In the first in a series of blog posts about the inspirations behind his new graphic novel, Room For Love, ILYA reveals one of the stories that inspired the book.
ROOM FOR LOVE: BASED ON A TRUE STORY
Pamela Green, one of the two central characters in the Room for Love, is a published author. Thus, she has an agent, also her best friend and confidante, one of only two other characters to feature. This lady is Germaine – in more ways than one.
Germaine Greer, the popular feminist academic and journalist, helped give birth to Room For Love. I heard a teatime radio interview with her, probably sometime in the early 1990s, and most likely on Radio 4, although at this far remove I can no longer swear to it. During an on-the-spot discussion about homelessness, she spontaneously offered lodgings in her own private domicile to anyone who might need it, saying that she felt she had too much space anyway, just for herself, and more than one spare room. A magnanimous gesture, and quite extraordinary generosity, that immediately made my ears prick up.
More gradually, the idea worked its magic into my storytelling centres. Whether or not I have since done it justice, I was pretty sure this was the germ of a good story.
YOU’RE A JOURNALIST?!? GET OUT OF HERE!
In practice, in reality, it can’t have been quite so easy as all that – down the intervening years I have heard only rumours and hearsay in terms of a follow-up as to what actually happened, after Ms Greer had broadcast her offer to share her home with…whoever.
Apparently Germaine’s gaff was a country house somewhere in the home counties as opposed to anywhere urban or easy for the average homeless person to get to. Three people are alleged to have taken up her well-meaning offer, only to be exposed as jobbing journalists in mufti, themselves after a good story. It must have played out like a prototype of the Big Brother household, or, better yet, I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!
So, as I gather, it all blew over inside of a month or two, and certainly set no grand precedent of any sort. Plenty of folk are still homeless and living on the streets, and plenty more occupy greater space than they honestly need inside their grand houses.
NOWT STRANGER THAN FOLK…
Irregardless of hearsay or the actual truth of it, I always felt that here was the germ of a story idea too good to pass up. Instead, I hung on to it at the back of my mind for these many moons.
In my version, what has eventually become the storyline of Room For Love, central character Pamela Green takes the Germaine Greer role.
As opposed to any sort of feminist firebrand in the Germaine Greer mode, Pamela is a failing romance writer (under the nom de plume Leonie Hart – you can work that one out for yourselves!). Her comfortable and spacious home is notionally situated in a wealthy suburb of North London – Hampstead or perhaps Belsize Park – although this is never explicitly detailed.
The homeless man she invites into her home, and with whom she ends up in a weird and strangulated sexual relationship, is much younger – 17 years old to her 44. This, ironically, again aligns with Germaine Greer, who has in her time written a controversial book concerning the sexuality and sexual attraction of young males, The Boy.
For other notable literary precedents, I’d also point at Alan Bennett’s The Lady in the Van. That one I’ve actually read. S’good!