Date: 18 July 2015.
Location: the Saturday morning train to Brighton, whooshing through Croydon.
If you are between 27 and 37, own a killer suit or a sharp pair of high heels, live in London and like alcohol, Broadgate Circle is the place to be on a Thursday night.
I meet Legally a Blonde at nearby Salt Point in Exchange Square above Liverpool Street Station. Bless her. She has a double vodka soda waiting for me.
We’ve both had a rough week at work and it’s almost giddyingly fun to be drinking outside on a school night. We move on to pinot grigio and roam the square. There’s a bar in every corner and a mini-golf course in the sunken middle. You’re free to walk around the square, taking your wine glass (or bottle) between bar offerings or down onto the steps to watch whatever’s on the big screen (cricket: Aussies losing, so no thanks) or peer over at the home-bound commuters rushing around Liverpool Street station below.
London’s square mile of City is a rabbit warren, guarded for eternity by watchful griffins at each entrance (look for them next time and you’ll start seeing them — high above the middle of the road, outside City train stations). It’s a nest of little squares and courts and rows with bizarre names: from the gastronomic — ‘Pudding Lane’, ‘Poultry’ (not ‘Poultry Square’ or even ‘the Poultry’, just ‘Poultry’) or ‘Ham Yard’ to the sweet — ‘Love Lane’, ‘Turnagain Alley’ — to the ominous — ‘St Mary’s Axe’, ‘Savage Gardens’, ‘Hanging Sword Alley’ and ‘Catherine Wheel Alley’ (eek). You really need to know where you’re going (and, thankfully, LB does) or, on a warm Thursday evening, just follow the hum of voices and music to the next hive of bars. It’s amazing. We take our freshly-refilled wine glasses for a little walk across to Broadgate Circle. I inhale sharply.
Broadgate Circle is yet another sunken pit rimmed by bars: Aubaine at twelve o’clock, The Botanist at six o’clock, an array of others in-between. The area is teeming with people, mostly men in blue suits or khakis (for forget ‘casual Friday’, London has ‘dress-down summer’). LB and I descend into the pit down a flight of steep, wide steps and I laugh under my breath that it feels like we’re Cinderellas entering the ball. I’m not overexaggerating much. LB attracts male attention anywhere she goes and here men outnumber women at least five to one. Next to her I feel bit like a contestant in week 4 of The Biggest Loser: too large, under-dressed, awkward. However, thankfully, we’re not in high school anymore and I’m capable of refraining from comparing my appearance and appeal directly with hers (mostly). I briefly wonder how much of this is due to The Journalist. Are we not all in thrall to the seductive power of someone telling you you’re beautiful?
Regardless, given the current uncertain, unsettled situation with The Journalist this is a very dangerous time and place for me to be. There’s blood in the water.
Nevertheless we’re paralysed by the classic paradox of the pair of single girls: we don’t know anyone to talk to. This isn’t really a problem as we have a great deal to say to one another, many mutual friends to catch up on, work to gripe about, dating horror stories to trade. However, we’re two single girls. Not gonna lie — we’d like to sharpen our flirting skills on a pair of willing victims. No matter how much fun you’re having, it’s rare that male attention doesn’t make your night just a little better. That’s even the case where its ‘unwanted’ and you shoo it off. It’s just flattering.
So, after about an hour, Legally Blonde makes sure we get it. She stalks right up to one of the best looking men at The Botanist and introduces us. I’m floored, but thrilled by her bravery. The boys introduce themselves back. They’re a pair of handsome Italian bankers who work at Societe Generale. Before long we each have an Aperol Spitriz to hand and everyone’s trying to guess what my hidden tattoo is and we’re actually having a pretty great time with these two strangers. I try not to mind too much that LB is the obvious centre of attention and it (mostly) works.
It’s a Thursday night, and simply no one cares. About work, about being a grown up, about their credit card bills. Nothing. Even when the summer rain shower starts, everyone simply slowly steps under cover and orders another drink. Reality has been suspended. Another Aperol Spritz appears in my hand. LB cozies up to the handsomer of the two gents. Theres absolutely nothing between his friend and I but, thankfully, he’s incredibly witty and incredibly courteous. So courteous indeed that, when LB and Italian Man No. 1 start making out (again, it’s a Thursday, at 10pm) he offers to buy me McDonalds. Prego, I agree! We get out of there, order McChicken burgers (‘Chicken Sandwiches’, he corrects me), have a natter on the sidewalk and then he orders me an Uber home on his account. I get home and drink a tall Berrocca (smart!), try to snuggle my cat (limited success), check LB hasn’t been Jack-The-Rippered on her way home from East London (hasn’t) and I pass out.
Friday is, of course, rubbish.
Just as I proofread this I see that Frank has sent me a text. What to do.