Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Zit Code

Tuesday is, by recent tradition, the day I have set aside for worrying about identity theft. I have perused all my credit card statements for evidence of tampering. Nothing. I have scoured my bank, internet and telephone bills for sneaky signs of cloning and clowning around with my peace of mind. Diddly.

I have never been irresponsible with money except for that one time in CafĂ© Pacifico where an injudicious decision to be the one to eat the worm in the mescal resulted in a rather whopping £80 addition to my Visa bill. It was a lot of money in 1984. The congratulatory telegram from ‘Pel’ Mel Gibson was some compensation. And there was the time when I left my Mastercard in Majorca but it was in the Clarins shop and the Clarins people are irrefutably above reproach. There was no damage done except for the bumper pack of rejuvenating products which I’m still paying off.

Last night at Giraffe, I suspected the waiter of taking a furtive glance as I fumbled with the infernal credit card machine in the inky blackness that passes for mood lighting. The friends I was with insisted that he was just checking out a woman at the table behind us but he wasn’t standing behind them when they were entering their pin numbers. Fortunately, I succumbed to reason before anyone had to invoke the word ‘paranoid’ or pretend they had to get an early night as they were taking the 6.59 Eurostar to Brussels in the morning for an important meeting.

So careful am I that, not only do I own a cross-cutting shredder, I even pulverise the address labels from magazines and catalogues so that unscrupulous scoundrels are circumvented from hijacking my subscription to Poetry London. Would that the same diligence could be exercised by my bank which is one of the ones exposed this week for leaving sacks full of customer statements and loan applications outside their offices with post-it notes attached to them saying, ‘Dear identity thief, these bin bags contain all the information you will need to wipe out the entire life savings of thousands of our loyal customers. Enjoy.’

My prudence in matters financial does not extend to actual skill so my rapidly diminishing cash flow is more in the nature of an avalanche progressing inexorably towards my pension fund – which I don’t have. I will starve – but so will the identity thieves. Ha! However, the fact that I have not yet been the victim of identity fraud, (frantically looking for wood to touch – damn modern housing), does not make for a very interesting post, much less a continuing theme. I have therefore decided to expand the thread to include identity in general.

This morning I heard on the radio that people who live in North East London, i.e. Hackney, have the worst skin in Britain. Another accolade to add to the major award bestowed upon our humble borough by Channel 4 last week as the ‘worst place to live in Britain’. A further self-esteem sapping ornament to clutter up the mantelpiece down at town hall. As is the way with these things, the fact that we all have bad skin is our fault as it is down to our lifestyle choices. We Hackney hedonists have always referred to our borough as ‘Ackney’ so it is no surprise that we are the Clearasil capital of the nation.

As I slap on the Clarins Beauty Flash Balm, I remind myself that appearance is not the most important part of identity, unless you read Hello! magazine. I did live the rock’n’roll lifestyle for about fifteen years so it’s bound to reflect on the clarity of my visage. Just as well I’ve reached the invisibility years. It’s not so great when I get steamrollered by guffawing men with blancmange chins and wide pinstripe suits as they rumble through the entrance to Chez Gerard. It’s rather hurtful that they don’t even seem to feel a bump as they trammel me into the marble. Still, no one points at me in the street and squeals, ‘will you look at the state of her skin, uggghhh!’

I broke the news of my imminent departure to the tropics to my friends last night. One of them said, ‘but you’re a Londoner!’, suggesting betrayal of the most dastardly type. These friends are the rarest of beasts – born Londoners. I guess in a way it is a betrayal as I’ve lived nearly half my life in London and I’ve certainly lived here longer than I’ve lived in any other place, by a very long way. But I don’t identify with London, or Britain or anywhere else for that matter. I feel at home everywhere but never feel I belong anywhere if that makes sense. At least in London I’m an outsider in a city full of outsiders.

Going to live in Australia permanently will be a real test of my grasp over identity as I’m destined to be a perpetual foreigner there with my stupid hybrid accent and insistence on washing up in a plastic bowl. I probably won’t be able to get a bank account or driver’s licence as I won’t be able to muster enough personal information to meet the ID criteria. People will always ask me where I come from, but I suppose I'll be able to reverse the answer which will make a nice change. On the bright side, my skin is certain to improve…

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