A journey of memories and ridiculously big boots
Transport at the week end is always a quandary. I don’t do the tube on work free days, but taxi fares accumulate and mini cabs never turn up on time. I had been going to cycle, but the inclement weather and soggy tyres put an end to that. So, set to a random iPod soundtrack, I strode off through the park. Approaching the bus stop I passed a bar. A bar where I had delivered some ridiculously bad news to a short fling of mine (the fling was short, not the man), some 6 months ago. He has not been seen since.
I boarded a bus heading to Euston planning to walk from there. As it trundled down Essex Road we passed the Outreach Centre (a ‘care in the community’ kind of place). Six long years ago I had sat in there with my friend as his doctor told him he thought, after 10 years of being well on a bi weekly injection (known as a depot in the trade), he could be trusted to medicate himself with pills. Armed with his capsules my friend set off on a 2 year, unsupervised journey, which was to end in the Old Bailey and 4 years in a secure psychiatric unit.
Along we rode, past the fishmongers which always has a queue spilling out of its door, and through Angel, my old familiar home. We headed down Pentonville Road and up loomed Kings Cross. The hole through which I had emerged from the ground, that smoke filled day in July last year, has been filled with rubble and sealed with concrete. A scar on my life, erased from sight but never from my mind.
The driver dimmed the lights at Euston and off I hopped. I glanced at the gate house bar which is sometimes open (today it was). Months ago I was sent to check whether the padlock was in place. ‘You go’ someone had said ‘you’re the runner’. As I sprinted across the road my heart had skipped a beat, I was overwhelmed with guilt, as I thought of the girl I had only just met. Another passenger from that tube standing on the pavement on her prosthetic legs watching, waiting and perhaps remembering when she could run too.
I strolled past St. Pancras Church, where we had laid flowers at the foot of ‘The Fallen Angel’ on the 6 month anniversary of the bombings. Where I had wept uncontrollably at the first anniversary this summer as the local school choir had sung ‘Make me a channel for your peace’.
I took shelter from the smog filled road and cut through a new development by the Euston tower. I stopped and looked up, with awe, at a giant glowing artwork plastered across the raw end of a building. I wandered over to the plaque we had designed:
I remembered that gloomy November morning when, shuddering with cold and nerves, I had watched the crane hoist it onto place. Would it fit? Would it stick? Would it work? Had I messed something up? It was still there today, vibrant with colour, Michael’s fan for all to see, with me (who had played a part in its creation) standing below it and taking it in with pride.
Great Portland Street was next, past the pub where we had all congregated, that summer evening, after the anniversary memorial service in Regents Park. Determined to get hammered but too emotionally drained to drink. We all flopped home early and slept for a week.
By now I was getting warm, my jacket was too heavy and I needed a drink. I bought some water from a newsagent and tried to squeeze it in my bag. My bag was too small to hold it and I needed to go to the loo. Jacket flung over my shoulder, hand bag bursting open I concentrated on the medley playing in my ears. 2Pac, Johnny Cash, Eminem, The Carpenters, Jimmy Cliff, Air, Eminem, Nightmares on Wax, Novelle Vague, Neil Diamond, Eminem. My iPod random setting is not random at all. I imagine one of the programmers thought it was funny and installed a little bug. It wanders through my collection, but every few songs, without fail, it returns to Eminem. He is a bit of a hero, I’ve seen 8 Mile 8 times, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.
An old red routemaster passed me, decorated with wedding ribbons. ‘Andy and Mandy, just married’ it declared, where the destination should be. I couldn’t help a smile.
I strolled past the hidden mews of this sprawling city and peered into havens of peace where people live protected from the hustle. I rounded a corner, and there I was, the street of the big shoe shops. Women of all shapes and sizes grace this street with excitement and glee. Most are tall, but some are not, all have a comment bond of bearing larger feet that the norm. We laugh and chat and exclaim how we have never had so much choice. Decisions, decisions, we squeal, we are so used to buying the only pair that fits. I tried on nearly every pair in the street, settled on three, close my eyes and paid the bill. I left the shop with the ridiculously expensive boots already on and decided I needed a drink.
I skirted along the back of Oxford Street to avoid the crowds. The rear side of Selfridges loomed and I walked past the reception of their offices. I had been through that door, fired up with adrenolin, more times than I could remember. Each time, coming back to meet someone else to pitch for the job again. A job we lost, even though everyone wanted us to win. Everyone, that is, but the Director of Design, Alannah Weston, whose dad just happens to own the joint.
And then to the bar, a haven from the crowds, the bar where I had my first date with my ex some 4 years ago. An early evening vodka and a call from a documentary researcher. We talked about forgiveness, PTSD and recovery and about how, amongst the chaos of it all, blogging somehow helps.