I am in London chasing my tail round in small circles (I do not have a tail though I do have an incipient mullet). Thus far I have acquired a "hair"cut I hate, lovely new eyebrows and some Anthropologie goose measuring cups, because nothing says painless trip home than bulky, heavy, breakable items. Do not ask me for pictures of the new haircut, first I need to get over my deranged desire to chop more of it off myself with a blunt pair of children's scissors. Ooooh, my fingers are twitching as I write that, clearly the desire hasn't passed yet ('it can't be that hard', say the voices in my head 'I mean, what does he do, exactly? Twists it around a bit and chops. I can do that!'. I am trying to silence them because as we all know, this would not end well). I am also busy metabolising a whole roast chicken and gigantic trifle from last night, like a python after a particularly plump and chewy gazelle, so the demented weight loss plan is not going so well. Self-esteem is at a fairly low ebb, I could easily collapse in a heap of sulky (and yes, ok, slightly hungover) tears, but then I slap myself round the head with a bit of perspective and try and get over myself.
Yet again, I am getting full value from my Oyster card, wandering from Tooting to Chelsea to Chiswick, to Soho and back again. Chelsea is stupidly pretty, isn't it? I hardly ever go to the pretty bits of town (Notting Hill excepted), what with my weird, kneejerk inherited class hatred and fear of Fulham, but Chelsea was like a London theme park in the watery winter sunshine, pastel mews houses and ruddy cheeked oligarchs' children in navy gym skirts running around obscenely large playing fields with hockey sticks. You don't get that kind of thing in Brussels. Other things you don't get in Brussels: cheap, flat shoes that aren't hideous, Marks & Spencer prepacked fruit and veg (yeah, I know I'm making the earth cry), Kulu Kulu sushi, Bobbi Brown eyeliner, nicely dressed girls so drunk they can barely walk or talk. My people!
It was lovely to be back in the east end of Soho (here), near where we used to live. I kept expecting to see Maria, our most excellent downstairs neighbour, stalking down the street muttering. Maria, in her mid 70s when we first met, worked four nights a week in an undisclosed Italian on Frith Street (the other three nights were spent in West End casinos accumulating anecdotes about George Best), doing god only knows what. I think her duties were mainly 'transporting the takings to the bank in her zip up boot', and 'fomenting alarming, probably racist, gossip'. She was always full of incomprehensible stories of restaurant feuds, Triad attacks and severed limbs. I always wanted to know more about Maria's early years, as nanny to Ron Hubbard's children, but she was very evasive. She was the best neighbour ever, always taking us to Spaghetti House for dinner, shoving twenty pound notes into my protesting hands, and regaling us with puzzling tales of ageing tarts and ancient actors buying her dinner in the Golden Nugget. When we sold the flat I was anxious how she and Bambi, the world's most obese stray cat, large, round and fluffy like a giant white angora cushion, would manage with the new neighbours, and whether they would go and buy Bambi's M&S organic chicken mini-fillets and Harrods milk. I need not have worried, they were soon even more favoured than we were, constantly fending off canneloni and crystal bonbon baskets. Actually, when we left, Maria was perfectly content, with the five other flats all filled with combinations of quiet, well-dressed gay men.
Holed up in Chiswick today, I don't even plan to get dressed until tonight. I might go to Sainsbury's in my pyjamas just to test their attitude to nightwear. I have, however, promised not to use my brother's stairlift, tempting as it is. I don't think I'm much, if any help here, but at least I can stack the dishwasher and dispense hugs. Soon I'll have watched enough Reuters tv to discourse intelligently on the state of the bonds market for oooh, ten seconds. Be afraid, be very afraid. Currency hedge! Peanut futures! Or, er, something.