Monday, 16 April 2012


Sometimes, unexpectedly, you get a flashback to how your life used to be. A long time ago. In my last post I mentioned my social butterfly days, how was I to know that the very next day they would briefly resurface and give me a gentle, but entertaining, reminder of a forgotten time.

For reasons best known to my flatmate and I, I was vacating Contrary Towers for the weekend, or at least Saturday night, and was going to stay with one of my oldest friends over by St Katherine's Dock. I expected there would be good food, fizz and wonderful conversation in the company of one of the few people I really trust. What I didn't realise, and found out as I was heading towards the DLR, was that he had invited some friends over for the evening. And would I, effectively, be hostess. Oh. Seriously, I know it's a cliché but...

I had nothing to wear.

At least nothing really suitable. Really, I was in a Chambray button down dress with a comfy cardie and flats, with an equally comfy, but slightly nicer, dress for the next day in my bag. Not hostess material. Gah. Which I said. Or words to that effect. "Not a problem" came back the reply " we'll pop up West and I'll get you something". Ooh.

Sadly, I had to delay the Ooh as first I needed to pop in to the Tesco at Canary Wharf to get a pair of tights, which was fine, but when I came out I realised I was going to be on a magical mystery tour by virtue of the DLR rail replacement to Tower Hill. Pfft and pfft again. Actually. I quite like the RR, especially when I'm not in a tearing hurry, as it gives me a chance to have a look around at things I don't normally see. Which has to be a bonus.

Ten minutes after arriving at his I'd changed in to the Sunday dress, made my hair look respectable and off we marched. I really didn't want to look like I'd just come in on the first train from the country with a piece of straw hanging from my lips! What I wasn't looking forward to was the underground. Especially as I'd noticed that it was likely we'd need to walk to Bank to catch the Central Line.

I needn't have worried...


And one of those shiny new Mercedes black cabs. Crikey, they are big inside. And air conditioned. Shame the STFU device wasn't working on the driver who insisted on telling us all about it. I tried not to glare and instead entertained myself by texting my flatmate, as you do. As ever the city was horrible, something or other was going on, which was mentioned, but I wasn't at all listening, but improved once we got to City Wall and the next bit was swishy quick and less wittering from the driver. Thank goodness.

We were heading for John Lewis as they had a couple of things I'd seen the previous Wednesday that I really liked. How exciting. It was at about this time I started getting the sense of déjà vu.

In a taxi.

Ignoring the underground.

Stopping right outside the store.

Marching in, oblivious to all around.

And I had somebody to carry my bags. Which has to be a bonus. At that point I didn't know I was going to have a bag carrier, obvs, but the rest was lovely. Straight to frock central we headed. And I wandered, seeking inspiration... My companion disappeared, sensible chap, nothing worse than seeing a dejected man in tow as the important task of finding the perfect dress was carried out... Amazingly, I was quick, really quick. Within 5 minutes I saw, and fell in love with the most gorgeous design.

And then, minutes later another, slightly more exuberant, but all the same lovely. This was utter hell. I was going to have to make a decision... Scary.

How on earth was I supposed to choose? Hmm?


So I said. Help me decide. This really was too difficult. "Easy", he said, "we'll get both". I was hardly going to say no. Which I probably should have done, but, really, in for a penny...

Next up was something for the legs. So it was fortunate that John Lewis do a fabulous range of their own brand hosiery as well as stocking Wolfords... Ten minutes later two pairs of Twenties and some JL 7 deniers and we were off.

In search of undies. Which, because of my peculiar sizing, meant it had to be Marks and Spencer. I'd never noticed, possibly because I avoid Oxford Street like the plague, but there is a reasonable size M&S to the East of the John Lewis. Which you can get to through the back streets. Fabulous! We marched out of JL and then across the street, my now bag carrier in tow (what a sweetie) and went in search of something small and interesting ;-)

That's what I like about M&S, sizes that fit me *and* are nice. And in this case... Push up. Crikey. Where did *they* come from! By this time I fatigue was starting to show on my poor companion. Also, keep in mind that it was Grand National day and he's Irish, you can imagine the strain of not knowing what was going on at Aintree as we stalked the knickers section of M&S. So, with sympathy, and him clutching yet more bags, we ignored the shoes (I know!) and headed in to Soho in search of somewhere to eat.

And find it we did. Cote, a chain I'd not heard of with a branch on Wardour Street. My companion had though and had been meaning to try them. So here's a mini-review...

I was really quite impressed with the welcome, friendly, warm and they seated us in the perfect people watching spot by the window. Fortunately, it was too late for lunch and the pre-theatre crowd hadn't turned up. The slightly camp but seriously gorgeous waiter was attentive and just the right level of flirty. The fillet steak beautifully cooked rare, which can be tricky with fillet, and the attention was suitably muted. Not the usual in-your-face is everything okay. I normally don't have pudding, but did this time, which I rather enjoyed. My companion wasn't so convinced with the pudding, he felt the crepe was too well done round the edges. I think he's probably more of the expert having lived in Paris for a number of years. Whatever. I liked it. And I liked the single glass of wine. And the general ambience. By this time the theatre crowd was well and truly in place so we made our excuses and left. I had a serious nap to have!

Fortunately, being in flashback mode we walked out, hailed a cab and set sail back to one of the prettier parts of Tower Hamlets. And napped.

I'll now fast forward to the next morning. Two reasons, one is that the evening was mostly lovely, but there was one incident that rather marred things. Nothing to do with my companion and host, but more to do with one of his guests. I'm still trying to decide quite how annoyed I was about this, but somewhere between very and apoplectic should just about place it. So, the next morning.

I do love staying with my friend. He does know how to entertain a guest. I mean, Bucks Fizz in bed, one of your five-a-day, yes? Well, never mind, I asked my flatmate and dietry advisor by text and she confirmed it was. Next up was breakfast. With baconz. And sausage. And toast. And tea. Bliss.

We chatted over breakfast and the only sad point was as he described the latter months of his wife's life. It was incredibly touching, it was a huge loss, she'd been diagnosed at in incredibly young age with Alzheimer's and the impact was dramatic. And heart breaking. I did (and do) though feel quite honoured that he feels able to talk to me about this and I just want him to know that I am there to listen any time, day or night.

To break the maudlin moment and get the tears from my eyes, I suggested we go for a walk once properly dressed. We walk a lot at Contrary Towers. And like exploring different places, but in this case it was just to stretch the legs and get a breath of (very) fresh air. Without discussing it though, my friend took my a different way. Something of a magical mystery tour around Wapping.

I thought I knew the area well. Bzzzt. Wrong. For instance, I didn't know that Quay 430, home to a gated community and News International, was a dock, specifically the Western Dock, that would hold 430 vessels. That's a lot of ships. I've not checked the accuracy of this, so don't shoot me! Anyway, to maintain the link with the past a number of faux canals had been built to maintain the feel, one of which was used for filming a Bond film, the one where the boat thing came out of the MI6 building. Apparently. It was all, very interesting.

On the riverside it was no less interesting, snippets of info about restaurants, failed ventures and slightly dubious planning decisions abounded. And a monument, the dove was erected to commemorate the East End people that died in the blitz, it used to be white and, I believe, open, but idiots had taken to vandalising it and hence it's now black and fenced off. But as a monument, the Dove is beautifully simple.

I had a few more tears.

Next up we wandered down the river, parallel with Wapping High Street, as I tried to find the warehouse conversion I nearly bought an apartment at during the late eighties. When the area was, well, not quite as nice as it is now. One of my poorer financial decisions! That said, I still don't like Wapping High Street, even if the conversions were stunning. And the views more so. I'm not sure, even now, whether I would choose to live there, unless it was one of the river frontages, which I'd originally looked at.

Finally, we got the Sunday papers and headed back for tea and a read. It really had been a very civilised way to spend a morning. But I knew at some point I would have to return to Contrary Towers and get some actual work done!

What a scary thought.

My bus journey back would have been without drama... Except that I was chatting by text and not watching where I was. So I missed my stop. Oops. Oh well. Still, it was a lovely, if breezy morning for a walk, and it was wonderful to be back in Contrary Towers *and* to see that my lovely flatmate had survived the 10km run she'd done that morning.

Also waiting was an olive branch.

The olive branch was from somebody that had been a very good friend, but, for reasons I won't go in to, we fell out big time, at least I did. I was glad of the olive branch, not just because it was a bottle of Veuve Clicquot (some people just know which buttons to push) but because it was time to bury the hatchet and, not to put too fine a point on it, I really missed him as a friend. And I had no idea how to break the circle. Anyway. Branch accepted. Time to move on.

The intention had been to work, but, you'll be surprised to learn, we didn't, we talked and relaxed and, well, generally did what we manage to do when in Contrary Towers. It really doesn't get much better than that.

It was odd the number of flashbacks I had to my past this weekend, most of which I've not mentioned here, strange to see myself from a quarter century on, one thing is clear though, I'm not totally sure I would want to go back there. It may have been slightly too glamorous, and intense.

But it was also quite artificial and, as uncomfortable the reality of now can be, maybe this is a better place.

Or I'm a better person.

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