Friends With Benefits. November 2015.

Dear Rowley,

On the mend my dear, thank God. I didn’t cough all night unless you count the gagging reflex when I saw Jamie Oliver on the news campaigning for, well, something. That man is one big campaign in the arse (salveĀ Midler). The secret to healthy eating is to touch nothing that Mrs Noah couldn’t have rustled-up on the first evening aboard the Ark: simples. But if 90% of the population prefer a dirty burger and a large Gregg’s sausage roll then who are you to take away their small pleasures?

It’s terribly easy to eat healthily if you are a multi-millionaire chef who won life’s lottery. Daisy Boo indeed! Now, can we talk about rickshaws in London? I was crossing High Holborn minding my own business on the way to Waitrose when an Eastern European rickshaw driver almost saw off my sling-back. I cussed, he turned round and called me a f****** c***.

Now, what would you do? Say, ‘yes I quite agree with you. I’ve only been born in England, paid my taxes all my effing life, tried to play by the rules and be kind to my fellow man’. That scruffy twot probably lives on benefits in social housing and is having a lovely time overcharging gullible tourists for a two minute drive from the Shaftesbury Theatre to Maccy Ds. I, meanwhile, have to hustle like a Times Square tart to keep head above water.

I was all on not to sprint after the little fucker, leap into the back of his rickshaw, do an Isadora Duncan in reverse and strangle him with my Pashmina. I, like most Londoners, are utterly fed-up with immigration. This city is like the bloody souk in Marrakesh these days and you rarely hear an English accent from Piccadilly to Wapping Wall. Say it and you’ll be accused of racism. But sometimes you have to call it like it is.

We local Londoners are abused daily by incomers. Our sentiments are no less different to Cotswold villagers who suffer under the influx of Nimby couples with pretty children and labradors who gobble-up the housing stock and visit every Christmas. We live here. We try to be nice. We really do. But when some dark-skinned thug spits on the street inches away from your George Cleverley’s I am inches away from knife crime.

Ooh, gurl, the weather lady on BBC Breakfast this morning is wearing a nasty mac. But I digress. I think Londoners are like prima ballerinas. We train ourselves to earn sufficient money to keep buggering on. We make it look effortless but, my heaven, the bunions and aches and pains.

And another thing! Can we talk about tax credits? What precisely are tax credits? More to the point what are benefits full stop? I am forty four and am not aware of them other than free, fabulous health care courtesy of the NHS. Another corker on BBC Breakfast. ‘Sophie and her two children live in one room in a house full of strangers’. I live in two rooms in a house full of strangers. Am I complaining or expecting a hand-out?

Granted, I had a dream to live in a Georgian house on a London square and made it happen. I love my home. I can’t afford to buy but I am proud to make the rent every month. If I don’t, I will be out on my ear in a New York minute and be doing favours for sailors down the docks in Portsmouth. You get my point don’t you? There are payers and there are liggers. I know that if my career crashed (again), I wouldn’t go cap in hand to the government for lolly.

No, I would get a bar job in Soho, manage my expectations, flog a few pieces of jewellery and have another go. I was fortunate to have my grandmothers – the WW2 generation – as formative influences as a child. One was a good-hearted misery moo and the other was simply grateful for the gift of life. Nan Sherwood rolled with the punches. She took pleasure where she found it and by that I mean a G&T notĀ Fanny by Gaslight.

In fact I’d go so far as to say Nan Sherwood was my role model. I only knew her briefly as a wife. For the most part she lived alone and she liked it. She never wanted another man after Syd died. What I remember most is the laughter. She did cry easily but they were usually crocodile tears to achieve what she wanted. I miss her every day but feel she is still on my shoulder in my darkest and lightest days.

My life is in part modelled on Nan Sherwood. She had a bit of money but buckets of style. I would always choose style over filthy lucre. It takes you so much further and keeps you on your toes. It takes time and effort to put your glad rags on every day and step-out knowing you couldn’t stand a man a Margarita at Scarfes Bar even if you wanted to. In fact, though I do give the occasional shilling to beggars, for the most part I would estimate ‘the homeless’ have more in their pocket on any given day than I do.

I shall rest my case shortly but not before urging the Prime Minister and Mr Osborne to think again about tax credits and learn that even faux humility and a U-turn is better than letting the enemy back in power. I think I’ve got another twenty years of hell-raising and writing like a demon before I shuffle-off and I don’t want to live it in a London under a Labour government. Be told!