Date: 1 February 2015. Bloody still! It's the day that never ends.
Location: The a Circle Line, London.
I just realised that I haven't a set of keys in my possession.
This is no small thing, for it signifies that I also lack a few other things: no home to unlock, to car to unlock, no mailbox to unlock.
I have a surprisingly vivid memory of the first time I saw Bunky with her own set of keys. She was carrying a handbag to a netball game. It was the first time I'd seen any of my friends carry a handbag, for what would we have put in it before then? A LipSmacker? Blue hair mascara? It was early 2003 and Bunky had just acquired her driver's licence. Because of this, she had car keys to carry, and house keys, lest she return home before her parents. Odd that the memory has persisted as a significant so long after I'd acquired and filled to weighty breaking point my own handbag, licence, keys.
It was this little realisation, made at freezing cold Paddington station as Sunday's sun gave up on its feeble attempt to warm the day, that threatened to evoke my first panic attack. And it's the equally little things that are helping to settle my jiggling 'what have I done' anxiety.
The porter on the Heathrow Express who kindly asked me to 'mind the gap.'
The intrepid stranger who carried my 30kg suitcase up the stairs at Liverpool station as I looked up and considered just giving up on life and sleeping there.
The kid that sounded just like Harry Potter.
The very gentle way in which the English have begun to set me straight: “South-wark?” — “Yes, Soth-arc, madam.”
The fact that this is not India or Jordan and it's so easy to ask for help, find a milk bar or buy a train ticket. The fact that the train stations are so familiar from Monopoly the wars.
Most significantly, it's been the influx of welcoming Facebook messages that hit when I hit Heathrow's wifi. I have never in my life been so grateful for the connecting power of social media. Now seems as good a time as ever to run through the list of names that bolded in my Facebook inbox and introduce you.
First, there's 'Paris'. Along with Bunky and Lady Lovelylocks, she's one of my all time favourites. We met in kindergarten and have been dancing, ice-skating, dressing up as cheerleaders, boy hunting, shopping friends ever since. She went through an extended thorny patch with a borderline sociopathic (my couch psychologist diagnosis) longtime boyfriend but, last April, in a fit of tremendous bravery, she finally did what she'd always aid she wanted to do and moved to London. I should say, she loves all things french, especially les garçons.
Then there's her blonde, pretty and startlingly insecure school pal and housemate. She's a lawyer working as a criminal law paralegal after moving to London on a whim after breaking up with her younger and 'sorry, just not to ready to settle down yet' boyfriend last September. I shall call her 'Twiggy'.
The last in this friendship circle is Australian-Latvian, baby faced and yet oddly handsome. He does … something in finance. Bunky pashed him once or twice back in her pre-Powerjam era. Since then he's moved to London with a new girlrlfriend — Tinder magic I hear– and lives in a snug little apartment in Southwark. Soth-arc. I shall call him 'Chandler' and his girlfriend 'Monica'. I should mention an interesting connection between him and Paris just in case it becomes relevant (and I so hope it will). For almost a year before Paris and Chandler left together (but not together) for London, Paris was spending a great deal of time with Chandler's best friend, 'Cullen' (so nicknamed here with tongue firmly in cheek as Paris thinks him the personification of Twilight's Edward Cullen, though he must gave glamored her for nobody else quite sees it). I'm fairly sure she loves him, and almost certain that he loves her. Poor Cullen is still in Melbourne, now sans de facto girlfriend and bestie.
Then there”s my old law firm pals:
I've introduced you to tiny, neurotic, posh little Legally Blonde before. She's transferred over from the law firm where we met. She's been here a fortnight and already seems to have been crushed by work. As I likely mentioned previously, she's pretty and intelligent and just madly wants a fiancée who meets her London Shard-high standards. Watching her work towards this goal is going to be, I promise, hilarious.
Then there's Kennedy, my witty, painfully stylish and straight talking 'work-wife' from our days at the same law firm. She too has transferred here with the firm and has just celebrated a year in London. She BYO-ed adorable, devoted boyfriend. I remember seeing an email between them a few years ago when we all worked on the same floor and they'd just started dating. Her: Untuck your shirt. You look like a loser. Him: Have done. Thanks. Do you like the shirt? Her: Yes. I bought it for you. It's a very specific kind of love, but it certainly works.
Finally, originally from the same firm but now at a London-based Magic Circle firm is a chic, Aussie-Asian. I don't have much to say about her just yet, as we haven't seen one another in almost a year, thigh we're tach g dunner in Soho tonight. I was originally introduced to her by a mutual friend who said, 'Oh, you'll like her. She has a Chloé bag. You two will get on.' And we did. Code name yet to be determined. [Edit: we had dinner on Wednesday and she, laughing, mentioned all of the borderline sexist and or racist nicknames she gets from senior lawyers at work. Taking ownership of them, she suggested her code name be China Doll. And so it goes.]
At the same Magic Cirle firm is the hideously sarcastic and entertaining foodie misanthrope, The Joker. We were law school friends and we've vaguely kept in touch, mostly he posts highly sexist jokes on my Facebook wall to get a rise out of me. The jury is generally out about his sexual orientation.
Finally, rounding out my short London contacts list is the boy I shall call Ezekiel. He's from Bournemouth and we met on Halloween way back in 2010 in the chilly streets of Vancouver. I was dressed as Pochohontas, he was dressed as a cyclist who'd been run over and we were staying in the same hostel. We had a brief whirlwind romance, sparked when he asked me for 'a drink' and took me to Stanley Park's tea rooms for 'the only decent cuppa in the whole city'. Then, in a typical Canadian winter story, he went to one ski mountain and I to another. We've twice failed to reconnect since then. First, by the time he suggested he visit my mountain for new year's I'd fallen head over heels for a lanky Perth snowboarder and had to say so. Second when he was in Melbourne for a week and we made plans to get a drink one summer Tuesday. When it was pointed out to me that it that on that Tuesday fell Valentine's Day I hastily and extremely awkwardly cancelled, lest he get the wrong idea. He's now in London, as am I. It just occurred to me that it's Valentine's Day again next week. And I'm just peverse we enough to suggest we catch up then.