a novel by Nicola Frost
Broken, damaged, torn,
Held, forced, hurt,
Smothered, suffocated, terrified,
Disgusted, violated, tormented;
He robbed me.
My innocence? Of course,
And so much more;
He stole the light from my eyes.
Elephant Vindaloo is set in South London's notorious and dilapidated district of the
Elephant and Castle. It is staged in the 1980's against the political backdrop of Margaret Thatcher's Britain.
The story revolves around the occupants of eight flats, off one stairwell, of a small crumbling Victorian council estate.
At the top of the stairwell to the right live squatters, Fat Sid and Vince. They make up the rhythm section of a local rock band, The Neanderthals. Most of their spare time is taken up looking after fellow squatter's, teenage heroin addict Dolores baby, Jason. To add to their troubles Dolores brings home Little Wing, a beautiful but disturbed runaway.
Next to the squat lives Nick, a reformed drug addict given over to health foods and exercise. Nick carries a torch for our leading lady Kate. Sophisticated, brilliant and glamorous, a chance meeting brings her an unexpected date with our equally gorgeous and sexy Jake, a would-be actor/model, and The Neanderthals front man.
Below the squat, filthy disgusting Robert masturbates the weekend away. He is a window cleaner by trade, an electronic wizard by his own design, and has a sinister second career producing home videos.
Next to vile Robert lives Leo, a card-carrying union carpenter. Leo is a kindhearted, cheerful lad; as thick as two short planks, and prone to an ill-fated love life.
Beneath Robert yuppies, Dick and Selene, carry on their routine bondage and humiliation sex marathons, unaware that they are the centre of Robert's latest obsession.
Next to Dick and Selene lives Ruby Rutt, a ferocious grout-ridden octogenarian. Ruby and her best friend Edith hold their Saturday afternoon ritual of wrestling, Scotch and cigarettes. The television blasts at decibels usually associated with adolescent boys, obscenities are yelled, fists are shaken; it is not a sight for small children.
On the ground floor, beneath Dick and Selene lives Alec Evans. Alec, a depressive pacifist artist, and Greenham Common* widower, battles with his own growing political unrest as he suffers to continual absences of his self-righteous wife, Monica.
Next door, Ugandan immigrant Seema Patel, rules he husband with silent comtempt, instilling terrior on a daily basis. She crushes him with the supplest of eye movements and a deportment of grace and aloofness.
Elephant Vindaloo entertains a host of other characters: Fen, the rag and bone man and his dog, Scud. Gorky, a Polish refugee and his militant mother. Georgie, the gay world's answer to Stephen Hawking. Amourous grandfather, Leonard, local villain mean fuckin' Mike, and Margret the reincarnation of the 1st Queen Elizabeth to name but a few.
*U.S. missile base picketed by women and their children 24 hrs a day for several years.
MY MAD SISTER
My mad sister and I go back a long way. It's hard to say just where, why or when my sister appeared. Sometimes it feels as if she was always with me, my mad sister, like twins who shared the same life in each and every way until something happened. That's it I suppose, something happened to my poor sister.
My sister's tale is large and confused, it's difficult both to understand and narrate, so I guess the only place to begin is right there.
She lives in a fantasy world, it's all her stage, and things were large, bright and wonderful in my sister's world once upon a time. Our mother remembers her earlier than I:
"Such a happy little girl!" she says. I find this hard to believe, for me my sister was always troubled.
My earliest memories of my mad sister was-I guess-when she was nine. Perhaps I never noticed her before, but around nine my sister started to pray and stopped talking. Not that she didn't pray before but now all she asked God for was death. She had a strong faith in those days, and honestly believe that if she prayed long enough and doubtlessly her prayers would be answered. But God betrayed her.
As my sister could not die she became larger than life. Her mouth became her tormentor; always open, ever ready, insatiable. In the end she ate raw sugar to appease it. She ate until she could eat no more and awoke to find herself gross.
Nobody seemed to notice she had stopped talking but I noticed, and from then on my sister voice was forever in my head. The rantings, the ravings, compulsions, obsessions. I hang my head; is it me or she who cries:
"SHUT UP!" ?
I do not know. But it is her who answers, screaming in her mania,
"Talk to me, please talk to me. Talk to me about anything."
"Can't you think of anything but yourself?" I reproach.
"To the contrary," she replies, "I would give anything to be thinking of anything but myself. So talk to me, please talk to me....". My poor sister.
Sometimes my sister cries every day, sometimes not at all for months, even years. Everybody thinks she is at her sickest when she cries but I know better. When she goes numb, and she can't feel the things she's feeling, and she can't hear her own voice or thoughts over the noise in our head; can't sleep, can't eat, can't stop eating-this is when I fear for my sister. My poor, lonely, looney, crackpot sister.
My sister thinks she needs a man in her life to make her special-whole. It's the last thing she needs. Sometimes she's like a little puppy-dog.
"Love me, love me, love me!" she begs, as she clings to men who cannot love. I don't pretend to fully understand her.
My sister is not always sad, thank God! But still she lives inside her head, where distant islands shine like pearls within a sapphire sea. Where mountains perch amongst the clouds, where countless stars sparkle and shooting they fall. Oh my sister, my sister.
I love my crazy sister, sometimes you wouldn't think she had a care in the world. She sees things differently than most people and through her eyes all is new and wondrous. And sometimes all is darkness and despair. Sometimes my sister's voice sounds the same as mine. As time goes on it gets harder to tell. Sometimes. Is it she who puts heroin up our nose and pickles my liver with alcohol? Is it she who puts razors to our arms and, so slowly, so calmly slides them through our skin? Watching beads of blood change suddenly to tear drops she should be shedding but somehow cannot? Comforted by pains distraction, is it she who cries out in anguish and despair:
"Stop doing this to us!" or me to her?
I look in the mirror and see myself and she laughts as she says to me:
"But don't you see? I'm fine, it's you not me!"
My mad sister and I go back a long way.