‘Um, I’m coming up to London next weekend…’ Pause. ‘Could I?’
Pause. ‘Damn. I’m going to Istanbul.’
‘Oh.’ Remembered my manners quickly. ‘How lovely.’
But really. Damn, damn, damn.
‘Never mind. I can crash somewhere else, no problem.’
‘Don’t be silly. I’ll put the keys in the post.’
So there I was, in London, solo, for the weekend. It was like being in my 20s again. I had the keys to the castle - a flat of my own, albeit borrowed.
Now, let’s get this totally in context. This is not some cruddy old flat. Jane’s place is tucked away down a leafy street behind Essex Road. It’s the bottom half of a Victorian house so I suppose it’s not really a flat per se, but let’s call it that for the sake of argument (and because the word maisonette sounds unpleasant – frankly anything that ends –ette always sounds a bit dodgy and smacks of “feminine hygiene” to me, but that could just be me.) Actually I don’t like the word ‘flat’ either but…Anyhow, this is a clean, pristine flat. It is a flat that is not covered in dog-hair; a flat that does not have partying ‘energies’ on the stairs; a flat that has nice normal rooms, not spaces that deserve labels like ‘doom’ and ‘despond’. I walked in, kicked off my flipflops and just sighed with total utter decadent pleasure.
There were flowers. There was a lingering scent of Jo Malone rather than the stench of stale dog sick, fetid trainers and damp. I dumped my bag in the bedroom and threw myself onto the big wide bed with its fresh white Egyptian cotton sheets and – oh oh oh – its memory mattress. The silence was intoxicating.
I padded upstairs into the open-plan kitchen, living room area and flung open the tall wide windows. Sunlight streamed through and tickled my toes. Opened the fridge and, bless her soul, Jane had left me a whole shelf of veggie heaven (falafel, dolmades, halloumi, veg curry, various types of tofu). Smoked tofu with almonds and wild garlic? Basil tofu? Seriously?
Jane has the soundtrack of our shared past pretty well covered and so pretty soon I was trying to decide between The Cure, Bruce or Kate Bush. Shuddered a little over David Cassidy (no, I never did, nor Donny Osmond FFS); The Specials (did, but only live – they were cracking live); The Smiths (don’t get me started).Now don’t get me wrong. I love my family, I really do, and I even have a sneaking softness for the Bonkers House. I do love Dulverton too. But, but, but…sometimes it’s just lovely to be me. Just me. Not a mother, not a wife, not someone trying to juggle a gazillion balls at once. No responsibility. Nobody to please. Nothing that has to be done. A holiday from life, from reality. You know what I mean, don’t you? If you don’t, I’ll take it you don’t have children – or are male.
So I put the music up high. Had a long hot shower (without anyone yelling that they needed this or had I seen that?). I did my tarot.- and, frankly, didn't believe it. Made a pot of coffee. Stretched out on the sofa, wiggled my toes and just sighed with pleasure.