It was all in a good cause. I woke up at 5am this morning with a stabbing pain in my side from laughing so much, god only knows what about, my memory is a little hazy. I went to an extraordinarily good party; a party so good that if I live to be 500 years old I will probably never see its like again.. I mean, what are the chances of me ever being in the same room as Joan Bakewell AND Robert Plant AND Sarah Brown ever? Nil. I am not going to pretend for a second to be cool and blasé about it, it was amaaazing. It had the heightened, glittery quality of a party in a dream, and not the usual kind where all my teeth fall out or I am required to have degrading sex with my line manager. It was in the Connaught ballroom! Lynn Barber was there! Rachel Johnson introduced herself to me by mistake! There were teeny tiny things to eat and terrifyingly attentive waiters bringing you delicious vodka, lime and ginger cocktails that really, you should not have been drinking in such great numbers. The cocktails did not run out, ever, which is one of the things that makes me think it was in fact a dream. I got the night bus home with Mrs Trefusis (her hair a work of extraordinary, sinuous artistry) in very, ahem, high spirits, got off at the wrong stop and only realised when I reached the house, presumably using some long-buried atavistic homing instinct.
Anyway. It was wonderful (I should say that I did not, obviously, talk to any of the famous people, but instead stared at them like the village idiot, drooling faintly out of the corner of my mouth and dropping canapés down the front of my dress). It was worth all the suffering today and more (I fully expect there will be more. This has the feel of two day hangover. I really need a salt lick, a drip, a hot water bottle and a lengthy, repetitive, stern lecture on responsible drinking).
London was looking bonny and wintry. The decorations on Carnaby street are like a giant, glittery solar system, and Oxford Street has huge umbrellas picked out in tiny white, red, and blue lights. I walked past Claridges earlier today - swathed in fir branches and white bulbs - and it smelled that smell of Christmas tree warmed by fairy lights, on a grand scale.
Sir Waffle picked me up at the station yesterday - the first time anyone has done that for me in approximately 800 years - and we went for a sandwich in some half extraordinary, half swirly carpeted hotel called the St Ermin, frozen in time round the back of Scotland Yard. It was a bit like the Berners Hotel near our old flat, where our elderly Italian neighbour - Maria, with the lifetime membership of all the casinos in London and the endless string of anecdotes about Soho gang killings and celebrity encounters of the early 60s who transported the restaurant takings around in her zip up boot and bought her cat milk from Harrods - used to take me and the CFO for dinner or drinks occasionally, a weird old curiosity of a place, with soaringly high ceilings, chivvied up to date on the cheap. There are lots of these kinds of unsung hotels still hiding in odd corners of London and I could get quite obsessed by looking at them. I like that mix of the obscure sense of history, the flaking gilt on plastic door handles, internet booked tourists, the Balkan trainee receptionists and ancient men who have worked there for fifty years, both groups in identical uniforms.
"Your mother used to come here sometimes" he told me as an afterthought, gesticulating with a sandwich. Sometimes it seems as if she's been everywhere before me, but in a comforting, not a frustrating way.
I got back to Brussels tonight and as my taxi pulled away from the station, through the dingy underpass bus stop and out onto the Boulevard du Midi, street lights reflecting off the tram lines and the scaffolded Palais de Justice on the skyline, I felt a tiny, unaccustomed flicker of glad to be back. Barely noticeable, but there all the same. And now I'm home - and yes, I think it is home now, this strange orange house - and my scrawny dog is extravagantly pleased to see me, and I can boil my own kettle and make a cup of tea (with stupid Belgian UHT milk that I barely notice any more) in my own mug and put the fire on in my bedroom. And at this, one of the oddest and most uncertain times in my life so far, there's a real comfort in that.