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‘This is James,’ Tim said, and I looked up, ‘and this is Iris,’ he added.

She glanced down at me, a kohl-reptilian flicker that lasted long enough to surmise that I was unimportant and that we would probably never meet again, and then she turned away from me to chat to Tim.

After a couple of minutes they said their goodbyes and she drifted off across the road. ‘She has the club upstairs,’ he told me, rolling a cigarette. I watched her go – ageless, elegant, merciless, still gorgeous; a fag-hag of the first order.

We were sitting in the street outside some cafe drinking coffee, chatting about my career as a writer. I’d written one non-fiction book that had done ok, but had turned down the chance to do a promotional interview on national TV and after that the publishers lost interest in me a bit; but he wanted me to write more. I couldn’t do what he wanted, and didn’t know how to tell him. We tried to work it out.

Tim went to the toilet, returning some minutes later mildly more excited than he had been. ‘Right,’ he said, ‘Let’s sketch out your career plan.’

A few months later I emailed him to terminate our agent-client relationship. Sad really, as he was a good guy, and excellent at selling stuff, but I couldn’t go any further down that path.

Sitting listening to the radio now and there’s a documentary on Soho where, last year, I sat at a table outside a cafe with Tim sketching out the future that didn’t come to pass. It’s a really cool place, Soho, very welcoming I guess, if you give it your heart.

But it’s not the world.
It says nothing to me about my life.

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