London, United Kingdom
This is it – my last full day before that thing we’re not talking about. Vic and Pete have taken the day off and have put together a perfect London day for me. As with almost any perfect day, it started with a sleep in before getting up and out for a breakfast of champions at Andrew’s Restaurant in Holborn, just a stone’s throw from where we all met for the first time. It’s an old school greasy spoon that put me in mind of the diners I (heart) in New York which in turn gave me the sudden, strange perspective of being in a supercool, global city that I tend to take for granted for its familiarity. I was suddenly envious of people discovering it for the first time.
Full with our fry ups, we headed further north back to Kentish Town to revisit The Pineapple. It had been closed the other day when I was there and Vic and Pete had never been. It wasn’t much past 12pm but the taps were on so we got a round in and had a sticky beak at the place all gussied up having survived threats of imminent closure several years back. It was comforting to be back within its walls making new memories.
I gave them a guided tour of the area all the way down to Blustons where, for the first time and after years of wanting to (and not really knowing why I hadn’t), we actually stepped through the threshold into another world! The interior is as frozen in time as the exterior with rack upon rack of like-old, new dresses! It was glorious!!! I even tried one on. The fit was great but unfortunately the print wasn’t quite right and I’d learnt my lesson with the raincoat about pink florals… or had I? Having finally breached the perimeter after all these years, I couldn’t leave empty handed so let Vic and Pete talk me into a jumper in, you guessed it, pink floral! To be honest, I don’t care if I ever wear it, I was just thrilled to be inside and have a reason to interact with third generation Mr Bluston himself! He told me that sadly the 80 year old institution probably won’t survive past his reign so if you’re in London, get down to Kentish Town Road and pay him a visit!
Onto Camden Market for a quick lap before heading back into the city to the five star, luxury Sanderson Hotel. For my birthday, Vic and Pete had given me a promissory note for The Mad Hatters Tea Party hosted daily in the hotel’s courtyard garden. I was expecting fancy but this was sheer designer decadence! We were welcomed with a glass of champagne before they bought out the dainty yet over the top feast of Alice in Wonderland themed treats – cakes that literally said ‘eat me’, mysterious bottles of liquid that changed flavour when you followed their instruction to ‘drink me’, multicoloured sandwiches, pocket watch biscuits, lolly pops that turn hot and cold and my favourite, one that just bursts in your mouth in an ice-cream explosion! Not even the tea was ordinary with full flowers blooming in the hot water. It was beyond delightful, it was joyous and indeed wonder-full.
We were each given a key that potentially opened a mystery box in the gift shop – unfortunately none of ours did so the prize remained a mystery but we none the less had fun poking around the sumptuous nooks and crannies of the hotel and sitting in all their designer chairs. We could easily have stayed playing all night but we were already late for a very important date!
We walked up to Oxford Street to get a bus and to my utter delight, the Christmas lights were on and they in turn lit me up! These lights were always bitter-sweet for me – wondrous but far from home. In this moment they were equally bitter-sweet only it felt like I was leaving home and this was a parting gesture.
We arrived at The Old Doctor Butler’s Head pub (chosen purely for its name) to find my farewell party people already gathered around in good cheer – Elizabeth, Debbie, Sophie, Steve and Erin. The pub itself is the exact kind of London pub I love – properly old (this one est. 1610), tucked away in a courtyard up an alley and with lots of little hidey holes to sit in. Other than that though, this place was weird! The bartender was just plain bizarre and shortchanged each one of us at some point over the night and the group of lecherous old men next us kept shooting creepy winks our way. Vic and Pete had to leave for another friends function but the rest of us stayed the course and had a great night. When it came time to say goodbye, I couldn’t even conjure up sadness for laughing too much at the non-iPhone users amongst us doggedly standing their ground as they produced actual printed maps from their bags and pockets to find their ways home.
One by one I said goodbye to Debbie (for whom time and distance are no impediment to friendship), Sophie and Steve (together forever in electric dreams) and Elizabeth (a sister in every way but blood) knowing that this was simply ‘see ya later’. Erin, I took with me back to Balham to rendezvous with Vic, Pete, Catia and Adrian to end the night with more drinks and rock ballads belted out with all the emotion and alcohol of the night.
But all good things must come to an end. The ugly-lights came on and we were turfed out onto the street with nowhere to go but home. Vic, Pete and I in one direction, Erin in another. I hugged him with all my might – my cousin and my friend – so grateful for this time we’ve spent and already looking forward to more in the future.
Back in Furzedown, fuzzy heads afforded us plausible deniability once more as I lay down on my aero bed for one more sleep…