I stood on a crowded tube this morning listening to the almost non-stop announcements about which bits of which lines were suspended; a sure sign it's a Saturday. In these kind of clammy, sardine-like scenarios, my instinct is always to hide, although my spirit was warmed by the familiar sound of a Northamptonshire burr coming from behind me. I turned around to see a group of people in rugby shirts, and on closer inspection they turned out to be Saints fans, which suddenly made sense of the accent! As I arrived at Victoria Station, I was astonished to find myself in a sea of Saint fans. It was like being down Northampton market! Heaven knows where they were all going.
The concentration of people in London today - and the dreadful noise they seemed to be making - entirely freaked me out. It's strange; you get rather used to traveling in London on week days when everyone keeps themselves to themselves. On Saturdays there are possibly more tourists about, or Londoners get together with their friends to travel, which means the tubes and trains are a great deal noisier.
Having been hiding away underneath headphones for the last few weeks, without Nathan about, I realise I've become something of a hermit, pottering about at my own pace, not making a great deal of noise. How quickly we lose the ability to deal with society!
It was Lewes where I was heading today, in one of those confusing trains from Victoria where you have to sit in the correct carriage due to the train "splitting" at Heywards Heath. The front eight carriages were going to Ore, the back four to Littlehampton, but the dot matrix machine was broken and there was nothing to tell me which carriage I was in. Furthermore, even if I'd known I was in the front eight carriages, I have no idea whether Lewes is on the way to Ore. I don't know what Ore is. I had a mate called Donna Ore. Was I going to see her? The carriage smelt of feet and fart, there was a man who sounded like Bill Oddie talking ludicrously loudly about football and I just about lost the will to live. Still, looking at the countryside on the way down South is always a treat... So green and rolling....
Lewes looked like a picture post card with houses covered in wisteria and roses. The sun was shining. Meriel met me from the station and we walked across the town to a little hollow in front of Rupert and Hilary's house where a lovely marquee had been set up to celebrate Rupert's 40th birthday. Everyone is 40 this year. By the time mine rolls along everyone will be completely bored of celebrating! I bought Rupert a "in deepest sympathy card", which I thought was hysterically funny. "Which garage did you buy this from?" He asked, in a typically blunt way... Sometimes I wonder why we bother with birthday cards. They're such a nonsense aren't they? Unless you're writing a proper message inside, or you've made the card yourself, they just become something else to put out with the recycling!
Rupert, who's about as carnivorous as a man can get had organised a hog roast. Fortunately his wife, Uncle Bill, is vegetarian, so whilst the meat eaters chowed down on pig, we were given delicious hummus wraps and exciting bowls of Eaton Mess. The hog roast was incredibly popular but for me there's very little which looks as unappetising as the half-eaten carcass of a pig mounted on a stick! It genuinely ended up looking like the scene of some kind of horrific murder. Bits of melted yellow flesh dripping down with globules of white fat. Like a terrible autopsy.
The party was filled with parents and children, some of whom I knew, most of whom I didn't. The ghastly truth about quite a few parents with young children is they can loose the ability to talk about anything else! It becomes almost desperately boring, particularly when you finally manage to get one talking about something else, but they always have their eyes elsewhere, watching their little darlings. I think they genuinely feel that they're multi-tasking, because the other parents they talk to are doing exactly the same thing and no one cares, but when you don't have kids, it becomes really offensive because you see them glazing over, nodding politely and occasionally saying something to keep you sweet, but the conversation always ends up coming to a rudely abrupt halt when their child sidles over. "What's the matter Totty? Would you like another drink?" The words cut into your own like a knife. They can't even allow you the dignity of finishing a sentence before turning away and dealing with their beloved. And very rarely does the conversation ever return when the child goes away again, essentially, I believe, because they weren't actually taking anything in in the first place!
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. I have friends who are parents who are desperate not to talk about kiddy things, parents who look you in the eye, and when their children come over they will continue to look whilst reassuringly putting a hand on the child's arm which says "Mummy's talking right now, but when I can give you my attention I will do." And the truth of the matter is that their children are universally the polite, more fascinating ones with whom you ultimately want to spend more time!
On my way home, I got a text from Fiona who was on her way back to Brighton from Northampton. It transpired that her train was pulling into Gatwick just as mine was leaving... Or was it the other way round? Anyway, we waved in each other's general direction.
I got to Victoria in a rush to get home and settle, having spent plenty enough time with large crowds of people. The station was absolutely heaving and as I reached the tube, the horror occurred of my Oyster card needing topping up. The ticket machines were surrounded by huge queues of tourists who had absolutely no idea how to deal with the technology. I stood in a queue for at least ten minutes willing people to be more organised...
I got home and worked until 2am... Which is why I posted this blog when I woke up!