldly possessions to her sister Emma. There are three witnesses. Their names are quite hard to read.

At first we were all excited when we snapped open the little box and saw the gold wedding band. Dinky was bouncing on the bed, but he stopped short when I held up the will. We both fell silent wondering what this all means.

No one would leave these things behind willingly, would they? But if Sylvia had come to a sticky end wouldn’t the police have searched her room? Was this even her room? I will have to ask Mrs Pankhurst. But that will surely lead to her calling the police.

Obviously I cannot have anything to do with the police. I looked at Dinky and wondered if it was too soon to tell him about what I do with men for money. Or about my family. He did ask me where I came from and what my story was, but I gave him a silly answer and he didn’t press the point.

He has just left saying that I should decide what I want to do. The room feels so dark and chilled. I am going to try and sleep. I hope to God I don’t have gruesome dreams.

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Last night I just caught the bus to Leicester Square and wondered around watching people bustling about. Some would be huddled together in tight little clumps chatting about secrets while others would range out in large unruly gangs shouting back to their friends straggling behind or marching ahead. Everyone seemed to know where they were going and who they were and who they knew and how they belonged. And the ones that didn’t, the solo ones, like me, just looked shifty and shy and no fun at all. Perhaps that’s how I looked as well.

I came across a beautifully dressed young man hurling red faced
obscenities at a couple of rough lads outside the Dog and Duck. They
were laughing at him, for he was quite the dandy. He didn’t appear to see
the signs that their laughter could at any moment turn to violence. Suddenly he turn on me and said ‘And what are you staring at?’
I shot back ‘Cat can look at the queen.’ The two lads wandered off drunkenly
as his lordship sucked in his cheeks and got ready to give me a good
earful. He called me all kinds of dreadful names and I found him very
funny. It occurred to me he would very likely know somewhere fun to get a
drink. So I put up my hands and apologized profusely and offered to buy
him a drink if he could suggest a good place to go. Boy, he didn’t skip
a beat! He hooked his arm into mine like we’d been friends all our lives
and marched me off to a place called Rectors in Tottenham Court Road.

It was the very best night of my life. We danced and drank and we made each other laugh so much I thought we were going to stop breathing. He seemed to know all kinds of people. Every one calls him ‘Dinky’. He says it’s because he has such a tiny penis. He says madcap things like that all the time. And he makes fun of people and how they are dressed and how they behave. He is quite cruel, but it is so funny you don’t mind.
Some of the people he knows are quite outrageous. A very posh middle aged lady asked me if I danced for gentlemen for money. I said, ‘Goodness no!’ and she said ‘Well you should, a pretty girl like you could make a lot of money.’

I didn’t get home till 3AM. I crept in so that no one would hear me. Dinky says we should get very dressed up and try and talk our way into the Kit Kat Club next Friday night. I can’t wait.

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