This will be disjointed and probably end abruptly when my laptop dies. You are forewarned, read on at your own risk.
Ah, London. I am shoved in the corner of a non-moving Central Line carriage while something unspeakable is sorted out at Queensway and a crazy man mutters behind me when I catch sight of the front page of the Mirror someone is reading below me. FREE PASTY FOR EVERY READER! it trumpets, followed by a full page of Katie 'n' Peter. I almost weep for joy. Home. I want to fashion myself a nest out of discarded copies of London Lite and Benjy's cups and stay here forever.
Not yet on auntie duty, I get a whole day to myself to wander gleefully around London. Oddly, this time I don't feel the usual compulsion to go and gather up as much Stuff as I can to bring little pieces of London back with me (surely I am not becoming economically responsible? No, impossible), and instead content myself with wandering luxuriantly slowly through Liberty (complete redesign! mainly positive, the useless vague waitresses in the cafe remain and the terrifying Japanese room of assymetry still exists), Fenwicks (discovered they have moved all the stuff I like - Sonia, Erotokritos, Paul & Joe - up to the top floor), Selfridges and Boots in turn, carefully marvelling at the endless loveliness. I sit alone and very peacefully in Liberty cafe drinking Darjeeling and eating a large slice of victoria sponge; it is blissful. Violet and I meet up in our usual Carluccios haunt in Fenwicks basement for more tea and hilarity and for me to marvel at the gigantic creature she appears to be cooking up. Violet's boyfriend, chosen particularly for his extremely narrow shoulders, appears to be something of a disappointment in the cooking of small babies department.
Next observation: I have become an out of towner, dressing up and putting my face on to go 'up west' like the cast of Eastenders. This is chastening for a girl who used to live 2 minutes off Oxford Street and often went down there for the paper in her pyjamas. I totter down South Molton Street in my tiny Vanessa Bruno silk dress and Ferragamos, looking for all the world like an escaped footballers wife who took a wrong turn on the way to Gucci. Ridiculous. Unfortunately some kind of mental collapse occurred whilst I was packing and I have FIVE short black dresses, no pyjamas, no flat shoes and only one pair of trousers that I have already stained with ginger exfoliating scrub. I have to buy a toothbrush and break my Ferragamos falling over my own legs. I am a packing failure of immense proportions.
After a day of intense joy with my favourite city in the entire universe, I collapse into the bearded one's Notting Hill lair (he is out saving the world) and sleep for 12 hours, waking up very briefly to blearily eat some chocolate and drink a pint of water. It rains intermittently and the posh school next door is jasmine scented. I feel like I am on drugs, actually feeling rested, drinking decent cappucinos and inhaling the scent of buses, rainy streets pigeon faeces and Subway. It is AMAZING.
Next, BMF and I hole up in the Wolseley to compare notes on our respective midlife crises over breakfast. They are both coming along nicely. In another five years the pair of us will be in an asylum, hopefully the same one, so we can bitch about the standards of catering and share delusions. Once we have character assasinated ourselves sufficiently and I am climbing the walls with caffeine poisoning, I head off to poison myself still further with the opium of BOOKS, where my abstemious approach to London breaks down and I can barely drag my bag out of Hatchards. I haven't even been to Daunt yet. (Add any other purchase recommendations in the comments, I have to stock up while I can, even at the cost of breaking my back carrying them back to Brussels)
Later today I will finally get around to doing what I came here for and go and see my brother and my niece and nephew and my bubble of selfish joy will be popped because what is happening to them all is unbearable and should not be allowed. And I will sit uselessly and shoot my lame mouth off and try and think of things to say that are not rubbish. And it will be impossible because everything I can think to say is rubbish. But at least I can bring books on mummification and Power Rangers and other kinds of tat and be around, huddling.
Also, I am sitting writing this in Pain Quotidien, because apparently, I cannot get enough of Belgium. I am clearly a freak and even my pathetic excuses of ginger cake and WiFi cannot excuse me.