Welcome to parts 33 and 34 of my black comedy novel The Nurse Diaries – The Life and Times of a Brighton Serial Killer. It is probably the world’s most sweary book, so if you’re offended by bad language it’s probably best to click away now before it’s too late. Otherwise, The Nurse welcomes you. She hopes you enjoy her story.
Part 33 – As Gory as Fuck
Au revoir Thatcher, bonjour Nigella.
Because she wants to relax fully in France, her new home country, The Nurse has bitten the bullet and travelled to the French capital for a total surgical overhaul. Fuck, it hurts. While she has had cosmetic surgery before, she’d forgotten quite how much the aftermath smarts.
While you can’t take a lot of flesh off a tall, skinny woman without causing barbarous suffering and pain, you can certainly add plenty. Thanks to the plastic surgery equivalent of a Full English Breakfast, the results are extraordinary.
A few years ago, before things started to go wrong, The Nurse was a tall, flat, spare woman with a square, mannish figure and a tight nest of reddish Margaret Thatcher-style hair. Scatterings of pale freckles dusted her skin, and a large, definite nose dominated her face. Later, a bout of intentionally-botched surgery gave her a horror-film of a face, a visage so fucking ugly that people shivered and turned away. Then she had herself fixed by a dodgy struck-off perv of a surgeon while on the run and ended up looking sort of normal again. Now, after this latest raft of super-expensive operations in gay fucking Paree, she is completely unrecognisable.
The Nurse has stopped short of having her leg bones shortened, although it’s tempting to make certain her disguise is iron-clad. She can only take so much agony and it’d make her look out of proportion. Bollocks to that. Enough is enough. She isn’t going to turn herself into a short-arse unless things become fucking desperate.
Picture yourself standing on the pavement opposite a smart Parisian cosmetic surgery clinic. The dark wooden door with its discreet brass plaque opens, and out steps an unusually tall, dramatically curvaceous middle-aged lady with beautiful creamy skin. You can’t see any fine details from a distance, can’t see the redness and the scars. Her face is scattered with large, dark freckles, skilfully tattooed for natural-looking drama. She has thick, beautifully styled auburn hair and pouty lips, and she’s wearing tawny gold contact lenses with a dark rim. Her lashes are so long they actually waft, and elegant Sophia Loren eyebrows give expression and mobility to a finely-tuned face, strong-boned and memorable. As she turns from side to side, admiring her new look in a shop window, you can tell she’s thrilled. Or she will be once she’s healed. This is the new version of The Nurse. And she’s a fucking stunner.
Little does The Nurse know, but she has ended up looking an awful lot like The Inspector’s old flame Jacqueline. That’s because The Universe is at it again. Feeling a bit sorry for The Nurse, who is alone in a foreign land and has been unusually virtuous for many, many months, Karma is finding ways to help her get home to Brighton. Karma believes everyone deserves a second chance, no matter how evil they are. Sometimes, Karma is an idiot.
Part 34 – Recovery position
Dodgy deals in down-town Dieppe
It takes several weeks for her surgery scars to fade, during which the Beach Bum takes tender care of his friend. Once the scars have become less obvious The Nurse takes her leave of his cosy beach-side hovel once more and holes up patiently in an abandoned garage near the ferry terminal, a part of Dieppe no fucker bothers to go unless they’re desperate, lost, or mental. He misses her company but he understands – his friend needs to re-enter society at some stage.
Being empty and dirty and broken it’s a shit place to stay, but there’s not a lot of choice. A woman like her, with a significant stash of cash at her disposal, would find it very hard to steer clear of prying eyes with a face like this. Every bit of skin that shows remains lined with tiny, subtle silvery scars, delicate enough but still visible at close quarters. The garage is not exactly the most salubrious place she has ever stayed but let’s face it, this shithole is an awful lot better than bobbing around in freezing seawater for weeks on end. Thanks to her adventures The Nurse has not only acquired a new level of patience, she has also developed an unusually acute sense of proportion. The things that many people dread hold no fear for her.
So The Nurse doesn’t complain. She hunkers down, dresses and re-dresses her thready silver wounds, and endures the discomfort for several more slow weeks until her body and face are perfectly clear, smooth and fully recovered. While she lies silent and still day after day on an old mattress, staring at the sky through a hole in the garage roof, an entire summer passes in a haze of boredom, tightness, itching, and yet more boredom.
Eventually she’s ready to emerge like a butterfly from its chrysalis. Stuffing a wad of crisp Euros into a tatty trouser pocket, she makes her way to Dieppe High Street, ignoring curious yet admiring glances from the locals. They’re obviously wondering why such a gloriously beautiful woman is dressed in old moleskin farmer’s trousers tied with string, a ragged white dress shirt with half the frill hanging off, and chunky steel-capped boots. Luckily The Nurse knows that a dramatic sense of sartorial style, a certain je ne sais quoi and a confident walk, can work wonders. She can see by their knowing smiles that, as far as The French are concerned, she is either walking the walk of shame, a fashion designer, or a model wearing the latest madly expensive catwalk weirdness.
There’s no virtue in taking pointless risks. The Nurse wanders around the town’s out-of-the-way shopping streets until she finds a little second hand dress agency down a quiet cul-de-sac, selling tasteful clothing for women of a certain age. The proprietress is a small, slim and elegant, dressed entirely in black and as chic as they come. She eyes The Nurse professionally, head on one side as beady as a bird, then approaches a rail of particularly good clothes donated by a wealthy woman of about the same height. Picking a sharp vintage navy suit off the rail with a flick of the wrist, she holds it against The Nurse’s body and flutters the fabric to prove the quality. Look how it flows. The Nurse nods, takes the suit and heads behind a decorated Japanese screen. As she changes the shop owner hands pants, bra, a slip, a silk blouse and a pair of seamed stockings over the top, smiling as she waits.
When The Nurse reappears, transformed, the shop owner cries out in delight, her hands clenched in pleasure. Sacre bleu. The shoes, a pair of immaculate 1960s navy winkle pickers with small white leather bows, provide the perfect finishing touch. Quel glamour! This tall, curvy stranger has presence. She has style. She’s the kind of woman who can wear a potato sack and still look like a supermodel. A bit long in the tooth perhaps, but that skin, that hair, that derriere!
The process takes all afternoon. She and the proprietress use the navy suit as the basis for an entire wardrobe of beautiful second hand French classics. The Nurse eventually peels a wad of hundred Euro notes from her thick roll and hands them to the woman with a smile. Merci madame, je me sens comme une toute nouvelle femme. Then she staggers back to the garage, weighed down by her purchases.
While making her way through Dieppe, feeling much more like her old self, The Nurse soon realises there’s only one problem with her new look. Bloody men. They can’t seem to leave her alone. They’re hitting on her at every opportunity. Silly cunts. She’s going to have to take care. She needs to keep them at bay and herself out of trouble.
You can’t start a new life in a derelict garage, especially when you are the owner of such a beautiful wardrobe of classy clothing and such awe-inspiring good looks. The Nurse has grown quite fond of the place but it’d look weird to stay, and curiosity breeds danger. She grabs another wad of cash from the still-impressive pile under the mattress and ventures out again, this time in a pair of slim designer jeans and a stylish pale pink blouse cut like a man’s shirt.
Christ on a bike, it feels good to look respectable again. It feels nice to be looked at because she’s attractive rather than fucking terrifying, or a curiosity. The Nurse feels strongly that now is her time to shine. It’s her turn to enjoy that invisible glow of approval that every beautiful cunt on the planet bathes in for their entire lives without even realising how lucky they are.
The nearest letting agency is a treasure trove of opportunity but The Nurse doesn’t let herself get carried away. She chooses something relatively low-key, a small stone cottage overlooking the beach at the other end of Dieppe from the Beach Bum, who likes his privacy. Described as ‘well furnished and equipped to a high standard in Breton style’, it’s a cute little place, a dinky two-up, two-down with a kitchenette and bathroom extension bolted on. Perfecto.
It’s easy moving house when you have so few possessions. The Nurse is even happier when – as they always seem to – a couple of random cats turn up and move in. She calls them Jeremy and Corbyn, after the lovely man who helped her and Phil back in Scotland all that time ago. She buys cat food and happily feeds them. They settle in and make a habit of sleeping on her bed. She feels at home.
What next? The Nurse is still casting around for an occupation, something to deter suspicion as well as provide an income as a cover for her ill-gotten wealth. In the meantime, bored shitless, she finds an old book of patisserie recipes in the attic of her little house and decides to give baking a go.
A creative soul at heart, at first she fails quite spectacularly. Finding it almost impossible to obey recipes, she wings it. Not good. The resulting culinary disasters are so bad they’re even rejected by the cats. Jeremy and Corbyn look at the mess, stare at The Nurse, frown, then walk away with their tails held high in disgust. The Nurse yells at them to fuck off, and starts again. And again. And again.
Eventually she gets it. Duh. Baking is chemistry. Add extra ingredients to the mix and the chemistry fucks up. While it is nowhere near as much fun as making things up as you go along, it is vital to actually follow the rules. And wow, it works. It doesn’t take long, baking late day after day, to acquire considerable skill and become fluent in shortcrust, filo, choux, flaky and puff pastries, all as light as air, as delicate as clouds. Who’d have imagined?
Finally, one chilly morning in March, The Nurse dusts the flour off her hands, changes into smart clothes, covers a tray of varied baked goods with a spotless tea towel, and makes her way to Dieppe high street. Every shop she pops into, she hands a free pastry to the owner. All of them are thrilled. Not one of them spits their pastry out, throws it on the ground, falls unconscious, froths at the mouth, phones the police or calls her a cunt. This has to be a good sign. It looks like her baking skills might actually make her a decent living. Buoyed up, she strides home to make a plan.