Friday, 9 July 2010

July Escape 1

I am in London, always a source of joy and financial ruin. Someone (Boris, I am looking at you, and very unedifying it is too) has pedestrianised Trafalgar Square in my absence. Why was I not consulted? Hmmm? Ok, I am in favour, but that is decidedly Not The Point.

Thankfully, in Notting Hill, location of the Waffle Parental Seat (Posh Side), nothing ever really changes. Grimy trust fund teens and hedge fund mothers still mill around cupcake bakeries. Beautiful young dog walkers struggle down the pastel streets with five inbred labradoodles. Bendy, swishy, amazonian ladies sashay in and out of the yoga centre across the street talking of shiatsu and entrance exams. The tramps sit around outside Waterstones eating takeaway pizza from Strada and discussing whether the Yen is undervalued. There is, admittedly, a new frozen ice cream shop down on da Gate, manned by two sweet and profoundly dim boys with elaborate hair but this hardly heralds a sea change in the demographic. I try one. It's nice, but it makes me feel sort of dirty, at £3.70 a pop.

After a week of sitting on my own, scratching my left foot and sharing tins of tuna with the dog, I was very far from brilliant at yesterday's drinks/lunch/cocktails/party. There were only about four chairs in the room at the party, yet I kept getting stuck behind one of them, as if even the furniture were warning me not to try anything clever, like conversation. When I did escape I met some truly lovely people and caught up with many more, all very tolerant of my thousand yard village idiot stare.

(Shameless plug corner: the party was for my very wonderful friend Jojo. Her new book, The Last Letter From Your Lover - which I bought yesterday and am saving for the Eurostar, is by all accounts very very brilliant. Also, it is interspersed with real life letters from people dumping their partners, by turn horribly funny and evocative. BUY THE BOOK. PLEASE. That's how you do subliminal messages, right?)

It's taken me a while to recover from the marathon of mixed drinks and gossip and the most garrulous and strange taxi driver for some years and his large collection of family photos. I have drunk about thirty pints of tea and sat in caf├ęs all day, apart from an exceptionally ill-advised foray to Kensington High Street which started off with me accidentally admiring the maternity wear in Marks & Spencer, and ended with me buying a pair of shorts, a garment I haven't worn since I was 16 (and for good reason, I imagine). Mr Houser escorted me away before any further crimes against good taste could be perpetrated (topic of conversation: Steve Jobs on a unicorn, mainly).

At one point I ducked behind the Coronet cinema to call the boys from an abandoned phone box. They are at the seaside and sound to be having the most idyllic time, full of waves and crabs and hamburgers. They talked for two minutes, happy to hear my voice, then dropped the phone kindly but decidedly, anxious to get away and get back to the waves and the crabs and the hamburgers. I am delighted with this, on almost all levels, would far rather they were having fun than pining. But it's odd how missing them affects me. It's not sadness, or loneliness, but anxiety. And I don't mean anxiety about killer crabs and tidal waves and natural disaster; those kinds of low probability events don't capture my imagination or feed my fear. I am not anxious for the boys or their safety, it's something even more primitive that that; a basic unease at not being with them. Is this how it always is when your children are away, parents? Even when they are 32? I would love to know.

It is now stupid stupid stupid late because of all the time spent scratching my left foot and my many mosquito bites, and because of the dullness of my brain and the unbearable smell of fake tan. Stopping.

12 comments:

Em said...

How lovely to be in London. I hope you have a wonderful time and wear your shorts with chic nonchalance and a few drips of ice cream down the front.

Anxiety is exactly the right word for being apart from your children, I think. At least that is how I feel - even now.

Margaret said...

London sounds lovely! Will you ever move back? I've tried to leave NY so it always makes me anxious hearing other people leaving their city.

PS We had your queen for a few hours, but she didn't stay overnight because our hotels are too expensive. We've sent her back all hot and sweaty and cranky because there's a heat wave and the UN's AC really sucks. Sorry! Her hat was fantastic, though, everyone said so.

Anonymous said...

The child-separation anxiety thing has persisted for over 18 months since my daughter (now 20) left home and moved interstate to go to university. I'm not a particularly hovering mother, and she's happy and competent and doing what she wants to do, so there is no reason to be anxious, but nevertheless, I am. I'm glad there's someone I can admit it to, without blushing!

Jeannie said...

My youngest son moved out last month and the silence has been very difficult to cope with. Thankfully, my middle son has been here visiting, but he's about to leave and will be gone for three months and I will be left with my cat and silence again.

I thought about getting a little dog but it's a big step and I have to be sure I have everything in order, because I will have to walk it several times a day and be up for all of that and I don't know if I am.

So all I can say is it's very quiet when the children are gone. More quiet than you'd think. At first you're kind of glad about it--peace at last. Then it sinks in and you not only talk to yourself, you start answering. Just have animals and friends around, and hopefully your children will come by to visit, too.

3limes said...

I enjoyed the wry London descriptions: I am leaving for London tomorrow after nearly a year in Africa! I can't wait for my return to the First World. (reactions on 3limes.)
I too will feel anxious when my girls fly across the Atlantic for 2 weeks without me, but I will console myself with First World trivialities. Oh, and I already have the Jojo book on my to buy list. Looking forward to it.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I really miss my daughter, now 22, and living just across town. She's happy, healthy, independent -- all the things I could ever wish for her -- AND we continue to have a close relationship.
This is so different than much of what I have ever experienced with my mother (I put an ocean between us for a start!). Possibly that's why my feeling this sort of "separation anxiety" surprises me so much?

Pat (in Belgium)

Z said...

I let go of that, in the end. Sometime in their twenties.

Iheartfashion said...

I have yet to experience being apart from my children for more than a few hours, but I imagine I'd feel the same way. Even though I fantasize about having a whole week on my own...

mountainear said...

Yes, even after 32 years. But only when I think about it. Most of the time it is fine. Just fine, sniffle, sniffle. Really.

Lisa said...

Oh, to be in London. Not that I've ever been there, but in my head, it's amazing.

Having children breeds anxiety on many levels. It just does. I admit, though, my best remedy is to just not think about them while we're apart. Out of sight, out of mind. And I understand they do the same. Until they need money or a lift home.

Artichoke Queen said...

It pains me to say this, because you know my inappropriate feelings for BoJo, but Red Ken was the one who pedestrianised Trafalgar Square. That might make you like it a bit more, no? I hated it at first, but now I concede that it may have been a worthy idea.

Jaywalker said...

Man, shows how long it's been since I went through Trafalgar Square! Extraordinary.