I write this sitting on a cold hard concrete slab they’re calling a bed. Or I would be if they hadn’t taken away the Biro that was inside my designer-imposter tuxedo jacket because I’m a suicide risk and might use it to stab away the pain.
They’ve also taken away my belt and shoelaces, and asked: “What are we calling this? Blonde!?” while punching in my mini-biog at the desk in the lobby.
My cell is all kinds of grey, which is not only very now but also practical
The policewoman – or PC, or what’s the right way to say it without offending Stylist readers? – is heavyset, much like a potato, with hair that hasn’t moved since 1973. She takes me by the hand – or at least that’s how I remember it because I was in the mood for being mothered – and leads me down a corridor that seems to go on forever, taking in, apparently, Beirut and the Holloway Road, into what is known in the business as a “cell”.
I’m on my own, because heaven forbid I want to have sex with the other person, or braid their hair.
My cell is all kinds of grey, which is not only very now but also practical. Slick lines and not a jot of bedding to speak of, it takes minimalism way past post- and back to caveman, and even the toilet at the far end of my own private oblong is stripped down. The plumbing is tucked behind the wall – which people pay a lot of money for these days – and the toilet seat is done away with in case someone decides to hang themselves with it, because baddies are extra resourceful in these circumstances. Instead there’s just a swish of rubber traction stuck to the toilet rim, to stop your bottom slipping in or off or wherever it is bottoms slip to.
There isn’t a TV, which is just rude. Or even a copy of West Coast Living. The only thing to read is an 0800 number scrawled across the ceiling of the cell, along with the caption, “Need someone to talk to?” which is all a bit prick-tease-y seeing as they also take away your mobile phone and I hate to break it to you, but telepathy is about as reliable as that person you’re dating. There’s not even one of those generic notepad blocks by your bed to take down the number for later.
They really haven’t thought this through.
Good luck trying to get a Londoner to use the name of Manhattan’s most anodyne district to describe an area that existed way before America was even a twinkle in the Puritans’ eyes
Holborn’s quite cool now, though. As central London neighbourhoods go, it has been neither mickle nor muckle for the longest time, but is edging towards muckle. Pronounced only without the “l” if you’re a Tube announcer, it’s ten minutes either way to Soho or Clerkenwell or Kings Cross, and is fringed by lovely Bloomsbury. There’s now one of the best hotels in the world in Holborn – the Rosewood – and really great little restaurants like the slightly mad Ciao Bella, and great little cafés like The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs on Chancery Lane, and this patch of olde worlde called Lincoln’s Inn Fields that’s so gorgeous you may need to change your pants.
There are also these people – narrow-shouldered, one suspects, who pronounce ASAP as two syllables – being paid to change the name of Holborn and its immediate environs to “Midtown”, but they can f––k right off. It’s like when they tried to change Fitzrovia to “Noho” (North of Soho) and British Airways put silly doodles on their tails. Needless, and a waste of a whole load of resources that could be better spent telling the religious nutters outside of Holborn Tube where to go.
And good luck trying to get a Londoner to use the name of Manhattan’s most anodyne district to describe an area that existed way before America was even a twinkle in the Puritans’ eyes.
Oh look, there goes a Mexican wave of Eat Mes with Midtown’s name all over it…
So here’s the back story: Me and chums had left a celeb-packed party to pop into Soho, go-cup of booze in hand. We were waiting patiently for a black cab, bons mots all over the shop and, after lots of minutes, one pulled up. There we are, just about to open the door and get in, and a woman leaps in front of us, stealing said cab, which isn’t nice. She’s wearing so much make-up she’s leaving skid-marks in the air.
“But that’s our cab!” we said, not even shouting because we were in a great mood. “F––k off, you poofs,” came the reply, which is also not nice.
Then she went and said it again, only this time changing her pejorative to something more ghetto, which only made the white girl with ombré’d hair look even more silly.
I mean, once could be considered careless; twice makes you a bona fide See You Next Tuesday. So, dear reader, as any law-abiding victim of a hate crime would do, we threw our drinks in her face. All half-an-inch of vodka-soda (with a splash of lime, we’re not animals) of it. She screams, and gets out her phone to call the police. A few nee-naws later, and guess whose side PC Five-a-Side-every-Tuesday is taking…?
Did you know they leave the light on all night when you’re in jail? They never mentioned that on Oz and, what with a mattress thinner than Kylie Minogue’s voice, sleep was never going to happen. Instead I did push-ups and thought how I might be coming across on CCTV.
Breakfast was a simple affair and arrived soon after 7.30am, shoved through the door, followed by the words, “I’ll deal with you first, darling,” which could turn into quite some anecdote if I put time into it. A sort of Egg McMuffin – not that I’d know what one of those is – with a side of bugger all, it came in a polystyrene box that has probably given me blood cancer, and no paper napkin, presumably in case I tried to hang myself with it.
“I can tell you’ve never spent the night in jail,” said my liberator, whistling and key-swinging as she walked me to a little room with a false ceiling and a floor that looked like cirrhosis. ‘This won’t take very long, just a few questions then you’re free to go.”
“I can tell you’ve never spent the night in jail,” said my liberator
Our assailant had already given her statement, some squish-squish nonsense about being the innocent victim of a brutish gang of homosexuals stalking the streets of WC2 looking for women in leggings to throw drinks over. A story even my interviewer – a professional when it comes to this sort of thing – wasn’t buying for ready money. Oh, and if anyone’s all het up about the moral injustice of all of the above, it was explained quickly, like sex ed, that me and my fellow victims of hate crime (other cells, down the corridor) had been kept inside (it’s mad how quickly you pick up the lingo!) not because of our vigilante bigot-drenching but because we were pissed and the police aren’t allowed to knowingly release drunk people into the wild.
You should probably make a note of that.
“She did report one more thing,” said my nice lady in our little room, reading her piece of paper with a growing smirk. “She said one of your party told her she has, and I quote, ‘Really bad hair’.”
“Yes, that would’ve been me,” I said. “Is that a crime now?” C
Stephen Unwin is a London-based journalist and celebrity interviewer