Dancers at the end of time

It’s 1993. It’s nearly Christmas, they have the tree up on the ward already and Adam’s IV drip stand has some red tinsel draped on it. A nurse is fussing about with his tubes. Pneumonia, this time. There’s me, a couple of transvestites and a guy with a leather jacket and trimmed moustache stood around the bottom of the bed. “It’s family only” the nurse says. We all give her a quick nod. She opens her mouth to speak; hesitates;  and closes it again. She nods back brusquely and busies herself at the next bed.

We catch the Lee and Jimmy Sunday Show at the Vauxhall Tavern and raise our glasses as they belt out Neil Diamond tributes and torch song classics. It’s still lunchtime and I’m already half-cut, propped up against the stage at the front, voice hoarse from too many enthusiastic choruses. They finish on “Sweet Caroline” to rapturous applause (just like they do every week) and at 2pm we all stagger across the road to the Market Tavern, a dimlit sleazy club above a Shopping Centre. Nobody’s going home yet. We queue up, leave our coats, buy our poppers and throw ourselves on the dancefloor. Outside the sun’s still shining but you wouldn’t know it in here. The speakers crackle out our favourite French version of “I will survive” and Gloria never had it so good. Lee’s come over too, ditched the wig and high heels for his leathers and is dancing with me. He’s not been so well lately; but screw that. We’re here to dance. We aren’t going to stop. When this place shuts we’ll move on across London, the clubs and smoky piano bars and we’ll drink and dance and dance and drink ’til we can’t stand up and then dance some damn more like there’s no tomorrow.

Richard is in charge of the Christmas pudding. I’m in charge of the tequilas. Not a wise combination. He lurches into the living room wearing a blonde wig and a feather Boa and showers a giant tube of Smarties in the air. There’s Tim and Mark and Jon and Alex, Glenn and Pierre. Just the eight of us this year. Enough Smarties for everyone and we laugh like drains. We’ve forgotten the pudding, have another round of vodkas and we’re dancing round the room again like loons, just like last year, just like he would have wanted. None of us know when the party will wind up; least of all me. But until then – we are going to dance.




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