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 cafés 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.