Date: 28 February 2015.
Location: RyanAir flight from London Stansted to Budapest.
And my first ex-London trip was off to an inauspicious beginning.
At 4.45am the alarm went off and I was out the door by 5.15am, to make the very first Circle Line tube of the day from Kings Cross at 5.31am to make the 6am National Express bus from Liverpool St to make the 8.30am flight from London Stansted to Budapest. All going well.
But of course all did not go well.
My house is perched precariously between ritzy, leafy Barnsbury and seedy Caledonian ‘Cally’ Road. Left takes you past pubs, past where the Mayor lives and the local M&S down to friendly Angel. Right takes you past Ethopian cafes and 24-hour mini cab stores to raw King’s Cross. This morning I had to go right. As if just to entrench its reputation, today the pre-dawn dark of Cally Road was lit up with red and blue lights. The entire street was barricaded off with police tape. Police were crawling about. Probably, someone had been shot, but I had no time for such things! The ten minute detour meant I had to bolt down the steps of King’s Cross, my little red suitcase flying. The three minute wait to the next train dragged out, seconds stretching long as 6am marched inexorably closer. Finally, the tube slid into the station and, giddy with relief, I threw myself on.
Eight minutes later, hot and sweaty and stressy I stumbled out of Liverpool St station in search of bus stop G and stumbled upon Monica & Chandler. Together we located stop G (after stop E, but before stop F — naturally). We picked up one more traveller at the bus stop and were waiting only on Twiggy and Paris and the French lover, with more to meet us at the airport and more still to meet us in Hungary.
At 5.55 Paris called. ‘Um, we’re running a little late. Where is the bus?’ Using the bar from last Tuesday night as a compass point, we managed to orientate her. ‘Run!’ we urged, ‘the bus is literally about to go!’ ‘Ergh. I don’t want to run!’ Oh, Paris.
She asked me last night over pre-packing rosés at The Angelic if I thought she’d changed since coming to London and I answered her honestly enough. ‘Sure, but not really‘.We’ve been friends for too long — 25 years now. She seems a little different, but only in the way that your peach Kate Spade dress looks orange in some lights, but pink whenever you wear it with a navy blazer. I’m getting to see yet another new facet of her — a more relaxed, more wild, more spontaneous one — and it’s a great one.
In turn, she admitted that she’d noticed a shift in herself from when she’d first arrived last year and felt dizzingly free (‘I wore white jeans, Alex! And I liked them!’) to now. Now, she said, with so many of her Melbourne friends around in London, she feels her old reservations creeping back. I get that. It’s easier to explore new aspects of yourself when you’re free from reminders about the old ones and expectations that they’re still valid. Your twenty-three year old self liked wine bars and house music so you made great friends who also liked wine bars and house music then, when you hang out with your friends, no one seems to want to try the underground club with live jazz — so you end up drinking Chardonnay then going dancing to house music. How to know if you like jazz music now? ‘It’s not that I care what people think,’ she tried to explain. But I think she does. We all do, and she more than most, and about funny, odd things she’s frightened will damage her reputation. But what do I know? I spill my guts online.
The agenda for today looks something like this: check into rambling old flat in the historical Jewish quarter, find lunch, find beers, don bathers and go to a sparty (a spa party in the city baths). Not sure how my pasty, British, grain-fed body feels about that last.
At least, so far, no one’s made good on their threats of plane beers.