Date: 22 February 2015.
Location: Hell. No, wait, just IKEA Tottenham Hale on a Sunday via two buses and a train.
You knew the restaurant was going to be trendy because it was under a sex shop. I’d arrived first and was snuggled into the basement sex-den-come-Mexican-bodega with a tempranillo and the deliberately cryptic menu.
Then I received the best ever series of text messages from (the ever-proper) Kennedy in rapid succession:
Just off the Tube, see you in five
What number Old Compton is it? 60?
Oh my god. Wrong sex shop.
Mentioned had a booking for 3. Dying. Be there in five.
Flushed and giggling, Kennedy and Legally Blonde arrive for dinner. London is certainly never dull.
I’ve been extraordinarily dull this week, spending most evenings lazing a final few days in the work-sponsored oversized serviced apartment the heating bills for which I do not pay. The lazy decision was largely dictated by a funds crunch, brought on by not yet being paid nor reimbursed for expenses like flights, a disasterous situation where I’ve paid security bonds on two flats at once while yet to get back a security deposit from home and each dollar in my bank account being worth a measly 48 pence.
This weekend I’ve gone and made up for that dullness.
On Friday evening I picked up the keys for my new house. I’d originally seen this flat on a sunny Tuesday afternoon while jet-lagged, food-poisoned and convinced that I’d already secured a different flat so was just humouring the estate agent by allowing myself to be dragged to this one last house which I couldn’t even rent because it was slightly out of budget (bills or council tax not even included) and unfurnished to boot. And yet, here I was on this rainy Friday evening, memorising my new postcode whilst making my way there to pick up my new keys. And fervently hoping it was something like the warm, sunny cubby that I hazily remembered.
My landlord is a married couple, Mr & Mrs L. They had bought the whole Victorian terrace last year and have since refurbed it from shingled roof to garden flat. I have part of the ground floor. I’m the very first to move in. Mrs L offered to meet me to ‘show me around’. It was with some trepidation that I followed her up the stone steps and through the grand front door into My New Home.
It was perfect.
By London standards it’s gigantic: a little foyer has 3 doors, one to the mirrored bathroom, one to the studio-flat sized kitchen/living area and one to the bedroom. There are floorboards throughout. The front room has tall windows out onto the idyllic crescent. The kitchen boasts brand new fridge, washing machine and, the ultimate luxury, a dishwasher. There are USB powerpoints, under floor heating, so much storage, a bath. So, from an economical point of view, moving into Richmond Crescent, Islington, may well be one of the stupidest things I’ve done in a while (high bar), but I can’t bring myself to regret it — especially as Mrs L handed me a bottle of champagne as a welcome gift.
In preparation for moving out on my own, I’d ordered a bed online from a site reassuringly called MatressesNextDay.com and was instructed to be prepared for delivery between 8am and 5pm on Saturday. I’d ordered a duvet and pillows that I could pick up from my local Tesco’s (glam, I know) after 3pm. Of course, spending from 8am to 5pm in an utterly empty flat when there’s an M&S just a few tube stops away that silently begging to take your hard-earned pounds in exchange for silky white bed linen and pristine new pasta bowls is impossible. I left a note asking the delivery guys to call and set out.
After flirting with seersucker and making eyes at floral, I’d (as I knew would) purchased white cotton sheets, a toilet brush and even two mugs. As I was decimating some rice paper rolls for lunch my phone buzzed. It wasn’t the bed guys, but the other half of my landlord couple, Mr L. Was I about? He asked. Time for a coffee? Well, why the hell not. We agreed to meet at a local Euphorium Bakery where I loitered awkwardly, as if waiting for a blind date. This rendezvous wouldn’t deserve more than a mention except for the extremely awkward fact that I walked away a bit smitten with very Scottish Mr L. Over coffee he tells the cutest story about how he met Mrs L 20 years ago. He’d been down from Edinborough for a weekend and arranged to out on the pull with a mate. Said mate said he’d bring along another friend. Great, thinks Mr L, his mind already recognising that it’s, quote, best to hunt in packs of three. Then this girl turns up and Mr L is pissed, as it seems this friend has brought along his girlfriend, making them four and ruining best laid hunting plans. He downs his beer and introduces himself curtly. She’s the third friend she explains, and she needs a beer. And that’s how Mr L met Mrs L. Before her he’d been a semi professional rugby player, and highly professional troublemaker. What happened? I had to ask. Dunno, he responds in a thick burry Scortish accent. Guess I fell in love, eh? After coffee The Fantastic Mr L takes me to Chapel Market and introduces me to the best vegetable vendor. Then we hop in his BMW and he shows me the neighbourhood, pointing out the best fish shop, the two competing pubs, the yoga place before dropping me and my shopping home. It’s the loveliest afternoon.
Sadly, I’d come home to no bed and a call from Tesco’s apologising but my duvet wouldn’t be there until Monday — was that alright?
Come 6pm, I’d given up on the bed too. And so I did something I’ve never done before: I pulled on my boots, threw some makeup wipes into my handbag, and set off for a night out in Notting Hill with absolutely no idea where is sleep that night. I’m making this sound braver than it was. Of course, I’m not without allies in London and the sofas of Paris/Twiggy or Kennedy would do as well as anywhere. But it did feel … unsettling.
After too many bottles of prosecco at The Prince Bonaparte we packed into Ubers and descended upon Soprano’s. Soprano’s is an underground cavern with one giant piano manned by a talented cover-playing pianist and filled with sozzled revellers. When the notes of the last song — You’re The Voice, magnificent — clattered to an end and the lights came up, 2am had arrived well before it felt due.
20 McNuggets later, Kennedy and I stumbled home. (Yes, 20. I swore to Kennedy that we’d never tell anyone that we done that but this, surely, doesnt really count?). Even tipsy enough to eat nuggets, Kennedy was of course the perfect host and insisted on fully making up the couch. I slept like a drunk rock. The next morning we curled up in her bed and debriefed. And she made me promise about the nuggets thing.