Friday, 4 September 2009

Eurostar Frequent Traveller

My patent classification system is failing me today. What am I? 50% London and 50% Belgium? 83% partially metabolised alcohol? 100% confused?


Confused, certainly. In the last 2 days I've been from Brussels to Marylebone, to Notting Hill, to Covent Garden, to Beckenham, to Clerkenwell, to Bloomsbury, to Islington, to Shepherd's Bush, back to Notting Hill and finally back to Brussels. One pocket of my handbag has tram tickets, euros, crappy Belgian phone and house keys with a cheesy photo of the Fingers and me at Mini-Europe (I have a hunchback, he's glowing with weird delight); the other has a selection of Oyster cards with no credit, a crumpled fiver, a crappy UK phone and Papa Waffle's key (with, appropriately enough, a bottle opener on it). There's even a third pocket with a Paris A-Z and a carnet of metro tickets in it. I say 'sorry' and 'merci' to the wrong people, look the wrong way when crossing the road and engage in inappropriate conversation in shops. I am lost.


Tired, hungover, wearing stupid shoes, full of substandard cream tea (with above standard company though, I should say, in the form of brain twin M) and twenty minutes late, I was hunting for a taxi somewhere between Russell Square and Holborn yesterday, when my phone rang. Fingers.


"Maman, je veux que tu rentres".

(Mum I want you to come home)


Stab to the heart. He's not usually like this at all. I've been away for far longer stretches and he's barely noticed. I tuck my phone between my ear and my shoulder and hail a taxi who rolls his eyes at me for stopping him in on a zig zag line thing. He does that grumpy 'get the fuck in, hurry up and don't talk' gesture.


"I'll be back really soon, sweetheart. Not when you wake up tomorrow, but I'll be back to pick you up à la sortie de l'école".


Silence.



"Are you sad, honey, est-ce que tu es triste? Est-ce qu'un cadeau ça t'aiderai?"

(Would a present help?)



"Oui".



"Essex Road" I tell the cabbie who looks daggers at me, quite rightly, for being a pretentious arse.



"Well, I'll be back really really soon. And I'll bring you a little surprise".



He seems mollified and wanders off. Next I have an absurdist conversation with Fingers where he puts on a deep voice and pretends to be the CFO.



"Ici papa"

"Bonsoir papa. Est-ce que les enfants sont sages?"

(Hello papa. Have the children been good?)

"Non"

"Tu sais que tu peux les fouetter?

(You know you can whip them?)



[Laughter]


And eventually we hang up and I go and meet people and drink and talk, endlessly, with the mad, gibbering relief of one who doesn't get to speak their own language, or get out much. But it's a wrench. I come to London as often as I can and I play at being free and irresponsible; I see my friends and drink too much and wander in a nostalgic bubble around my old haunts. It's an idiotic, but fun fantasy. I daydream about moving back eventually even though I probably couldn't afford to live in a discarded Ikea cardboard box anymore, let alone anywhere like Papa Waffle's amazing zen palace, which just encourages my insane fantasies. And then something like this bursts my bubble, reminding me how very much more complex it all is and I feel as if essential parts of me are being stretched all the way from St Pancras to Bruxelles Midi. I am leaving more than just the odd adapter plug, t-shirt, or bottle of cleanser behind when I leave London, but I'm going back to, well, something as essential as my lungs. What to do? Enjoy, regret, plot, get wistful, get homesick, accumulate Frequent Traveller points?

So I got back this afternoon, hopped on my tram in the underground station that smells so particularly like Brussels (waffle and pizza and some very specific kind of dust) and so unlike London (burnt rubber and Lynx) and threw a ball for the weepette for ten minutes before it started pouring. Then I collected the boys from school and Fingers hugged me so hard I fell over and scraped both my knees and then he got sad and anxious he had hurt me, so we bought Kinder Eggs and I made a shitty job of putting the toy together, watched bad cartoons and had pizza for dinner. The weepette has graciously accorded me about a square inch of comfy chair to perch on to write this, and the CFO has made me a cup of tea. I'm home. Sort of.

11 comments:

Julia Ball said...

I found this all very touching for reasons I cannot even begin to say. It must be very hard for you all at the moment. X x

justme said...

Ouch. How hard it all is. I hope you find a way through that you can live with. x

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. My situation is kind of similar in lots of ways (although I am far too rubbish to take any action over it so I admire your bravery).

Mya said...

I have that Natalie Imbruglia track 'Torn' playing in my head...not very helpful I know. I'm glad you have returned safely to your boys...all of whom love you to distraction, it's blatantly bloody obvious. Am just about to eat a Leclerc chocolate eclair that's past its sell by date - it's not even mine...it belongs to the Sprog. But I am a responsible mother and avoid poisoning him when possible.So, if it's any comfort to you, my dear, I am eating a far crapper cream tea than you have been recently munching...God that is SO badly written. Am also V impressed that you assemble the Kinder toys. Big up to ya BW. My hands generally shake too much.Take care, my lovey, and try and enjoy the weekend.
Mya x

Metropolitan Mum said...

Oh. Oh! Essex Road. That's about half a mile from where I live. I knew it, there was a little waffling in the air the other day. Is this where you got your wig? I would want one of those, too. (I stopped being embarrassed a long while ago. It's just not getting you anywhere. And I can't blush, physically. So what's the point?)
I shall be passing la belle Belgique this Monday again. Here's hoping for more exciting stuff to happen than odd looking guys in their tuned BMW 3 series.

Iheartfashion said...

It's tough being pulled in multiple directions, isn't it? I feel for you.

Susan said...

I'm new here and should probably do some catching up. In the meantime, I'm just awfully nostalgic for those traveling days.

Chic Mama said...

oh, made me sad for you. Take care & relish those moments you get to be 'me'.

Wildernesschic said...

I am echoing chic mama here I too enjoy my trips to London to see my friends and to be "me" but get torn leaving my boys all 3 and the dogs !! but appreciate them so much more when home again and them me.

westendmum said...

Home is where the tea is!
Hope you get all sorted and settled soon. x

Mr London Street said...

It's an unfortunate state of affairs that means you can't entirely enjoy wandering round some of the very nicest bits of London. The concept of home can be a bastard that way.