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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Back to London

Feb 5th 2010
...and so I returned, now a week ago.. time has just flown by and of course I've been up to all sorts of nonsense since arriving back. Last night was a great evening, a 1920's charity ball in aid of the Liberty Trust, a charity set up to help children in Belize. Indeed it was rather a jolly evening which commenced in George, I had chosen to wear a full length black maxi gown and although I had fashioned a little silk ribbon attachment at the hem, I was still struggling with stairs and the like. My osteopath and two weeks on a sandy beach in Lamu had significantly improved my buggered up ankle but I was still slightly self-conscious in sling backs...

Glamourously, I leapt from my taxi, a rather shabby vauxhall cavalier, and stepped out across the street, stopping momentarily, light as gossamer, by the temporary traffic lights and some builders cones to get my whereabouts. Freezing in the cool night air, I burst in upon George to find almost no one in there... "Downstairs" they cried, seeing me looking nonplussed, and pointed me in the right direction, "Thanks", I replied as I tottered down the stairway, maxi in hand and into the basement. Once below I was greeted my our party who were clad in a variety of 1920s finery; the girls all silk and feathers, the boys; well aside from the pencil moustaches and the occasional spat were pretty much wearing what boys generally wear for black tie events. Luckily for me, A.M was also wearing a maxi and later, as we trotted down the street, she with fag in hand, we compared notes on the difficulties of wearing ladies shoes whilst running around the streets of london trying to look fab. A.Ms feet were killing her already, I was lucky however as had on my super pink sling-backs from China which, through a masterpiece of Chinese engineering, are actually comfortable. We hiked along at a pace leading the group through the streets of Mayfair, the boys in their warm trousers and mercifully flat shoes lagging along at the back, the girls, feathers and cloaks flying in the wind, cackling and leading the way. We shot past the papparazzi who were lying in wait at the front doors and congratulated each other that "Thank good the paps hadn't recognised us at all", but being mistaken for Courtney Love and a podgy Bridget Jones was not going to terribly flattering anyway...

Once inside a warm and wonderful evening began, in true style I managed to gatecrash the table next door to us and grabbing hold of their glo sticks insisted on bidding on their behalf in the charity auction. All was going really well, I was spending JPs money at a rate that one can only do when it's somebody else's, we were winning the bidding war, when in an over excited frenzy I thrust my glo stick in the air just one too many times and ended up bidding against myself! Thankfully, my twinkle infused brain was mainly immune to the vast embarrassment I was supposed to feel as the evil compere ridiculed my apparent blondeness in front of 500+ guests. Hhaha, I thought as my fuzzy brain told me that I hadn't quite understood the rules of the game but was enthusiastically playing anyway, and ahahah I thought again as we got to
£10,000 and a cheer went up from the crowd as JP and I won the bid for lot three: a week in Zanzibar, a week in Chamonix, and riding lessons with Richard Dunwoody - suckers, I thought, my double bluff, my cunning bid against myself actually worked... JP was a wonderfully good sport, any man who lets a random woman grab his glo stick and throw away £10k of his dough has got to be a pucker sort of bloke.

Later, I discovered that Richard Dunwoody is an extraordinarily nice man, who had dated our lady singer-songwriter Georgea Blakey for some years some time ago. Richard, it turns out had actually been to the Wachan in Afghanistan, so already I felt a connection. I'm not sure what he's going to make of my riding style, a la Courtlands riding stables in Stevenage, but hey ho, I suppose I can only improve.

Anyway, a marvellous evening in which the evil compere managed to garner in excess of £200,00 from a generous crowd. I met a spiritual guide and had a great time with baby Chris on the dance floor, at one point an older gentleman joined us and I looked on amused as Chris and said gent performed some kind of macho disco dance off with each other. Much as I'd like to believe that it was for my benefit (me being the lady and all that) I got the distinct impression that they were rather enjoying their little dance floor spat and were quite happy posing and posturing to each other in a way that only men seem to enjoy so much.

By now most of our party were suffering the effects of a liberal number of twinkles, a drink introduced by the lovely A.M. This tipple made of vodka, champagne and elderflower affair looked innocent enough but snuck up upon you and then promptly knocked your socks off! We were amongst the last to leave, and had a protracted session of running around in the ladies loos looking for LK before finally falling into black cabs some unknown time later. LK had acquired a trilby, I think from Tom and had made off with it into the cab. I jumped in and along with H we headed northwest wards, LK lolling on one side and H and I jabbering on about nothing as we rolled along through the small hours of the London night. Dropping H near to hers, I then had the task of getting the rather twinkled LK back to her place. Eventually, on her door step I watched as she opened her front door and fell inside, satisfied that she was safely home I jumped back in and off we sped to mine. 3am and I was suddenly feeling pretty tipsy myself, still roughly aiming for sophistication I nicked the last of my flatmate's bread and went for pate on toast and a chicken cuppa soup before falling asleep on the sofa.

And today.. a late mid morning, twinkle still flowing through my veins, I stumble from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen in search of water and coffee. Sometime during the night I had actually made it in to bed and into pyjamas so clad in wincyette duck print PJs and pink crocs I settled on the sofa to check email and contemplate the day. My only consolation was that if I was feeling a little the worse for wear LK was surely feel a damn sight worse than I was! I was due to meet David at 1pm and was trying to gather my enthusiasm to get on to my new bike and cycle over to Raouls to meet him. Once plied with coffee and ibuprofen I was then raring to hear all about David's recent exploits in the Brazilian rainforest. He had travelled with a band of 13 others to experience the delights of a tribe in Brazil and had spent two weeks taking hallucinogenic forest potions and vomiting a lot. The group had bonded over endless diarrhoea and the loo and through chanting. David had initially shied away from doing frog (a tribal ritual where small burns are made on arms and legs and are covered in frog toxin causing the heart to race and the user to vomit copiously) but had decided to make the most of this further cleansing opportunity to good effect. David had been fair bitten to death by sandflies and had a number of rather nasty looking eschars on his legs and hands. He told me he was "Going natural" and treating them with tea tree oil and lavender, he looked amazing and his eyes looked clear and bright, and I had to respect his adventure even as he rushed off mid lunch for a quick round with the restaurant loo. During the trip he'd lost about 5kg and said that he felt great and at peace and that nothing really mattered that much anymore. Sat in the heart of Portobello eating a burger and fries, surrounded by Italians and screaming children, I wished that I to could have just a little of his serenity at my disposal.

I've just returned from a local shop, too lazy to go any further than my corner shops, I went in search of cherry coke, but no, denied, neither of my locals stocked this awful beverage I craved and instead I had to make do with Tizer. I had forgotten this ancient elixir and probably having never seen it out of the can had poured it like a grown up into a glass, from whence I could see that it look just like fizzy piss. "Perfect" I thought, " A delightful cure for my hangover", as I downed it in one. Some loo roll, a can of baked beans and some posh biscuits, that'll tide me over for a night recovering from the night before.

I can never work out whether Sam in the corner shop is drunk or whether he has Parkinsons disease, I know it's harsh to say and as a doctor I should probably be able to tell, but I'm just never sure, sometimes he's normal but increasingly, he's not. Sam is incredibly slow and drops things, looks at the till like it's a marvellous but mysterious creature, his wife materialising from out of nowhere from somewhere in the vicinity of the fridge cabinet (perhaps even from inside the fridge cabinet ) and her, all concerned rushing to help me, to help him with the money and the till and the bags of shopping. So many years, I think, are they happy, I wonder, would she waver in her dedication even if she weren't? I wondered where that love comes from, and where the anger and the acceptance take you?

..and now here I sit in my little living room in London, early Saturday evening and it is peaceful here. Lyle is dinging me on facebook messenger from Kabul and I know that if I started chatting to him now we'll be at it for most of the evening. Another friend is dinging me too but I'm trying to ignore so that I can get something down in my blog.

I have a little time to ponder whether I am glad to be back... I am, of course, my own bed, clean sheets, london air, my burning thighs as I cycle through Ladbroke Grove. Such rich freedoms, of course I'm glad to be back. But with it a sadness a strange sense of being outside, of wondering why we all try so damned hard. I recognise that my life in Kabul is simpler in so many ways, the rules are apparent and it is easy enough to live within these confines, the groups, the activities and the behaviours are even more proscribed and predictable then the characters here. There are fewer choices there, clothes are all big and baggy, hair is always covered, there are only two main expat supermarkets, Finest and Spinneys and there is nowhere near the onslaught of consumerism that is thrust upon us every second of the day here in London.

Twice now in the last week I have braved the hideousness of the Westfield shopping centre. I have had to devise a survival strategy for my forays in to this place much like the mental preparation one must perform in order to survive a trip to an Ikea. I'm ashamed to say it but I have partially adopted an almost male technique to shopping in this place which is a temple to vacant consumerism. Entering via a side entrance, I move quickly and purposefully toward my destination, the apple shop. I skirt the moisturiser stand and the stand selling the incredibly useful t-shirt in a cube, past the carphone warehouse (which for some reasons gets me every time) and on past Top Shop and Mango. I am determined and I get there almost in one piece, but at the last moment the Calvin Klein underwear shop looms up to my left and before I know it I am sucked inside and I find myself buying knickers and a bra that I "Oh so desperately need". My purchases sweetened by the gift of chocolate I am released and I have to martial my self past Massimo Dutti and several shoe shops before I reach my safe haven beyond the clean white doors of the apple mac shop. Once inside I know that I must conserve a little energy for the return journey and tell myself silently inside my head that sparkly shoes are just not a necessity for this evening's event. I concentrate and a skinny youth with bad English teeth helps me enormously to spend rather a lot of money on gadgetry. I feel a small sense of triumph and a larger sense of guilt (my credit card is groaning) but I walk away after approximately 2hrs with a long, long overdue new computer and a stronger foothold on the ladder of my filming making aspirations. I have never wanted to do things the easy way and, as luck would have it, it nearly always been a challenge, from my battles with myself to my battles to do what my heart desires.

Maybe you will recognise the strange dilemma, we buy therefore we exist, we consume and others recognise us by our brands, when we don't buy we fail, or so we fear. But sometimes I feel sick when I consume, I feel overloaded with 'stuff'. I feel unnatural and natural all at the same time. A short lived glee exists when I use my sat nav, when I connect to the internet, but the feeling of completeness never last as along as when I find my way home by the stars, or when I eat what I catch. So today, I wish that I could pare it all down, strip away all the stuff that I really don't need and carry just the basics. This is the dilemma I face when I consider my life in London with the parties and the social whirl, theatres and galleries, the taxes and the paperwork, the richness and the responsibility. When I am here I am part of this world and all that goes with it. When I am elsewhere I can live out of one bag and simplify things a little but it's never very long before the lure and the luxury of the modern world exercises it's hold over me, demonstrating how technology is inextricably entwined with my life whether I like it or not.

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