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Kings Place

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At the back of a major railway station, in the small years of the twenty-first century, two women met over post-concert drinks.

"Wasn't it lovely?" said Elsa, struggling to make her voice heard over the buzz of conversation and the insistent reediness of a solo oboe.

"I thought it was rubbish, actually. Rubbish." Hilda reached up to cock her flat cap at a rakish angle. It was pinstriped and had been bought at Camden Market. Strands of her gelled black hair stuck out from beneath. "But well-meaning rubbish, which is the best kind."

Elsa pursed her lips sympathetically and took another sip of her Cosmopolitan.

"What is it that you write again?"

Thrusting her fists into the pockets of her olive-green cargo trousers, Hilda affected an pose that might have been called modest. If it were performed by anyone other than Hilda Tablet.

"Oh, just a bit of hauntological experimental post-dubstep, you know. Well, I call it that. You might call it wonky. But I wouldn't."

Elsa nodded, then shook her head in some confusion.

"Actually," Hilda continued, "I write what I damn well please. Just released a new album. Limited edition cassette, only three copies in existence. There were supposed to be four but I lost one down the back of the settee."

A young man who had been chatting with Elsa before the concert aimed an inquiring look in her direction. She turned coolly away, leaning closer to Hilda.

"That's really fascinating," she said earnestly.

"Isn't it, though?" Hilda replied. She paused. "So you sing, do you?"

"Only the classics. Janis Joplin, PJ Harvey, Joan Jett. That sort of thing."

Hilda nodded with firm approval. "Yoko Ono."

"Did she sing?"

"Wails, really, when you get down to it. D'you think you could wail?"

Elsa demurred, playing with the chain of her necklace.

"Oh, come on, I'm sure you could. Most anyone could. It's very democratic music-making."

"If anyone could..."

"Not with nearly so much charm as you."

Persuasively, Hilda clasped Elsa's right elbow. Elsa gave her a smile.

"I will," she said, "if you promise to show me."