Life and times

Nov­el­ist Susie Boyt

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents -

IN LONDON, NO ONE can sleep at the best of times, and these aren’t the best of times. ‘Just start at 10,000 and sub­tract three un­til all the num­bers are gone,’ a friend told me. ‘You’ll soon bore your­self un­con­scious.’ But I don’t want to drop off like a pound shop Carol Vor­der­man. I like to fall asleep to jaunty scenes. Some­times I try to re­mem­ber ev­ery­thing I’ve worn on my birth­day for the past 20 years: the frilly red-and- white polka dots; the gold lace with scal­loped hem; the black strappy dress with the an­gry-look­ing riv­ets. Oh dear. Some­times I try to soothe my­self to sleep by plan­ning a ban­quet for all my favourite wait­ers. I flap their nap­kins on to their laps, pour wine with a flour­ish. That oc­ca­sion­ally works. Last night, my favoured small-hours sce­nario was how to re­ward a friend who’s re­cently gone all out for me in terms of loy­alty and kind­ness. I started on a cus­tomised ver­sion of You’re the Top, stress­ing her acts of val­our, with apolo­gies to Cole Porter.

You’re the top

You’re a knight in ar­mour

You’re the top

You’re a Broad­way drama /red-hot mama / Simon Schama /chicken shawarma? You’re the Ly­cra threads around a su­per­hero’s legs

You’re a Vi­en­nese schnitzel

A brand new Lyp­sil

You’re scram­bled eggs

You’re a Saint

You’re Sir Wal­ter Raleigh

You’re the paint

On my boyfriend’s Har­ley

You’re the Seine at dawn

A unicorn

A lamb chop

But if baby I’m the bot­tom you’re the top

You’re the Thames You’re Simone de Beau­voir...

At de Beau­voir I stum­bled for a rhyme: sangfroid, nougat, pe­tits pois…? Do­ing this sort of thing makes you re­alise how wildly tal­ented Cole Porter was. And there, fi­nally, was an el­e­gant yet un­con­tro­ver­sial thought on which to fall asleep. Off I drifted. At only 10 past three.

THIS SUM­MER IT HAS rained wed­dings: one the­atri­cal, for which I made the four-tier heart-shaped cake; one vegan, where respite came at the eleventh hour in the form of cheese wedges; a third in which I heck­led the best man’s speech, as I thought it spite­ful, only to be booed by 300 guests. Quite brac­ing. At the the­atri­cal wed­ding, an in­no­va­tion – crowd-surf­ing! The two grooms, with the help of the cabaret artist Meow Meow, were car­ried aloft by their guests. It was a won­der­ful en­act­ment of that mo­ment in wed­dings when the con­gre­ga­tion is asked to sup­port the newly mar­ried pair. Per­haps it will catch on.

TEN YEARS AGO, I pub­lished an ec­cen­tric mem­oir. It put to­gether key episodes from my life and episodes from Judy Gar­land’s life and used them to look at love, fame, grief, con­so­la­tion and hero wor­ship, with a lit­tle se­quin­stud­ded self-help thrown in. It’s be­ing reis­sued next month and I went to the Cin­derella Bar at The London Pal­la­dium to write a new pref­ace, be­cause it was there, in 1951, that Gar­land’s sec­ond-act ca­reer as a con­cert artist be­gan. Ninety min­utes later, I had a rough first draft, de­scrib­ing how the great star had sung straight into my heart when I was a ner­vous lit­tle girl. The light dimmed slightly and I imag­ined Judy walk­ing into the room, snap­ping her mi­cro­phone cord be­hind her. I saw her grin, then nar­row her elfin fea­tures and wink as if to say, ‘You know, dear, you re­ally mustn’t be­lieve ev­ery­thing you write.’ My Judy Gar­land Life, by Susie Boyt, will be reis­sued by Vi­rago on 17 Septem­ber

Some­times I try to soothe my­self to sleep by plan­ning a ban­quet for all my favourite wait­ers

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