By dint of an unusually straining-at-the-seams backpack – already to blame for some unhappy compromises, most notably the abandonment of two whole boxes of Creme Eggs – I have been forced to carry my laptop along as hand-luggage. Which means, in a silver lining sort of way, that I can start writing up my trip home before I even reach America again.
The initial anchor for this visit was Caroline and Charles’s wedding in York. They have many, many beautiful photos of their own, but suffice to say it was a beautiful wedding with delicious food, the best first dance selection I have ever seen (Everybody Wants To Be A Cat) and a fancy fireworks display. More importantly, they both looked incredibly happy together, so congratulations!
I woke up the next morning to find myself with no hangover but instead a year older, and spent my birthday morning exploring York (OK, mostly exploring the Railway Museum) with Randi, Katie and Randi’s parents. Then we used the real, actual railway to get back to London, sans Katie, and have dinner in Willesden Green together with my parents, Tash and Randi’s brother Alex. Got that? Good, because the next two weeks were a bit of a blur of working during the day and then shifting combinations of family and friends by night.
One very special meeting was with Jack and his amazing parents, Abbi and Paul, a few hours after he was born at St George’s Hospital. Later on in the trip, we also met Josh and Cindy’s beautiful baby, Isaac, who is a few months older and has learned the twin tricks of smiling and gripping people’s fingers. It was so wonderful to see them both and I can’t wait to watch them grow up.
Last time I was in London I didn’t get a chance to go to the Tricycle – a grave omission – but we made up for it this time around with The Invisible Hand. The synopsis (American banker, Nick Bright, held hostage in Pakistan) made it sound a lot grimmer than it actually was. It’s actually a surprisingly funny play, as Nick is forced to play the market to try and raise his own ransom. A few nights later, we also introduced Randi’s family to the ever-reliable News Revue for some temporary relief during Friday’s grim post-Brexit blues.
But the best stage performance of the trip was, not surprisingly, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I’d been excited about seeing this ever since I snagged tickets on a tense morning back in October, but given the circumstances, it was perfect timing to leave the real world and be transported into JK Rowling’s creation for a combined matinee plus evening showing of Parts One and Two. They rightly implore the audience to keep all of the play’s secrets, so I will do, but it was utterly magical. And the staging alone changed my expectations about what is possible in the theatre.
In blatant thievery of my sisters’ ideas, Randi and I also booked tickets to climb the O2 one night. (As it happened, the last time I was here it was still the Millennium Dome.) Their instructional briefing makes it sound like a feat of endurance, but actually, it’s easier than climbing a flight of stairs. And it’s funny, because while I’m sure the view would have been lovely on a bright, sunny day – or majestic on a clear night – the slightly apocalyptic air of grey clouds and light rain was equally evocative. Especially since you can’t really see much of London from the top, but you can feel like you have a bit role in an action film.
I have a very long list of other engagements over the last two weeks, including drinks near my old Highbury home with Clark where we celebrated with newly-minted respectable homeowners Cat and Matt. Simon joined me and Randi to complain about Corbyn, update us on his own scandalous life, and plan our upcoming American adventure. I finally saw Oliver and Abi’s flat and enjoyed its proximity to Italian food and wine, ate something like my third burrito of the trip over lunch with Christa (which is absurd, I know) and confirmed – over more drinks – that there is no issue about which I wouldn’t want to hear Melissa’s opinion. (And, y’know, maybe argue about it a little.) Not to mention snatching an hour with Daryl and Ermila, whiling away a night with Josh and Anna in a joyful little pub on Kilburn High Road where an enormous Irish folk band take up most of the space, and having a very brief and unscheduled reunion with Alex Trafford who lamented that my last blog post had made him miserable. Sorry!
Also huge thanks to my family for organising lots of things with the common theme of stuffing me with food: a big gathering at Maggie Jones’s, a great dinner one night at Andrew and Bonnie’s, and one of my grandparents’ famous teas. But I want to conclude with a few more London landmarks which I deployed this year to continue brainwashing Randi:
- The London Transport Museum. Obviously.
- Dinner on Brick Lane. One of our many Indian dinners, of course, but the only one where you can start to smell the spices as you approach.
- A long-awaited sighting of North London’s many, many foxes.
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