Book Extract

Like a particularly hopeful and deluded young man, I am at my home, alone, stoned, thinking …

London would be a fitting place to meet up with her.  She is way out of my league but I’m stubbornly confident.  I’ve been wooing her for about three months and the time feels right, the seasonal spirit is in full swing and meeting with her and starting a physical relationship would be a nice Christmas present.

This American woman was at the height of her appeal and I’d fallen for her.  I was not previously very successful with women, I was not all that good looking, but she made me believe in magic.  We talked telepathically all the time, she could hear my thoughts and I could hear hers, and she was just as in to me as I was in to her. 

That evening, this 19 year old left for Basingstoke train station looking scruffy wearing rollerblades and holding my regular shoes, one in each hand.  I had nothing on me except my wallet, my personal stereo and some cigarettes.  I even took my passport, just in case she wanted to travel.  I was happy and confident.  I was too young-minded to know that I should be a bit anxious.  I’d never been to The Ritz Hotel before and I was really looking forward to it!  While waiting for the train I asked Britney Jean for her room number and I heard ‘213’ in my mind. 

I soon boarded one of Network Rail’s worst and most ragged carriages, in clear need of either a proper scrub or outright replacement.  It was an hour’s journey to London Waterloo station, and then about another hours journey after that to The Ritz Hotel but I knew I wasn’t going to get bored, as I was communicating thoughts with the actual person Britney Spears, sharing jokes, profound ideas, and listening to (her) music on my headphones, and I’m thinking “this is great – can’t wait to meet her.  Maybe the passenger on my left, a man of about 40 years of age dressed in a suit with his tie removed after a long day, would like to know where I’m going and what I’m doing”.  So I tried to start a conversation.  “Do you like Britney Spears?”  It didn’t take anything more than that for the passenger and a few others who could hear to work out that I had a mental illness of some kind.  But I came across as fairly harmless, I was 19 but looked young, more like about 17, so the passenger happily chatted to indulge me and pass the time, and also to find out a bit about my mental illness which obviously involved a fascination or infatuation with Britney Spears, to see if he could help at all.  Perhaps he could suggest something in light conversation to steer me away from the delusion that I had any sort of relationship with Britney. 

He replied –

 “Mmm yes Britney.  She is a good dancer.”  He looked at me, studying me, now slightly intrigued. 
  “I’m on my way to meet her.  I can dance just like her.” 
 Are you now.  Can you now.  I hope you are prepared for her not being there, wherever that might be. (Thought silently)
  “She’s waiting for me in room 213 at The Ritz”. 
 “Have you spoken to her?  I don’t think The Ritz Hotel like having unannounced guests!”
A couple of eavesdroppers let out a small chuckle.
  “It’s OK, she’ll come to meet me at reception if she has to.  She can hear my thoughts telepathically.  I’m telepathic and this time tomorrow I’ll probably be famous.”
 “What are you going to say to Britney?  What are you expecting to happen when you meet her?”
  “Well of course we will make passionate love all night and I’m also hoping she smokes weed and that we can buy an ounce of it somewhere and have a massive smoke, then we’ll probably fly to her home in Hollywood and then I’ll become famous.”                                         

Poor me.  I was clearly unwell with delusions and I had low real life awareness.  But I was very enthusiastic and the man and I talked a bit more until he got off at his stop, halfway to London. 

“Goodbye.” I said.
  “Goodbye – if you see Britney tell her well done for her accomplishments, that she dances with a fantastic confidence and she is talented.”

I wasn’t the only one who’d give a testicle to go on a date with her.   

The train pressed quietly on to London and I skated from Waterloo Train station to The Ritz in an hour and 15 minutes, using my instinct to decode God’s instructions to me, as to the route.  If I saw a road sign that randomly stood out to me, I would follow it.  I think it was actually a half hour journey at the most if you knew where you were going. 
     It was dark and cold, but I was convinced that I was in good mental health, skating along, enjoying London, listening to ‘Oops I did it again’ on my personal stereo.  Soon I would be beginning a new life with Britney.  Not a bad end to an otherwise uneventful day eh!    

The main entrance to The Ritz was surprisingly low key from the outside.  There was no one watching the door, nobody watching for a delusional madman thinking he was on a mission from God, so I rolled straight in, still wearing my skates with a shoe in each hand, and queued up in a short line of smartly dressed wealthy looking people, sticking out like a peacock.  I think there is an actual dress code at The Ritz.                             
     When I reached the front of the queue I calmly asked the clerk,
 “can you tell me which room Ms Spears is in please?”.  She dutifully checked her books. 
  “Sir, we don’t have a room for Ms Spears”.  I replied –  
 “I think she’s in room 213”. 
  “We don’t have any reservations for a Ms Spears”. 
I was a bit surprised, but I knew that sometimes famous people checked in with a false name, so I left the desk clerk to call security while I had a look around for myself.  I started up the grand staircase, finding it difficult to walk upstairs sideways, as I still had on my roller blades. 

I found room 213 easily enough, knocked on the door and waited.  A maid answered speaking Spanish – “Hola, quien? No se – ella no esta aqui” which means in English “No you weirdo, Britney Spears is not here waiting for you, now piss off back to Basingstoke.” 

Right then I hallucinated hearing Britney’s soft voice, a voice that seemed half telepathic communication and half real, like she could be stood right behind me.  “I’m not right here but I’m here somewhere – don’t stop looking.”  It felt like a poetic riddle.  I then felt a physical sensation of shaking, all around the corridor as if there was a small earthquake.  It really did feel like God was unhappy with me and was considering literally bringing The Ritz Hotel promptly to the ground.  So I got on the floor in worship position for about 10 seconds and this very weird shaking sensation stopped.  It may have been an actual earthquake, but I don’t think so.  More likely some sort of hallucination.  I stood up very confused and slightly scared and gathered myself once more.  I didn’t know what to do.  Where was she?  What am I supposed to do now?  I took off my skates, making a mental note that if I ever were to repeat the exercise to just wear proper shoes.  I needed the loo, so I wandered through the restaurant on the ground floor to find the bathroom, which had an attendant and a thousand pounds worth of aftershave, and then wandered back to reception.  The Ritz is an impressively grand and attractive place, full of fresh flowers and everything seems to sparkle.  Piano playing wafted through the restaurant, melodic mainly right hand playing, Debussy, probably.  I drew a few curious stares from people oblivious to what had just happened who had paid good money to be separated from roughly dressed wanderers like me.       I decided to check out the top floor, she may be in one of the nice rooms.  I was disappointed to not find Britney waiting for me in the corridor to make it easy to find her.  Then the security man found me.  He was not a large man, but he looked authoritative enough to deal with the odd straggler.  We didn’t speak at all, it was clear that I was the strange young man the reception staff had told him to find and he discreetly held my arm and accompanied me to the exit.  That was my first experience of The Ritz.  There were black cabs waiting to pick people up, and while leaving, I wondered whether I should put my skates back on or take a taxi to the train station to go home.  I was a bit surprised, taken aback even, that Britney wasn’t there.
     I decided to skate back to Waterloo train station, and see a bit of London in the process.  I didn’t know how to feel about what had just happened, but I was still in a happy mood.  Tomorrow would be another day and another chance to find out where to meet with her.

I got a bit lost skating alongside the River Thames, possibly near Westminster.  I liked roller skating.  I’d played skateboarding video games and sometimes I practised simple tricks.  I think I crossed the Thames on a road and pavement bridge enjoying sharpening my skills at dodging obstacles.  As my roller skating confidence undeservedly piqued on a busy pavement I decided to go for a risky move, spotting a gap between pedestrians that was getting smaller, but I could make it if I was quick.  It was either that or come to a stop and wait, which is sometimes difficult on roller blades when you are moving at speed.  At the last second, realising I wasn’t going to find the gap in time, I had to stop – but there was no room on the pavement.  All I could do was use the road – “beeeep!” I heard from the car as he swerved to avoid me.  In the confusion I’d also clipped one of the crutches of a woman walking on the pavement with a broken leg – who almost fell into the person next to her…  I then decided not to stop at all.  Still on the edge of the road I turned to my right and shouted “sorry” to the woman walking with crutches who shouted something angrily back to me, and I kept going.  The woman was cross, annoyed, but unhurt.  I was very embarrassed and careful after that. 

I soon boarded a busy train home.  

Note – if you go to The Ritz, don’t wear roller blades.   

Although I didn’t find my imaginary friend on that wintry night out to London, I did enjoy parts of it and I banked an interesting memory.  As I got nearer to home I was wondering where she was.  I concluded that she had been unable to meet me, and that she had tried also but failed.  She could be anywhere in the world, but we had got our wires crossed.  As I was on my street, almost home, I thought, ‘maybe she left The Ritz a couple of hours ago, to meet me at my house, and that’s why she wasn’t there’.  Maybe she was right here – 100 metres away, having a chat and a cup of tea with my mum. 
     I looked for expensive cars parked on the street, and I don’t need to tell you I was again disappointed.  Not to worry though, I had been looking forward to the small bit of cannabis I had in my drawer in my bedroom and soon it would be in my brain and bloodstream once more. Some people can smoke weed perpetually and not be adversely affected.  For me it felt good but it also made me travel many miles to meet imaginary friends and such.  It is fair to say that the craziness had been brewing up for months.  My contact with reality in December 2001 was dim and continuing to shrink.

The arrival of my mental illness in late 2001 was of course strange, new, challenging – but honestly there were some parts of it that made sense, to me and Britney at least.  Read on and I’ll explain why.    

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