Date: 1 August. Happy 6 month anniversary with me, London! Shall we have a G&T to celebrate? We shall? Smashing.
Location: The Central Line, on the way to Notting Hill. I think they’ve made the Central Line the red line because it’s the one that’s close seat to hell. It’s certainly hot enough and when it stops between stations I think a lot of us start to ‘get’ purgatory.
“What’s your favourite part?”
I mime a jewellry box snapping closed. “Snap snap.”
He looks at me blankly. “You’ll know it when you see it,” I assure him. We settle in to enjoy Pretty Woman in a Putney park with wine (me only, someone is a little hungover from the cricket) and M&S’s finest picnic supplies.
There’s almost nothing about this movie that I don’t love and it’s only enhanced by watching it in a park with a thoroughly British audience. Admittedly, the highlight is accidental: just as Julia Roberts wraps her legs around Richard Gere on the grand piano someone opens a bottle of a champagne. The ‘pop’ is comically well timed and the audience breaks into laughter. Someone behind us giggles, “Typically British awkwardness.”
It’s been so long since I’ve seen a movie ‘socially’. Typically I catch up on the year’s cinematic offerings squished into my economy class seat, killing time between Qantas meals — or whilst dragging my poor battered MacBook around the house with me as I clean or do laundry, streaming something that’s not too plot-heavy on Popcorn time. This is a different experience. As Vivian snuggles into Edward and murmurs that she loves him a guy behind me sniggers, “Stage 4 premature ‘I love you'”. I chuckle appreciatively. The Journalist shoots me a look and I regret it.
Melbourne fusses about its outdoor cinemas and it does do it well. The Moonlight Cinema in the Royal Botanical Gardens is beautifully situated, with the cityscape glittering like a string of fairylights beyond the treeline and the fruit bats of Ferngully flying overhead. But London has it beat without even trying. There’s the screen at Embankment that’s nestled between Gordon’s Wine Bar and the Thames. There’s the rooftop cinema in Shoreditch. There’s the beanbag rooftop cinema in Shoreditch. There’s the free pop up cinema that was part of the British Summertime festival in Hyde Park. Then there’s the roaming pop up screen that, tonight, has popped up in Putney in the grounds of Bishop Park, right alongside Fulham Palace. Next week it moves to Hammersmith to show the Indiana Jones movies.
The audience whoops gleefully as Richard Gere climbs the fire escape and kisses kiss Julia Roberts.
After the movie we walk to his place along the river. It’s a lovely walk. We detour around the Fulham Football Club’s stadium and he tells me about British football teams. Unlike AFL teams they don’t have team names as such. Arsenal is just Arsenal. Chelsea is just Chelsea. However, they do have informer nicknames: eg the ‘Gunners’ and ‘the Blues’ respectively. Fulham’s football stadium is a little thing perched on the edge of the dark Thames and, on one corner, it’s wrapped around an ancient little cottage that’s been preserved through generations as the area developed. Unlucky FFC are ‘the Cottages’. I think it’s hilarious. I may have found my football team.
I sleep so well.
However, I wake up to two missed calls from Lady Lovelylocks. This is unusual. I leave the Jounalist to trek back east side and Lady Lovelylocks and I play phone tag as I commute across London. When we finally get in touch she breaks some big news: she’s broken up with Byron. It’s the end of a four year relationship, expressed in one crisp sentence. ‘Al, we broke up’.
My heart then breaks for her, little cracks of ice run through it like a smashed windscreen. There are some things that I left at home that I knew would endure: the myki system will always be rubbish, Richmond’s brunch game will always be strong, coolly sunny autumn days in Fitzroy Gardens will always be hard to beat, tequila shots and raging to John Farnham at Bar 9T4 will always be an equally great/terrible idea and Lady Lovelylocks and Byron will be together.
I’ve only had my own heart broken once and I just barely made it through. In retrospect that was a highly self-indulgent reaction. I was young (just 23) and, while we were fervently in love, it wasn’t that serious — we had no joint possessions, didn’t cohabit, had only been together two years and marriage was a laughable distant nothing that grown-ups did. Still, for weeks I ate nothing but wine and sleeping pills and refused to shower. It wasn’t great. (Though, I was was enviably skinny in that way that only true misery can bring about. In photos from that time I’m beautiful but in a scary, flinty kind of way. That girl is a mean stranger.)
I want to give Lady Lovelylocks the biggest of hugs but I’m just so far away. I feel hopelessly unable to help. Suddenly, though, I’m just so glad that I’ve booked my flights home and I can’t wait to see her.