Date: 8 February 2015.
Location: Camden Market, scoffing Venezuelan street food.
Angel Islington is one of the pretty pale blue properties on the Monopoly Board. It's nestled in near Euston Rd, Pentonville Rd, Kings Cross Station, Chance and Jail. For years I idly wondered, whenever I landed on this cheap little property, what angels had to do with it. These were the days before Google, obviously. When friends started moving to London I learned that Angel was a tube stop named after a famous old inn, a north easterly area and a trendy address to have. Now, it's where I get off the tube and the location of my closest Marks & Spencer's.
After enduring several freezing months of homelessness, Paris and Twiggy have just found a house in Angel. Ok, that makes it sound a little like they've been sleeping on the street. They've endured several chilly months of share-house living and couch crashing which sounds almost as bad!
Last night we all had dinner together at the new place and it, and their clucky nesting, is adorable. The house is classic London little flat, all white with steep stairs, sash windows, solid walls, a laundry-strewn living room kitchenette and a creepy basement flat somewhere beneath it. We demolished chips and dip then lined our stomachs with ravioli — as Paris brought out her signature Red Bull and vodka mix ('it's a clean spirit so no hangovers!') — and it felt just like first year uni all over again. Especially as I watched the two blondes lean, puzzled, over the electric stovetop to boil pasta. Then we all set out for the pub for a girl's birthday drinks, collecting Paris's very handsome, very young, very Parisian paramour ('Chuckles') en route to the bus.
I should freeze frame the moment we stepped into the pub. In it is so much what of what I love about London already.
It's freezing outside. No hyperbole here, it is actually 0 degrees. Despite the cold, there are merrymakers galore on the streets and in the venues. The cold is simply a fact, not an obstacle. This particular pub is one of London's thousands of quirkily named corner insitituions. It's The Water Poet, and not far away are the Slug & Lettuce, The Owl & The Pussycat, The Drunken Monkey, The Pig & Butcher (bit cruel), The End Of The Wold and even The Famous Cock. It's bustling and warm and condensation covers the windows, snuggling everyone in and blocking out the real world. Inside is room after room of bodies and coats and bars behind which stolid bartenders pull ale after ale. The gins are doubles. The music is happy and popular. People chat and are relaxed.
The middle room is bursting with the lively birthday crew, including the statuesque redheaded, Lana del Ray-channeling birthday girl. This sort of night is a wonderful foray into a whole new group of potential friends. It's also a bit of a freaking nightmare for an introvert — an outgoing introvert, but an introvert all the same — like me. I meet so many of Twiggy and Paris's new London friends, many of whom are also from Melbourne. Without fail each person is gregarious and friendly and it's actually rather lovely, despite being overwhelming.
In theory, I want to broker a new friendship circle, one that extends far beyond the Melbourne private school network in London. But in practice? It's super nice to have conversations comparing Shoreditch to Brunswick back home, to discover mutual friends and to laugh about that tragic Scotch formal afterparty you were all at back in 2002. It's comfort food. The social equivalent of Kraft Mac & Cheese.
Unfortunately The Water Poet lost all of its merit badges when it closed abruptly at 11pm.
And at this stage so many of the things that will tire me about London come sharply to the fore. It's cold. Trendy industrial Shoreditch is overrun by the benevolent and the malevolent factions of partygoers, drug addicts, police and pickpockets. Everywhere has a long line. No one really knows where to try next. Drivers and pedestrians are fighting a war for the narrow streets. Your phone dies. But we all take the bus home together and then my flat is warm and I then sleep like a log.