Saturday, 23 April 2011

Peep shows and fistic crises


Odd Nerdrum

   Many years ago in Blackpool, the garish seaside town in the north of England that is the holiday Mecca of the working classes, I converted a peep show venue into a labyrinth in which to play laser-gun war games. Happy days, as Beckett would say.

   Just as empty churches resonate with the ghosts of absent congregations so do derelict peep shows. When ripping down the wooden partitions that honeycombed the windowless, litter-strewn premises it was easy to imagine the venue's quotidian routine; naked women gyrating in hexagons whose facets had letter-boxes inserted at waist height through which crouched men in cubicles would mutter gruff commands and frantic pleas. When the clockwork timer had exhausted their last 50 pence coin and the guillotine occluded the carnal landscape, the enervated voyeurs would return to the daylight leaving behind their discarded tissues redolent with loneliness.

   The job took a week. In the evenings I'd drink beer in bars where people drank to get drunk then I'd go back to a third-floor room in one of the innumerable, indistinguishable hotels. One night in the early hours I was woken by staccato shouts from the street below. I leant on the window and saw a youth, accompanied by his girlfriend, berating a bouncer who had, it seemed, thrown him out of the nightclub that faced my hotel. Mid-sentence the big lunk of a bouncer punched the young man in the mouth. The blow was practiced, almost perfunctory, its casual nature shocking the recipient who, for a short while, continued to berate, his indignation and the humiliation of being hit making his voice crack. Then, suddenly spent, the young man fell silent and let his distraught girlfriend drag him homewards, the fistic crisis over, the leaden regret only beginning.