This time last year I went to Australia and Singapore for a holiday. How time flies! All my friends’ little children will be a whole year older and I’ll have missed so many significant moments. Perhaps I need to be going again. Bother that this world is so big. With a rush of nostalgia, I emailed my friend to get an update on her little boy, Tiger. They were about to move back to Beijing and we seemed to have lost track of each other in the process. Is it really a year since I sat in their front room trying to eat durian with chopsticks? It was so nice hearing back from her again.
This year’s February holiday was slightly less exotic but nonetheless very fun. I took a full weekend off, in honour of it being Reading Week, and headed UpNorth to Chesterfield to visit my brother and his fiancée. Spent a couple of hours studying in a coffee shop at St Pancras en route, wondering if I should help out the foreign guy opposite me who was looking perplexedly at the jar of marmalade that he’d asked for so decisively but now wasn’t touching. I’m sure he actually wanted jam and it was just his translation that was letting him down. I passed the Eurostar entrance and made a mental note that I really should try and get a cheap deal to go to Paris sometime. I was feeling all grown-up with my (well, actually, my mum’s) little weekend case on wheels, my skinny jeans and what Bex calls my ‘date boots’. I clip-clopped through the station and, pretty much as soon as I arrived UpNorth, switched them for my walking boots which formed the bulk of my luggage.
It was a fun weekend of hanging out, going out, staying in, seeing the sights, getting a good dose of fresh Derbyshire air, and driving down Granny’s old road just to reminisce. And the best bit – lovely and long overdue – was meeting Michelle’s family and seeing my future sister-in-law in the context which had made her her. It’s funny how people get incorporated into your life along the way and how complete strangers suddenly become family. John and Michelle met, fell in love and all that, and are committing to each other forever. That’s cute and immense in and of itself, but for all the rest of us it brings about this whole other set of ties that bind – to people, places and parallel worlds with whom I’d have never otherwise intersected but who I now chose to get to know, to care for and to invest in. It’s a bizarrely powerful and unexpected thing.
The family-filled weekend was finished off nicely when I got back to London and went to see CuzCuz for lunch at the Guardian where she works. I think I’d quite like to be a journalist there. They have nice trendy break-out zones, a cafe that looks out onto the canal, and branded signs for everything. And free newspapers. I like.
‘I just can’t believe that John’s actually getting married’, she said incredulously as I showed her the photo I’d taken of Michelle’s wedding dress. Me neither. But then CuzCuz can hardly talk. I looked across the table at my little cousin who, it turns out, is also now a grown-up. Who has just rented a flat in Angel and bought a car with her boyfriend. ‘It was really nice meeting him the other week,’ I said. Apparently he’d said the same about me, so that was all good. ‘I’m glad you don’t think I’m making him up any more!’ We smiled at the thought of her inventing someone just to get everyone off her back about it. ‘Dare I ask?’ she ventured, probing into a recent potential. We debriefed the fizzling-out of that one for a bit. ‘I suppose,’ I said, ‘I’d just thought for a moment that sometime soon I could end up where you are. You know… having someone to introduce to the family, to get a flat and buy a car with.’ ‘Living the dream!’ she replied with a smile and a dash of sarcasm. We chuckled.
Not quite sure what the dream is any more, but hey. In my case, living the dream is probably not a flat in Angel or a car. And at this rate it’s certainly not the white wedding, reception venue and matching crockery set. In fact, it was NEVER a matching crockery set, or even a conventional wedding come to that. Doing a masters was a bit of a dream, and here I am living it. In fact, going back to Australia last year had been a bit of a dream, and that finally happened. So who says dreams don’t come true? And besides, who hopes for what they already have, right?
I clip-clopped over to the library, a bit miffed that it had decided to start raining on me when I didn’t really have enough hands for an umbrella as I bedraggledly battled both the crowds and the curbs with my little mini-break suitcase and my optimistic bagful of reading that I’d taken for the train. Methinks that the next dream is probably more backpackky and a little less London. And hopefully a little less wet.
Time will tell.
PS. Arrived back in London just in time for Valentines Day. Joy of joys. The ubiquitous cards, flowers and hearts (ubiquitous in shops I mean, not in my life) were utterly doing my head in. What to do? Redeem a Groupon voucher for a discounted Afternoon Tea at a posh hotel and spend a couple of hours chatting with a good friend, eating cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches, and piling cream and jam onto scones. Did I say I wanted to leave England? ? Hmmm…