I live on the threshold between two worlds and I share my bed with an ape

Chimpanzee

I cannot afford anything that costs more than £5.13, for those are the funds left in my bank account. I run the risk, if I take the Tube to the British Library, of not being able to take it back.

I am sitting with my wife on the bed, watching University Challenge. A small family of chimpanzees sits on the bed with us, grooming each other. There are also a couple of gorillas, one of whom has taken a liking to me, and she holds my hand gently. I am worried, though: I have heard that the great apes can be violent, and the phrase that keeps popping up in my head is “ripped his face off”, from a long-ago news report, and that was just a chimp. Lord knows what a gorilla could do.

“How long are we looking after this lot again?” I ask.

“Until around midsummer,” she says.

“Midsummer!” I yell, and suddenly it’s the radio alarm clock, and John Humphrys on the Today programme.

My dreams have been getting weirder lately. I will spare you the worst. I wonder if it’s where I’ve been living. I am under strict instructions not to open any windows – apparently the cat is an escape artist. The lack of fresh air is doing things to my subconscious.

A more interesting explanation is the area I’m in. Olympia is in an interesting part of London. If you wanted to make someone a present of Hammersmith, Shepherd’s Bush, Kensington and Earl’s Court, Olympia would be where you put your finger on the knot to tie up the parcel. Yet it is weirdly difficult to get to: you have to use the Overground train, and although there is also a Tube station, it only works at weekends. Don’t tell me that isn’t an inversion of the natural order. In the morning, I can stand in the kitchen in my underpants and watch gouts of commuters leaving the Overground every 15 minutes. As often as not it’s been raining, and I watch with pity.

The area is liminal, on the threshold between worlds. Turn left out of my door and you are in a part of the world where JK Rowling has her London pied-à-terre, and where Jimmy Page and Robbie Williams have furious rows about the latter’s proposed basement extension (I am so with Jimmy Page on this one). But turn right out of my door and before about …read more

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