London has this beautiful way of pulling me so much into the moment, that I forget anything outside of it. Glasgow already seems a million miles away, centuries ago, and Canada? Forever. It demands my full attention at all times. If I’m in a bookshop flipping through pages, it will take me a moment to remember where I am once I have finished. If I am on the tube I will be so enraptured with the buzz about me I’ll be surprised when my stop comes. I don’t know if it is just me but I do love it. If this is what living in the moment feels like, I am a convert.
I spent the length of time it took to eat my rice krispies chatting to a very German-looking German boy. Blonde hair, blue eyes, chiseled features, tall slim and quite fit. You know the type. He is traveling for a few months, headed to South America by way of New York tomorrow. He doesn’t really know where he’s going or how long for. I like the way he thinks.
I went on a mission this morning. My camera is broken, it wants fixing. And so began my hunt, first to the Kodak shop here in Shepherd’s Bush, next on the District Line maze to West Kensington. The Chinaman in the Camera Shop there says he can’t help me. In fact, he doesn’t think there is a shop in all of London that can help me. A wonder. I stop in a shop full of computer parts and mobiles, and plastic medical models of people’s innards in all sorts of crayola colours.
I explain my predicament, and a lanky Iranian man tells me if I can fix it myself, I should do it. He brings me a tray full of tiny screwdrivers. There is not another customer in their shop for nearly an hour as I screw and unscrew. We chat about London and America. We chat about why we love it, why we’re here. He helps me pull the thing to bits, sprays it inside and outside, searching desperately for a loose bit or something broken. We have no luck, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. I thank them and trundle back on the tube, stepping out at Notting Hill.
Portobello Road is one of my favourite roads in London. I stroll in and out of the boutiques, falling madly in love with a cream coat and swear to myself that if I behave through the market all the way to Ladbroke Grove, I will come back for it. There are five or six hanging there. This should not be a problem. I amble down cobbled paths, past colourful houses with colourful doors, in amongst antique sellers, jewelry stalls, scarves and bags and clothes of all kinds. I look at antique brooches and brass teapots, furniture and flowers. I buy a chicken burger from a German woman for two pounds which is homemade and better than anything McDonalds could sell me for three. I dodge women shopping for groceries at the vegetable stalls and the cheese stalls and tables full of italian baking. I peer in windows hung with flank steaks and rows upon rows of sausages. I just want to be here. Live here. Buy my tomatoes from that man.
I stroll through Portobello Green, digging in all the vintage ties and leopard printed shoes. I peer through glittery things and leather bound books, check out screened t-shirts and the table full of antique buttons. It’s a two hour occasion, at least. But worth it. I buy tights from a bored looking young boy and head back up the way. Determined now, that I get my coat. The crowd has thinned out, making this a much easier walk. I search through stalls full of scarves on the way back in search of a pink shiny one but don’t get far. I finally descend on the shop with my coat, and not a moment too soon. There is only one left. I snatch it in a moment of madness and scramble for a size or a mirror or anything. Somehow, by the grace of God it is the right size. Imagine that. I am paying with my bank card, so this tiny Polish girl sprints out the shop and a few doors down. I can use the machine at their other shop. I could not have been happier to skip out of there with my new coat until I happen upon a little lady selling mulled wine.
That smells gorgeous, I have to have some. Like I need an excuse. I walked the rest of the way back to Notting Hill Gate sipping it while strolling past the colourful houses. I want Number 28 Portobello Road. It is pink with a green door. So if the owner could kindly move along and hand over the keys, it would be much appreciated. Thank you. There is a tiny cobbled lane that runs behind the main strip called Portobello Mews. It contains more terraced houses. I think I might like one of those instead. So a peek into the estate agents window on the way round is in order, but not reassuring. Just a shade over One million, seven hundred thousand pounds for one up on Westbourne Park. But it’s a house, so…anyone got a spare four million dollars I can move to London with? Please and Thank you.
I drop off my stuff and change into the beautiful coat. Back to Tottenham Court Road for the Northern Line and up to Archway. I am heading for Highgate Cemetery but by the time I get there it is half past four and well on its way to getting dark. I stroll around Highgate village instead and vow to come back in the morning, trying to figure out how I can be in the Borough of Islington one second and then rounding the corner and appearing in Camden the next. For the life of me I am completely confused with all this.
On my way back to the tube a man stops me, speaking in a vague Irish brogue. He asks if I have a spare cigarette, so I tell him i don’t smoke, darling, and keep walking. He stops me again and begins his story. I don’t know why I didn’t just walk away because I usually would but for some reason I listened to his story about having come from Cambridge, something about college though he must be in his thirties, and about waiting there by the door of the church all day to see if the priest can help him. Do I have money to help him get petrol and home? I am not convinced, but something coerces a tenner from my wallet. I don’t know why. I only hope something useful came of it. All I can ask is that my karma allow me as much in this life as to return me to this magic city and if I ever need someone to slip a note into my hand, that they do. I walk off with a God Bless You, Love, and disappear into the tunnels again, surfacing like a mole in the wrong hole at Marble Arch.
Does anyone know how to get off that island? It’s an impossibility. Short of risking my limbs to scurry out in front of a double decker to cross Park Lane in the dark I can see no option. So it’s back into the maze once again.
I go to Soho to wander and watch Shortbus in the Curazon. The theatre is filled with faeries and artsy types, could not have been more fitting for the film I was about to see. It was absolutely perfect for the state of mind and state of moment. That’s all I will say but if you’re curious, go see it. It’s a fabulous movie if you can look beyond the porn. Though I wouldn’t recommend you take your mum.