June’s felt like the longest month this year.
What must have been forever ago, I turned 30 and V took me to Portugal for a couple of days in the sun. I’ve only been 30 for a couple of weeks now, and our Portugal holiday photos are only just making their way into people’s Facebook feeds, but a million different, scary, crazy things have happened since and in between, and though there’s little photographic, Facebook-worthy proof of them all, they’ve been weighing on me like you wouldn’t believe it.
I’ve been sleeping very little these days, what with all the walking around, looking at horrible, crumbling houses on sale for hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of pounds, only to lose each and every offer I’ve put in, to mysterious cash investors willing to pay double the asking price.
I lie in bed into the morning hours, eyes closed but my thoughts relentlessly tangling around memories of the day and fears for the future.
It doesn’t help that I spend all my waking hours unwillingly listening to strangers’ speeches about how ridiculous every hope and dream of mine are, about how this city really isn’t one for raising children/falling in love/acting normal/not being a complete bastard in, not that I could ever carry a pregnancy to term anyway, have I looked at myself in the mirror recently?, I’m way too skinny and narrow-hipped to be mother material.
I put up with these people for some reason, these dutiful scrutinizers of each and every decision I ever make, when really I could be doing countless more valuable things instead, like watching another European team get slaughtered in the World Cup, or spoon-digging tunnels through half a dozen buckets of Ben & Jerry’s, or plucking my eyebrows into a sexy Kim Kardashian frown, or who knows, simply not giving a flying f about how random
idiots strangers think I should be living my life.
Surprisingly, it hasn’t all been bad.
With all the flat hunting, the lovely, who-knew-London-could-feel-like-summer weather, and a group of friends visiting from Romania, we’ve been walking around the city a lot more these days.
It’s helped me realize that I’ve been unknowingly falling for London. I don’t know when, how it’s happened or whether it’s really nothing but a tragedy in disguise, but I’ve developed feelings for this place and the me I am in it.
It could be that, with less and less things to rely on these days, I find comfort in this city and its more or less constant landmarks. Or maybe that’s just how I’m built. I have, after all, developed long lasting, consuming relationships with all the other places I’ve lived in. People, feelings have come and gone, but I always had my city streets to turn to for comfort. At times it’s been hard, what with every other street corner a reminder of something I’d have rather forgotten, but I guess I’ve always been lucky enough to carry around more happy memories than sad ones, and my London today is really a happy beautiful place.
I was walking around Soho with a friend the other day, badmouthing our fellow window shoppers’ fashion choices, when she suddenly blurted out:
– What’s up with your hair, by the way?
– You mean the Bride of Frankenstein look?
She laughed. For more than half a year now I’ve been trying to grow my blonde hair dye out, and I’ve finally reached the stage where my ponytail is one color, and the rest of my hair is another, darker shade. Add the fact that I’ve recently tanned the tip of my nose and my arms crispy brown while the rest of me is ghostly pale, and I look like I’ve been hastily put together from bits and bobs taken from other unfortunate subjects, and I’ll start breaking at the seams soon enough, spilling guts everywhere.
But that’s not even the worst bit.
– You know you’ll have to dye it again soon enough, right?
– What? Why? Like I’ve been voluntarily sporting this crazy look for so long, only to dye it again on a whim. From now on, I’ll be all natural baby!
– Honey, your natural hair is turning white.
Several panicky shrieks and almost-setting-off-a-car-alarm-as-I-inspected-the-top-of-my-head-in-its-side-mirror later, the reality of how each and every one of my body cells have made it their mission to drive me crazy recently, made me burst into laughter. I can’t win, I’ve been telling myself every morning since, as I assess and reassess the damage in my bathroom mirror, and finally realizing, 30 years into this living thing, that I really, there’s-no-doubt-about-it can’t win, is surprisingly comforting.
I few months ago I’d read about Hogewey, this Netherlands based facility for people suffering from dementia. What’s extraordinary about it is that it’s been set out like a village, with supermarket, restaurants, a theatre, as well as the houses in which the patients live, each built and decorated in a style familiar to their residents. The personnel wear daytime rather than clinical clothing, and aim to maintain the “fake reality” of the place.
And I’ve been thinking. I’ve got days when I wouldn’t say no to waking up in a world like that. Looking into a mirror blotched to reflect a perfect head of hair. Walking up and down flights of stairs of a place I know, and even when I’m not sure I know it, I’m told again and again is my home, MY home, not something imagined and wished for so many times that it’s lost its substance entirely by now. Running into people in the street, people I’ve never seen in my life but whom I see myself becoming friends with, because they don’t care how narrow, pregnancy unfriendly my hips are, or how I’ll never be successful in the crazy, unladylike industry I’ve chosen for myself.
I imagine myself living my days in that make believe world, no reasons to be unhappy or confused or sleepless, but forever whispering to myself, perfectly satisfied: I am winning, I am winning.