9 January 2013

The sad tale of the real Sweet Chili Girl of St Pancras
Many moons ago when I used to live in the 'flat with no name' in Poplar,  I met a sweet little girl named 'C'.
The rundown Council Estate was controlled by an old skool cockney drug-lord, who manufactured and supplied the whole of the E14 postcode with all sorts of illegal goodies.
As the years went by we got to know the druggist family fairly well and a shared, if muted, respect developed between us. 
During the summer holidays, the girl called 'C', their niece, would turn up on the estate. 
She was a scruffy, quiet looking 9 years old with skinny legs and dishevelled hair. Both her mum and dad were 'inside', doing time for drug supply and robbery, and I ended up befriending her and we soon became tennis partners. 
Did I say tennis? Well, it was really just a couple of cheap plastic rackets and a soft ball, played over the dingy car-park, while the noisy motoboys were busy going round picking up the deadly deliveries.
She was a very sweet little girl back then, - and the following summer, I started teaching her to play guitar. On sunny afternoons we would sit outside my flat overlooking the car-park, and play things like Hank Williams' Jambalaya. She absolutely loved it.
If I had been away touring, the very next day I got back, she'd wake me up with her little voice through the mailbox: 'you coming out?' 'you wanna play tennis?' 'can we play guitar?'.
This went on for a good 3 years, until one summer she never turned-up.
I bumped into her drug-Lord uncle and asked: 'Where's 'C'? Is she not staying over this summer?' -
'The little rat did a runner - foking nightmare - she did a runner..'
That didn't sound right. 
'C'? Running away from home? She did not seem equipped for it. Some 12 year olds, like myself, are already so well versed in the ways of the world, that you can easily imagine them boarding a train or cooking a meal - but not our 'C' - She was just too fragile, like a soft fruit that has yet to develop a hard protective skin.
She probably just went to stay with some new best friend, I thought - I'm sure that's what happened.
Then, a couple of months later,  just as I forgot about her - she turns up - on a Missing Person's appeal on BBC's Crimewatch UK.
And the terrible news: she was last spotted sleeping rough around the vicinity of ST Pancras and Kings Cross - and the inevitable fuzzy CCTV of her skinny, blurry stick of a figure in the corner of the screen. 
She had been working as a street prostitute. She was only 12 years old.
Even as I type this now, I can almost see the darkness descending upon my room - a darkness so dark, no good, no life can ever escape from.
I never heard anything else about her, and have no idea whether she was found, rescued or not, but her story remained locked in my memory, like an unfinished book where the following chapters have been ripped away, and we're left in limbo, hoping for the best, but fearing the worst
Hers is, sadly, not an unusual urban tale, like so many of the faceless, the forgotten, that fall down the grey cracks, leaving no trace behind.
Writing the song 
2 years ago, round about the time I started writing the Anatomy album, I was given one of those funny-cute valentine gifts: a pair of girlie pink undies with Snoopy on it, the kind you'd expect a little girl to wear, but in the same box, there was also a red hot sweet chili pepper charm. 
It was an odd combo: pink innocence next to red hot worldliness. 
That must have triggered the 'C' memory, for within a few days 'Sweet Chili Girl' was written.
It's still a bit of a mystery how songs come about. To be honest, I don't really know how it works, they just seem to occasionally pop out of nowhere, ready-made.
Next friday, we play St Pancras Church, and as you walk along King's Cross, you will notice that the Council has made a big effort to clean-up this old and dirty red-light district, but look a little closer and you will see that amongst the glitzy new hotels and hip yogurt bars, there are still dark alleys, where only the most desperate roams at night, and that darkness still lurks deep right beneath our city streets.


Anonymous said...

Isabel, you really, really should write some kind of autobiography. You have so many tales to tell and your writing style is brilliant.

isabel monteiro said...

hey mr or miss or andro? anonymous : real pleased you enjoyed some of my shambolic writing -
Book? yep, someday.
Will need a beach-hut and a generous wine supplier, in the meantime:
mind busy w/projectos musicales. x