The liggers shook with laughter as they stood in the centre of the Albatross Gallery, big drops of wine poured freely over the rims of their glasses. It was one of those perfect nights in the west end, thought Audrey happily. Something that was becoming increasingly rare of late. A good combination of friends had assembled in the centre of the space and the wine was superb.
“Shame about the art,” said Audrey, her thoughts continuing out loud. She raised a greying eyebrow above the rim of her glasses, which had not quite been disguised by the thin brown lines of a khol pencil hurriedly applied on the bus.
The group looked at their surroundings. Brash, cartoon-like images of London, Dubai and Sydney glared at them from the walls. Some of these horrors had even incorporated McDonald’s.
Audrey shuddered in her navy and tan coloured dress. The fitted garment accentuated her short, yet robust form and her long brown hair hung over the fabric in two straight curtains, parted directly in the middle.
“It’s dreadful,” agreed Moira, a flame-haired painter. “All the artists we know, and this is what floats to the top.”
“Well it’s certainly popular,” said Audrey, gesticulating towards the tiny red on the wall that accompanied each piece. Wine sloshed in a semi-circle around them.
“A load of banks probably bought them for their offices” grumbled Dudley, their tall scruffy companion, a ‘staunch anti-capitalist’ and new to the gallery scene. “It’s all the same bowl of soup.”
They all tutted and glugged down their drinks. A gallery assistant emerged from the kitchen with a tray of canapes and the group were quick to surround her.
Audrey quickly devoured the two pieces of toast and smoked salmon that she had retrieved and sighed as she caught sight of the empty tray yards ahead. “Just a couple of crumbs,” she moaned.
“It’s every twenty minutes on the dot they bring out these out,” complained Moira.
It was now approaching 8pm and Audrey and Moira decided to peruse the space in search of a final top-up. The two women were old friends. They had met at a private view back in the early nineties when Moira asked Audrey where she had bought her lime-coloured hipsters. The rest was history that they could not remember most of.
“So how have you been sweetheart?” asked Moira.
“Oh struggling on. Trying to sue my boss” said Audrey. “Then hopefully I can do up my front room, and be a perfect grandma.”
“Awww, and how is the beautiful baby?” asked Moira.
“Yep. Good. Wonderful. You know, I was born to be a grandma.”
“Oh yes. Of course darlin’” said Moira, patting her arm and smiling fondly.
“I’m going to show him the way. Stop him from being one of the herd.” Audrey said firmly.
“Well, perhaps you should introduce him to Dudley,” said Moira picking up some paper from the front counter and flicking through it absent-mindedly. Suddenly she froze.
“I think my grandson’s going to save the world, Moira. I can really feel it.” Audrey enthused dreamily. “He doesn’t want Peppa Pig, he wants Blake – What? What’s wrong?”
“Audrey, look at this!” squeaked Moira, clutching the papers with white knuckles.
“What is it? Oh, it’s Mac.” she said, recognizing immediately a photograph of their lively Australian friend. “Is he in the show or something?”
“Read the title!” hissed Moira.
“Winos of Cork Street” read Audrey. She gasped. “What is this? Who made it?”
Moira was too stunned to respond. She pointed to the underlined sub-heading. “Keep look out at private views.”
“My God,“ breathed Audrey, flicking through the pages. “There‘s Deborah and Robert – well he is a bloody wino, even I‘ll say that. Martin’s number 3. How the hell did they get these mug shots?”
“They must have taken them zooming in on their phones or something,” said Moira. “How creepy is that?”
“Well, if Mac’s number 2, who on earth is number 1?” said Audrey, taking off her glasses and squinting at the offending document. She slowly turned it back to the front page.
“Excuse me!” A young woman dressed in crisp designer attire appeared before the two friends. Her blond hair appeared to be carefully teased into a scruffy bun, clipped and sprayed into place. Without a further word she snatched the list out of their hands. “This is not for you,” she said coldly before turning on her heel and disappearing into a back room.
“Well, we’ve really stirred up the hornet’s nest now,” said Moira, shaking her head. “I think we should get out of here.”
Audrey nodded slowly. The pair abandoned their empty glasses on the counter and exited, making their way through the crowd that had spilled out onto the street.
“Bill Brown is on till nine,” said Audrey. “We can go there, far away from Big Brother gallery.”
“We weren’t on that list were we?” asked Moira.
“Well we only saw the first couple of pages but I doubt it,” replied Audrey confidently. “We’re not really like them.”
Pic: Claire Palmer
To be continued