Sunday, January 23, 2005
Last month, fewer first-time buyers than ever entered the housing market in the UK. This weekend, as the kind of people who like to buck trends, Butter and I started to look for a place to live, a new MarkCity crib, somewhere for Syd and Nancy to run, play and chew - although we're also hoping to get a cat or two, which might not please the rats too much. Can cats and rats co-habit happily without the rats becoming a snack? Hmm, we need to research that one.

Anyway, we've already visited most of the estate agents in town and been to view five properties. We're going to have to choose between a small two-up-two-down house or a large flat. I think we'd prefer a house, somewhere with a small garden which doesn't require too much maintenance. Lawn-mowing, and gardening in general, is one of my least favourite things in the world. I nearly killed myself once while mowing the lawn, chopping through a live lead with a pair of shears; there was a huge bang and a chunk of metal flew out of the shears. But I survived. What a way to go that would have been - even a terrible ironing accident would be better.

I keep digressing. Of the houses and flats we've looked at, four have either been too grotty or too expensive. One house can't have been redecorated since the sixties, and I know that shouldn't put you off but... well, they even had a Huey Lewis CD in the bedroom. The place is tainted. Then we met the landlady from hell, who's selling a flat out from under the current tenant. The tenant wanted to buy it but then split with his girlfriend so can't afford it now. Unfortunately for him, the landlady had smelled cash so is now turfing him out and selling it to someone else.

We saw one house that we really like, but I don't want to jinx it by writing much about it. Plus, you never know, the seller might stumble across MarkCity. Highly unlikely, I know, but stranger things have happened to me.

In other news, I finally got my prize - vouchers to buy £250 of rare books - from Zembla Magazine. I promised to post the (very short) story on here, so here it is. It had to be fewer than 300 words and written under the title, 'What I wish I hadn't seen at the beach'.

My girlfriend was like Othello, but ginger. I sensed her narrowing her eyes and watching me. Her sister had just taken all her clothes off and I didn’t know where to look.

Fairlight Cove naturist beach was a fifteen-minute skip from the caravan park where I was staying with my girlfriend, Debbie, her sister, Amy, and her friends, Julian and the pregnant Juliana. Debbie had needed some persuading to come.

‘All those girls. Including my sister.’

Two years older than Debbie, Amy once had a poem published. She was blonde and pretty. Debbie loved her, hated her and thought I fancied her. I didn’t – I loved Debbie – but the more I was told I fancied Amy, the more I thought about her.

Julian and Juliana were hippies. Juliana was planning to give birth in a cloud of dope smoke. ‘Public nudity equals freedom from the fashion fascists,’ drawled Julian. We followed them to the beach.

I wish I hadn’t seen that man bend over and air his haemorrhoids. I wish I hadn’t seen Julian’s crooked cock. I concentrated on the sea. Nudist soup. Fat ones, skinny ones, little kids, old ladies.

‘I’m going to do it,’ giggled Amy.

‘Go on,’ urged Julian.

Debbie glared at them.

I watched Amy’s shadow as she pulled off her top; heard her unzip her jeans and wriggle free. My mouth was dry. Wanting to act natural and casual, I turned to talk to Amy. She had perfect breasts and a freckle on her hip.

That night, Debbie cried. ‘You shouldn’t have looked.’

‘I wish I hadn’t.’

‘But you did.’ She carried on like this all night, sitting outside the caravan. I sat there and made reassuring noises while picturing her sister’s breasts.