It was a dizzy trip to London (as they all are, maybe); a disjointed evening, so that by the time we were in bed I felt like there had been several days between leaving and returning.
First we are late; then a few drinks at someone else’s expense. We move on to a party at the top of Centrepoint, only we are too late for the party and all that is left is the slop from spilled cocktails and a gathering of ultrahip young things, dancing as only the ultrahip can: without passion, without grace, without movement, almost. They are so cool, these young things, that I think they could kill us with their cool, if only they weren’t too cool to be bothered. They are so cool that they actually make me feel old, and frumpy. They are so cool, and so hip, that they do not even see us. We move through them and they part in beat to the techno music. There is so much cool in the air we can scarcely breath; we do not linger for a drink. We stand at the edge and look out over London.
The one good thing about this party is the view: and the city lit up, so that the stars in the sky seem to be below us, not above. Later we think maybe this view makes the entire misguided trip worth it. From up here it looks like the city runs all the way to the horizon and beyond. London loses its London-ness; it is a City, a gem of human endeavor. We are the only still things here.
Then we are walking on the street again. Towards a dingy underground private member’s club. It’s like descending into a speakeasy. On the stairs we are harassed by staff until it becomes clear that we are, in some way, affiliated with a member; then they are lovely and let us pass. Behind me, a lone drunk, tie askew, whispers, “Dunno what all the fuss is about. It’s just a bloody pub down there.” As we pass into the bar, he begs to be let in.
The light inside is green. There is something of the tikki-bar about the place, and film posters on the wall, and lots of young actor-types. We are no longer in the realm of the ultrahip but now in the realm of the ultracamp. In the back, behind thick tapestry curtains, several anterooms stand like invitations to the illicit. The figures on the wall are often pornographic, but ironically so: large phallic flowers erect in a garden, silhouettes of busty Victorian ladies.
Back on the street. The half-light of late London. We buy chips and a pita wrap from a kebab shop and get on the wrong bus, from which we embark at the wrong stop. We stand in the rain in a posh (and therefore empty) square waiting for another bus; it is nearly December now, and cold, and we huddle together and collectively wish that we had not left the sanctuary of our own small city, where just a few hours ago (or was it days?) we were having a drink with a friend at an uncrowded pub, were just a few minutes walk from our house, our warm, quiet house.
We get off at the right stop. We still have miles to walk, it feels. We skirt Victoria station, trying to find our way. I bump shoulders accidentally with a woman walking very quickly; she turns back, snaps something at me. I snap something back. I do not often feel aggressive, particularly for such a transient reason, but suddenly I think I might feel violent if i don’t move on quickly.
We sleep on the way home. It is nearly five by the time we alight at St. Clements. As always, a hush over the streets; the drunks at home or asleep by now, the workers still yawning their way awake on the fringes of the city. As always, I need a pee, and we are just far enough from home, and it is just bitterly cold enough, that the walk seems impossible. But of course it isn’t; that’s just the night speaking, still.
At home we strip and climb under the duvet. I had been bitter about London before, at the bus stop; I had said, “Who was it who said that you could never be bored in London, or else you were bored with life? He was absolutely right; you can’t be bored in London. You also can’t be fucking happy.” Now I start to soften, as if the warmth from the house has smoothed my edges. I murmur that it wouldn’t be so bad if only we had somewhere to stay the night; or that it’s only the cold, and the rain. I say that maybe next time we’ll do it better; and weren’t all those hip young people funny? And he says how beautiful the city looked from that one clear point, how absolutely beautiful.