Welcome to Part 36 of my black comedy thriller, The Nurse Diaries – The Life and Times of a Brighton Serial Killer. It is full of strong swearing, so if you dislike ‘bad’ language, read no further! This chapter is also full of drug misuse so if that offends you, you’d better bugger off. Otherwise, have fun. The Nurse salutes you, and thanks you for your time.
Let Them Eat Cake
It is great fun drugging people just enough so they feel sort of queer, floaty, slightly bilious, or like they’re hallucinating just a little bit. Nothing too full-on, just a few drops or grains of fun substances added to the achingly good choux mix, the delicate icing, and the stunning faux candy flowers The Nurse makes by hand late at night while Jeremy and Corbyn look on, purring.
Sometimes it takes every scrap of willpower not to stick a finger into one or other of the delicious mixtures lined up on the kitchen counter top and lick it. But the last thing The Nurse needs is to be off her face, therefore out of control. She must remain sane and sensible.
While she can’t get her kicks from maiming and killing, she feels perfectly safe causing tiny explosions of havoc, vague anxiety, and slight paranoia. She can create small outbreaks of inexplicable oddness, lost days and sweaty, fearful nights stalked by monsters. It is huge fun. And she is doing it entirely with drugged pastries thanks to Johnny Dieppe’s reliable, discreet supply of pharma, both legal and otherwise. What a useful man he is. In fact she couldn’t do it without Johnny. He’s her saviour. She owes her sanity to that man.
Before you get too excited about an honest-to-god Depp-lookey-likey hiding across the English Channel, The Nurse must disabuse you of that notion. Do not buy ferry tickets. She is sorry to say that while Johnny Dieppe looks almost exactly like the actor, he misses the mark in a few subtle yet crucial ways. He has the face shape, the brow, the eyes, the lips. Each of the magical Depp ingredients is there and everyone for miles around has decreed them fucking gorgeous. But the devil is in the detail. Put them together and those heavenly features blend in a way that’s slightly off. You can’t put your finger on it but instead of being a stunner, Johnny Dieppe looks a bit peculiar. Fortunately he never wanted to be a look-alike, or not professionally anyway. He’s happy as he is. The ladies of Dieppe are more than glad to squint him into convincing Depp-ness at close quarters while shagging him senseless. The likeness is close enough to do the trick and apparently a jolly good time is had by all.
The Nurse sees the attraction in a remote way that leaves Johnny feeling relaxed and un-pressured, which he appreciates. Between them they’ve got a good platonic thing going. He’s discreet too, essential for someone like The Nurse who does not want her private business spread around town.
Johnny visits Patisserie Katrine once a week after closing time, as regular as clockwork, pockets discreetly filled with miniature vials and capsules of unusual drugs. To all intents and purposes, to the locals, he’s having private baking lessons. But his time with Katrine actually involves retreating to the fragrant bakery behind the shop’s internal wooden door, with its patterned glass panel, then perching on high stools, drinking pastis and making their way slowly through an enormous spliff. Then they eat cake. It’s a high point in his week, and she looks forward to the surprises that her open drug brief – ‘find me anything interesting and unusual’ – brings. Whatever he delivers to his best customer, it is always pure stuff, neither messed with nor cut.
Some days she adds tiny amounts of LSD to her delicate, palest-pink rose scented icing. Marianne from the shoe shop on the high street spends an afternoon staring into space as the air spangles around her like a quivering multi-coloured Aurora borealis. She can only assume she has been visited by an angel, a benevolent ghost, or Karma. Whatever causes it, she finds the experience extraordinary, moving, uplifting, baffling, and utterly beautiful. Her boss, a committed Christian, lets her young employee stare, rapt, into space until home-time, assuming she is experiencing a Vision sent by Our Lord.
Delivering joy to the masses
One rainy Sunday The Nurse is glad to treat a troupe of bored early-teens – all pimply and gangly and teetering on the edge of beauty – to a smidgen of speed concealed within heavenly eclairs so fucking light they more or less float into hyperspace. Returning home custard-chinned and oddly wired, les filles et garçons enjoy a fun afternoon getting all the things done that their astonished parents usually have to crowbar them into doing. They do it with good cheer, quickly and rather well. Mouldy pants, dusty cutlery and sticky tissues are hooked out from under beds. Fusty crockery is transported downstairs and washed. There’s much earnest dusting, window-washing, and hoovering.
What the fuck, the youth of Dieppe wonders afterwards, tired but happy. That was such fun! Maybe we’ll do it again. The naïve yet powerful expectation that they’ll enjoy tidying up just as much a second time, then a third time, means they actually do.
Feeling a little more mischievous than usual one morning, The Nurse laces a tray of spectacularly pretty violet-flavour macarons with a drizzle of industrial grade tincture of cannabis, the kind that produces a happy, giggly, creative high.
A gaggle of pastel-dressed ‘ladies who lunch’ flutters in, seduced by the pretty biscuits with their pale purple sheen, hand-made violet flowers and choice of delicate, primrose yellow melon or tangy green pistachio filling. The women sit in the sunshine at the little metal tables outside Patisserie Katrine, chatting while they drink free pastis and nibble their macarons. The Nurse keeps an eye on them as they get gigglier and chattier, then start rummaging in handbags for notebooks and pens, smartphones, and those diddly little tools used for typing on tiny screens. Once they fall silent and all she can hear is scribbling, interrupted by the occasional gasp of surprised delight, The Nurse curves out a frightening grin. What a hoot.
Every good stoner knows it. Somewhere or other, there’s probably a graph. Only a small number of the bright ideas one has while mashed are any good. The rest – about ninety percent – are shit, either naïve, banal, inexplicable, indecipherable, or already dreamed up by many a stoner before you. All the same, between them, scouring through their lists the next day, a handful of Dieppe’s most influential women hatch three rock solid ideas for new businesses without having the faintest idea why their collective brains had decided to take leave from their usual ruts and embark upon such unexpected flights of commercial fancy.
Mushrooms are a big favourite from the olden days. They helped The Nurse give the Romley Brothers a mighty fine send-off back in Brighton many years ago, and yet again psilocybin proves a highly satisfactory added ingredient. The Nurse knows a mild trip can have a positive effect on depression that can last for years, if not for life. She has read the research. She makes three mouthwatering mille-feuille, involving layers and layers of crisp, crunchy puff pastry interleaved with delicate psilocybin-containing cream and vanilla custard. Then she decorates the top with smooth fondant covered with a layer of patterned royal icing. If she says so herself it’s one of her best pastries so far and she’s thrilled, since this particular bake serves a very special purpose.
She takes one pastry to the Beach Bum, trudging along the high tideline carrying a basket covered with a gingham cloth. He gets lonely, she knows, but he won’t come into town because he looks like a monster. The friends sit side by side on the beach as the sun sets, her smart navy coat slung over her shoulders as the pink-tinged seagulls dive and wheel and the temperature drops. They enjoy a lovely trip, staring at the stars as they wheel silently by, as the splish of waves gets closer and the tide rises along with the sun.
At eight in the morning they make their way back to his hut, brew coffee and smoke spliffs silently, exchanging brief, tired smiles. The Beach Bum’s eyes have cleared and his brow is smooth. He isn’t trembly and fidgety any more. He stands straight with the salty wind blowing into his face and spreads his arms out wide. Katrine, you work wonders. She grins and blushes. He drops his own grin for a micro-second, unconsciously glimpsing something dark, pointy, dribbly and foul under her wide, attractive smile. Lucky for him she doesn’t notice, distracted by a rosy orange fingernail of seashell, stooping to pick it up. She’s also feeling a little bit better. Her PTSD seems to have receded slightly, less of a gnawing beast prowling her mind, more of a sleepy thing. She hopes the effect will last.
The Nurse bribes a small girl to deliver the third mille-feuille to the ex-Nazi. She figures he is one of the few utter cunts on earth who is just as much of an utter cunt as she is. If not more of one. Because he did some bad, bad things in his youth, she is enjoying the moral high ground for the first time in her fucking life. She’s oddly grateful to him for being such an almighty shit, and she hopes the shrooms will do their magic, giving him some relief from a lifetime of guilt. It seems a fair exchange for her current wealth, health, happiness and freedom.
It might not involve murder and mayhem, but drugging pastries is keeping The Nurse satisfied therefore out of trouble. She treats the project like scientific research, filing the results in the back of her roomy mind for a rainy day. While she is making waves they are only small waves, little waves like those frilly ones that scurry up a sandy beach until they thin to a frothy lace. She is actually enhancing people’s lives.
Now and again some cunt has a bad trip. But The Nurse’s doses are too discreet and carefully measured to show up in doctors’ tests, let alone cause suspicion to fall upon Patisserie Katrine. People’s disconcerting experiences are discussed, shrugged about, then laid at the feet of things like madness, jealousy, bad wine, ergot poisoning, showing off, attention seeking, even a minor epidemic of curious lies.