Wednesday, 16 April 2008

My neck of the woods

I've lived in my little neck of the woods for 9 years. Its a long time to be in one place - particularly in the fluid city of London. I arrived here in this leafy village in zone 2 as a recently unemployed associate producer - desperate to become a presenter. Sharing a plush airy mansion block flat with 3 other girls. There was Claire who had just split up with her boyfriend and was in the summer of woe (which became the autumn of booty-calling and the winter of discontent followed by a spring exit out of the UK) - she spent all her free time using retail therapy to mend her broken heart. Why else would a woman buy three types of facial glitter and a pair of Gucci sandals to go travelling in? Caroline - the work-a-holic who smoked like a chimney and rarely got out of her Pjs before 6pm on a Sunday. She was looking for love but ended up dating men who would try and persuade her to give them hand jobs under the bar table. Singledom was far more appealing, especially as she only had a night off once in a blue moon. Finally there was Nikki, who thought doritos and cream cheese were a staple diet, wore the most colourful clothes in the whole of London and dated many frogs in search of her prince. I lived in the lounge, which the girls still used as a lounge - we all used to pile into my bed and onto my sofa for our weekly Dawson's Creek rituals, replete with Sunday Papers. I began presenting on a teen channel and was well paid, with a wardrobe allowance to boot and yet I still found reasons to complain - mainly about my wasteland of a love life. About 20 seconds away was a cafe that we basically lived in - once we moved out they shut down, clearly we had kept them afloat - and would stomp there every night to moan about work and boys.

They were happy years - in between the beer goggle snogs with unsuitable boys (remind me to tell you my 17 year old masquerading as a 20 year old cookie boy story another time) the overdrafts and my yo-yo career in TV. There was always something going on: a party, a launch, a showcase, a free screening with free wine and tasty sarnies. We were each other's family - home from home. It couldn't last. Claire buggered off to NZ, Nikki moved in with her man and I bought a flat. I only moved down the road but the difference was acute. I rented out my spare room to a boy for a start - and desperately missed my girlie chats. Who to go to when I ran out of tampax? I still miss those days occasionally. The 'stealth' nights out in our 'operation summer'(a plan to kiss as many boys as poss - no more mind, we were moral girls) when we wore little make up and a lot of attitude and whirled like dervishes on the sweaty sticky dancefloor of our local late-nite dive 'Latelys.' I became a member the first time I went there - I still am. Gordon the owner never charged me to get in. I lost count of the number of random boys I would write my phone no on the arms of. In the dim pink neon strip lighting we would down vile shots and sexily shimmy to drive the boys wild. Except the boys were wild already - neanderthals in pressed shirts hunting prey and avoiding relationships.

I loved the area - I could walk to 3 different cinemas; drink until 3am in two local drinking dens (the kind of places where requesting Madonna's 'Beautiful Stranger' or Britney's 'Hit me Baby one more time' was not considered uncool); there was a bustling Sainsburies, a posh Waitrose and lots of restaurants and bars. I made friends with the boys in the Video store (that became DVDs), the owners of the local Italian - it became my second home and in fact I later invited them to my wedding - and the folk in the dry cleaning store and the bagel bakery. Out went my miserly lodger, in came one of my girls. When she left my boyfriend moved in. My small second bedroom had been my room from day 1, then my first 'living with my boyfriend' room; the room that he proposed in, the room sproglet was conceived in and is now sproglet's room. I saw out my twenties in this flat - had so many different folk to stay on my crummy sofa bed - left this flat to get married, returned to it from honeymoon. Brought sproglet home from hospital.

My memories are mainly all good: (apart from the summer of hell after I had sproglet and it was 37 degree heat, with builders creating dust clouds and enough noise to wake the dead) power walking on the Heath with my friend Magster - followed by cake and tea - we knew exercise required rewarding; drunken nights spilling out of Latelys trailing feather boas with my friend Sam (who discovered this area long before I did); many meals in La Brocca followed by lock-ins and helping ourselves to drinks behind the bar; the buzz of the place in the summer, the first chills of autumn walking to the movies down a much-used side path and the twinkling fairy lights lighting up the lampposts to announce Xmas is imminent. Finally the cute turtle that swims in the O2 centre fish tanks, who I am convinced recognises me and waves accordingly with his little fin.

I am ready to move on - to have a proper house, to drive to work like a grown up and to have room for more than 3 people in the lounge at once. I will miss my dear friends in the area - Pocket who is heading to LA anyway, Gerry and Lis who pop round with beers or a bottle - willing to lend helping hands at sproglet's bath time, Rachel who pounds the air with me at body combat, Kate who joins me for cakeathons in Hampstead, my amazing child minder who has looked after sproglet for almost 2 years (when I told her we were moving she was fine - I cried) and always is flexible and genuinely loves him. I am excited to move on, but a little part of my heart will be left behind here. No doubt on moving day I will shed a few tears. Forgive me in advance - this area will always be home to me - no matter where I am.

1 comment:

flibbetygibbet said...

I know I'm coming late to the party on this blog but just wanted to say how much I love this post, I am now in proper house with Boyf and 5w old baby boy but this made me think of my own time living with girls dancing drinking and kissing boys!
Off to read more!