Robyn was a tiny blond woman with curves and a high nasal voice that her strong Australian accent turned into a shrill whine.
I met her when I was living in London in the early 1980’s.
I’d lost my bar job and subsequently my room in a flat, so started renting floor space in a backpackers’ hostel in Earls Court. It was a pretty typical environment for an enclave of young Australasians on their ‘overseas experience’. Not degenerating the process, but most of the hostel residents were doing their necessary year of travel and hard partying before returning home to start the phase of life that involved acquiring jobs, families etc.
Robyn had her own room in the hostel, which was unusual as most people were either in a dormitory or shared rooms.
She worked long hours as a waitress in a Lebanese coffee bar in Earl’s Court and at one stage even arranged a job interview for me there, however I’d lost one of my only pair of shoes the drunken night before and after turning up to the interview with bare feet, I wasn’t really surprised not to get the job.
For some reason Robyn and I got on, although she was very volatile and could be strident and confrontational.
Men, especially Mediterranean and Latin men, loved her tiny, excitable feminine blondness.
Initially she had been friendly enough to me, though guarded. As she claimed to be trained as a hair dresser she dyed my hair blonde, and when I wasn’t unduly upset when her bleaching combusted my hair and resulted in a burnt yellow/orange/white afro that necessitated a buzz cut as the hair kept breaking off, I seemed to have passed some sort of test and we became closer.
Robyn affected quite a ditsy persona, and I never figured out how bright she actually was, although I did realise she had great depth of feeling and was perhaps a little mad.
Her dream was to be an air hostess but at that time there was some sort of weight restriction on potential stewardess’ and as she weighed a stone over this limit Robyn was constantly dieting and seemed to live on rice cakes and wine.
I later found that while she was still living in Australia her TV set had talked to her. She used to switch it off and unplug it from the wall but the voice didn’t stop, which understandably used to freak her out. One day the unplugged and switched off television gave her the wins and places of the Melbourne cup, and she bet all her money on these predictions, and won. It was some time after our first meeting her that she told me this, by which stage we were squatting together in Kensington. I’d suspected for some time that she had a lot of money but she always worked and was careful spending so her wealth didn’t standout.
She would sometimes have violent emotional explosions, lose her temper, scream and occasionally toss bricks though windows of those who offended her, however at that time the squat we were living in was populated with a very offbeat group of people, so she didn’t stand out at all.
There was David the cocaine dealer who set up a party room with turntables in the basement; Josh the Irishman who became a psychopath when drunk and would jump off high buildings (when I first met him, both of his legs were in casts), get into fights and race his motorcycle through the living room; Wagner the Brazilian engineer who was in love with Robyn and Monica the Italian woman who had left Italy to recover from a cocaine addiction which unfortunately started up again when David moved in.
By this time Robyn had found herself a rather beefcake young man, whom I suspect she was supporting. Marco was a magnificent specimen of tanned muscled manhood, although he was incredibly dim. He rarely left Robyn’s room, although once when the police were knocking down the front door, he came out (naked bar a transparent posing pouch, with a torso that was definitely oiled) and assumed an alert stance before returning to the candle lit and scented room they both occupied.
When David disappeared into the bowels of Wormwood Scrubs, the squat dissolved and I lost touch with everyone. Within a year or so I’d moved to Hong Kong, then to Melbourne then back to New Zealand.
Several years later I answered my phone in Dunedin to the sound of a strident Australian accent.
It was Robyn.
The television set had told her where I lived.