Dolly calls me and asks me whether I’m still coming.
Famously inefficient with means of communication, I calm her worries that I’ll be a no-show, but of course, in order to prevent that from happening, I first ask her where we’re headed.
A whisky tasting in Soho!
My oh my: how deeply thirty and fabulous. How very distant those nights at the student union (I managed two) at the start of last year seem.
Dolly tells me the event starts at 7 o’clock. I have precisely 5 minutes to ready myself for a quiet Monday evening in a whiskycentric member’s club, I decide an ultra-sexy 1980’s backup dancer-inspired look is of course the most appropriate: fishnet vest with high-waisted mom jeans (hugging on the booty), knee-high cowboy boots and a mega shoulder-padded jacket with gold and bronze detailing, complete with matching eyeshadow, headscarf and panther earring.
I hop on the 29 bus to Trafalgar Square, the lid of my Claire’s Accessories eyeshadow palette swinging as the bus trundles along the Euston Road.
My stop is Cambridge Circus, and I power-walk down Old Compton Street. Being without the geographical luxury of having ever been to this bar before, I dip in and out of shops, asking the whereabouts of the Soho Whisky Club. None have any idea, so by means of procrastination, I enter a newsagents in search of a revolting yet hunger-quashing sandwich. An sad-looking tikka takes my fancy, and I try my luck and ask the shopkeeper whether he knows where I need to go.
I thank him and leave the shop, already devouring my cut-price sarnie.
A open the door onto a lonely looking spirits shop.
He juts his head to the left and turns away from me. I of course thank him graciously and take the clomp clomp wooden stairs up.
I am in a warm, old worldy room, of course stocked to the brim with all nationalities of peaty goodness.
“And I’m only five minutes late!” I holler triumphantly.
I give her a knowing nod and tell her it’s because I’m without a phone (which is a situation I have been in for the majority of my phone-wielding life.”)
“What’s that then?!” pointing to my deceptively phoney iPod.
“Oh. This isn’t a phone. It’s just full of pictures of myself.”
“Oh, Gavin. You really couldn’t make you up.”
It is the day after David Bowie’s death, and there’s a news report on the BBC. One of his songs comes on in the bar, smiling in the knowledge that I’ll have a story to tell when people ask me in the future where I was when it happened.
We chat about the pros and cons of Disney films, I having just finished watching Cinderella that morning. I, like many others before, thought it thoroughly unrealistic that Cinderella could leave an abusive household and then marry the prince, whom we knew so little about. I was adamant that showing some of the affects of internalised abuse would have been very powerful for viewers, as we’ve all been Cinderella at one point in our lives. Smiling, fully self aware that I’m pontificating and seeming like a psuedointellectual, I let Dolly interrupt me and say “But it’s Disney!”
I laugh, and we are left alone as the other two go for a smoke.
We then have a rather intense but wonderful conversation: Dolly tells me that when she first met me, she admired my authenticity and intelligence, and despite, in my own words, being a bird of paradise, she can tell it is but one part of my identity and there’s a real critical thinker behind the sparkles and eyeshadow.
“Well, thank you, Dolly. That’s basically what you live for!”
We already know we’re kindred spirits and understand each other, the Mersey flowing within our souls already breaking the ice. So the conversation leads to a rapid transfer of experiences and backgrounds, the reason for its speed of explanation being “I wish I could tell you this telepathically, which would be much more efficient, but we just have to make do with the rather second-rate human method of conversation!”
I see Dolly drift over, speaking beautiful French with a gentleman. I kind of half assume that I already knew Dolly spoke French, joining the two, the seldom-spoken language falling from my mouth as easily as when I was in my tri-couleur obsession.
Our new friends treat us to some whisky, a new vice of mine since I tried some of my boyfriend’s DELICIOUS Japanese whisky (who likes the peaty stuff?) and I feel every bit the post-war gentleman.
The evening passes, smiles, hugs, laughter and new acquaintances all in abundance.
Dolly’s housemate takes her leave, an early start at work awaiting her the following morning, and we do the same shortly afterwards.
We take a walk through nighttime Soho, thoroughly greatful for each other’s company and to be in such an effing awesome city.
We make our way towards Tottenham Court Road Station, Dolly telling us about a transgender woman who was at her flat the other evening: totally divine and glamorous in a way she’d never seen a woman.
We discuss ‘The Danish Girl’, which I believe to not be the most realistic of films, but we both agree that it’s amazing that topic is being covered in a mainstream film.
We arrive at the tube station: down the escalators we go, they going to Tottenham, me Kentish Town.
I wave goodbye to my sister from another mister, the whisky from before warming my already toasty heart.