I marched into the brilliantly-named Pentonville Rubber – suppliers of rubber and foam to the furnishing and construction sectors – with a determined look in my eye. It smelled reassuringly industrial and huge lengths of foam were stacked up to the ceiling.
“Hello,” said a man who looked rather confused to see a violin-toting woman wearing high heels marching into his shop. (I know. I wear heels about three times a year. Why the feck did I wear them to a rubber shop?)
“Hello,” I said carefully. “I need to turn myself into a roast beef. Can you help?”
He didn’t turn a hair. He merely sized me up, took a giant piece of foam out to a back room, started what sounded like a terrifying chainsaw and came back with a piece of foam just about the right size for me to wrap round myself. And charged me a fiver for it. A fiver! There was enough foam there to make a sodding mattress!
Jubilant, I marched out and headed for the art shop in search of hues that depicted a well-done joint of beef that is still a little bit rare in the centre.
I love art shops. I am the least arty person on the planet but when I’m in an art shop I feel exciting and creative. Like the sort of person who wears a post-modern dungaree and has a gamine crop; maybe some weird eye make-up and a boyfriend called Broccoli. Being in there talking to the arty folk who work there and lustfully-fingering horse-hair triple silk paint brushes made me feel edgy for a few minutes.
Thus fortified, I went home and began to CREATE.
The occasion was my sister’s thirtieth, for which she was throwing a party themed ‘Best of British.’ I should add that she is no nationalist, Robinson Jnr.; rather she just fancied dressing up as a letter box and her boyfriend was keen to dress up as Jimmy Savile.
Now, I’ve been shit at fancy dress for many years. But I read a great blog recently about how women use Halloween as a chance to turn themselves into sluts which made me realise that I am no better and actually have used any fancy dress occasion as an excuse to dress like a slut for a long time now. It’s so much easier. Ebay is groaning under the weight of minging ‘burlesque’ costumes comprised of sweaty nylon and scratchy net. But, yuk. It’s sordid. And ridiculous too. I’m not sexy. I’m not burlesque. I’m a clumsy fool who drops her iPhone down the toilet (last night) and spills the contents of her bag all over the tube platform (this morning) and pours her cup of tea directly into her lap (fifteen minutes ago; Starbucks New Oxford Street).
My final attempt at doing slutty, at my friend Alice’s birthday a couple of years back, was a disaster and it signed the death warrant for this type of costume and I. Firstly, I ordered some sort of bustle which, on the stick-like model on Ebay, looked like it served as a skirt too. Sadly, on my fleshy rump it stuck straight out without any downwards flop at all. And by the time I had the dratted thing on, it was too late. I had nothing else to wear, save for the tracksuit bottoms I’d arrived in. The whole night, therefore, I was basically walking around with my underwear on full display. Rather than looking daring and fun I looked like an embarrassed woman in faded knickers with a shelf of cheap lace sticking out above her fat arse.
Secondly, the corset I had borrowed from my friend was designed for a woman less voluptuous than I. You can imagine the sort of problems I encountered. I managed OK for a few hours but when the dancing started I suffered the fate of an entire breast flying out on to the dancefloor. Not a bit of nipple poking out over the upper reaches of the corset, AN ENTIRE BREAST.
“Enough,” I smarted, re-inserting the errant breast and scurrying off for a miserable kebab. No more rotten Ebay slut costumes for me.
And so when I received the party invitation from Robinson Jnr I decided it was time to make an effort. Make myself look like a total cock. Change my ways! Start anew!
Going to a rubber supplier and art shop was, therefore, a very excellent adventure for which I had unbridled enthusiasm.
The first challenge, once I returned home, was going about painting the mofo. “You’ll need a LOT of paint,” said the trendy art man in Cass Art. I ignored him and bought only one pot. What did he know about paint ffs? I’m an artist!
The first pot covered about an eighth of my foam strip and then ran out.
I bought more (from a different art shop, obv.)
It then occurred to me that I was going to have to be genuinely creative. Mixing colours and stuff. “HELP!” I shouted via text message to my arty friend. “HOW DO I PAINT BEEF?”
“You’re weird. Shut up xx,” she replied helpfully.
I got online and started studying joints of beef. After a while, I felt like I had the measure of it so I started to let rip.
The result was a bovine massacre. A sea of unrelenting dark brown streaked with confetti pink and bordered by bright scarlett.
I had to buy yet more paint.
Finally, having made something that looked at least like a big dump (better than a massacre) I set it to one side and considered my accessories. Using The Man’s tool kit I bored holes into various vegetables and made me a head dress of sprouts and a necklace of carrots. The Man made me some Oxo cube earrings and I completed the entire thing with a pair of slippers designed to look like yorkshire puddings, only they looked like brown slippers. Never mind.
Now, I would like to say at this point that it was a rip-roaring success, and that people convulsed with warm laughter and awe-struck recognition when they saw me. “No way! A human roast dinner!” they tinkled in my imagination. The reality, unfortunately, was that only a small handful of people had any idea what I was. “But look!” I cried, pointing at the strings tied round my beef tube. “Look! I’m a joint of beef! With string round it!”
Another issue was that I looked, well, like a person who has a large length of foam wrapped round her and tied with string. I did not feel good about my appearance. “You look really fat!” My Mum whispered conspiratorially. I nodded brightly as if this had been my plan and that I was delighted to receive this feedback.
The biggest problem, however, was that I was rendered effectively immobile by my costume. To get up the stairs to the main party room I had to lean on The Man and do a weird sideways shuffle. It wasn’t the entrance I’d hoped for; I just looked like a dead drunk beef half-passed out on her poor boyfriend. But then the real challenge came when I tried to sit down. I couldn’t. The foam cut off halfway down my thighs and I was tied into it. Bending my body was completely impossible. Instead I had to lie across a chair. My sister had ordered in posh fish and chips for the hoards, which everyone ate in their stylish and fabulous costumes, chatting away brightly to each other.
I lay sideways across a chair, The Man feeding chips into my mouth, and stared at a sea of legs and crotches around me.
“This has not come off quite the way I wanted it to,” I thought, as The Man dangled a piece of battered sausage before my eyes.
This is the kind of thing that happens when I attempt creativity. It’s why I have resorted to slutty in the past, and why I may have to go back there again one day.
Yours, a slightly embarrassed roast beef, Lucy Robinson.