A love letter to London

Date: 22 November 2015.

Location: Sunday cafe, Barnsbury, N1, London.

Dear London

I wanted to write and say thanks for a lovely day yesterday.

First, it snowed. That was pretty cool. I didn't actually see it because it was all gone by 9am and I hadn't yet left bed by that point. That was certainly due in part to the fact that I generally like to sleep with my bedroom window open. This is fine in Australia. However, it's become apparent that this is a habit I'm going to need to phase out over the English winter. When I — shivering and reluctant to have shifted from bed — eventually checked my thermostat, I found out that I'd been sleeping in a frosty room of 8 degrees. Nippy!

Then I went to get coffee in Islington. On the way out I ran into my neighbour for the very first time. She's Swiss, around 30 and lovely and we agreed to go for a drink sometime soon. That was quite nice.

Upper Street was so wintery! In a nice way! Everyone had their coats buttoned up and their bobble hats on (need to get self one of those) and the Christmas decorations are up. The day was crisp and blue.

Later in the day I got ready to head off the rugby: Argentina was playing The Barbarians, an invite only team, at 'the home of English rugby', Twickenham stadium. As I dashed down Richmond Crescent I spotted a wallet in the fallen leaves on the pavement. Curious, I picked it up. And now what, genius? I asked myself. I rifled through to find a contact. My intention was, of course, to return it if I could but is there anything that violates someone's privacy quite so thoroughly as pawing through their wallet? I felt criminal even opening it. Thankfully I quickly found business card and then quickly dialled. I despise talking on the phone so I did it before I lost my nerve and dropped the wallet back where I found it. An Irishman answered, sounding guarded. 'Who's this?' 'Umm, it's Alex.' 'Yeah?' 'Um, I found a wallet with your business car–' 'You BLOODY legend!' Grinning, I agreed to retrace my steps back to Richmond Crescent and hand the wallet back to its owner. He gave me a huge hug and said a thank you so peppered with tumbling curse words that it was evidently heartfelt. 'Look, you said you were off the rugby.' He fumbled through his wallet, 'take this!' He thrust ten pounds at me. I waved it away but he insisted, 'Seriously! Buy you and your mates a drink at the rugby.' Well, all right then. So I walked away with a double bonus: the glow of being a Good Person — and a tenner.

The train to Twickenham was packed so that wasn't so great. However, the payoff was that the vibe was incredible! Thousands of people poured out of the little station and through the little village towards the stadium. The roads were closed to all but foot traffic and the more entrepreneurial families had set up stalls in their front gardens: a donut stall, a face painting station, Cornish pasties for sale.

Outside the stadium I met my friend. She's a new friend that I'm pretty proud of making. We shall call her The Cat (for multiple reasons, none of which are clever or interesting enough for me to explain here). The Cat is my second ever British friend! She works with me and is just the right mix of razor-sharp intelligence, silly girlyness, integrity and irreverent humour to appeal as a friend. We spend a lot of time giggling over coffees and debating workplace politics in the office but today was our first non-work outing together. And I was meeting her husband. I was as nervous as I'd be on a first date — but I needn't have been: we all got on great, ably aided by a couple of (thousand) beers. It was super cold, but it didn't really matter. I don't understand rugby, but that didn't really matter either. At halftime the Cat turned to me and made my day in a way in which I think any adult who's faced the terrifying prospect of making new friends will understand.

She said, 'I've been wanting to ask you for a while now…. How would you feel about being Facebook friends?'

And then we became officially friends.

After the match we stayed back in the stadium for karaoke and more drinks. At the railway station we bought pasties and more beers for the journey back to London. At Vauxhall, I said goodbye to my new friends.

I considered venturing out to a party in Putney or to meet Twiggy in Chelsea but it was dark and — surprise– cold. The allure of a pot of Clipper tea and my duvet was too strong. Plus, the day already was replete with joy.

I believe I fell asleep the second I switched off the lights.




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